The Mother of All Misdirections — U.S. Counterterrorism Training Still Hostage to Radical Islamist Thought
Will the Trump administration bring back counterterrorism training materials that focus on radical Islam? The Sharia TipSheet will stay on this story until the answer is clear. FOIA litigation is anticipated. To be continued…
On November 5, 2009 about 1:30 p.m. local time, Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan entered a building at Ft. Hood, shouted “Allahu Akbar” and opened fire with a laser-sighted weapon. He fanned his weapon, spraying bullets, before taking aim at individual soldiers. Two people charged him but were killed; a third was injured. Hasan moved outside the building where he shot down a police officer and targeted fleeing soldiers. Another police officer stopped Hasan with five shots as Hasan was reaching for a new clip. Hasan killed 13 and wounded more than 30 in his 10-minute shooting rampage. Seven victims were shot in the back. There was so much blood on the floor in the building that nurses had trouble reaching the wounded. The Obama administration called it an act of ‘workplace violence’ but, at his trial, Hasan told the court he was defending the Taliban against the U.S. military.
Army personnel who worked with Hasan knew he was a “ticking time bomb”. He had given presentations supporting the killing of non-Muslims, defending Osama Bin Laden, and justifying suicide bombers. He announced that Islam took precedence over the U.S. Constitution (which he had sworn to defend). He stated on multiple occasions that Muslims in the military could kill other service members. The Army did not rebuke him but instead gave him credit toward his academic requirements for his views.
These are some of the findings of a Senate Homeland Security Committee report — “A Ticking Time Bomb: Counterterrorism Lessons from the U.S. Government’s Failure to Prevent the Fort Hood Attack” (February 3, 2011) (pp. 27-31). The report cited the Defense Department’s “failure to address violent Islamist extremism by its name” and predicted “[i]t will be more difficult for the military to develop effective approaches to countering violent Islamist extremism if the identity and nature of the enemy cannot be labeled accurately.” (p. 48)
The report went on to recommend:
that the FBI should produce in-depth analysis of the ideology of violent Islamist extremism, the factors that make that ideology appealing to individuals (including U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents), and what ideological indicators or warning signs show that the individual is weighing or accepting the ideology. Our review also leads us to believe that the FBI also should provide sufficient training to its agents including: (1) ideological indicators or warning signs of violent Islamist extremism to serve as an operational reference guide, and (2) the difference between violent Islamist extremism and the peaceful practice of Islam. (p. 77)
Violent Islamist Extremism. Name the enemy. Understand the ideology. Develop more effective training. But just a few short months after the Ft. Hood report, the Obama administration would actually turn and go in the opposite direction — throwing out training materials directed at violent Islamist extremism, obfuscating the Islamist threat by cloaking it with other threats, and bringing in new materials and trainers to teach a Muslim Brotherhood-approved concoction called “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE). CVE, which is still in place, takes the focus off of violent Islamist extremism, diluting it to nothingness with vague talk of extremist threats in general, as if the actions of the 9/11 hijackers and animal rights activists are somehow equivalent.
What Difference, At This Point, Does It Make?
The switcheroo from standard threat assessment to CVE has had a number of disastrous consequences:
- Islamist supremacists are dictating national security policy.
- U.S. policy has proceeded for years in complete ignorance of Islamic war doctrine (jihad and its preparation — dawa):
Inside the government, there is no training which provides employees of the State Department, FBI, CIA, DHS, DIA, National Security staffs, Pentagon, military commands, or other key components of the government factual information about sharia (Islamic Law) and its role in this war. Nor is there substantive training related to the massive jihadi network in the United States, primarily led by the Muslim Brotherhood. — John Guandolo
- U.S. policy, to the extent it deals with the Islamist threat at all, has been skewed in the direction of political correctness and Muslim civil rights. The DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) “has co-opted the counterterrorism effort and turned it into a civil rights, civil liberties focus,” DHS whistleblower Philip Haney says. Haney is the author of See Something, Say Nothing: A Homeland Security Officer Exposes the Government’s Submission to Jihad. Meanwhile, the 2013 FBI national threat assessment didn’t mention Islamist terror threats at all, despite Ft. Hood. Animal rights activists, yes. Jihadi terror cells, no.
