The successful elimination of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi intervened just as this text was about to go to press. Highly skilled American commandoes, with international cooperation, under the civilian leadership of President Donald Trump, cornered the caliph of the defeated Islamic State [Daesh], who fled into a dead-ended tunnel and blew himself up with an explosive vest, reportedly taking three of his young children with him. A fair-minded person can applaud this action while reserving for a later date a reaction to the rambling, questionable statements made by the president after he read the scripted account of the raid. What follows here is not a personal attack on a private individual; it concerns the presidency of a great democracy that can use its power for the good of the free world… or retreat to an illusion of isolated safety.
When a defining moment sinks rapidly into an ocean of confusion it is like the third and last appearance of a drowning man. Watching this happen simultaneously in Paris and Washington is doubly distressing. How can the lone lifeguard navigate these geopolitical seas?
Paris, 3 October / Breaking News: a “deaf-mute” employed at the Préfecture de Paris fatally stabbed four colleagues, left a fifth fighting for her life, and was shot dead by a rooky policeman in the historic courtyard of the préfecture. The assailant was identified as a 45 year-old IT technician born in Fort de France (Martinique), employed in the DRPP [domestic intelligence division of the préfecture] since 2003. He had never given cause for concern.
Independent online sources immediately started filling in the blanks. The killer was a convert to Islam, attended a radical mosque, associated with Salafists, refused to shake hands with female colleagues… and had slit the throat of at least one of his victims. Some sources, mistakenly assuming he had slipped through metal detectors, claimed he had used a ceramic knife. In fact policemen and civilian personnel wear badges and do not go through security. The 20cm metal knife and the oyster-shucker were purchased shortly before the lunchtime killing spree.
In a lively debate on the subject of responsible reporting, CNews proudly displayed its in-house fact-checker who explained why they didn’t relay allegations circulating online. For example, it was said that the suspect dressed in khamis when he went to early morning prayers at the local radical mosque. Neighbors had heard him shouting allahu akhbar in the middle of the night on the eve of the attack. Responsible journalists, said the fact checker, don’t spread rumors from nobody-knows-who neighbors.
Within 24 hours, the too hot to handle information was verified and amplified. The neighbors are in fact policemen, living in designated moderate-rental housing. And a France 3 journalist, Clément Weil-Raynal, who scooped everyone, including alternative media, is now accused by his hierarchy of being a “militant.” Meaning? A Muslim-bashing Zionist Mossad agent, or something similar. Guilty of reporting accurate embarrassing details about the Islamic reality of the crime.
Mickaël Harpon, with a hearing loss of 70% and not at all mute, converted to Islam in 2008. In 2015 colleagues reported to their chief Harpon’s reaction to the execution of the Charlie Hebdo staff, punished by Islamists for publishing the Mohamed cartoons: “They got what they deserved.” Because the colleagues declined to file a written report (do you wonder why?) no stain appears on Harpon’s record. And the incident did not trigger any further investigation, inquiry, or simple curiosity. In the aftermath of the killing spree, journalists at Valeurs Actuelles went straight to Facebook and found Harpon’s pages, filled with enthusiastically approved gruesome Daesh videos.
The joke, as if such things could be funny, is that Harpon worked in the division responsible for tracking “faint signs of radicalization.” He was “just” an IT technician with security clearance and access to data on the computers he handled.
The dam broke, reality poured into the public arena, the Islamist threat appeared full-length like a giant monster bearing down on the city. The government promised improvement at every level of detection and prevention of Islamic violence. The president urged citizens to be vigilant without indulging in délation (ominous reminder of the denunciation of Jews by their neighbors during the Occupation). The subject of “islamisme,” to be carefully distinguished from “Islam,” was front and center from morning to night. Commentators poured out a head-spinning mixture of ignorance and lucidity on every facet of the problem, desperately seeking the proper instrument for measuring “radicalization” so as to avoid further horrific killings that chill society’s blood. As if, properly measured, the Muslim-born or converted Salafist known to refuse normal social contact with female colleagues, heard to express sympathy with Daesh, recognized as he scurries to the mosque, demanding time and space for his five daily prayers and respect for his weakened capacity to work during the month-long Ramadan challenge, and married to a woman in niqab could be caught by a tripwire one hour before grabbing a knife and slitting throats around town.
