Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 7, 2015

A President — and Paine — challenges the People

Filed under: Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on December 7, 2015

Sunday night the President outlined his approach to defeating ISIL.  There was nothing new, he did not attempt to make it sound new.  Mr. Obama summarized, “The strategy that we are using now—airstrikes, Special Forces, and working with local forces who are fighting to regain control of their own country—that is how we’ll achieve a more sustainable victory.”

The President called for narrow reforms related to visa screening and purchase of high-powered assault weapons.  He can implement most of the visa reforms on his executive authority.  Disallowing those on terrorist watch lists from purchasing weapons would require Congressional action.  As the President has argued previously, he called again for Congressional action to update and re-authorize use of military force against a terrorist threat that has morphed. The absence of a new AUMF has important constitutional implications, but probably no near-term practical effect.

As the President challenged Congress to act in ways he cannot, Mr. Obama also challenged the American people. He said:

We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam. That, too, is what groups like ISIL want. ISIL does not speak for Islam. They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death, and they account for a tiny fraction of more than a billion Muslims around the world?—?including millions of patriotic Muslim Americans who reject their hateful ideology. Moreover, the vast majority of terrorist victims around the world are Muslim. If we’re to succeed in defeating terrorism we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than push them away through suspicion and hate.

That does not mean denying the fact that an extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities. This is a real problem that Muslims must confront, without excuse. Muslim leaders here and around the globe have to continue working with us to decisively and unequivocally reject the hateful ideology that groups like ISIL and al Qaeda promote; to speak out against not just acts of violence, but also those interpretations of Islam that are incompatible with the values of religious tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity.

But just as it is the responsibility of Muslims around the world to root out misguided ideas that lead to radicalization, it is the responsibility of all Americans—of every faith—to reject discrimination. It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country. It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim Americans should somehow be treated differently. Because when we travel down that road, we lose. That kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values plays into the hands of groups like ISIL. Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes—and, yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defense of our country. We have to remember that.

My fellow Americans, I am confident we will succeed in this mission because we are on the right side of history. We were founded upon a belief in human dignity—that no matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or what religion you practice, you are equal in the eyes of God and equal in the eyes of the law.

Even in this political season, even as we properly debate what steps I and future Presidents must take to keep our country safe, let’s make sure we never forget what makes us exceptional.

There are some — perhaps one-quarter of our nation — who are predisposed to be against anything President Obama supports.  They are so personally offended by this President that they tend to embrace everything that is his opposite.  I hope the President’s embrace of religious pluralism, human decency, and fundamental equality does not increase suspicion of these propositions.

I anticipate there will be more attacks — both self-generated and coordinated.  I have long been surprised there have not been more.  As previously outlined, I understand the threat to go well beyond ISIS.  Given the fundamental nature of the threat any seemingly expedient solution is unlikely to work and may make things worse.

We have seen worse, but this will be plenty bad, day after infamous day. As Thomas Paine wrote so long ago, “these are the times that try men’s souls.”  A few lines later in The Crisis, Paine writes:

Tis surprising to see how rapidly a panic will sometimes run through a country. All nations and ages have been subject to them. Britain has trembled like an ague at the report of a French fleet of flat-bottomed boats; and in the fourteenth [fifteenth] century the whole English army, after ravaging the kingdom of France, was driven back like men petrified with fear; and this brave exploit was performed by a few broken forces collected and headed by a woman, Joan of Arc. Would that heaven might inspire some Jersey maid to spirit up her countrymen, and save her fair fellow sufferers from ravage and ravishment! Yet panics, in some cases, have their uses; they produce as much good as hurt. Their duration is always short; the mind soon grows through them, and acquires a firmer habit than before. But their peculiar advantage is, that they are the touchstones of sincerity and hypocrisy, and bring things and men to light, which might otherwise have lain forever undiscovered.

May our recent panic end. May our minds grow. May we assume a firmer habit than before.

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Comment by Tingus Citizen

December 7, 2015 @ 9:02 am

What a surprise!