- GAO found that the government has no idea whether CVE is effective, because no measurable desired outcomes have ever been established.There are no metrics. In other words, there is no evidence CVE has prevented the growth of terrorism in the United States.
- The FBI has missed clues in major Islamist terrorism plots, including the Boston Marathon bombing and the San Bernardino and Orlando massacres, arguably due to the willful blindness of policymakers.
Things won’t get any better as long as we have the enemy inside the wire telling us how to regard the enemy. We are in an untenable situation. Our government is clueless because it chooses to be clueless. For example, former FBI director Robert Mueller told Congress he was unaware that the Islamic Society of Boston had played a prominent role in the radicalization of the Tsarnaev brothers.
A primary duty of government is to protect the homeland. This the government is failing to do. Americans are paying the price for this willful blindness in blood.
The Trump Administration Backtracks
As candidate and President-elect, Donald Trump and his associates announced he would form a commission on radical Islam; remove Islamist supporters from the government; seek names of bureaucrats working on CVE; terminate the influence of Muslim groups on counterterrorism strategy (Conservative Review); and possibly replace CVE with CIE — Countering Islamist Extremism.
However, a number of subsequent events have left anti-Islamist observers dispirited and contemplating the prospect that no real change in counterterrorism strategy will take place under the Trump administration:
The effort to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group stalled out; funding for CVE grants moved forward; DHS retained the terror-tied Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as an outreach partner; promises to introduce “extreme vetting” of refugees and consult Muslim reformers have gone unfulfilled; and a number of anti-Islamist officials were forced out of the administration (Cohen-Watnick, Harvey, Higgins, Lovinger, Townley, Bannon, Gorka), leaving some 40 Obama holdovers on the National Security Council. Meanwhile, CAIR diversity outreach coordinator Mustafa Javed Ali was promoted to a top NSC position where he proceeded to block scholar Ayaan Hirsi Ali from giving a talk on radical Islam at the NSC. Finally, all references to radical Islam and radical Islamic terror were removed from Trump’s August 2017 speech on Afghanistan.
Two experts consulted for this report say there is a war for the soul of the Trump administration underway on counterterrorism issues. Tom Trento, executive director of United West, describes it as a battle for whose version of truth, justice, and the American way will prevail. Another expert, speaking on background, confirmed this view, adding that top people within the Trump administration have been at loggerheads on these issues. Fact-based views about the Islamist enemy we face have been stifled because lower-level people holding those views are not in a position to advise those at the top (or have been forced out) and because gatekeepers with contrary views are now in place, limiting what the President hears.
According to DHS whistleblower Phil Haney, part of the problem is that President Trump has not built up a team of his own people in DHS yet. Thus, programs like CVE that were already in place are running on autopilot. Policies haven’t changed because personnel — especially middle managers — haven’t changed, is the way Andrew McCarthy puts it. McCarthy, a former prosecutor and author of the seminal work The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America, has not seen any changes in agency counterterrorism training materials since Trump was inaugurated.
McCarthy believes counterterrorism policy is up for grabs at the moment. One camp has concluded what the government has been doing for the last ten years is wrong, but hasn’t come to agreement as to what the error is or how to correct it. This camp is cruising along with CVE, albeit with some grumbling. Another faction is comfortable with what the government is doing, citing the fact there haven’t been any ‘new 9/11’s’ as proof current policies, including CVE, are working. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, this faction argues. In any event, law enforcement officers in the field often will carry out their mission as they see fit, regardless of what policies come down from above. Thus, some field officers may have continued to focus on radical Islam throughout the CVE era, despite pronouncements from Washington.
It’s the Ideology, Stupid!
Choosing the right direction for counterterrorism policy and its attendant training depends on whether one views Islam as a religion of peace with terrorism being a bastardization thereof, or one believes jihad is core doctrine that cannot be airbrushed away. When the Obama administration looked at Muslim extremists, they saw anti-colonialists with legitimate grievances who would not turn to terror were it not for high unemployment, oppression, and other such causes. (“The Flawed Science Behind America’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy” by Katharine C. Gorka, president, The Council on Global Security. October 2014. Katharine Gorka works for DHS at this writing).
