' Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
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Jewish World Review Feb. 25, 2003 / 23 Adar I, 5763

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.

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The plot thickens

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | What are we to make of the fact that a Muslim extremist (or "Islamist") named Dr. Sami Al-Arian was arrested and indicted last week on 50 counts, among them conspiracy to finance terrorist attacks that killed more than 100 people -- including two Americans? One thing is sure: It is not, as Al-Arian claimed when federal agents led him away in handcuffs, "all about politics."

After all, this alleged leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad -- an organization Attorney General John Ashcroft has described as "one of the most violent terrorist organizations in the world" -- was allowed into the Bush White House on at least one occasion. According to Saturday's Washington Post, in one of these meetings, he was among the front-row attendees at a briefing conducted by the man who is, arguably, Mr. Bush's chief aide: Karl Rove. Generally, political foes do not receive such treatment.

The Post article was accompanied by a photograph taken of Al-Arian with Candidate George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, during a campaign stop at the Tampa Strawberry Festival in March 2000. Perhaps this photo op was a way of thanking Al-Arian and his wife for the efforts they claim to have made on Mr. Bush's behalf "in Florida mosques and elsewhere because they thought him the candidate most likely to fight discrimination against Arab-Americans."

Al-Arian had particular reason to prefer Candidate Bush since the latter had pledged as part of his campaign's "outreach" to the Muslim community to end the use of secret evidence against suspected terrorists. This goal was a particular priority for Al-Arian since his brother-in- law, Mazen al-Najjar, was incarcerated for three-and-a-half years on the basis of such evidence, prior to his deportation.

Candidate Bush with the Al-Arian clan

In the photo with Mr. Bush, Al-Arian was accompanied by his son, Abdullah, who Mr. Bush reportedly dubbed "Big Dude." Big Dude Al-Arian was himself admitted into the White House six days after his father's June 2001 visit. Ironically, as the Wall Street Journal noted on Friday, "the Secret Service deemed Mr. Al-Arian's son -- at the time an intern in a Democratic congressional office [that of then-Rep. David Bonior of Michigan] -- a security risk and ejected him from a meeting on President Bush's faith-based initiatives program."

The episode precipitated howls of outrage from representatives of other Islamist groups who had been allowed to participate in this and other, high-level Administration meetings. It produced apologies from the President's spokesman and the Secret Service. According to the Post, on August 2, 2001, Mr. Bush even wrote Mrs. Al-Arian expressing "'regret' about how her son was treated. 'I have been assured that everything possible is being done to ensure that nothing like this happens again.'"

The question, in short, is not whether "politics" are responsible for Sami Al-Arian's prosecution for aiding and abetting terror? The question is: What considerations, political or otherwise, prompted members of Mr. Bush's staff to believe that Al-Arian was the kind of person they wanted on their team? Who bears responsibility for making those calculations? And are they continuing to do so with respect to other individuals and organizations that could, at the very least, embarrass Mr. Bush and, at worst, seriously undermine his efforts in the war on terror?

Obvious candidates include two individuals who have, at various times, had responsibilities in the White House for Muslim outreach: Suhail Khan, formerly with the Public Liaison Office, and Ali Tulbah, currently Associate Director for Cabinet Affairs. As it happens, their judgment about which people should be admitted to the President's company might have been influenced by the fact that their fathers were, respectively, active in Islamist-associated organizations in California and Texas.

Alternatively, Grover Norquist, the founding co-chairman of the Islamic Institute -- an organization that has played an important role in its own right in facilitating the Bush team's outreach to groups whose leaders and activities have repeatedly excused terror and/or opposed the administration's aggressive pursuit of the war against it -- asserted in an interview circulated last week by NewsMax.com, that Messrs. Khan and Tulbah "were merely underlings carrying out decisions made by more senior White House officials....The people making decisions are Presbyterians and Catholics, not Muslims.'" The issue is not their faith; it's their judgment.

Whoever is responsible, their behavior has seriously disserved President Bush, and risks becoming more than a mere political liability if it is allowed to persist. In a recently released document entitled, The National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, the Administration declares:

Together with the international community, we will wage a war of ideas to make clear that all acts of terrorism are illegitimate....We must use the full influence of the United States to delegitimize terrorism and make clear that all acts of terrorism will be viewed in the same light as slavery, piracy, or genocide: behavior that no respectable government can condone or support and all must oppose. In short, with our friends and allies, we aim to establish a new international norm regarding terrorism requiring non-support, non-tolerance, and active opposition to terrorists. The United States will work with such moderate and modern governments to reverse the spread of extremist ideology and those who seek to impose totalitarian ideologies on our Muslim allies and friends. (Emphasis added.)

Sami Al-Arian -- and those who share his extremist views, defend his conduct and have tried to legitimate him politically -- are not on President Bush's side in the war on terror. They should, therefore, be seen as unfit to be by his side in implementing his strategy for winning that war.