Having thrown the intel community under the bus more than once, our brave Patriots…how dare you?

….and a WH indifferent and apathetic to any intel reporting Islamic fundamentalists and terror and now with pressure on this uncommitted Oval Office given add’l loss in innocent Life and failing in protecting We the People –
….more confirmation this morning as to the real threats We here on “Main Street USA” feel and why 185,000 guns were purchased on Black Friday for all lawful purpose:

“White House’s own intel report says ISIS gaining strength
AN INTELLIGENCE ASSESSMENT commissioned by the White House in recent weeks contradicts President Obama’s assertions that ISIS has been ‘contained’ by a US-led air campaign” –

How dare you Barry Obama stand in “apology” for America, diminish us in every way and seemingly advocate as a public relations consultant for Islam which its leadership must now step forward and stop such terror which makes Islam and its Peaceful and Loving teachings far less in the eyes of the world with such terror against innocent –

Enough of this charade and by the way, ISIS is no jv team and it is committed to its ideology – what are you truly committed to Barry Obama..to what oath?

How dare you? So embarrassing in every way and the French seeing your response and not running to NATO, but to the Russians….what a charade!

Comment by Philip J. Palin

December 7, 2015 @ 9:54 am

Mr. Tingus, The current leader among candidates for the Republican presidential nomination has made a series of statements highly prejudicial to Islamic places of worship and Muslims in general. In this Mr. Trump seems to both echo and encourage similar positions by many of his followers. They are not alone. You have been clear and consistent in your own honorable position regarding religious pluralism. But there are other voices and actions that have caused reasonable alarm among many in the American Muslim community.

Comment by Stephen

December 7, 2015 @ 11:42 am

Can anyone tell me if San Bernadino County is within the boundaries of an Urban Area Security Initiative site? Thanks.

Comment by Arnold Bogis

December 7, 2015 @ 1:06 pm

I believe it is. See this website:


Comment by Stephen

December 7, 2015 @ 4:09 pm

Thank you Mr. Bogis. I also found some other interesting data on that website.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

December 8, 2015 @ 8:29 am

Donald Trump’s call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims coming to the United States”, ought be used by the American people as the perfect opportunity to clearly define what is entirely contrary to American values. His position should attract a resounding repudiation from every other candidate for President and every serious citizen. This is not just crazy talk. This is hate-talk. This is incitement of profound fear and unfolding folly.

Mr. Trump is playing into the plans of our adversaries. With Americans of every political and religious persuasion making clear that Mr. Trump’s position is entirely outside our values as a nation, we can strike a counter-terrorist blow more powerful than the sum of every drone strike ever executed. We will also reclaim some crucial dignity as a common people committed to human decency.

This is precisely the sort of touchstone of sincerity or hypocrisy of which the patriot Thomas Paine wrote. It is time for every good man and woman to come to the aid of their party, holding accountable those who encourage hate.

Comment by Vicki Campbell

December 8, 2015 @ 3:15 pm

Below is an article written just before the President’s speech by Robert Parry, who exposed the Iran Contra debacle, and helped found Consortium News, the first investigative Journalism website on the Internet, and winner of Harvard’s I.F. Stone award, etc. I highly recommend Consortium News, as well as The Intercept, for some of the most credible, hard-hitting, truly investigative news and policy analysis available today. It’s long, but I thought it was well worth it.

Sunday, December 06, 2015
From Consortium News

Obama’s Credibility Crisis
by Robert Parry

Like the old story of the little boy who cried wolf, the U.S. government is finding out that – just when its credibility is most needed – it doesn’t have any. With all its “soft power” schemes of “perception management,” funding “citizen bloggers” and sticking with “narratives” long after they’ve been discredited, the U.S. government is losing the propaganda battle against ISIS.

That was the conclusion of outside experts who examined the State Department’s online campaigns to undercut ISIS, according to an article by The Washington Post’s Greg Miller who wrote that the review “cast new doubt on the U.S. government’s ability to serve as a credible voice against the terrorist group’s propaganda.”