Five short days before the préfecture massacre, outspoken author / journalist Eric Zemmour was skewered for declaring (at Marion Maréchal Le Pen’s Unite-the-Right jamboree) that mass immigration is a grave problem for the integrity of French society, and Islam compounds the problem. The horrifying jihad attack in the heart of the Paris police headquarters exploded into a brainstorm of awareness of Islam(ism) as a clear and present danger. Interior Minister Christophe Castaner was accused of dereliction of duty and deliberate falsification for hiding the Islamic nature of the attack during the first 24 hours. As proof of due diligence, he ticked off some modest figures of “radicalized” policemen, soldiers, teachers, bus drivers and whatnot currently under surveillance.
After inching forward a few kilometers the public mind was pushed off course by a variety of provocations and manipulations, and ended up in the Stop Islamophobia underbrush. The question of how to protect society from further throat-slitting morphed into the issue of hijab mothers accompanying children on school excursions. President Macron warned against confusing Islam with terrorism. So much for vigilance. Anti-jihad friends in the U.S. forwarded sketchy articles on the préfecture incident tagged with messages of concern for my safety or ho-hum dismissals of France.
Quid pro quo, that is the question
The never-ending attempt to remove Donald Trump from office, initiated with his victory in the 2016 election, suddenly got wings. A whistleblower accused the president of withholding duly appropriated military aid to Ukraine in exchange for a promise from the newly elected president Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Biden scandal and find the DNC server hiding, according to Trump, somewhere in his country. Trump defenders were crystal clear: there was no quid pro quo and besides it’s perfectly normal, heads of state do it all the time. The powerful president of the most powerful nation on this troubled earth was using his power as he sees fit. He needed to dig up the truth on the illegitimate means used by the DNC to spy on his campaign and subsequently launch the infamous Meuller investigation. And Hunter Biden’s lucrative position on the Board of Burisma is precisely the kind of corruption Zelensky has promised to root out.
Quid pro quo here, impeachment there, is that the best they can come up with in our ailing democracy? Foreign meddling, certainly. From Democrats and Republicans. What was Hunter Biden doing on the Burisma Board? Wasn’t he trading on his father’s position as Vice President? I don’t know why Trump would have to devote so much shifty parallel diplomacy on fishing for proof of nepotism. There’s enough evidence in the July 1st New Yorker profile: “Will Hunter Biden jeopardize his father’s campaign”? What was Hunter doing for Burisma when he wasn’t in a rehab center trying to kick the cocaine habit? Or stumbling in or out of a marriage, a liaison, a messy divorce or business dealings with a Chinese crook?
Hunter, we are reminded, had no particular skills that would justify his salary —no less than $50,000 a month—on the Board of Burisma. Whereas Jared and Ivanka Kushner are known for the brilliant careers in international relations that prepared them for the delicate task of fleshing out the Deal of the Century. All the idiots that messed around with Israel-Palestine peace processes should just lie down and die, if they’re not dead already. Jared and Ivanka will show the world how age-old conflicts are solved.
Choose your camp! If you don’t understand that impeachment is one more lowdown filthy maneuver of totally discredited, absolutely crazy, dismally mediocre, Soros-funded Commie Democrats that never accepted the outcome of the 2016 elections and are starting to mess with 2020, then you are a never – Trump collaborator.
Biased whistleblower, deep state, murky swamp, and disgruntled Democrats, granted. There is sufficient evidence to conclude that Donald Trump does not conduct himself as the president of a democracy. He operates like the Boss of a Very Big Company who rules with an iron hand, hires and fires at the drop of a hat, deliberately misbehaves outrageously to show that he can do whatever he wants, manufactures an endless line of illiterate mutterings that his awed subjects gobble down for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Benevolent democra-dictator, Donald Trump offers material prosperity as the be-all and end-all of his reign. His favorite place is on stage at a mass rally of entranced admirers, chewing the fat and boasting of his prowess. He has contempt for the leaders of democratic countries, fawns over the likes of Kim Jung Un and Tayyip Recep Erdogan, and calls you dirty names if you don’t agree with him. Specialist in low blows, Trump won the Republican nomination with a combination of disgraceful behavior and tricky scams (For example, Ted Cruz’s father accomplice to the JFK assassination, hat tip the National Enquirer). What did he offer? “I’m the winner.” He had to win the nomination because he’s a winner and he would win the presidential election because he is a winner, and nothing and no one can stop him because he is a winner. The ultimate braggart, Donald Trump convinces people to idolize him as he idolizes himself. High-power ventriloquist, he puts his words in their mouths. They glorify and imitate his misbehavior, and transform the pig’s ear of his defects into silk purses filled with gold.