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JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


02/18/03: Who's 'with' President Bush?
02/11/03: Islamists' White House gatekeeper
02/04/03: The Powell report
01/28/03: Bush's finest hour
01/14/03: North Korean scorecard
01/07/03: Nuclear meltdown
12/17/02: Serious about defending America
12/03/02: Defining 'regime change'
11/26/02: With friends like the Saudis...
11/19/02: The Jayna Davis files
11/12/02: Could Israel die of thirst?
11/04/02: Against us
10/22/02: Too clever by half?
10/17/02: 'Drain the swamps'
10/08/02: The temptations of George Bush
10/01/02: Return of the San Francisco Dems
09/24/02: The next crusader?
09/17/02: It is no accident that advocates of coercive inspections have opposed prez's goal of regime change
09/10/02: A model for Iraq
08/27/02: Beware 'consensus leadership'
08/20/02: To Iraq or not to Iraq?
08/13/02: Trading with the 'enemy'
07/30/02: Who's trashing Ashcroft?
07/23/02: Wall Street's 'poisoned apples'
07/16/02: Back on the China front
07/09/02: See no evil?
07/02/02: Rethinking peacekeeping
06/25/02: Political moment of truth on defense
06/19/02: Inviting losses on two fronts
06/12/02: Make missile defense happen
06/04/02: The next 'Day of Infamy'?
05/29/02: Bush's Russian gamble
05/21/02: The 'next war'
05/15/02: Ex-presidential misconduct
05/07/02: When 'what if' is no game
05/02/02: Careful what we wish for
04/24/02: The real 'root cause' of terror
04/02/02: First principles in the Mideast
03/26/02: 'Renounce this map'
03/20/02: The inconvenient ally
03/12/02: Adults address the 'unthinkable'
03/05/02: The Saudi scam
02/26/02: Rumsfeld's 'now hear this'
02/19/02: Where's the outrage?
02/12/02: Post-mortem on 'Pearl Harbor II'
02/05/02: Spinning on the 'Evil Axis'
01/29/02: A challenge for the history books
01/22/02: Who pulled the plug on the Chinese 'bugs'?
01/15/02: No 'need to know'
01/08/02: Sentenced to de-nuclearize?
12/18/01: Missile defense mismanagement?
12/11/01: Is the Cold War 'over'?
12/04/01: A moment for truth
11/29/01: Send in the marines -- with the planes they need
11/27/01: 'Now Hear This': Does the President Mean What He Says?
11/20/01: Mideast 'vision thing'
11/13/01: The leitmotif of the next three days
11/06/01: Bush's Reykjavik Moment
10/30/01: Say it ain't true, 'W.
10/23/01: Getting history, and the future, right
10/16/01: Farewell to arms control
10/05/01: A time to choose
09/25/01: Don't drink the 'lemonade'
09/11/01: Sudan envoy an exercise in futility?
09/05/01: Strategy of a thousand cuts
08/28/01: Rummy's back
08/21/01: Prepare for 'two wars'
08/14/01: Why does the Bush Administration make a moral equivalence between terrorist attacks and Israel's restrained defensive responses?
08/07/01: A New bipartisanship in security policy?
07/31/01: Don't go there
07/17/01: The 'end of the beginning'
07/10/01: Testing President Bush
07/03/01: Market transparency works
06/27/01: Which Bush will it be on missile defense?
06/19/01: Don't politicize military matters
06/05/01: It's called leadership
06/05/01: With friends like these ...
05/31/01: Which way on missile defense?
05/23/01: Pearl Harbor, all over again
05/15/01: A tale of two Horatios
05/08/01: The real debate about missile defense
04/24/01: Sell aegis ships to Taiwan
04/17/01: The 'hi-tech for China' bill
04/10/01: Deal on China's hostages -- then what?
04/03/01: Defense fire sale redux
03/28/01: The defense we need
03/21/01: Critical mass
03/13/01: The Bush doctrine
03/08/01: Self-Deterred from Defending America
02/27/01: Truth and consequences for Saddam
02/21/01: Defense fire sale
02/13/01: Dubya's Marshall Plan
02/05/01: Doing the right thing on an 'Arab-Arab dispute'
01/30/01: The missile defense decision
01/23/01: The Osprey as Phoenix
01/17/01: Clinton's Parting Shot at Religious Freedom
01/09/01: Wake-up call on space
01/02/01: Secretary Rumsfeld
12/27/00: Redefining our Ukraine policy
12/19/00: Deploy missile defense now
12/12/00: Sabotaging space power
12/05/00: Preempting Bush
11/28/00: What Clinton hath wrought
11/21/00: HE'S BAAAACK
11/14/00: The world won't wait

© 2001, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.