Oklahoma Beheading Raises Questions About Prison Conversions and American Muslim Leadership

On Tuesday, September 30, 2014, Alton Alexander Nolen, a paroled former felon and Muslim convert aka Jah’Keem Yisrael was charged in Cleveland County, Oklahoma, Court with a first degree murder in the alleged beheading of 54 year old Colleen Hufford. He was also charged with the attempted murder of Traci Johnson, both on Thursday, September 25th on the premises of Vaughan Foods in Moore, Oklahoma. Earlier on Thursday Nolen had been suspended by the Vaughan Foods Human Resources Department because of arguments with Johnson and others, allegedly involving, possible racial and religious matters. Nolen, according to a report from his home town newspaper in Oklahoma, may have been fired for misogynist arguments with female workers about stoning women under Islamic Sharia law. Nolen was overheard invoking alleged “Arabic expressions” in his barbaric attacks that took the life of Hufford and stabbing of Johnson. If not for the shooting of Nolen by Vaughan Foods’ Chief Operating Officer, Mark Vaughan, a county reserve police officer, Nolen’s attack could have resulted in a possible mass killing episode. Police and FBI Investigation of Nolen’s social media revealed grisly beheading videos of American and British captives by the Islamic State, formerly ISIS. There were expressions of hatred towards unbelievers invoked by Qur’anic verses cited by Nolen.

Jacob Mugami Muriithi, Oklahoma City Nursing home worker. Source: The Oklahoman

Nolen’s act was not an isolated event in Oklahoma. On Friday, September 26th, Jacob Mugami Muriithi, a Kenyan Muslim immigrant, was arrested for threatening with beheading a fellow Oklahoma City nursing home worker on September 19th. Muriithi was arrested with bail set at $1 million on a terrorism compliant and currently is being investigated. According to an Oklahoman news report the unidentified woman:

said Muriithi identified himself as a Muslim and …he “represented ISIS and that ISIS kills Christians,” the detective told a judge in the affidavit. The two had not worked together before. The woman said she asked him why they kill Christians and he replied, “This is just what we do.”

Nolen attended Friday services at the same mosque as convicted 9/11 perpetrator, Zacarias Moussaouithe Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City (ISGOC). Saad Mohammed, Oklahoma CAIR chapter Board Chairman indicated that Nolen began regular attendance in May 2014. While Mohammed found Nolen fairly quiet, he said, “He was a little odd, a little strange in the way he carried himself. But we [at the mosque] never made anything of it.” The current Imam at the ISGOC Imad Enchassi, is a Palestinian immigrant who lived through the Sabra and Shatila Refugee Camp massacre in Lebanon. Breitbart reported: “both [Oklahoma]  CAIR Director Adam Soltani and ISGOC Imam Enchassi claimed just days prior to the beheading that Muslims and their children had been receiving death threats from Oklahoma residents; going as far as to say that Muslims and their children were under threat of being beheaded and were no longer safe in Oklahoma.”

The former Imam at the ISGOC who encountered Moussaoui in 2001 was Suhaib Webb, a Caucasian Oklahoma prison convert to Islam. Two days prior to 9/11, Webb participated in a fundraiser for Atlanta radical H. Rap Brown with late Al Qaeda operative, Anwar Al- Awlaki two days before 9/11, September 9, 2001. Webb ultimately moved to Boston to become Imam at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC) controlled by Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, Muslim American Society. The ISBCC had as trustees,Yusuf al Qaradawi, notorious Anti-American and Anti-Israel Muslim Brotherhood preacher living in exile in Qatar and convicted terror financier Abdulrahman Alamoudi serving a 23 year term in a federal prison for funneling money for the assassination of a Saudi prince. Boston Marathon bombers, the late Tamerlan and surviving brother Dzhokhar Tsarneav, the latter awaiting trial in Boston, attended the Cambridge mosque of the ISBCC. Webb has returned frequently to the ISGOC to give sermons. According to a Daily Caller report, Webb published an apology for demonizing ISIS following the beheading by Nolen. Dr. Charles Jacobs of Americans for Peace and Tolerance characterized Webb in a Boston Jewish Advocate article in 2013 as someone who, “teaches vicious hatred and calls for young Muslims to engage in Jihad against non-Muslims in order to establish a global Islamic state.”

Given this background we interviewed noted forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist, who is renowned within legal circles for his work on many of the most sensitive and complex cases in America and beyond. Because his ouvre includes eight mass killing or attempted mass killing cases, defendants implicated in terrorism, risk assessment, and engagement of cross cultural issues, we decided to reach out to him on the Oklahoma beheadings of this week. He is known to readers of the New English Review for the Omar Khadr military tribunal in Guantanamo, in which his work, including a videotaped interview, obliterated fraudulent claims of US torture of a teenage detainee and coercion of his confession; his testimony on risk assessment of future Jihadism had meaningful impact on both a jury picked by Khadr’s own attorneys, as well as the Canadian government. In addition to other terrorism-related cases and casework involving al-Qaeda, he has written on terrorism and its integral dependence on mass media.

Dr. Welner, who pioneered peer review to enhance the integrity of forensic consultation, is architect of the Depravity Standard, an evidence-driven inventory of a crime’s intent, actions, attitude, and victimology for application to criminal sentencing, release decisions, and war crimes tribunals. This fascinating research to essentially standardize how evil is distinguished in crime also includes protocols in which the general public, including all who read this, can directly participate in shaping future criminal sentencing, at www.depravitystandard.org. He is a key contributor to crisis mental health reform legislation before Congress, HR 3717 sponsored by Rep. Tim Murphy, and inspired a recently passed landmark law in Illinois requiring transparency and videotaping of competency examinations.

Jerry Gordon

Jerry Gordon:  Dr. Welner, thank you for consenting to this timely interview.

Dr. Michael Welner

Dr. Michael Welner:  Thank you for inviting me.

Gordon:  Alton Alexander Nolen is a former convicted felon and Muslim convert aka Jah’Keem Yisrael. He is suspect in perpetrating an alleged beheading and attempted murder of co-workers at Vaughan Foods in Moore, Oklahoma. The Imam of the Oklahoma City Islamic Center who encountered him during his parole suggested that he was a “little weird.” How might Nolen’s criminal past and alleged instability coupled with his Muslim conversion make him a recruit to commit such barbarity in sympathy with ISIS?

Welner:  In my professional experience, murder that reflects an ideological influence, which is what I would call this, is committed far more frequently by recent converts or recruits. It is an expression of bonafides by someone seeking greater prestige among the admired group. And it may be someone who is nominally affiliated or unaffiliated altogether. Leaders and more hard core adherents are content to rely upon such individuals as cannon fodder to set an example for others.

As for the depiction of him as “a little weird,” that is a non-specific finding. Were he not to have been “a little weird,” he would not have gotten himself fired from Vaughan Foods. It’s not investment banking.

I am reluctant to yet call him a recruit to ISIS. I think it is more accurate to say that at this point, there is clearly an unspecified segment of the American Muslim population that deeply identifies with ISIS. Some identify enough to travel overseas and to fight for ISIS when they would not do so for the United States military. Others would send their children to do the same. Still others admire them and support their missions and actions. To the end that ISIS has encouraged export of sectarian attacks on non-believers here, there are and will continue to be those who answer that call as a spiritual imperative.

This was an attempted mass killing. Mass killers are premeditated killers. Mass killers identify with being violent and destructive. That typically precedes their adopting any number of self-righteous causes.

The variant for each mass killer is the point at which they decide that the day has come for them to undertake a fantasized mass killing. In this case, Jah’Keem Israel was fired. That is a commonly identified trigger to mass killing in a person harboring deep identification with destructiveness as an expression of manhood.

In cases such as this, his spiritual journey is an ingredient in his justification of killing a complete stranger who had nothing to do with his firing. He beheaded the poor victim – we call that a “signature.” Amping one’s self up on righteous justification with one ideology or another is no different from the self-serving contempt of Elliot Rodger with which he intoxicated himself before decimating Isla Vista, California in May 2014.

Gordon:  Jacob Mugami Muriithi, a Kenyan immigrant and self-identified Muslim had independently and prior to Nolen’s action at Vaughan Foods, threatened a fellow nursing home worker in Oklahoma City with beheading allegedly saying that ”ISIS  kills Christians.” Why in your view should both of these events concern Americans?

Welner:  I am not yet concerned about this particular story as an American problem, so much as it is now an American Muslim problem. Belligerents and co-workers who feel an entitlement to being homicidal have been a problem in workplaces for decades. Non-violence policies in workplaces correctly involve police when such incidents happen, and those who make serious threats are appropriately held accountable.

What ISIS has demonstrated is that it has tapped into a tremendous reservoir of spiritual bloodlust among Muslims worldwide. Death by beheading is no more death than by an automatic weapon. However, beheading as trophy collection is a relish for dehumanizing others that the Depravity Standard research (www.depravitystandard.org) has demonstrated to be reflective of depravity in crime. Beheading is disseminated and celebrated among populations that now dominate the landscape of many Muslim countries illustrates in these populations, how Islam defines its ideals. If that is not the case, then it is up to the Islamic leaders of those countries to fight ISIS and to disown it for religious sacrilege – rather than merely to oppose it for political threat. That is not an American problem; that is a choice of the Muslim world to either choose the 7th century or choose another era which can accommodate their Muslim beliefs and statecraft.

Since pockets of the American Muslim community – the numbers of which are not identified for public awareness – do identify with this barbarity, the challenge will be to American Muslims: How do you define yourselves? Are you here for pluralistic coexistence or to foment Sharia and a Sharia society as you have in an inexorably decaying France, for example? Vehement opposition to the subversives must come from the American Muslim community first and foremost.

The dominance of the influence of American Muslims seeking pluralistic coexistence over the voice of rejectionist Muslims must be supported as a matter of Department of Homeland Security policy. If that does not happen, the belligerence and intensity of American Muslims who are rejectionist of separation of church and state will come define the identity of American Islam as it has elsewhere.

I am not as impressed with the ISIS threat to America as a practical matter. The Islamist students at American universities, as was suspect Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, are far more capable threats right now. The infrastructure exists within the United States to prevent malevolents from carrying out large scale terrorist attacks. The bigger threat to America is not from these combatants, but from America’s unwillingness to deploy simple public safety maneuvers.

It is difficult, for example, to defend a policy of allowing ISIS combatants to return to the United States when the very nature of their militancy is to destroy others around them who do not believe. The policy that shut down the infrastructure for detecting and intervening in violent planned activity in those specifically poisonous mosques that exploit freedoms is a greater threat than those who identify with sectarian murder. Dismantling fundamental public safety measures in order to pander to those who provide cover for subversive Islam is a problem that is far greater than ISIS is or will be.

Prisons are a useful bell weather of ISIS influence. Nidal Hassan, of course, recently pledged to ISIS from prison. I believe Muslim violence against non-Muslims will increase in American prisons if ISIS is influencing relations between the religions in a meaningful way.