In other words, even when the U.S. government competes with the creepy head-choppers of ISIS, the U.S. government comes in second. Of course, the State Department remains in denial about its collapse of credibility – and typically won’t release the details of the critical study.

Instead, Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Richard Stengel insisted that the State Department’s messaging operation “is trending upward,” although acknowledging that his team is facing a tough adversary in ISIS and must “be equally creative and innovative.” [For more on Stengel’s falsehoods, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Who’s the Propagandist: US or RT?”]

But the U.S. government’s problem is much deeper than its inability to counter ISIS propaganda. Increasingly, almost no one outside Official Washington believes what senior U.S. officials say about nearly anything – and that loss of trust is exacerbating a wide range of dangers, from demagogy on the 2016 campaign trail to terrorism recruitment in the Middle East and in the West.

President Barack Obama seems to want so desperately to be one of the elite inhabitants of Official Washington’s bubble that he keeps pushing narratives that he knows aren’t true, all the better to demonstrate that he belongs in the in-crowd. It has reached the point that he speaks out so many sides of his mouth that no one can tell what his words actually mean.

Indeed, Obama arguably suffers from the worst “credibility gap” among the American people since Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon on the Vietnam War or at least since George W. Bush on the Iraq War. As eloquent as he can be, average folk in the U.S. and around the world tune him out.

White Rage

So, on the domestic side, when the President tells Americans that another trade deal – this one with Asia – is going to be good for them, does anyone outside the opinion pages of the elite newspapers and the big-shot think tanks believe him?

America now has a swelling underclass of formerly middle-class whites who know that they’ve been sold out as they face declining living standards and an unprecedented surge in dying rates. Yet, because they don’t trust Obama, these whites are easily convinced by demagogues that their plight stems from government programs designed to help blacks and other minorities.

This white rage has fueled the race-baiting and anti-immigrant campaigns of billionaire Donald Trump and other political outsiders in the Republican Party. Trump has soared to the top of the GOP presidential field because he says a few things that are true – that rich people have bought up the political process and that trade deals have screwed the middle class – giving him an aura of “authenticity” that then extends to his uglier comments.

Americans are so starving for a taste of honesty – which they’re not getting from Obama or other members of the elite – that they will believe a megalomaniacal huckster like Trump. After all, they know that what they get from Obama and his clique is manipulative spin, treating them like dummies to be tricked, not citizens of a Republic to be respected.

The hard truth is that the Great American Middle Class indeed has been sold out, often by fast-talking neo-liberals like President Bill Clinton who – with the help of many centrists and conservatives – pushed through trade deals and banking “reforms” that gussied up Wall Street while boarding up Main Street. The neo-liberals, working with Republicans, also promoted trade deals with Mexico and other low-wage countries that sent millions of U.S. jobs overseas.

From this experience, many Americans see “guv-mint” to blame for their plight, enticing them down the right-wing path that seeks to negate government power. What these Americans don’t grasp is that this Tea Party ideology is further selling them out to the corporatists and the speculators who will be put in an ever stronger position to gouge what’s left of the Middle Class.

In other words, at a time when Americans need their government to collectively represent their interests – to provide for “the general Welfare” as the U.S. Constitution mandated – they have no faith that the government is theirs or will protect their interests.

The Propaganda Imperative

A similar realization holds true with foreign policy. The U.S. government has so thoroughly bought into the concept of “perception management” and “strategic communications” – blending psy-ops, propaganda and P.R. – that the government has decoupled from facts. Information is just there to be exploited for geopolitical gain, usually to pin some offense on the latest “designated villain.”

We saw this in 2003 with the disinformation campaign about Iraq’s WMD, but it didn’t stop there. The U.S. government has used its control of important media levers to demonize a variety of world leaders who have gotten in the way of Official Washington’s desires. Meanwhile, equal or worse abuses by “our guys” are downplayed or ignored.