Willing suspension of disbelief
How does the dignified, honest, rational, educated & well-informed admirer of Donald Trump —and they are legion—justify the special circumstances he enjoys? Don’t judge the fellow by what you see and hear; judge him by the fact that people on the other side hate him, want to replace him with someone worse, stop at nothing, respect no laws, lie cheat and steal. Ignore his dull skin, empty eyes, clumsy words, tone, style, and shady life story. Fill in the blanks left by his ignorance and recognize, behind every bungling misstep in international relations, a brilliant strategy that no other president since 1776 has ever achieved. Sit back and enjoy the show. North Korea? He knows how to handle fatty boy. They go to the same hair salon. China? You aint seen nothing yet. The ripoff is over, coolies. Japan? Europe? Canada and Mexico? Watch those trade deficits go bottoms up. They’ve been taking advantage of us ever since the end of WW2. The party is over. They’ll pay for our troops and their defense, buy our goods and send back our stolen manufacturing jobs, and stop griping about our hormone beef and Clorox chicken.
The clincher: Not only did he turn his back on the absurd JCPOA, he set up a system of barbed wire and floodlights to keep the amoral Europeans from tossing a lifeline to the Mullahs. And he is the most pro-Israel president of all times. Shall I count the blessings?
Donald Trump’s worldview
Trump’s success is due to his uncanny skill for drawing people into the confines of his inflated ego. He’s more than the center of the world; he is the world. Within that narrow circumference he controls reality, invents facts, persons, nations, processes, geography and, sometimes, his own laws of nature. This has become obvious with the disaster of the Syrian surrender. In the same way that the jihad attack in the heart of the préfecture revealed, undeniably, the danger of Islam[ism], the abject retreat of America’s modest contingent in Northeast Syria that blocked the Turkish campaign of eradication of Kurdish resistance exposed the disaster of Trump’s whimsical foreign policy. Here, the mortal danger of Islam[ism] in our midst; there, Trump’s betrayal of both the Kurdish ally and American interests— these two interlocking realities are widely acknowledged across party lines and national borders.
The civilized world is aghast. And, like the shoemaker’s elves, astute Trump supporters repair the damage night by night, leaving a trail of non-sequiturs. Trump is not abandoning the Kurds, the Kurds are not the personification of virtue, Trump is right to get the U.S. out of the Middle East’s endless wars, the Syrian border is 7,000 miles away from anything that could matter to us, Turkey is a NATO ally, we gave the Kurds plenty of money, they were fighting for their own interests, Europeans are worthless, if they won’t take back their jihadis too bad for them…
Conscientiously searching for intelligent analysis, we get rationalized versions of the mad ramblings of a cornered Trump. Cynical and heartless, Trump mishandled the Syrian retreat, disgraced the nation, sullied the honor of the military, and trashed the Kurds as he delivered them up to recycled Al Qaida and Daesh thugs operating under the Turkish banner.
Trump is not exactly lying. The outside world does not exist for him. Nothing attracts his attention until it enters his I-am-the-world where he pushes around Playmobil figures. The reactions of friends, allies, associates or adversaries don’t matter because they can’t get past the sentinels on his borders. He boasts that his favorite word is “reciprocate” but no reciprocity is possible because no one can be on an equal footing with him inside the world-as-Trump. When he surrenders to a big or small time strongman, he thinks he is mighty. Because the Other is a Playmobil figure under his power. In the narrow confines of his world there were 28 [sic] U.S. soldiers caught between the Kurds (not angels) and a formidable Turkish NATO army. Yehaddelet th’kids fightitout y’know.
Within his space-time, they (Kurds and Turks?) have been fighting for 300 years. We can’t stay and mind the Kurds for 1,000 years. The Turks have been victims of cross-border attacks, you have to see their side of the question. The PKK are terrorists, the Syrian Kurds are PKK, anyway they’re very happy with the arrangement. We saved them from a bloodbath.
Have I let myself be dragged into a witch hunt? Am I misinformed and misled by Fundamentalist Trump-haters?
I test and retest my every thought. Who are the Kurds, what are the endless wars, what are the facts on the ground? Unless I am mistaken, Kurds, Jews, and Christians currently living in the Middle East are, to a lesser or greater extent, résistants against jihad conquest. The endless wars in the Middle East are, more or less, related to that conquest…past and present. And the facts on the ground? At the end of eight days of brutal fighting, the formidable Turkish army could not carve out an enclave in Northeast Syria. According to Metula News Agency, they had control of two small pockets of the coveted territory. Pompeo & Pence gave them the rest. For good behavior.