Gordon:  Nolen had allegedly become a Muslim convert while incarcerated in a State of Oklahoma Department of Corrections facility. How might Nolen’s exposure to theocratic radicalization materials during conversion contribute to his criminal acts?

Welner:  If Nolen acted in the name of Islam, his evolution in prison is only part of the story. Malevolent and dominant alpha-inmates with their own Jihadist dreams can be all the more poisonous than even radical clerics and their materials, especially if they have access to the inmate or set an example that others admire. Any assessment of Nolen should probe the origins of his influence to Islam beyond mere investigation of a cleric.

Similarly, even if he did not access reading materials, this does not mean there was no external influence. It only signifies that he preferred being preached to rather than to read.

Gordon:  As witnessed by the Oklahoma case of suspect Nolen, Islam is the fastest growing faith in US prison populations. The 2010 Census found upwards 15% of US prison populations (approximately 350,000) were Muslims. That is in contrast to 2.6 million Muslims nationally, according to the 2010 US Census. What in your view contributes to the high rate of Muslim prison conversions?

Welner:  Religion is an altogether therapeutic contributor in prison. For people whose rejection of rules and order, or whose alienation, is tied to their arrests and antisocial history, attachment to a higher power is constructive. If prisons were to be the most religion-dominated communities in America, there would be a decline of prison violence and of criminal recidivism.

Islam has been very aggressive about spreading itself in prisons in America and really, all over the world. There are many reasons promoting its spread in American facilities. For many with substance abuse histories, the rigorous abstinence disciplines one from habits that otherwise handicap. For others with no paternal role models and fragmented social supports, the submission and order organizes and grounds one as a first step to functioning in a manner transferrable from confinement to the community. These are good things to even support and reinforce, in my opinion. If someone chooses prayer, it is a safer world.

Prison also distinguishes itself with a disproportionate population of black Americans. The disenfranchisement of many black Americans from Americana is cemented by incarceration and its lifelong consequences. The Nation of Islam fed off that alienation and provided black liberation/black nationalism as the antidote to many prisoners. Islam appeals to the same black alienation from Americana today, which is weaker in some segments and even stronger in others.

Because many clerics ministering in prison are not merely alienated from America themselves, but militantly so, those on a path of religious discovery are as vulnerable to being misguided as teenagers in a madrassa.

It is no secret that radicalization after conversion to Islam is a huge problem in prisons in the West, including the United States. Part of the problem is the willingness of jails and prisons to employ and to provide access to clerics who are radicalized. Allowing access of radicalized rejectionists to people who are disaffected, vulnerable, and under control of the state is a dereliction of the “corrections” and “rehabilitation” role of incarceration. See also: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2011/02/19/michael-welner-omar-khadr-and-the-jihadism-that-lurks-in-our-prisons/

This is only part of the problem, however. In some facilities, the reverse occurs –  imams who are invested in America are forced out by senior and dominant prisoners who prefer their Islam with a heavy dose of rage.

But Islam is also a sanctuary against native pressures of prison to enlist in gangs. The gangs are organized around predatory and criminal goals, and pressure others to choose allegiances. Muslims in prison, however, have achieved enough of a critical mass, and a willingness to be violent if bothered, that even the worst of gangs do not mess with them. A person might be advantaged with this protection as a lesser sacrifice than to opt for gang membership.

Still others may identify themselves as Muslim to avoid certain responsibilities, target their housing, to secure certain schedules, or even to get access to a preferred diet. Folks inside are just trying to work the angles, and if that meant identifying themselves as Baha’i, they understandably would.

Christianity is still the dominant religion in prison custody. It does not forcefully engage the criminal mindset in a way that organizes behavior in a pro-social way. Nor does it have the intimidating bearing that Islam can muster in prisons. So it loses ground. For some people, Jesus loves you and Jesus forgives is not enough, especially to those who have no conscience to care to be forgiven.

There is tremendous potential for prison ministries of all faith in prison. But charismatic influence is particularly vital to penetrate the mindset of criminal deviance. Why? Because a person who answers to no one and knows no greater power than himself and no greater need than his own will only grow from respect for a higher power. Charismatic ministry, whatever the faith, can penetrate that self-absorption.

In that regard, religion can be the opiate of the prison masses. Like any drug, however, it can be misused by the dealer and by the user. That is the nexus of the Islam-prison dilemma in America and indeed prisons around the world today.

Gordon:  There have been several cases by Oklahoma Correctional system Muslim plaintiffs requesting access to halal foods brought under the Federal Religious Land Use and Incarcerated Persons Act of 2000 that were generally found in favor of prisoners. Do you consider those legal victories at both lower and appellate court levels empowering radical Muslim prison conversions in Oklahoma and elsewhere?

Welner:  I don’t consider these lawsuits relevant to conversions at all. Prisoners brings suits for all kinds of reasons and other prisoners know this. Some prisoners bring lawsuits to keep themselves mentally occupied, others to be as much of an annoyance to the state as can be. Anyone incarcerated would understandably bring a lawsuit to secure halal foods in prison, simply to curry favor with other Muslim prisoners.

It is true that being devout has been demonstrated in Danish psychologist Nicolai Sennels’ research to be associated with rejectionist alienation and criminal recidivism among young Danish Muslim prisoners. However, there is no evidence that availability of halal food engenders radicalism, any more than lack of availability.

Gordon:  You have provided prosecution testimony in a GITMO military tribunal regarding Canadian Afghan, former al Qaeda teen age fighter, Omar Khadr. What were your evaluation of terrorists like Khadr and the likelihood of their recidivism following so-called re-education programs and release from incarceration?

Welner:  Success is dependent upon the quality of the re-educating imam. He has to be forceful enough and has to have street credibility. In this regard, former radicals hold potential, so long as they are not essentially double agents.

Aside from that, a personal support system that rejects radicalism is helpful. So do probation conditions that allow for re-incarceration in order to disincentivize radical activity. Becoming materially invested in integration into general and secular society, such as vocationally, is helpful. So is developing one’s own family with all the responsibilities of a parent, among other things.

Not surprisingly, these elements often contribute to decline in criminal recidivism in general.

Gordon:  What were the attitudes towards Western host countries that you found based on third party research of incarcerated Muslim criminals?

Welner:  Research of the Guantanamo detainees demonstrated that those with greater exposure to the West, including those educated at Western universities, are more hostile to the West.

This speaks to how American universities fail to take responsibility to an active allegiance to the American brand that subsidizes public and private institutions. Freedom is not free, and freedom that is not defended by more than just the United States military is destined to be eroded.

Gordon:  Why have the social media messages of ISIS resonated with foreign Muslim recruits to its cause both here and elsewhere in the West?

Welner:  Because they are designed to. Social media has no purpose for any organization other than promotional. Social media is the vector to the young, by the young, and that is exactly the space that ISIS is occupying right now.

ISIS knows its audience, knows its constituency, knows what they want to see and knows what they will be responsive to. Most importantly, what ISIS wants (crash-test dummies, support staff, stage props, and those to defend the cause until the United Nations defends them more formally) is responsive to agitprop, which resonates with the young and the restless. Whereas professors on American campuses can fill idealistic minds with propagandist drivel, social media likewise captures the same vulnerable demographic on their down time.

When young Muslims from the United States join ISIS, it represents a failure on the part of our government to convey the extent, breadth, and depth of America’s contributions to the Muslim world. That message was marginalized by the short-sighted and self-interested political class because it means more to them to demonize George Bush than it does to aid the United States to defeat Islamism and tyranny of Arab leaders toward their own people. This is an utter failure of the State Department and Department of Education to represent our overseas interests domestically. It is also a tragic failure of the Obama Administration to use the public relations monolith they created, with far more effective social media tentacles than ISIS could ever have, to advance the global appreciation of America’s goodness.

What would be credible and appropriate would be to underscore how many American lives under both Bush and Obama, be they soldiers or contractors, have sacrificed to free the Arab world and create opportunity and institutions. Then, the young and restless Arabs and Muslims would be enlisting in the U.S. Military to defend those advances from being rolled back by ISIS attack. Consider the attitude of Europeans who fondly recall America for the war we fought on their soil, in thousands of graves in cemeteries across the pond marking those sacrificed to rid them of tyranny that crushed their freedoms as well.

Our nation did an exceptional job of making this message clear with Gulf War I and the war in Kuwait. No Kuwaiti-American, for example, would ever think to fight for Saddam Hussein in Gulf War II, given that legacy. Why, then, when the United States has rebuilt Iraq and stabilized it for a long period, lavished resources on Jordan, politically opposed the regime of Bashar Assad, lavished foreign aid on Lebanon, the Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt and Gaza, and propped up the Palestinian Authority, is the legacy of the United States reduced to our apology after apology? Until this changes, seditious anti-American elements here will only gain motivation and momentum.

Defeating ISIS’ influence on American minds comes from making it clear how much the United States has done for the Muslim world. Conveying the message the other way around only reinforces the sense of entitlement nurtured by ISIS to destroy America and the West.

If the Obama media-promotional complex could deploy every single American superstar of film and sport to sell Obamacare, they could figure out a way to bring rightful national loyalty among Somalis and Syrians alike to the American brand that elected Obama in the first place.

Gordon:  What can correctional systems do to screen materials to prevent radicalization of federal and state inmates?

Welner:  Correctional institutions have the necessary apparatus to screen communications and contraband. The risk, however, does not derive from materials. It derives from inmates who identify with violence and who are deeply alienated, who are then further alienated by the influences they encounter in prison, including religious figures they look up to. Imams do not have to direct them to go out and kill. Those who are implicated in violence against innocent people who gave them no provocation are inspired to destructiveness and adopt Muslim grievances as a pretext to ghoulish murder and enslavement.

If correctional officials work collaboratively with a clear-eyed Department of Homeland Security, they can collaboratively stifle the seeding of radicalism in the same way that gangs are regulated behind bars. Obviously, there has to be a zero tolerance policy for imams who reinforce alienation from America and our pluralistic way of life. They can and should be fired in the same way that drug toting corrections officers are kept out of prison. Surely there are enough moderate elements to staff our prison with imams who provide pacifist and pluralistic guidance. And if American Islam does not have such talent, cultivating institutions that produce such talent should be where federal grants and Qatari money are going, rather than to meaningless conferences in which sycophants congratulate each other for sitting down for dinner together. The problem is not with America – it is already a nation of exemplary tolerance and as it relates to Islamists in America, forbearance.

It is easy enough to identify the most pernicious influences behind bars. They can be isolated from influence in the same way that gang leaders are. Correctional policy in America has to engage Islamist radicalization in the same way it successfully deals with gang infrastructure, especially that which has one foot behind bars and a support system outside.