For instance, Libya’s secular dictator Muammar Gaddafi was mocked when he warned of Islamist terrorists rampaging in eastern Libya. Indeed, Gaddafi’s vow to fight them became the pretext used for a “regime change” operation under the “human rights” banner, “responsibility to protect.”

That operation – promoted by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who gloated over Gaddafi’s murder (“We came, we saw, he died”) – has transformed Libya into a land of anarchy with the Islamic State and other terror groups seizing ground and chopping off heads. But Clinton, like other architects of this disaster, won’t admit to a mistake.

Similarly, the Obama administration and the compliant mainstream U.S. media pushed a propaganda campaign against Syria’s secular leader Bashar al-Assad, blaming him for virtually all the violence that engulfed Syria despite the awareness of senior U.S. officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, about the key role played by Sunni jihadists and terror groups with the backing of Sunni-ruled Gulf states and Turkey.

So, when a lethal sarin gas attack struck a suburb of Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013, the Obama administration and key “human rights” groups blamed Assad’s forces although some U.S. intelligence analysts and independent observers quickly smelled a rat, the likelihood of a provocation sponsored by Al Qaeda operatives – possibly aided by Turkish intelligence – trying to induce the U.S. military to destroy Assad’s army and clear the way for a terrorist victory.

Though that “false flag” scenario became increasingly likely – as the case against Assad’s forces essentially collapsed – Obama and his administration have never corrected the record. They just left what now appears to be a false narrative on the record, so it can still be cited by neocon opinion leaders or “human rights” advocates and thus be used to mislead the American public.

Some people defend Obama for not admitting a mistake because to do so would undermine U.S. credibility, but I think the opposite holds true, that a frank admission that there was a misguided rush to judgment would be refreshing for Americans who are sick and tired of spin.

Similarly, there’s the case of the July 17, 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, which the Obama administration pinned on ethnic Russian rebels and indirectly on Russian President Vladimir Putin. The case whipped up a frenzy of Russia-bashing across the West and thus became a valuable propaganda club.

But again, as U.S. intelligence analysts shifted through the evidence, some moved off in a different direction, blaming a rogue element of the Ukrainian government, according to a source briefed on these findings.

Yet, instead of either correcting the record or presenting evidence to buttress the initial judgment, the Obama administration has gone silent, refusing to make public any evidence that it possesses about the killing of 298 people. That has allowed the West’s mainstream media and some supposedly “independent” bloggers to continue to push the Russia-did-it line.

Shifting Blame

More recently, the Obama administration has reacted to overwhelming evidence that some of its Mideast “allies” have been aiding and abetting the Islamic State, Al Qaeda and other violent jihadists by trying to shift the blame to the Syrian government and Russia.

In other words, we’re told not to blame the Saudis and the Qataris for funding and arming these jihadists (despite admissions from Vice President Biden, former Secretary of State Clinton and the Defense Intelligence Agency). Nor should we notice that the Islamic State has been shipping its illicit oil into Turkey in large truck convoys through Turkish border crossings which also allow jihadist fighters to go back and forth.

The evidentiary record of Turkey’s covert support for these radical jihadists is a long one, including many admissions from Turkish officials and reports from major Turkish media outlets. But we’re told to ignore all that evidence and trust that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is doing all he can to seal off his border and stop the terrorists.

Instead, though the Syrian and Russian governments have been delivering heavy blows to the jihadists, including Russia shaming the Obama administration into belatedly joining in the bombing of those ISIS oil convoys, we’re supposed to believe that Damascus and Moscow are actually in cahoots with ISIS. This storyline amounts to the U.S. government’s own crazy conspiracy theory.

We’re also supposed to believe that the Saudis, the Qataris and the Turks are seriously engaged in the grand U.S. “coalition” – Obama has boasted of its 65 members – to fight ISIS, Al Qaeda and other terrorists. But these “allies” are mostly just going through the motions.