Thus, in this school of thought, terrorism has ‘nothing to do with Islam.’ Terrorists are just bad actors or “criminals”, as White House National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster has called them. Jihadis have “corrupted the whole concept of Islam as a religion,” now-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has asserted.
These views are guiding the Trump administration. This is a big problem because Kelly’s and McMaster’s stated views are profoundly ignorant and hopelessly naïve. Jihad is core doctrine, not something tacked on by extremists later. Islam is at war with the West and every non-Muslim in the world, and will remain so until the entire planet submits to Islam. For 790 pages of meticulous, irrefutable documentation of this fact, see Stephen Coughlin’s book Catastrophic Failure: Blindfolding America in the Face of Jihad.
Coughlin starts with the three doctrinal sources Muslims themselves consider authoritative — the Quran, the hadith, and scholarly consensus — and shows how the religious duty to wage violent jihad is inextricably woven into each as core doctrine. According to the Quran (8.60), terrorizing your enemies is an authorized part of reviving the caliphate, and imposing sharia law everywhere, Phil Haney notes.
Thus, terrorists can be taken at their word when they cite Islam as the motivation for their actions:
Shia and Sunni Islamic terrorist groups such as al-Qaida, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and the Islamic State each openly espouse Islamic motivations, repeatedly cite the Quran, and claim they are fighting a religious war. Some of the Sunni groups are violent offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks to create a global Islamic caliphate.
According to Andrew McCarthy, Trump’s May 2017 Riyadh speech was an improvement in that it identified the enemy — radical Islam. However, it left a key question open — whether Trump would henceforth focus on terrorism or Islamist ideology. A focus on terrorism would lead to looking at symptoms while focusing on the ideology would ferret out true root causes. Trump thus far seems uninterested in causes, which is perhaps why he can name the enemy but still collaborate with the Saudis who, many believe, have been exporting their radical Wahhabi Islamist ideology world-wide for decades. The Saudi royals don’t personally engage in terrorist acts, so no conflict is presented when one only looks at symptoms.
If one were to look at causes, this is what they would find with respect to the Saudis, as detailed by scholar and critic of radical Islam Ayaan Hirsi Ali:
The administration’s Middle Eastern strategy seems to involve cozying up to Saudi Arabia — for decades the principal source of funding for Islamic extremism around the world… President Obama’s former representative to Muslim communities, Farah Pandith, who visited 80 countries between 2009 and 2014, wrote in 2015: “In each place I visited, the Wahhabi influence was an insidious presence… Funding all this was Saudi money, which paid for things like the textbooks, mosques, TV stations and the training of Imams.” In 2016, addressing the Council on Foreign Relations, Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) sounded the alarm over Islamist indoctrination in Pakistan, noting that thousands of schools funded with Saudi money “teach a version of Islam that leads… into an… anti-Western militancy.”
Because Islamist groups don’t state their goal as terrorism per se, efforts like CVE to ‘fight terrorism’ are misdirected and doomed to failure. Moreover, a self-blinding focus on terrorism leaves policymakers and war-fighters alike unable to comprehend that the enemy is inside the wire telling us how to regard the enemy. As long as Islamist ideologues don’t personally engage in terrorist acts, they make fine advisers to DHS and other counterterrorism agencies, so terror-focused reasoning goes.
There is no hope for neutering our Islamist enemies or even eradicating terror until policymakers verse themselves in Islamist war doctrine. Stephen Coughlin’s book Catastrophic Failure is a good place to start. Sources by Muslims writing for Muslims are especially revelatory. The Explanatory Memorandum (Muslim Brotherhood plan for destroying Western Civilization); Reliance of the Traveller (on sharia law), Qutb’s Milestones (battle plans and signposts for subjugating “the whole human environment”), and Management of Savagery by Abu-Bakr Naji (providing Islamist terrorists a strategy to create a new caliphate), are among the Muslim-authored sources that could be cited.
Until policymakers and war-fighters can tell us what dawa, hijra, and taqiyya mean, they cannot pretend that they understand Islam or have figured out how to fight terrorism successfully. If you don’t know what these words mean, look them up and understand why Americans will continue to pay the price in blood for our leaders’ criminally negligent failure to understand Islamist war doctrine. It’s the ideology, stupid!