Feckless leadership in European prisons has demonstrated what happens when these challenges are not handled proactively. In numerous Western countries, Great Britain being an example, radical Muslim inmates run the prisons. There is no will to influence the creeping sepsis into the submissive England, which is reduced to becoming a police state with cameras on every corner, haplessly watching its slow but defiant transformation in plain sight. Europe teaches us how life in our prisons, and how we handle homeland security inside prisons, are a window to the direction in which public safety is headed.

Gordon:  Thank you Dr. Welner for highly informative interview.

Welner:  My pleasure.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the New English Review. Also see Jerry Gordon’s collection of interviews, The West Speaks.

Critics were right about Obama’s incompetence

During the past six years, some Republicans and conservatives have described President Obama and his administration as totally incompetent. I have harshly criticized those who would use such incendiary language because it showed total disrespect for the office of the presidency. Though I still think this language is totally inappropriate, I have come to agree with the point they were trying to make: this administration is in way over its head. Obama and his team constantly lie to the American people (IRS, Benghazi, illegal immigration), they put the interests of others before the interests of Americans, and they are obsessed with the notion of being “liked.”

Two weeks ago, President Obama told us that he “intends to destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) without putting American boots on the ground.” Everyone who follows politics and foreign policy knew Obama was lying. This is what his former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, had to say, “There will be boots on the ground if there’s to be any hope of success in the strategy… I think that by continuing to repeat that [there will be no boots on the ground], the president in effect traps himself.”

Obama refuses to admit the obvious simply because of the upcoming mid-term elections. His liberal base would defect en masse from Democratic candidates all across the country if he actually told the truth.

Then again, this is the same president who has constantly lied to those in the country illegally about giving them amnesty by executive fiat. He has now promised to do it after the elections in November. Remember, one of the main tenants of liberalism is “intent.” Obama will argue that he didn’t “intend” to put boots on the ground, but circumstances on the ground changed. He “intended” to give illegals amnesty, but if Republicans take over the senate, he can’t.

As a U.S. Senator and a candidate for president in 2008, Obama was a very harsh critic of Bush’s war in Iraq. Yet, in six years as president, he has continued the Bush doctrine in foreign policy (attempting to spread “democracy” around the world).

According to the London based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ), “Since becoming president in 2009, Obama has launched over 330 drone attacks in Pakistan alone; Bush only launched 51 in four years.” When you add in Yemen and Somalia, according to this same report, the total jumps to 390 drone attacks and have killed more than 2,400 people (273 of whom were innocent civilians).

Many Democrats called for Bush to be tried as a murderer and a war criminal. So what does that make Obama?

This administration thinks that everyone is “entitled” to be in the U.S., whether they entered legally or not. They are providing five-star accommodations for illegals, while American citizens are increasingly homeless, more likely to be unemployed, and less educated.

In essence, Obama and his administration actually think he was elected to be president of the world. They think they and we Americans should be willing to sacrifice our own standard of living to provide relief to those around the world who are less fortunate than us. Not even Jimmy Carter displayed this level of arrogance and disdain toward his own country and its people.

We are not responsible for the problems of the world. How do you justify allowing illegals into the country under the guise that “they are just looking for a better life in America” when Americans are looking for the same thing – in their own country?

In the 1980s, Cuba unlocked its jails and dumped the worst of their worst into the U.S., which led to the drug cartels wreaking havoc in Miami. Now we are allowing the most unskilled illegals to enter into our country from Central America and wreak havoc on the inner cities as well as the suburbs.

As president of the world, Obama really believes that we should have no borders, even if it jeopardizes our national security. Our intelligence community has already publicly and privately admitted that terrorist from the Middle East have already entered into the U.S. from Mexico.

Obama really thinks the sheer strength of his magnetic personality will get Iran to give up its nuclear program, get Putin to return U.S. traitor Edward Snowden to the U.S. and cause Bashar al-Assad to leave the presidency of Syria.

In trying so hard to be liked, world leaders don’t fear or respect him. As Niccolò Machiavelli said, “It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.”

Obama is neither.

The War against ISIS, Syrian Opposition and Middle East Christians: A Discussion with M. Zuhdi Jasser, Walid Phares, John Hajjar

President Obama’s eve of 9/11 speech in which he declared “war” on the Islamic State, formerly ISIS, contained a commitment to arm and support so-called moderate Syrian opposition to assist in “degrading and ultimately destroying” the Salafist Jihadist self-declared Caliphate. That commitment Obama made clear did not include any a commitment to put US “boots on the ground.” Instead his plan relies on air attacks, training and support of Iraqi military forces, Kurdish peshmerga and Free Syrian Army contingents.

Watch the President’s national televised address outlining his ISIS strategy:

coalition of 10 regional Sunni countries are considering joining, although in what capacity is unclear. Turkey, a major NATO member rejected participation. During a US Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on September 16th Chaired by Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), Defense Secretary Hagel and General Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presented testimony on plans for combating ISIS. Dempsey didn’t rule out  prospects that US troops might be engaged in combat roles against ISIS under, what White House press spokesman Josh Earnest called ”hypothetical conditions.” In response to the President’s request, The House of Representatives on September 17th passed a measure approving the President’s plan to train, arm and equip the Syrian Opposition by a vote of 256 to 153.

President Obama may have been referring to the Free Syrian Army. But which Free Syrian Army (FSA)? One group is the Free Syrian Army, with a Supreme Military Command in Erdogan’s Ankara that purportedly sold American Journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, who were barbarously murdered by ISIS. Those graphic beheadings deliberately conveyed on videos aroused American public opinion demanding action that prompted Obama’s televised address to the nation.

Dramatically, one leader of the “moderate” Syrian opposition Dr. Kamal al-Labwani, a veteran Syrian secular opponent of the Assad regime living in exile in Sweden, surfaced in Israel coincidental with President’s ISIS strategy speech, at the annual International Counter Terrorism (ICT) Conference in Herzliya. Labwani’s attendance at the ICT conference may reflect the outreach by the other FSA led by the Syrian Opposition Coalition headquartered near embattled Aleppo composed of ex-Assad military including Alawites, Christians and Sunni tribal leaders currently battling ISIS inside Syria. Ilana Freedman estimates through her sources that there could be as many as 50,000 Syrian opposition fighters in this “other FSA.”

Perhaps, Dr. Labwani’s visit to the ICT conference in Israel may have also discussed possible mutual interests regarding covert support of the FSA military command and indigenous Sunni tribes’ opposition to ISIS and the Assad regime. If the case, one can only hope that might include linking up with Syrian Kurdish resistance forces, despite earlier differences.

While these positive efforts were going on in support of secular democratic opposition in Syria against both the Assad regime and ISIS, an event occurred at a gala in Washington on the evening of 9/11 sponsored by a new group, In Defense of Christians. The disruption during a speech by US Texas Sen. Ted Cruz indicated the extent of infiltration in America by a cabal composed of Middle East Christian Clerics and wealthy elites beholden to the Shiite nexus of the Islamic regime in Tehran, and Assad in Damascus. John Hajjar of Middle East Christians in America (MECHRIC) had warned of this cabal in a series of articles prior to the 9/11/14 evening event in Washington.

Hajjar’s warning was crystallized by the disruption of a speech by Texas US Senator, Ted Cruz, who was booed off the stage by some in the audience when he said “Christians have no greater ally than Israel.” He strode off the stage saying: “If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, Then I will not stand with you. Good night and God bless.”

Watch this You Tube video of Sen. Cruz’s speech disrupted by audience hecklers at the In Defense of Christian gala:

During the day on 9/11/2014, five Middle East clerics, who attended the In Defense of Christian evening gala, went to the Obama White House for discussions about the status of Middle East Christians.

Against this background, the Lisa Benson Radio Show with Zuhdi Jasser and this writer as co-host held a discussion on these issues with Walid Phares and John Hajjar.

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser

M. Zuhdi Jasser:  Welcome America to the broadcast of the Lisa Benson Show.  The only show on Salem Radio Network solely dedicated to protecting the American homeland, the West and its closest ally Israel. Week after week the Lisa Benson Radio Show on National Security Matters provides accurate, measured and intelligent information. My name is Zuhdi Jasser. I am the President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy dedicated to fighting on the frontlines in the war against political Islam, Islamism and the war of ideas, I call the battle for the soul of Islam. I am proud to be sitting in for Lisa and I am joined by my co-host and good friend Jerry Gordon, Senior Editor of the New English Review and its blog The Iconoclast. Today we have a jam packed show.

Jerry Gordon

Jerry Gordon:  This is going to be an extraordinary program. Interesting that this week has been packed with commemoration of the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11 with events all over this country. As a witness to 9/11, I know what the feeling was like on that day when those towers in lower Manhattan fell with thousands killed across this country also in Washington and in Shanksville. We published an interview with a 9/11 survivor in the New English Review, Ms. Deborah Weiss, formerly a lawyer in New York in which she told her harrowing tale of living next door, trying to get to work in a building adjacent to the twin towers and being displaced for well over a year. She became interested in what caused 9/11; conducted her own self study, moved to Washington and became an effective advocate against political Islam. That is an important bridge for many of us in this country.

Jasser:  This is so important as we get further from 9/11 and many people say well maybe we shouldn’t be as obsessed about it. Yet the Middle East has changed immensely to the worse in many ways as there was the hope for freedom, an Arab awakening which has turned into an Islamist movement to fill the vacuum. The sad thing is we talk to students now beginning junior high and others were not alive on 9/11 and see interviews  with some in college that barely have any idea what happened on 9/11; it’s frightening. Yet you wonder why our policy seems to be more like 9-10-01 rather than where they should be today in a world that is more threatening than ever. We have Muslims serving in ISIS in the thousands; more than ever have been radicalized in the past year alone. So when you look at national security from the domestic or global front the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11 really hits home for the need to remind Americans as we do every year about the threat that continues.

Gordon:  That’s correct. In a presentation I gave early in September, I asked one of those millenials, an eighteen year old in the audience, if he knew what 9/11 all about and the answer was he didn’t. At the end of the session he said he was grateful for our discussion about the entire event, the background and the rise of Islamism currently in this world. We have a situation before us that we believe may be more dangerous in some respects than what we had, as you pointed out, just prior to 9/11. We were ignorant. We are supposed to be knowledgable about it currently but the answer is we are really not. We do not understand how a group as barbaric as ISIS could arise so rapidly now estimated by the CIA at well over thirty-one thousand adherents. They are flocking to this self-declared caliphate stretching across both Syria and Iraq nearly the size of the country of Belgium.