The overall impact of the U.S. government’s years and even decades of public manipulation has been to “trifurcate” the American people into three groups: those who still believe the official line, those who are open to real evidence that goes against the official line, and those who believe in fact-free conspiracy theories positing that nothing from any official source can be true.

To say that such a division is not healthy for a democratic Republic is to state the obvious. Indeed, a democratic Republic cannot long survive if government officials insist on managing the people’s perceptions through propaganda and disinformation. Nor can it long survive if a significant part of the population believes the craziest of conspiracy theories.

Yet, it seems that President Obama and other senior officials simply can’t resist taking the easy route of deception to reach a compliant consensus, rather than engaging in the hard work of presenting clear evidence and engaging the American people in serious debate.

Or, perhaps Obama and his advisers are too deep into the lies and thus fear the consequences of admitting that many of their claims were false or misleading. That would be like Toto pulling the curtain away from the Wizard of Oz and the wizard immediately confessing. The instinct is to tell the populace to ignore that man behind the curtain.

The Impossible Speech

I have long advocated that Obama should go on television in the style of President Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address in 1961, sitting in the Oval Office, hands-folded, none of Obama’s glitzy stage-craft, and simply level with the American people.

Before the speech, Obama could release the 28 pages from the congressional 9/11 report about Saudi support for the hijackers. He also could release other U.S. intelligence analyses on the role of the Saudis, Qataris and Turks in supporting Al Qaeda and ISIS. He could toss in what U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded about the 2013 sarin gas attack in Syria and about the 2014 shoot-down of MH-17 in Ukraine.

To the degree that the U.S. government had misled the American people, the President could fess up. He could explain how he and other government officials were seduced by the siren song of the propagandists who promised to line up public opinion behind a policy with no muss or fuss. He could admit that such manipulation of U.S. citizens by the U.S. government is simply wrong.

Obama could explain that he now realizes that elitism in the pursuit of the people’s subservience is incompatible with the principles of a Republic in which the citizens are the sovereigns of the nation. He could ask our forgiveness and recommit himself to the government transparency that he promised during the 2008 election. (While at it, he could pardon and apologize to the whistleblowers whom he has prosecuted and imprisoned.)

Having reestablished a foundation of trust – and repudiating the past decades of deception – he could explain what has to be done in Syria. Most significantly he could demand that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and other countries helping ISIS and Al Qaeda shut down that assistance immediately or face severe financial and other consequences, “allies” or not.

Then, he could promise that – after reasonable stability is restored to Syria – the people of Syria would be allowed to decide who they want as their leaders. Right now, the key obstacle to a new power-sharing government in Syria is the West’s insistence that Assad can’t compete in future democratic elections. Yet, if President Obama is so sure that most Syrians hate Assad, nothing could demonstrate that better than Assad’s resounding defeat at the polls. Why avoid that?

But it’s become painfully obvious that Obama does not have it in him to give that speech or take such actions. It would require defying Official Washington’s neocon-dominated insider community and “allies,” such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Israel. To appease those forces, he will continue to play word games and to spin propaganda narratives. He is too much of an elitist to inform and empower the American people.

Thus, the Obama administration’s credibility gap won’t be closed. Indeed, it will widen into a chasm, with Official Washington sitting on one side and the vast majority of humanity on the other. The undeserving winners will include the terrorists of ISIS and Al Qaeda. There will be many losers who deserve better.

Comment by Vicki Campbell

December 8, 2015 @ 3:23 pm

And here’s another article also from Consortium News, written immediately after the President’s speech. I found the comments in relation to Saudi Arabia especially salient.

The Incredible Shrinking President
December 7, 2015

By Daniel Lazare
Consortium News

President Barack Obama came off well in his nationwide address on the San Bernardino shootings. He was lively and expressive and he even achieved a moment of pathos when he urged Americans not to “turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam.”

But otherwise he was the incredible shrinking president. The problem was not so much his use of clichés – the victims are “part of our American family … founded upon a belief in human dignity … let’s make sure we never forget what makes us exceptional,” etc. – rote phrases that are somehow meant to be reassuring and comforting.