Now, I am trying to understand how anti-jihad colleagues can nod in approval as Trump aids and abets an act of 21st century jihad conquest, and fellow Zionists lose sight of Israel in the Middle East that the brilliant strategist Trump is leaving to the good for nothings, while self-styled realists tip their hats to Trump who smashed the caliphate [ISIS] and then handed over control of the crucial Syrian border to the caliphate [Turkey]. Tough love, he says, with a wink. I’m bringing the boys home, he exults. Hundreds scurried from Syria to Iraq. How many now mobilized to protect the oilfields and scoop up our share of black gold (dixit Trump)? Home is where the heart is.
Back to the comfort zone
Trump’s cynical disregard for the Syrian Kurds is a corrosive acid too hot for his fans to handle; they retreat to the football field of the impeachment inquiry and score touchdowns against the despised rival team. At the end of the day, players from both sides are covered in mud.
In France, the debate on throat-slitting Islamic devotees slipped down a few notches to the “veil” controversy. The “veil” or “headscarf” (euphemism for hijab) is prohibited, since 2004, in schools and public services. The niqab, that people persist for some strange reason in calling a burka, is theoretically banned in public. Theoretically. Evasive as it may be, the hijab controversy feeds vigorous public debate on the question of Islam. Severely hijab’d young ladies join the conversation on cable TV channels. Pretty young women, born in France, strangled in neck-choking cloth, covered head to toe in what looks like a Westernized substitute for jilbab, soft-spoken and well-educated, they proclaim their allegiance to la République that grants them the right to practice their religion and, if they so freely choose, to wrap their heads in an article of faith. Born into immigrant families that carved out a place for themselves in the host country, they adamantly refuse to recognize that they might have a chilling effect in a French society that values élégance, coquetterie, séduction, décolletées and charme. One month after Mickaël Harpon committed jihad murder in the heart of police headquarters, these young ladies are dispatched to reframe the conversation from the threat of violent Islamists to the danger of stigmatizing Muslims.
Is the hijab a religious obligation, a cultural fashion statement, or a political battering ram? The answer is: it depends. And it is vain to expect immediate unanimous clear cut recognition of the reality of Islam. Specialists of all stripes, editorialists, anchors, and the very public officials responsible for protecting us from the throat-slitters struggle to separate Islam from Islamism, Muslims from terrorism, political Islam from the religion of peace & tolerance, jihadist Islam from women in hijab, and communautarisme [secessionist enclaves] from Islamist violence. The reason behind all of these imaginary distinctions is that a law-abiding democratic society is not equipped to deal with the reality of tyrannical Islam that has never renounced its original operating method: conversion or dhimmitude or death. This reality is not abstract; it is embodied in millions of Muslim citizens that will not disappear, cannot be discounted or divided into neat categories, will be swayed, intimidated, liberated, assimilated or weaponized in unpredictable proportions.
If the almighty president of the United States of America can’t recognize Islamic jihad when it calls him on the phone to announce the imminent conquest of Rojava, French people might deserve a bit of indulgence as they struggle to come to terms with their own patch of the problem.
The ungrateful Zionist
Am I the ungrateful Zionist? He moved the embassy (not exactly but ok) to Jerusalem, approved Israeli sovereignty on the Golan, cut off aid to UNWRA and the PA, poured ice water on the Palestinian refugee narrative, sent Nikki Hailey to the UN where she elegantly foiled the serial Israel-bashers (until she resigned), and encouraged promising alliances between Israel and some of its neighbors …
But Israel’s best friend couldn’t stand up to the Turks, let Iran get away with acts of war, badmouths the Kurds, has no taste for the Middle East mess, reduced his friendship with a beleaguered Bibi to a “you’re great” birthday message, and thinks that jihadis can get to Europe on foot but won’t make it to America. If the most pro-Israel president of all times goes down in flames, it will singe the Jews. Leftist Jews will be accused of bringing him down, Zionist Jews of polluting his policies, Jewish-controlled media of killing him with fake news, Jewish voters of remaining stubbornly Democrat, humanitarian Jews of encouraging immigration…
IfNotNow, drawing the logical conclusion from the betrayal of the Kurds, is luring Democratic candidates one by one to promise they would withhold aid from Israel if it misbehaves, annexes colonies, refuses to move ahead on the 2-state solution.
It’s that, or the Deal of the Century.
No quid pro quo there? No “I’ve done a lot for you and now I want to ask you a favor… can’t you spare a little bit of Jerusalem for those Palestinians so they’ll finally stop nagging us and everyone can get back to business and make tons of money?”
Of course he withheld military aid from Ukraine but he would never do that to Israel!
EDITORS NOTE: This Times of Israel column is republished with permission. © All rights reserved.