Jasser:  As the American public starts to see all of the different fronts, it becomes overwhelming. We have seen both from the left and from the right moves towards more non-interventionism or more appropriately  neo-isolationalism. We are just sort of war weary and it has become more of a political issue than one of security. As we try to awaken Americans to the threat complex as it is from the Taliban to the Brotherhood to Al Qaeda to ISIS to more of the Arabists with the Assads and the Mubaraks who are now the el-Sisi, I think the problem is simple. It is about the surge of an ideology filling the vacuum left by departing dictatorship,  Islamism. It is the new cold war and the President’s speech this week hopefully we’ll address in the next hour not only 9/11 and what we are reminded of but what the President’s strategy is against ISIS. What is this coalition he is building and what is the future for American security abroad in the Middle East, North Africa and also domestically. Towards the end of the hour we are going to talk about a conference in Washington called In Defense of Christians which was portrayed as a conference to defend minority Christian rights. However,  as we saw what happened  to Senator Cruz we’ll talk about that in the last segment.

Gordon:  Ironically I consider this program to be a continuation of the discussion that we had with Sherko Abbas, the Syrian Kurdish leader at the end of July. It deals with the nexus of the Shia Crescent in that region between the Islamic regime in Teheran, the former Maliki government in Iraq and, of course, Assad in Syria. All of whom were fairly active in creating the space for the mushrooming of ISIS.

Jasser:  There is no doubt and that is the untold story. The Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamist movement globally thrive off of anti-Westernism and sectarianism throughout the Middle East. We see the Assad regime portraying itself as the only answer to ISIS. Meanwhile it has left ISIS alone. Our guest is Walid Phares who has just finished a BBC interview. He is a Fox News Middle East and Terrorism Analyst and author of The Lost Spring, U.S. Policy in the Middle East and Catastrophes to Avoid. He has served as an advisor to the anti-terrorism caucus in the U.S. House since 2007 and co-Secretary General for the Transatlantic Parliamentary Group on Counter Terrorism. Later we will also be joined by John Hajjar who is an Executive Committee Member of the Middle East Christian Committee or MECHRIC. What do you think about the President’s speech?  What is his short term military strategy? What does winning mean in that context?

Gordon:  There are four or five points. Let’s deal with the military aspect as against the so-called doctrinal aspect of his speech. The President was talking about an expansion of so-called systematic air attacks in both Syria and Iraq. That may be problematic if the Assad regime is going to start knocking down “coalition aircraft.” He’s also talking about an increase in support of forces on the ground in Iraq providing some assistance and training. One has to question that given the flight of the Iraqi Army from Mosul that really caused a massive humanitarian crisis with the Yazidi minority and certainly the Christians. I know that Dr. Phares is intimately familiar with that. Then the question is military assistance to what kind of Syrian opposition? The public is confused about what appears to be two kinds of Free Syrian Armies. One which unfortunately is fairly Islamist that sold American Journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff to ISIS resulting in their barbaric murders. The question is really what is an effective opposition that is secular and democratic in Syria? We may what happened in Iraq during the first Gulf War, creation of a no-fly zone.

Jasser:  Walid, I gave our listeners your background. You and I have crossed paths many times not only on Fox but also before the Arab Spring as your book calls it The Lost Spring. Walid, what would be winning in this context?

Walid Phares

Walid Phares:  Thank you so much for having me gentlemen. It’s always a pleasure to be with both of you. Over the years I have been promoting democracy and moderation in the Middle East; however, let me address what would victory be? The Administration’s stance on victory is that ISIS will be bombed, degraded and eventually eliminated. The projection by the Administration would be that in Iraq, the Iraqi Army, the Kurds and eventually some Sunni tribes will terminate ISIS on the ground while the bombing is happening from the air. A more complicated victory would be that ISIS would be weakened to a point whereby, the moderate segment of the opposition will actually seize the position of ISIS but not the regime. That would be the view of the Administration.

Jasser:  Walid, on the conversation about Syria I can’t tell you how confused and disarmed America is in trying to figure out who the good folks are. As a Syrian American I’ll tell you one of the most offensive things I heard the President trying to tell me as a Muslim what’s Islamic and what is not. He was trying to tell us that the good guys are the pharmacists, the farmers and the doctors and they are not warriors. It mocked what the future of Syria is and who started the revolution. Here you have the leader of the free world mocking them so how can Americans get their heads or their arms around really who the good folks are other than seeing ISIS, radicalization and really no leadership. Can you walk us through how we can look at what parts of the Free Syrian Army can be supported and would be an option to both the evils of Assad and ISIS?

Phares:  This is the hardest subject and discussion in Congress, Washington and in Europe; how to determine who the moderate is or who is the non-Jihadist in the Syrian opposition? Unfortunately we missed the train. We missed the bus since 2011 and it has been part of these discussions here in DC. When the so-called Arab Spring, began in March 2011 the first stage lasted until about September/October. What did we see on our TV screen? We saw thousands and thousands of young civil society people. Now the Administration talks about professions like dentists and doctors and it doesn’t go by profession. It goes by who is more secular in civil society, the anti-Ba’athists on the one hand and anti-Jihadists on the other hand.

That was the reality for the first few months and it was very intense. We saw it on You Tube. What happened was we stayed inactive in Syria, as we became inactive in Libya. We did not identify and recognize the popular forces in Syria. Assad forces started firing on the crowds killing many people. Who was going to fill in the streets? Those who wanted to fight. There were a minority in the beginning so instead of seeing tens of thousands of people on You Tube now we were is seeing dozens of fighters. So the fighters’ political affiliation is different from the popular demonstrators and quickly the fighters reflected what was there in Syria before. You had the Muslim Brotherhood, the offshoot of the Kurds in the North, every single faction which was in opposition and armed. There were the ones that started the military uprising. In 2012 and 2013 after the militarization there was an Islamization of part of the opposition. The FSA was originally a collection of officers and sergeants and soldiers of the Assad Syrian Arab Army. They broke away formed the FSA and fought back against the regime. Later on there were many forces that took the name and the flag of the FSA but were Jihadists. You have lawmakers and foundations here in DC who would look at the Jihadists and see a badge of FSA, then they concluded all of the FSA is bad. Then the other side who are real FSA and said no. They are good. So that’s where the confusion is coming from.

Jasser:  The way it has been portrayed is as a civil war. We don’t know how it’s going to come out. In the absence of American influence, you have a regional conflict that has on the one side Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, and Assad. On the other side, the Sunni Militants from Saudi Arabia fueled by Gulf States, Qatar, and Muslim Brotherhood influence. Thus you have the evolution of what you currently see which is radical Jihadists versus radical Shiites, so called secularists fueled by Iran. That’s why in the West, the more liberal groups have been marginalized. It is because it’s not a civil war but rather a regional conflict that America’s been missing. Do you agree with that Walid?

Phares:  I do agree and let me be more precise to help listeners better understand what’s on the ground. In my perspective, the civil society (the one that I want to collaborate or work with) is not active. We can’t reach them. The forces on the ground are not just two. There are not two camps there are at least three. You have the regime as you just mentioned, the regime of Assad has Iran as an ally which has inserted the Iranian Revolutionary Guard omni presence in Syria. Iran has the equivalent of several divisions in Syria. Everybody knows Hezbollah is inside Syria fighting with the special forces of Iran and Syria. Third  you have Iraqi Shia Militia an ally of Iran fighting with us. The other camp which has grown very large are all of the Jihadists. They are Jabhat Al Nusra or ISIS which is a giant in the Jihadi camp and of course other small Islamist groups, followers of the Muslim Brotherhood. But you still have a third camp that you know people cannot see the FSA/ secular opposition on the one hand and the Jihadists on the other one.

Jasser:  I couldn’t agree more and I would say that those are the future of Syria; I believe it’s a majority. They are losing the infrastructure and their will because they are pounded by barrel bombs on the one hand and Islamists under draconian Sharia law in various cities on the other; so they find themselves lost. Unfortunately the rise of the Islamist ideology has been encountered because we haven’t had a West with the intestinal fortitude to take on this ideology. Instead the President has just been marginalizing that discussion. If he truly empowered the anti-Islamists that would naturally bring to the forefront in the Free Syrian Army the ones who we would want to support. What do you think the strategy should be? We have the President, the commander in Chief and on the one hand conservatives who say wait until 2016. Can Syria wait that long?

Phares:  What the Administration is trying to do without being vocal or clear about it, they want to fund the moderates in the Syria opposition and arm and equip them. When you follow the details of who the Administration is trying to reach to inside Syria you would find that it’s true. They are marginalizing ISIS. They are not really of course dealing with Al Nusra which is an armed Al Qaeda terrorist group but they are not going to the secular side. They are actually dealing with what they call moderate Islamists, the military force of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria. That is not well explained to the American public. The choice that we would like to see America go with in Syria is not the Muslim Brotherhood just because they are against the ISIS. We really want to go back to those secular officers and soldiers and regular people who can connect better with civil society. That has not been done at this point in time.

Jasser:  As we look at the solution obviously it has to start with destroying ISIS and its command and control in Northeastern Syria and Raqqa and then begin to evolve strategy out of that.

I can tell you as the son of Sunni Muslims who escaped Syria that one of the arguments we have been making against the Assad regime is that the diversity of Syria was its greatest asset. As long as these countries are diverse it forces them to be pluralistic and work towards democracy. What should America’s, approach be to protecting minorities across Iraq and Syria. We saw the Yazidis are being slaughtered, Christian populations are evacuating the Middle East which is where their roots and origins are. What do you think, how should that be approached?

Gordon:  To Walid’s credit he’s actually floated some suggestions. those involve pushing back at the margin the areas that in Iraq where ISIS had taken over and providing a protective force for the re-entry of those minorities whether they are Yazidis or Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Christians in Iraq  to their ancestral villages on the Biblical plains of Nineveh. That’s one aspect of it. The other aspect is taking a leaf out of comments that were made by a prominent Syrian opposition leader Kamal Al-Labwani in Herzliya, Israel this past week. He was there attending the International Counter Terrorism Conference sponsored by the IDC. He floated the creation of a no-fly zone which worked rather effectively for the Kurdish minority in the Northeast of Iraq during the first Gulf War and led to the establishment of the Kurdish Regional government. The same thing could also be done in the context of areas in Syria where according to my colleague Ilana Freedman, there are potentially about fifty thousand opposition forces that Walid and others might consider as being “moderate and secular” in that regard. They need the support of the US and in particular the West. If you put that together you have the emergence of an effective strategy to at least secure these minorities from engaging in complete flight to their Diasporas.

Jasser:  I can’t tell you how important that is. Because what is different from Iraq when we went in 2003 is that you have a growing movement on the ground in Syria to topple the Assad regime and also confront ISIS.  Walid, what are some points you think we should know about protecting minorities in the Middle East?