Rather, it was the denials, half-truths and outright misstatements that leave no doubt that the man is clinging to a failed policy and that whatever changes he makes in the wake of the San Bernardino killings will only make matters worse.

As for half-truths and misstatements, perhaps the best place to begin is with the concept of terrorism. Although Obama spoke the T-word some two dozen times during the course of his address, he holds a selective view of what it means.

While everyone agrees that setting off a bomb on a crowded bus is terrorism, what about using an F-16 to deposit a bomb in the middle of a Yemeni wedding party – is that terrorism too? If shooting up health workers is terrorism, then what about using an AC-130 gunship to bomb and strafe hospital workers in Afghanistan? What is the difference?

By any objective measure, there isn’t any. This is why Obama and others utter the word “terrorism” so incessantly – because it is a highly-loaded term that serves as a smokescreen to disguise the true nature of their own activities. It allows them to get away with murder, but it also leaves them punching at the air.

By arbitrarily classifying certain groups as terrorist or non-terrorist merely because of which side they happen to be on at any given moment, Obama and other abusers of the T-word wind up not only fooling the public, but themselves as well.

Is Al Qaeda Still Terrorist?

This tendency toward self-deception was evident in Obama’s references to Al Qaeda and ISIL (also known as ISIS, Islamic State and Daesh).

“Our military and counterterrorism professionals have relentlessly pursued terrorist networks overseas,” he said, “disrupting safe havens in several different countries, killing Osama bin Laden, and decimating al Qaeda’s leadership.” But then, a few minutes later, he added:

“In Iraq and Syria, airstrikes are taking out ISIL leaders, heavy weapons, oil tankers, infrastructure. And since the attacks in Paris, our closest allies – including France, Germany and the United Kingdom – have ramped up their contributions to our military campaign, which will help us accelerate our effort to destroy ISIL.”

But wait – what happened to Al Qaeda? Obama’s sleight of hand was designed to obscure the fact that, while bombing ISIS, the U.S. has been standing by as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, two of its closest regional “allies,” have channeled money and arms to Al Nusra, Al Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate, via an Islamist umbrella group calling itself the Army of Conquest.

The Obama administration didn’t object when the Saudi-supplied Al Nusra Front and its principal “Army of Conquest” ally, another jihadi group called Ahrar al-Sham, used U.S.-made TOW missiles in an offensive to seize portions of Idlib province. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Climbing into Bed with Al-Qaeda.”

The administration didn’t even speak up when Al Nusra issued an Arabic-language video thanking the U.S.-backed and supposedly “moderate” Free Syrian Army for supplying it with advanced weaponry, according to a new Israeli-Arab news organization known as Al-Masdar.

So, while bragging about killing bin Laden (in 2011) and “decimating” Al Qaeda’s leadership, Obama forgot to mention that the U.S. is currently backing the same forces as they seek to topple the Assad government in Damascus – or at least backing groups that cooperate with Al Qaeda.

Obama noted that “groups like ISIL grew stronger amidst the chaos of war in Iraq and then Syria” while also forgetting to mention growing reports that it is not only chaos that has allowed ISIS to grow, but donations from super-rich Arab gulf monarchies, which the U.S. government considers its “allies.”

“We’re working with Turkey to seal its border with Syria,” Obama added, when in fact Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu has already given the proposal the cold shoulder – and Turkey’s alleged border-sealing effort is belied by evidence that giant convoys carrying ISIS oil have been routinely entering Turkey without resistance. At least until Russia essentially shamed the U.S. into joining in a bombing interdiction campaign last month.

Obama bragged that “sixty-five countries … have joined an American-led coalition” against ISIS, an unconscious echo of George W. Bush’s claim that 48 nations had joined a “Coalition of the Willing” to invade Iraq. But Obama neglected to note that the Saudis and other Gulf monarchies have all but abandoned the effort in order to concentrate on their sectarian war against Shi’ite Houthis in Yemen, where some 2,600 civilians have died since air strikes began in March.

Obama also forgot to mention Russia, whose warplanes are pounding ISIS, Al Nusra and other rebel forces. While promising to “continue to provide training and equipment to tens of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian forces fighting ISIL on the ground so that we take away their safe havens,” Obama said nothing about tens of thousands of Syrian army troops who have been battling ISIS, Al Nusra, and other Salafist groups since at least 2012, despite sanctions from the U.S. and other Western powers.

Obama also failed to mention Syrian President Bashar al-Assad even though overthrowing his government is clearly America’s prime goal. Somehow, Obama has gotten it into his head that the best way to combat ISIS is by ridding it of its foremost enemy, a case of self-deception raised to the nth degree.

The Saudi Brand of Islam

But Obama was perhaps at his most duplicitous in his comments about religion. The killers in San Bernardino “embrac[ed] a perverted interpretation of Islam,” he said.

But, Obama added, Islamic State “does not speak for Islam. They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death, and they account for a tiny fraction of more than a billion Muslims around the world, including millions of patriotic Muslim Americans who reject their hateful ideology.”

That is quite true. But then he went on to say:

“That does not mean denying the fact that an extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities. This is a real problem that Muslims must confront, without excuse. Muslim leaders here and around the globe have to continue working with us to decisively and unequivocally reject the hateful ideology that groups like ISIL and al Qaeda promote; to speak out against not just acts of violence, but also those interpretations of Islam that are incompatible with the values of religious tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity.”

Yet, if Muslim leaders are to “continue” working to oppose such ideology, that assumes that they are doing so already. But the Saudis, the dominant power among the Arab Gulf states, is probably the most illiberal society on earth, one that bars all religions other than ultra-conservative Wahhabist Islam, arrests Christians for the “crime” of attending underground religious services, and savagely represses its own 15-percent Shi‘ite minority.

In 2006, Freedom House and the Institute for Gulf Affairs, both eminently conservative organizations, issued a joint report finding that Saudi textbooks instruct students to “hate” Christians, Jews, polytheists, and unbelievers; teach that the Crusades are still ongoing; advise students not to greet, befriend, imitate, or even be courteous to non-Wahhabists; and state that “the struggle between Muslims and Jews” will continue until judgment day and that “Muslims will triumph because they are right.”

What’s more, Obama knows this reality because the State Department completed its own comprehensive study of Saudi textbooks in 2012. Yet the administration opted to suppress the report for the same reason that it has suppressed a 28-page chapter in the joint congressional report on 9/11 dealing with the question of Saudi complicity – because the alliance with Riyadh is sacrosanct and trumps other “minor” issues such as religious bigotry and the attack on the World Trade Center.

The Saudi Arabia also got a pass regarding its connection to the San Bernardino massacre. Obama promised in his speech to “put in place stronger screening for those who come to America without a visa so that we can take a hard look at whether they’ve traveled to warzones.”

But Tashfeen Malik, the woman who reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIS shortly before embarking on a killing spree with her husband Syed Rizwan Farook, did not travel to a warzone. She traveled and lived in Saudi Arabia.

Although Tashfeen Malik was of Pakistani origin, she spent most of her life in Saudi Arabia, where she and her father drank deeply from the well of Wahhabism. Relatives say her father emerged deeply conservatized from the experience while Tashfeen was so thoroughly Saudi in her outlook that when she returned to Pakistan to study pharmacology, she had difficulty adjusting even on a campus notorious for its fundamental Islamic influences.

“She told me, ‘My parents live in Saudi Arabia, and I am not getting along with my roommates and cannot adjust with them, so can you help me?’” one faculty member told The New York Times. Yet no one thought to worry since both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are key U.S. “allies.”

Obama’s Bind

Barack Obama is thus a man caught in a bind. If his speech was rife with contradictions, it’s because he wants to have his cake and eat it, too. He supports Sunni extremists in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Syria, yet is shocked, shocked, when they unleash their violence on innocent bystanders in Paris or San Bernardino.