Phares:  I was amazed at what Jerry had said and he covered it very well. Let me just say that Syria has a majority of Sunnis and then the rest are ethnic minorities. Now these ethnic minorities are backing the Assad regime, the Alawites and some part of the Christians mostly in the South, and reluctantly some of the Druze. You have the other minorities not very happy with this failing regime from long time ago that includes the Kurds, part of the Christians and part of the Druze. It is very important to have two strategies and I would strongly recommend to the administration to have two strategies in Syria. One for the Sunni majority, another for the minorities to form the opposition. The lead opposition would be moderate and those involved should be the FSA, Human Rights Organizations and NGO’s. That would completely sideline the Jihadists. It is a crucial matter. For the minorities, Jerry was right. You have the triangle in the Northeast where you have a Kurdish majority in area with some Christians, they should be dealt with as the Kurds and the Christians of Northern Iraq are dealt with. A no-fly zone to begin with and supporting them. Also there Sunni tribes also opposed to the Assad regime and Iran that needs to be to part of the plan in Washington.

Jasser:  The soul in the Middle East is its minorities, its Christians and Yazidis. They have to be protected and you were focusing on Syria because ultimately that spawned ISIS. To protect the minorities we have to have a strategy.

We wanted to spend this last segment talking about a conference in Washington that occurred September 9 to 11, 2014 called In Defense of Christians. It’s a start-up organization that has a very laudable goal which is to highlight the plight of Christians as we have seen at the hands of ISIS; the genocide that was impending against groups like the Yazidis and the Christians. However, many of us were concerned about some of the aspects of this conference not only Walid but John Hajjar who is an executive committee member of the Middle East Christian Committee or MECHRIC. He started to raise the alarms that CAMERA reported on some concerns about this organization. I have invited John on to tell us about these concerns were before this conference occurred. The conference highlighted members of its board included John Ashcroft, it had speakers to include Senator Cruz, and a number of other conservatives who were involved in this conference. We wanted to take this as a teaching moment for some of the pitfalls or landmines that exist in dealing with this topic. John, welcome to the program.

John Hajjar:  Thanks, it’s really great to be here. Thanks for having me on.

Jasser:  Walk us through what lead to this conference and what the concerns were before it ever began.

Hajjar:  It is a laudable goal because right now Christians are being persecuted in large numbers along with other non-Muslim minorities in the Middle East and moderate Muslims, as well. This has now become an existential issue especially in Iraq and Syria where a Christian community was uprooted from you know, the city of Mosul where they have ancient roots going back over six thousand years. In light of these current events this group, In Defense of Christians called a conference. There were many good people involved with the organization, well intentioned who generally are concerned about religious persecution, persecution of the Christians. However, there were some questionable characters involved as well in such a well funded event. They sprang from nowhere it definitely raised concerns among us involved in human rights for years. When we dug a little deeper we found the name of Gilbert Chagoury who is a questionable Lebanese Nigerian businessman in Nigeria and others. We saw distinct ties to Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. That gave rise to more questions and the more we dug the more suspicious we became.

Jasser:  It really feeds into the concern about common enemies such as Iran and other regimes. If we narrow the focus too much which is why I have always been when you testify before Congress you have to maintain what is the vision for the Middle East. It is about freedom and democracy which prevents alliances with governments like Iran. If you look at the website for In Defense of Christians that Dexter Van Zile reported at CAMERA, it was odd how that their website mentioned almost nothing, if anything about Iran, about Hezbollah and about Assad. Those countries are used to taking hits on freedom and democracy and criticism because they have nothing to lose. We don’t give them any aid. But, there is nothing about regime change and somehow they tied the future of the Christian minorities to Assad which is not a policy.

Hajjar:  If you look at where all the leaders of these Eastern rites churches are from, the Maronites in Beirut, the Malachite church which has a patriarchal seat in Damascus, and then the Assyrian and Chaldean Christians in different areas in Iraq, you’ll note the common denominator they are all Iranian controlled capitols. The Iranians are very strategic in their thinking. Actually they are a lot more calculating in the way they go about things than  the Shiite fundamentalist groups would be or the Sunni fundamentalist side as manifest by ISIS. Everybody knows now about these beheadings being carried out by ISIS and we all agree that it is a great evil and a great threat. However, when it comes to the Iranian/Syrian axis they are portraying themselves as the saviors of the Christians. Unfortunately, there are a lot of Christians in the Middle East who bought into that lie and they think that the greater evil right now is ISIS. They are presenting the most pressing problem. They forget the history of Hezbollah and the Assad regime in Lebanon and what they have  done killing hundreds of thousands of Lebanese and now two hundred thousand Syrian dead. Those are not the people that the Christian leaders and any Christian can stand by over the long term.

Jasser:  It is very easy for Iran to defend the rights of Christians in Syria. That doesn’t do it when it comes Iran where you have pastors and others who are imprisoned, house churches are shut down, they are hung and the apostates are killed. They do it as a tool for their end. I think one the other side of the coin of Islamism is Arabism. We saw one of the other names behind this conference was Jamal Daniel, who was a long time friend of the Bush family. Many of us who are Syrians know that his family has a large pedigree with the Ba’athists in support of the Assad regime. Ultimately you will find very little on his new so-called liberal website Al-Monitor, there is very little criticism of Assad and nothing about regime change in Syria.

Hajjar:  Same goes for Jim Zogby the head of the Arab American Institute. He has been the Arabist cause for decades. Now all of a sudden he’s had a revelation like St. Paul on the road to Damascus. He is so concerned with the Christians in the Middle East when he has shown no interest whatsoever in the plight of Christianity in the place of his birth for decades. You may call into question what his real motivation is.

Jasser:  The Arabists have long been using the lobby of the Islamists out of Saudi or the Gulf, notwithstanding  the plight of Christians, to basically focus on their primary demagoguery which is anti-Israel, anti-Zionism and anti-Western belief.

Hajjar:  If you look at raw numbers the only place in the Middle East where Christianity is stabilized and in fact growing is in Israel proper among the Palestinian Christians. Every other country in the Middle East with historic Christian populations, the indigenous people from the Copts in Egypt, to Maronites, Malachites, and Syriacs in Syria and Assyrian Chaldeans in Iraq, their numbers are declining precipitously. Forty percent of the population a hundred years ago down to less than four percent today.

Jasser:  And their future is not with dictatorships even though their primary enemy is Islamist.

Phares:  What is Iran really trying to do with the minorities’ game? This is not something new. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union the Iranian regime, the Syrian regime and their allies Hezbollah in Lebanon and the allies in Iraq, especially after the toppling of Saddam Hussein, have built a huge network of interests, financial interests. You have elites in Baghdad, you have elites in Damascus, you have elites in Lebanon, all tied through economic interests backed by the Iranian regime. What the game is about here is Iran trying to use elites, including the Christian minorities. The Iranians are trying to use these Christian minorities led by these specific elites as their vassals. These are the satrapies of the Iranians who come to the United States and tell them look, the Christians and the Yazidis want Assad and want Maliki and whoever comes after him with Iran as their protector. These elites hope that when the markets open in Iran if the Iranian U.S. relationship is stabilized they would be the first one to move in. So there is a lot of financial economic interest in this game.

Jasser:  The dictators are putting in a lot of money into the lobbies, their own lobbies in Washington and we need to look for transparency in these gatherings and if they are not talking about regime change from genocidal governments like Syria then you have to start to wonder what’s really behind it. Thank you so much for giving us an opportunity to talk about the tough issues. Thank you, John Hajjar, Walid Phares, Jerry Gordon and all of you for joining us on this broadcast of the Lisa Benson Radio Show. Zuhdi Jasser here from the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. God bless.

Listen to the September 14, 2014 Lisa Benson Show with M. Zuhdi Jasser, Walid Phares, John Hajjar and this writer.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the New English Review. Also see Jerry Gordon’s collection of interviews, The West Speaks.

Kimberly talks violent crime and her right to self-defense

Kimberly Weeks is a survivor of violent crime. As a college student she was brutally attacked in her apartment. Kimberly was overpowered and defenseless against her attacker. After her horrific experience, Kimberly got her concealed carry permit for self defense.

When Kimberly was assaulted she had to plead with her attacker to spare her life during her harrowing ordeal. Later on when she testified before the Colorado legislature, she pled with lawmakers, who were considering legislation to ban concealed carry on college campuses, not to strip her of the right to carry on her college campus. She didn’t want to be left defenseless again.

Kimberly is now standing up to Michael Bloomberg and his gun control efforts. Listen to her call Michael Bloomberg out on his hypocrisy and say, “Mr. Bloomberg you do not have the right to tell me how to defend myself.“

See more at: MeetBloomberg.com/Videos

6 Elements of ‘Extremist’ Islam That ‘Moderate’ Muslims Endorsed as They Condemned the Islamic State

At last, moderate Islam! The Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Fiqh Council of North America held a press conference in Washington on Wednesday at which they announced with great fanfare that they had refuted the religious ideology of the Islamic State [see below video].

They issued this lengthy “open letter” (not, interestingly enough, a fatwa) addressed to the Islamic State’s caliph Ibrahim, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, explaining how he was misunderstanding Islam. The international media is, predictably, thrilled, but unfortunately, and not surprisingly, there is less to it than meets the eye. In fact, the “moderates” who signed on to this open letter have ended up endorsing elements of Islam that most non-Muslim Westerners consider to be “extremist.”

The fact that this is not an Islamic case against the Islamic State’s jihad terror that will move Islamic State fighters to lay down their arms, but rather a deceptive piece designed to fool gullible non-Muslim Westerners into thinking that the case for “moderate Islam” has been made, but which will not change a single jihadi’s mind, is clear from the outset from the involvement not only of Hamas-linked CAIR, but also from some of the 126 signers.

These include Professor Mustafa Abu Sway, the integral professorial chair for the Study of Imam Ghazali’s Work, Jerusalem — and a Hamas activist; Dr. Jamal Badawi, an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation Hamas terror funding case; Mustafa Ceric, former grand mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who has called for Sharia in Bosnia; Professor Caner Dagli, a venomously hateful Islamic apologist at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts, who traffics in Nazi imagery about “unclean” unbelievers; Ali Gomaa, former grand mufti of Egypt, who endorses wife-beating, Hizballah, and the punishment of apostates from Islam; Hamza Yusuf Hanson, founder and director of Zaytuna College, USA, who blamed the West for Muslim riots over a teddy bear named Muhammad; Ed Husain, senior fellow in Middle Eastern Studies for the Council on Foreign Relations, who recently claimed that seizing British jihadis’ passports so that they couldn’t return to the UK from the Islamic State would only create more jihadis; Muhammad Tahir Al-Qadri, founder of Minhaj-ul-Qur’an International, Pakistan, who drafted Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy law and issued his own disingenuous and hypocritical Fatwa Against Terrorism; and Muzammil Siddiqi, chairman of the Fiqh Council and former head of the Hamas-linked Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

Hardly a group that inspires confidence in their “moderation.”