Obama claims to be at war with Al Qaeda, yet looks the other way when close friends supply the same group with money and arms. He cautions Americans not to give in to Islamophobia, but says nothing as Wahhabists rage against Christians, Jews and Shi‘ites.

The President is all in favor of secularism, yet is seeking to topple the secular Baathist regime in Damascus. Indeed, he is waging war against one of the few secular governments left standing in the Muslim world.

He promises that “the strategy that we are using now – airstrikes, Special Forces, and working with local forces who are fighting to regain control of their own country – that is how we’ll achieve a more sustainable victory.”

But under his watch, Al Qaeda and ISIS have expanded from Bangladesh to Morocco, with the latter now in charge of a territory the size of Great Britain in northern Syria and Iraq. How many more such victories can the world take – and how much longer can the U.S. government keep covering up for the Saudis?

If Marine Le Pen’s neo-fascist National Front emerged as the biggest winner in French regional elections this weekend and Donald Trump is now 20 points ahead of his Republican competitors, it’s because voters have lost confidence in their leaders’ ability to combat ISIS and Al Qaeda.

The only way they know how to respond is by closing U.S. borders and keeping out anyone who looks the least bit like a “terrorist.” If Obama’s gun-control message is failing to make headway, it is for the same reason. If the government can’t protect them against ISIS, growing numbers of Americans figure that the only solution is to protect themselves by arming to the hilt. Thus, fear of “terrorism” contributes to the street-level arms race that Obama is unable to contain.

Obama’s core contradiction is that he wants to battle ISIS while catering to ISIS’s co-thinkers in Riyadh. He wants to rein in ISIS savagery in Syria and Iraq while aiding Saudi savagery in Syria and Yemen. He wants to protect Americans while protecting those who allow money and weapons to flow to forces trying to kill Americans.

It’s not a policy destined for success.

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 9, 2015 @ 6:59 am

Interesting comments and useful IMO!

But I now have a new take on things or at least new to my comments on this blog?

The Constitution does not define many of its terms and their usage but instead relies on what the words meant at the time of drafting the documents of the Founding generation.

Many readers here of my comments know that I believe both Capitalism and Communism are in fact forms of RELIGION based on my understanding of the definition of RELIGION.

But some facts about ISLAM! First, there is almost no doctrine or synthesis of its beliefs outside if the Quran.

Second, with perhaps fifty historic sects, Islam is filled with many of its sects being view as heretical by the others, in fact many are labeled INFIDELS by the other sects.

One key sect today is viewed as not part of ISLAM and that is the ALAWITES! Assad of Syria is at least nominally an ALAWITE.

Thus, perhaps for anyone entering the USA seeking long term resident status or citizenship perhaps a key question is WHOM OR WHAT OTHERS DO YOU HATE?

Please understand that in my later years I have come to view WWI as a largely ethnic war and WWII as a largely racial war. Perhaps wrong but that is my understanding.

And as to the meaning of the word RELIGION now not as of the time of the drafters I believe that no belief system that does not have as its foundation DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO TO YOU is not a religion and should be studied and labeled as simply politicaL and/or economic systems afraid to withstand scrutiney as RELIGIONS.

Perhaps I am wrong as always.

And I certainly do not measure the worth of a man or woman based on what he/she owns or net worth.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

December 9, 2015 @ 8:19 am

Bill: Perhaps tangential, but nonetheless prompted by your comment. There is a human tendency to wonder about the nature of Being. This wondering spans superstition, philosophy, and science. In many times and places this wondering has been socially organized into religion. This social construct is related to and often emerges from the wondering, but is also inclined to constrain/control/direct the wondering toward particular answers. In my view, political and economic systems emerge more from supposed answers (or firm conceptions) rather than wondering. And at various stages most religions also tend to focus more on their supposed answers than shared wondering. So as an observation of outcomes, your conflation of these social constructs may be entirely consistent with behavior. But the different origins are, it seems to me, not insignificant.

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