And in the course of their very lengthy open letter, they endorse these six elements of what is usually considered to be “extremist” Islam:shutterstock_76411432

1. Jihad

“All Muslims see the great virtue in jihad,” says the open letter. It repeatedly stresses that jihad warfare is strictly defensive. “There is no such thing,” the scholars assert, “as offensive, aggressive jihad just because people have different religions or opinions. This is the position of Abu Hanifa, the Imams Malik and Ahmad and all other scholars including Ibn Taymiyyah, with the exception of some scholars of the Shafi’i school.”

The Shafi’i school is one of the four great schools of Sunni jurisprudence. If some Shafi’i scholars allow for “offensive, aggressive jihad just because people have different religions or opinions,” can it really be said to be un-Islamic? Are the scholars pronouncing takfir on the Shafi’i school? Or just deceiving gullible non-Muslims? The answer is clear.

What’s more, restricting jihad to defensive warfare looks even worse in light of the fact that in Sunni Islamic law, only the caliph has the authority to declare offensive jihad, but defensive jihad is obligatory upon all Muslims when a Muslim land is attacked, and need not be declared by anyone. So since the caliphate was abolished in 1924 to this day (except for those who accept the Islamic State’s caliphate claim), all jihad attacks, even 9/11, have been cast by their perpetrators as defensive – hence the jihadist tendency to retail long lists of grievances when justifying their actions.

So if 9/11 was defensive jihad, and these “moderate” scholars are endorsing defensive jihad, their “moderation” should send just a bit of a chill up the spine.

ud

2. Dhimmitude

“Regarding Arab Christians,” the scholars remind the Islamic State caliph, “you gave them three choices: jizyah (poll tax), the sword, or conversion to Islam.” Jizya is the tax specified in the Qur’an (9:29) to be levied on “the People of the Book” as a sign of their dhimmitude, their subjugation and submission to Muslim hegemony. This, the scholars say, was wrong, because “these Christians are not combatants against Islam or transgressors against it, indeed they are friends, neighbours and co-citizens. From the legal perspective of Shari’ah they all fall under ancient agreements that are around 1400 years old, and the rulings of jihad do not apply to them.”

However, then the open letter asserts that “there are two types of jizyah in Shari’ah (Islamic Law)”: the first “applies to those who fought Islam,” but the second “is levied on those who do not wage war against Islam.”

Now wait a minute. The scholars tell the caliph that the Arab Christians are friends of the Muslims, they “did not wage war against you” and thus should not have been subjugated as dhimmis. But then in the next paragraph they say that “the second type of jizyah is levied on those who do not wage war against Islam.” Thus how is the Islamic State transgressing against Islam by levying the jizya on those who did not wage war against Islam?

In any case, the “moderate” scholars are apparently fine with a religion-based poll tax, a sign of the subjugation of the religious minority, in an Islamic state. In this the authors also contradict their earlier claim that jihad is only defensive; now “those who do not wage war against Islam” are to be made to pay the jizya, which results from Muslims fighting the People of the Book: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” (Qur’an 9:29)

3-5. Stoning for adultery, amputation for theft, execution of apostates

Hudud refers in Islamic law to the punishments fixed by Allah himself for serious crimes, including the stoning of adulterers, the amputation of thieves’ hands, and the execution of apostates from Islam. While Islamic apologists in the U.S. routinely claim that these punishments are not really part of Sharia or Islam at all, these scholars say: “Hudud punishments are fixed in the Qur’an and Hadith and are unquestionably obligatory in Islamic Law.” Their only quibble with the Islamic State is that they have been cruel and merciless in applying these punishments.

This is telling. CAIR has led campaigns against anti-Sharia laws that depend in large part on the claim that these punishments are not part of Sharia. Now Hamas-linked CAIR has admitted otherwise. The claim that the Islamic State has not implemented them properly is just a judgment call, not a refutation of the Islamic State’s practices.

6. The Caliphate

“There is agreement (ittifaq) among scholars,” say the scholars, “that a caliphate is an obligation upon the Ummah.”

A caliphate is an obligation. That is, Muslims should strive to establish a single multinational, multiethnic empire, to which alone they owe political loyalty – in other words, they owe no loyalty to the nations in which they currently reside.

This is a notable and extremely important admission. The Islamic State is appealing to so many young Muslims in the West because of its claim to reconstitute the caliphate. Caliphates are established and sustained on the principle of Might Makes Right. If the Islamic State sustains itself and survives, more and more Muslims will pledge allegiance to it.

To be sure, Hamas-linked CAIR and the Fiqh Council and all the signers of this open letter really do oppose the Islamic State. But they don’t oppose it because it is transgressing against the commands of what they believe to be a religion of peace. They oppose it because they want to establish a caliphate under the auspices of or led by the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Islamic State constitutes competition. This is clear from their sly endorsements in this document of jihad, the Sharia, and the concept of the caliphate. But with so many infidels so eager to be fooled, their work is easy.

EDITORS NOTE: The image illustration via Larry Bruce / Shutterstock.com

What we learned at the NYC Climate Change March

Americans for Prosperity sent a camera crew to the People’s Climate March in New York City, where thousands of people gathered to express their concerns about climate change. Watch to find out what we learned from the folks in the climate change movement.

Watch our response to President Obama’s climate change speech at the UN:

Why Floridians should Vote No on Constitutional Amendment 1

I know most of us have been very distracted over Common Core and all the arms that are attached to it, but we have a serious issue coming up on the ballot in November of which is a serious issue to every homeowner in Florida – AMENDMENT 1 Florida’s Water and Land Legacy Water & Land Conservation Amendment.

This Amendment has the potential to relieve every homeowner in the state of Florida of their own personal property.

Today I received the VOTE YES sides answer to those of us pushing for NO.  The state of Florida currently owns 28% of the Florida/Federal land which is far too much for a state to own. Not only that, Forever Florida, which had run out of money and Scott decided to replenish it, uses OUR tax dollars to buy up the land to then tell us we have no right to object to how the land is used. They under sell, under bid and if they have to use Eminent Domain to steal your property at will.

All of this falls under the United Nations Earth Charter/Sustainable Development/Agenda 21 platform. Thank you Bill Clinton! What they are doing is removing large portions of land from the tax roles which hurts the county involved. To make up their financial losses your property taxes will go up. When you no longer can afford to pay your property taxes, they will then take your land. This is the United Nations way! Not only that, the state is also in debt in this deal – using money first and worrying about where to pay it back later.

Not only are they stealing our property with our tax dollars, they are also still throwing billions of dollars down the toilet in massive road construction when the bottom line according to Agenda 21 is we are not to even have any cars to need these roads. Additionally, they are stealing what we have left in funds to force rail on the citizens for the same type of people as those getting rich off of the education of our children – Public Private Partnerships with hundreds of documents of which the general public cannot understand.

HERE is their Response Statements:

  • Amendment 1 does not create taxes now or in the future. No it doesn’t, however as stated above, the removal of the land from the county tax roles forces the counties to raise your property taxes to make up the difference. They plan to take 33% of our land.
  • Amendment 1 would dedicate one-third of EXISTING fees collected by the state when real estate is sold to protecting our waters and natural areas. Currently they are taking the funds from the General Fund (still using our money) and are intending to steal 1/3 of the fees collected when you buy or sell your property. There is no provision to cap the amount taken and it is still using our tax dollars and as with everything else, we have no say on how it is used.
  • The Financial Impact Estimating Conference – the state’s budget writers – determined that Amendment 1 would have no impact on state revenues because it imposes no new taxes. This is true for the state, but there is no mention as to your individual counties – they are the ones loosing the financial base by loosing the taxes collected by the loss of the land on their tax roles. Who is going to make up that difference – YOU! It is very nice of them to tell us this Amendment will help the state manage THEIR budget – but what about ours? Do they not have better things to be doing then creating a world of “conservation land” of which we are NOT even going to be able to use? What is our share of this crooked deal? Who are these people sitting on the Financial Impact Estimating Conference?

This is stating this Amendment will bring to the state $648 million in 2015-2016 and in 12 years increase to $1.268 billion. Do you think this money could be used in better ways such as a larger per capita amount for each child’s education and raising the salaries of our teachers – NOT ADMINISTRATION – they are being paid FAR too much – FL is Admin top heavy! It also states no local costs are involved but then they certainly are not going to tell you that they are messing with your counties tax base and eventual your tax roles will be cut so low – your taxes will go up.

Don’t forget California and how they shut their water off by having the control to do so and the farmers lost their food crops – some states are saying you can’t save rain water?  I really wonder where they got those 700,000 signatures to get this Amendment on the books and were every one of those signatures verified.

If you use Facebook, please go to “Vote No on Amendment 1” and ask your friends to also – you can all post your information and thoughts.

You might also find these links interesting:

Salaries of Elected County Constitutional Officers and School District Officials for Fiscal Year 2014-15

Revenue Estimating Conference Public Education Capital Outlay Trust Fund

Florida Office of Economic & Demographic Research reports

Ayn Rand, the Movies, and the Idea of America by Laurie Rice

An Introduction to Ayn Rand’s Textbook of Americanism.

Ayn Rand’s monograph “Textbook of Americanism,” newly published on FEE.org, is virtually unknown. Written during a decisive turning point in history, it was delivered by Rand personally to FEE’s founder Leonard Read in 1946. The monograph represents Rand’s desire to draw stark lines between an emerging postwar collectivism and the individualism she believed built America. She joined others in pointing out that collectivism had wrought the horrors the world had just endured.

“Textbook of Americanism” also represents her worldview as it came to be shaped by her childhood experiences with communism, her early love of film as a means of artistic expression, and her perceptions about the future of freedom.

As a young student in Russia at the dawn of the Bolshevik takeover, at a small theater for silent films, Rand caught her first glimpse of the New York skyline. The silhouette burned in her mind, a symbol of creative passion and unbounded achievement, outlining the edges of her growing philosophy of individualism.

Beneath the epic geometry of the skyline, communist propagandists prattled on. Rand’s biographer Anne Heller explains:

Soviet government censors always added absurd subtitles to the films … turning an ordinary American family dinner scene into a portrait of greed, for example, by labeling it “A capitalist eating well on profits wrung from his starving workers.”

The image of New York fused two of the major themes in Rand’s life: the art of cinema and the concept of America.

Within a few years of her foray into American silent movies, she would enroll at the State Technicum for Screen Arts in Leningrad in 1924. The school offered free tuition to students sympathetic to Bolshevik ideology, in hopes of grooming future communist propagandists. But Rand wanted to write screenplaysattacking communism.

Realizing that such writing would lead to imprisonment or death — in purges like one that had swept her university just a few years before — she decided to emigrate. In 1926, she sailed from the Soviet Union and landed at the foot of her beloved New York skyline, with government permission to visit relatives.

Her excuse was that her cousin owned a theater in Chicago. The conditions of her permission were that she would work at the US theater for six months, then return to Russia to work on communist propaganda films. Within two years after she had left Russia, the opportunity for emigration had closed. She had made it out just in time — and perhaps saved her life.

Once in the United States, she immediately broke the terms of her visa, left Chicago, and traveled to Hollywood. There she worked as a movie extra, a junior screenwriter, and then a wardrobe department manager, while writing plays and notes for novels in her own time. She met her husband on the set of a film called The King of Kings; their marriage gained her US citizenship.

By the time Rand wrote “Textbook of Americanism” in 1946, twenty years after she arrived in New York, the world had entered into a decade of massive tectonic shifts throughout the political landscape. During the New Deal, Congress had passed the Social Security Act and set the first US minimum wage, among many other measures that had regimented economic life.

The wartime economy had inflicted New Deal recovery measures on a country still reeling from the Depression. Adolf Hitler had risen to power in Germany and created a horrific spectacle of genocide against the Jewish people. Governments had waged a war of massive carnage across Europe. The United States had suffered an attack at Pearl Harbor and then later dropped atomic bombs — weapons of previously unknown destruction — on both Nagasaki and Hiroshima in Japan.

In response to the chaos of World War II, government leaders had come together to form the United Nations, sparking both hopes of a lasting world peace and fears of an oppressive global government. The stage was set for crises in Berlin, the political upheaval in Greece with a communist victory, and the upcoming Cold War. The lines of nation-states had been crossed, broken, and redrawn all over the world.

It’s best to understand the mindset of Rand, other intellectuals, and much of the world population after World War II as post-traumatic. Of course, people who had experienced combat directly, such as soldiers, suffered the most severe effects. But people everywhere were struggling, sometimes dramatically, to re-establish safety and boundaries, to identify meaning in the chaotic events, and to find a course that would prevent such horrors from ever happening again.

It was during this eerie twilight of war that Rand joined the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. This organization consisted of a number of prominent conservative figures in Hollywood, including Ronald Reagan, Walt Disney, Gary Cooper, Ginger Rogers, Clark Gable, and John Wayne.

The alliance’s immediate purpose was to assemble well-known people as witnesses to a congressional investigation of the motion picture industry. The alliance’s longer-term mission was to organize the motion picture industry’s pro-freedom figures to defend their field against the ideas of communism. Movies in Hollywood at the time frequently portrayed Russia and communism sympathetically, or spread implicit communist messages within other stories.

“Textbook of Americanism” was written toward this bigger goal, with Rand calling for the values of individualism and freedom to be portrayed in her beloved movie industry. The essay appeared in a publication for the Motion Picture Alliance called The Vigil.

“Textbook of Americanism” is organized in question-and-answer format, from the most basic issues to the more complex. Rand wrote both, with questions as prompts to explain her own perceptions of what it means to be American. The essay features twelve questions; Rand planned to elaborate further, but the full project was never finished.

True to her philosophical roots, Rand used “Textbook of Americanism” to explain in the simplest terms possible what made America unique and great. She opens with an explanation of two starkly contrasting ideas.

What Is the Basic Issue in the World Today?

The basic issue in the world today is between two principles: Individualism and Collectivism. Individualism holds that man has inalienable rights which cannot be taken away from him by any other man, nor by any number, group or collective of other men. Therefore, each man exists by his own right and for his own sake, not for the sake of the group.

Collectivism holds that man has no rights; that his work, his body and his personality belong to the group; that the group can do with him as it pleases, in any manner it pleases, for the sake of whatever it decides to be its own welfare. Therefore, each man exists only by the permission of the group and for the sake of the group.

These two principles are the roots of two opposite social systems. The basic issue of the world today is between these two systems.

From this foundation, Rand builds her case for limiting the power of the collective, for the difference between arbitrary law and moral law, and for the meaning of rights. She summarizes the proper role of government — the smallest conceivable and essential functions — and the moral imperative not to initiate force. She clarifies that individualism and collectivism are exclusive terms, that any “mix” is a breach against individualism. Finally, she issues a warning: compromising individual rights will lead to society’s destruction.

The tensions surrounding “Textbook of Americanism” are fascinating. It is written about the United States precisely at a time when the idea of the nation-state was crumbling from its own destructive methods, giving way to modern globalization. The essay calls for radical freedom during a dark American paranoia about speech, when communists were put on trial for their beliefs. It is Rand appealing in good faith to the movie industry she loved, at a time when Hollywood was deeply entrenched with the cronyists and communists she hated. It is Rand’s passionate advocacy of ideology while many intellectuals were blaming all systematic ideology for the genocide of the Jewish people. And it enjoins and participates in a propaganda war not long before the dawn of an Internet age that would democratize media and increasingly eliminate the power of propaganda.

But in the midst of the political chaos, upheaval, and conceptual fog of the historical moment, Rand sought to explain the fundamental ideas of individualism and freedom.

Just as she had been inspired by the jagged silhouette of New York City looming in the backdrop of her favorite movies, Rand sought to provide a glimpse of the most essential issue of her time in the clearest possible outline.

“Textbook of Americanism” is available for reading at FEE.org. The original copy that Rand delivered to Leonard Read is here in PDF.

laurie rice feeABOUT LAURIE RICE

Laurie Rice is a scholar at The Atlas Society and editor of The Art of Reasoning, a logic textbook. She is the author of many articles on the topics of Ayn Rand, feminism, and technology. Her work has been featured in PoliticoSlateThe American ConservativeThe Pan Am PostThe Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and MSNBC. Her essay “The Persuasion of Nixon” is the definitive account of the Objectivist effort to end the draft after the Vietnam War. Her essay “Toward an Objectivist Feminism” will appear in an upcoming anthology by the Association of Libertarian Feminists. Contact her at LRice@atlassociety.org and follow her on Twitter at @Laurie Rice.

The Midterm Forecast: Clear Sailing for the GOP and Stormy Weather for the Democrats

WASHINGTON, PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Ten seasoned election scholars offer predictions for the 2014 US midterm elections in PS: Political Science and Politics, published by Cambridge University Press for the American Political Science Association.

James Campbell, professor of political science at the University at BuffaloSUNY, and guest editor of the forecasting series, notes that “it is likely to be a good year for Republicans and a rough one for Democrats.”

The five forecasts for the House range from a 4- to 16-seat gain for the Republicans, with a median forecast of a 14-seat GOP gain. Campbell remarks, “This would be the largest Republican House majority in more than 80 years (248 Republicans to 187 Democrats).”

The Senate forecasts range from Republicans adding another 5 or 6 seats to a gain of 8 seats. With Republicans needing a 6-seat gain to control the Senate, the forecasts rate the odds of a Republican Senate takeover “between a toss-up and somewhat more likely than not,” explains Campbell.

This research will be published in the October 2014 issue of PS: Political Science and Politics, scheduled for release in early October.

The forecasting scholars include Alan Abramowitz (Emory University); Joseph Bafumi (Dartmouth College);James Campbell (University at BuffaloSUNY); Robert Erikson (Columbia University); Benjamin Highton(University of California, Davis); Michael Lewis-Beck (University of Iowa); Eric McGhee (Public Policy Institute ofCalifornia); John Sides (George Washington University); Charles Tien (Hunter College, CUNY); and Christopher Wlezien (University of Texas, Austin).

About the American Political Science Association

Founded in 1903, the American Political Science Association is the leading professional organization for the study of political science and serves more than 13,000 members in more than 80 countries. With a range of programs and services for individuals, departments, and institutions, APSA brings together political scientists from all fields of inquiry, regions, and occupational endeavors within and outside academe to expand awareness and understanding of politics.

VIDEO: Florida Amendment 2 — The Drug Dealers Protection Act

Vote No On 2 has released its first television advertisement titled “Not What It Seems.” The following is the full text of the new advertisement:

Amendment 2 isn’t what it seems – it’s “caregiver” provision gives legal protection to marijuana dealers. Even felons and drug dealers could be “caregivers.” Amendment 2 “caregivers” don’t need background checks or medical training. So what looks like a safeguard, is really a loophole. Amendment 2 “caregivers” can’t be arrested or sued if their pot hurts someone. They don’t call it the drug dealer protection act – but they should.

Amendment 2 is NOT designed to help the sick – it’s designed to legalize pot smoking in Florida. WATCH to Learn the LOOPHOLES within the ballot language of this flawed constitutional amendment. Democrat gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist is all in on Amendment 2. As a lawyer Crist knows about loopholes. Amendment 2 has many of them because the ballot language is so broad and open ended.

The below video titled “The Devil is in the Details” explains the key loopholes in Amendment 2:

Floridians must understand what Amendment 2 actually says, not proponents say about it. An informed voter is critical to the constitutional amendment process.

Netanyahu: Hamas and ISIS ‘share branches of the same poisonous tree’ [Video]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the U.N. General Assembly. He said that Hamas and ISIS “share branches of the same poisonous tree” and have similar ambitions of “world domination.”

He was also highly critical of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, calling Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s speech at the U.N. the previous week “one of history’s greatest displays of double talk.”

EDITORS NOTE:  The featured image is of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the 69th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York September 29, 2014. Photo by Reuters.

Equal Work? Government Has No Idea What That is

“Equal pay for equal work!” the mantra goes. “Women get only 73 cents on a man’s dollar!” These are oft-heard slogans, and we may well hear them again during the fall campaign with the War on Women afoot. Now, going beyond the rhetoric, it’s not widely known but nonetheless true that the intersex pay gap is attributable to different career choices men and women make: women tend to choose less lucrative fields (e.g., soft sciences instead of hard ones), work shorter hours even when “full time,” are more likely to value personal fulfillment and job flexibility over money, are more inclined to take time off, generally have less job tenure and more often decline promotions. But while I’ve examined these factors at length in the past, the topic today is something more fundamental. This is that there would be a problem with even a well-intended equal-pay-for-equal-work scheme:

Hardly anyone knows what equal work is.

And the government hasn’t the foggiest idea.

Recently I mentioned how women tennis players now receive the same prize money as the men at Grand Slam events (Wimbledon; and the US, French and Australian opens) and how this is hailed as a victory for “equality.” Yet since the women still only play best of three sets but the men best of five, this actually means the men must work longer for the same pay. Even this, however, doesn’t truly illuminate the issue: what actually constitutes “equal work” in professional tennis?

I’ll introduce the point with another example. The top 10 female fashion models earned 10 times as much as their male counterparts in 2013. Is this unequal pay for equal work? Not really.

While I don’t know if women models’ job is more labor intensive, I know they don’t get paid because they’re capable of posing, wearing clothing, standing under hot lights or parading down runways. It’s because their “work” helps to satisfy a market — and it satisfies a bigger market than the men’s work does.

Note here that while people today frown upon discrimination based on innate qualities, integral to doing the women models’ work is being female. If the male models were women, they might be able to do the same “work” and satisfy the market equally.

Likewise, does the “work” in tennis directly have to do with number of sets played? As an aspiring 12-year-old tennis nut, I’d sometimes play 10 sets a day under the sweltering summer sun, but no one thought of compensating me and I never felt oppressed. Professional tennis players earn money because they satisfy a market, and the men’s “work” does this more effectively than the women’s. And how would we characterize this more valued work?

It is success on the men’s tour — people want to see the grandest stage in the game.

Thus, the only way a woman in tennis could do work equal to that of Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal is to compete on, and succeed equally on, the ATP Tour. Of course, a woman who could would not only enjoy the same prize money (it’s greater in men’s tennis overall), but would become a sporting sensation and might very well receive endorsements dwarfing the men’s. So her “work” then could actually be greater.

There are endless more mundane examples. A woman gynecologist I know will only hire female assistants because she believes it makes her patients more comfortable. Not only is this an example of why sex discrimination is often justifiable, but what if she was forced to hire a man? If the patients were indeed less comfortable — and, therefore, perhaps less likely to visit her practice — would that man truly be doing “equal work”?

Now consider female police officers. Forget for a moment that standards on forces were long ago lowered to accommodate women based on “disparate impact” theory and that Eric Holder is currently suing the Pennsylvania State Police for treating women equally. Imagine a study found that people in general, and the criminally inclined in particular, found male officers more imposing and therefore were more likely to mind their p’s and q’s around them. Would, then, even a highly competent female officer be able to perform “equal work”? And if not, and reflecting the phenomenon with fashion models, wouldn’t being male (or at least appearing so, to head the “transgender” argument off at the pass) be integral to the “work” of policing?

What of a female reporter in male athletes’ locker rooms? Not only wouldn’t it be allowed if the sexes were reversed, but if those men were less comfortable and less likely to be forthcoming in their comments — or even if they just had to modify their behavior — could her “work” really be equal to that of a male reporter’s?

Next, my local hardware store provides knowledgeable workers, all men, who render valuable advice on products and how to perform various home repairs. If it was determined that people found a female in that role less credible and were then not quite as likely to buy from the establishment, would even a highly competent woman be able to do “equal work” in that capacity?

What about the little West Indian restaurant, with all-black workers, I loved when I spent a few weeks in Tampa? If hiring a white person made the eatery seem less authentic and negatively affected its appeal, would that individual be able to do “equal work”? The same, of course, could be asked about a black person working in a German restaurant. In these cases race would be integral to the “work.”

And what of a homosexual Boy Scout troop leader? If his presence made parents less likely to enroll their boys in the organization, could he be capable of “equal work”?

Of course, one knee-jerk reaction here is to say that people “shouldn’t” view female cops or hardware specialists, or homosexuals differently than anyone else. But this is a moral argument of questionable morality, as it applies a bias in selectively objecting to market biases. People take little issue with gynecologists or day-care centers that won’t hire men, with male models being paid less or with ethnic restaurants hiring only non-whites. But try only hiring only male cops or employees; compensating a male hardware specialist more handsomely; or, as with Abercrombie a few years back, valuing employees who don’t wear hijabs over those who do. You may have an experience with the DOJ or EEOC that’ll make a dance with the IRS seem pleasant.

We could also talk about how we “should” value work. If we were deific or at least angelic, we would certainly value a mother-of-four’s labors or Mother Teresa’s loving charity more than Facebook and completely devalue rappers’ vulgarity. And even though I earn less than mainstream-press profferers of pablum, I consider my work infinitely more valuable. But flawed though market determinations may be, they’re still the best guide available.

Even within this worldly context, though, some may say there’s more nuance to the matter of work than my examples express. They may contend, for instance, that female police and hardware specialists might have strengths that counterbalance or even outweigh their weaknesses. And guess what?

I agree.

My examples could possibly be lacking.

And this just buttresses the point: virtually no one — if anyone — can properly assess what constitutes equal work in every situation.

This is yet another reason why the matter of work and pay is none of the government’s business. Are bureaucrats, politicians and judges qualified to determine what equal work might be in the thousands of professions in America? Government isn’t God; it’s not even the market, which can be defined as economic democracy expressed through purchasing decisions. When it intrudes into the economy it’s more like Hitler trumping his generals during WWII and deciding on military strategy: an autocratic agency as incompetent as it is arrogant.

Contact Selwyn Duke, follow him on Twitter or log on to SelwynDuke.com

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of students and teachers uniting on the streets to protest for equality. Picture Credit

Work Place Islam

When a Muslim co-worker tries to convert you to Islam, it is not just an invitation. It may also be a death threat.

The Syrian Rubics Cube

One has to have some sympathy for those in the CIA or the White House folks charged with telling the President what has been going on in Syria since 2011 when the opposition to Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship turned into a fighting war. It must have looked and felt like playing with a Rubics cube where the competing groups and militias kept changing all the time.

inside syria book coverIn his book, “Inside Syria”, Reese Erlich, a Peabody Award-winning journalist and author of four books on foreign policy, has a chapter devoted to the way the Syrian revolt took shape. “The antigovernment demonstrations began in the southern city of Daraa in March 2011.”

Erlich reports that they began after police arrested several pre-teen school children for writing anti-regime graffiti on the walls of a school. Being Syria, they were beaten and tortured. More than 600 protesters confronted the local governor demanding the injured children be let free. Security forces attacked the group and killed two of the protesters. This is in keeping with the Middle Eastern mentality and culture, something Americans, accustomed to having peaceful demonstrations, have difficulty comprehending.

“By mid-March demonstrations broke out in Damascus and other parts of the country” because the Arab Spring had let loose a vast feeling of discontent and opposition in a number of nations and the Assad regime was, to put it mildly, unpopular. It didn’t help that “Assad cracked down mercilessly on peaceful protesters” opening fire with live ammunition. Security forces arrested and tortured anyone suspected of participating in the protest.

It is necessary to understand that it is difficult to organize Syrians or other Middle Easterners under the best or worst of conditions and that explains why Americans following events can be forgiven for trying to figure out who was doing what. That includes our intelligence community.

“Local Coordinating Committees developed spontaneously in many cities as mostly young activists created grassroots groups unaffiliated with the traditional opposition. They were united on the need to overthrow Assad, hold free elections, and establish a parliamentary system with civil liberties.”

It only took from March 2011 to July for defectors from Assad’s army to announce formation of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), followed on both sides by targeted assassinations.

For many years the Muslim Brotherhood seemed to be the most influential opposition group, but it was led by an older generation that was surprised by the events led by young Syrians. “Brotherhood leaders had cultivated extensive ties internationally, particularly with the Islamist government of Turkey. Those leaders became major players in the formation of yet another group, the Syrian National Council, (SNC) based in Istanbul. Suffice to say that there are many secular, non-religious, Muslims in the Middle East and those in Syria were not inclined to believe anything the Brotherhood’s SNC had to say.

The Obama administration had a problem figuring out who to support in the developing civil war. They opted for the Free Syrian Army, as did Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, but it was reluctant to provide arms with which to wage a war against Assad. By the spring of 2012, the FSA was asking for shoulder-fired missiles capable of bringing down aircraft and our CIA said no, fearing they would fall into the wrong hands which in Syria’s case could be virtually any other group.

Another group was Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam), “formed from the September 2013 merger of dozens of smaller militias, mostly in the Damascus area.” They were Islamists preferring Sharia law and they flew the black flag of jihad. By the end of 2013 they helped form the Islamic Front. To make things more confusing there was another group, Ahrar al-Sham, one of the largest militias in Syria and their aim was a Sunni Islamic state.

In November 2013, al-Sham joined with other conservative groups and they opposed the Syrian Free Army and the Syrian Military Council, along with the al Qaeda affiliated groups of al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. Confused? Who wouldn’t be?

Suffice to say al-Nusra was devoted to creating an Islamic state ruled by the Koran. In December 2012, the U.S. State Department put al-Nusra on its list of terrorist organizations because of its ties to al Qaeda, but it turned out that an even more extreme group existed, calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). It was this group that announced it would lead an Islamic State in the area seized from Syria and Iraq.

ISIS is so extreme that in February 2014 Ayman al-Zawahri, the al Qaeda successor to bin Laden, cut ties to ISIS.

The U.S. and a handful of coalition partners are currently bombing ISIS in Syria and Iraq. In time the U.S. will have to put ground troops into the area to root out and kill ISIS.

Barack Obama has become a war President thanks to the chaos he created by removing U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011 and to the Arab Spring that swept over nations whose populations wanted to be rid of dictators like Bashar Assad.

This will not likely end soon.

(c) Alan Caruba, 2014

In Praise of Peace: Happy Birthday, Dr. Mises by Robert P. Murphy

The great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises was born September 29, 1881, making today the 133rd anniversary of his birth. I thought it would be fitting for Anything Peaceful to commemorate this extraordinary thinker’s writings in praise of social cooperation.

Although Mises rejected the idea of natural rights in favor of a cool utilitarianism, he nonetheless was one of the most principled champions of classical liberalism. For Mises, social bonds were upheld not by mere emotional yearnings or even biological urges. No, they were due to empirical facts about production and the ability of human reason to grasp these truths about the world.

Specifically, labor was more productive under the division of labor; it was a simple fact that when one man specialized in growing crops and the other specialized in making shirts, both men ended up with more food and clothing. But for people to seize these gains, they needed private property and the possibility of trade.

So far it may seem as if Mises is merely echoing standard results. Yet Mises pushed the analysis much deeper. He thought that civilization itself rested on these empirical facts and their mental recognition among enough people. The traditional rules of morality ultimately derived from these principles, according to Mises. To allow anti-social behavior (such as murder or theft) threatened the division of labor and hence society itself.

Throughout history many writers have celebrated war as an expression of power and national prestige. Mises would have none of it. Indeed he would often write passages that would sound “soft” if they hadn’t been penned by a man who was an officer in the Austro-Hungarian artillery in World War I and fled Nazi persecution later in life. Here is Mises explaining the relative virtues of war and peace:

[An author] errs if…he asserts that “true” civilization and the “good” society are an achievement of people blithely indulging in their passion for violence, murder, and cruelty, that the repression of the impulses toward brutality endangers mankind’s evolution and that a substitution of barbarism for humanitarianism would save man from degeneration. The social division of labor and cooperation rests upon conciliatory settlement of disputes. Not war, as Heraclitus said, but peace is the source of all social relations. To man desires other than that for bloodshed are inborn. If he wants to satisfy these other desires, he must forego his urge to kill. He who wants to preserve life and health as well and as long as possible, must realize that respect for other people’s lives and health better serves his aim than the opposite mode of conduct. [Human Action, Scholar’s Edition, pp. 172–173.]

On this anniversary of his birth, let us celebrate not only the great economics of Ludwig von Mises, but also his abhorrence of war and appreciation for peace.

20140929_RobertP.MurphyHeadShot1ABOUT ROBERT P. MURPHY

Robert P. Murphy has a PhD in economics from NYU and the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism. He is the Senior Economist with the Institute for Energy Research and a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute.