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“Despicable Goals”: ISIS And The Far-Right Have The Same Enemies’ List

ISIS and certain American conservatives have something in common: They both hate the same Muslim Americans. This became apparent Wednesday when the new issue of ISIS’s magazine, Dabiq, was released.  (I downloaded it on my home computer—which likely means hello no-fly list.)

In this issue of Dabiq, ISIS identifies Muslim Americans they believe should be targeted for death because they have become apostates per ISIS’s own made up version of Islam. Did any of these Muslims actually leave the faith? No, but ISIS claims that if a Muslim American is involved in American society, and especially in U.S. politics, he or she has become an apostate—even if that person is an imam who has dedicated his life to Islam.

Not that this matters to ISIS, but there’s no death penalty called for in the Quran for a person leaving the faith. But ISIS would never let the principles of Islam get in the way of its political goals.

And ISIS targeting Muslims for death is nothing new. As I have pointed out time and time again, ISIS’s mantra is submit to ISIS or die. They don’t care if you are the most devout Muslim in the world, they will kill you if you don’t do exactly what ISIS demands. That’s why experts note that 90 percent plus of the victims of ISIS are Muslims.

Now here’s the interesting part. Every person ISIS wants targeted, without exception, has already been targeted by American conservatives. Granted, not for death; things aren’t that bad yet. But they have been the targets of sustained political attacks. It appears that ISIS and many on the right in American politics both view the same Muslim Americans as a threat, but for different reasons.

ISIS has marked a diverse group of Muslim Americans for death, from white converts who are now leading imams to an African-American member of Congress to leaders of Muslim American organizations. These people are all very visible Muslim Americans who have also trashed ISIS countless times in the media. I will only list the names of the people targeted by ISIS if the person has agreed to my including their name or issued a public statement. (I don’t want to help ISIS terrorize people.) So here they are and here’s also a taste of the right-wing attacks waged against these very same people.

  1. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) has been targeted for death by ISIS because as one of the two Muslims in Congress, he’s a visible role model for Muslims, inspiring them to become active in American politics and serve in our government.  Oddly enough, Ellison is also hated by the right for the same reason ISIS hates him, namely because he’s both very visible and effective. Just a few of the attacks include Former Rep. Michelle Bachmann, who claimed Ellison was part of the Muslim Brotherhood. Glenn Beck infamously questioned Ellison’s patriotism, demanding of Ellison on national television, “Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.” And the bottom-feeding website Breitbart.com (Trump’s biggest cheerleader) has attacked Ellison numerous times, alleging that he has nefarious (but fabricated) ties to terrorism.

Ellison issued a defiant statement in response to ISIS’s threat that truly sums up how Muslims view this murderous cult. Referring to ISIS as Da’esh, Ellison called it “a collection of liars, murderers, torturers, and rapists. No Muslim I know recognizes what they preach as Al-Islam.” Ellison added that he was in essence proud that Da’esh targeted him because it “means I am fighting for things like justice, tolerance, and a more inclusive world.”

  1. Imam Suhaib Webb. ISIS has attacked him as being the “All-American imam” who connects with young Muslim Americans by using “thug life vocabulary and the latest pop culture references.” And they blast Imam Webb for publicly praising President Obama after he offered blessings on the Muslim Eid holiday. ISIS hates any Muslim leader who, like Webb, is encouraging American Muslims to become part of the fabric of our nation. The guys in ISIS are in “great” company because both Fox News and Breitbart.com have also attacked Webb, making unsubstantiated claims that the imam has a history of “ties to radicalism.” And many in the anti-Muslim circle of hate from Robert Spencer to Front Page.com have led a campaign to smear Webb as a radical linked to terrorism.

Webb responded in a phone conversation that ISIS targeting this group of visible Muslim Americans is proof that they are having an impact in both countering ISIS’s efforts to recruit Muslims and ISIS’s lies.  “No one can ever say again that Muslim Americans aren’t speaking out against ISIS after this because there’s now proof with these threats that we are and that it’s both effective and angering ISIS,” Webb explained.

  1. Mohamed Elibiary. ISIS claimed that Elibiary was an apostate because he had worked in the Department of Homeland Security. Well, guess who else has attacked Elibiary? Ted Cruz’s new national security adviser, Frank Gaffney, who claimed Elibiary was part of “The Muslim Brotherhood’s infiltration of the Obama administration.” And Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) waged a jihad on Elibiary while he worked in DHS, apparently at the urging of people like Pam Geller.

Elibiary’s response to ISIS via Twitter was also defiant, noting proudly that ISIS targeted him for his “service enforcing American laws 2 protect all Americans, Muslims included.”

  1. Nihad Awad. The executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Awad was pictured at the top of the article in the ISIS magazine in the crosshairs of a gun sight. ISIS wants him dead for his work in defending the civil rights of American Muslims to ensure they have the same rights as all other Americans and feel welcomed in America. (ISIS wants Muslim Americans to be alienated to make it easier to recruit them.) Yet, as most are likely aware, CAIR and Awad has long been attacked by people on the right, from GOP politicians like Ben Carson, who just a few months claimed CAIR is a “supporter of terrorism” to Fox News, to of course Cruz’s adviser Gaffney, who has smeared Awad as a “Hamas lover.”

Awad responded to being on ISIS’s hit list with a statement that read in part, “The best response to such threats is to continue challenging extremism, whether it is espoused by organizations like ISIS or by Islamophobes who seek to demonize Islam based on that group’s brutality. “

The big takeaway is that ISIS and the right in America have much in common on this subject. They both attack American Muslims who serve in our government and want to encourage other Muslims to do the same. They both ridicule those working to defend the rights of American Muslims to ensure that Muslims feel welcomed in our country. And they both fear that the more visible American Muslims become in contributing to our nation, the more it will undermine the vision they both share for how Islam should be defined.

Of course, there’s one big difference. ISIS wants these Muslims killed. The right in America only wants these Muslim Americans to be demonized, scorned, and marginalized.  Let’s hope that neither group will succeed in achieving their despicable goals.

 

By: Dean Obeidallah,  The Daily Beast, April 14, 2016

April 16, 2016 Posted by | American Muslims, Conservatives, ISIS, Keith Ellison | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What The GOP Gets Wrong About ISIS”: The Positions Staked Out By Republican Politicians Are Crazy

As we come to the end of a year of terror—actually, of horror—and we enter a year of terrible campaigning by some horrible candidates for the presidency of the United States, one might wish the Republican front-runners would step back from the path of religious zealotry, racist paranoia and torture envy. But … no.

As the debates in mid-December and the sparring since have showed us, they are detached from many realities, but especially the reality on the ground in Syria, which I have been covering first-hand with frequent trips there since 2012.

So, now, back in the United States, I watch in consternation the nauseating spin about Radical Islam, carpet bombing, waterboarding, surveillance of everyone, blaming refugees. The Republican “strategies” for dealing with the so-called Islamic State sound like a laundry list of the monumental failures from the 9/11 decade.

Was it “political correctness” that knocked down the twin towers and kidnapped and tortured my friends? No, it was something much more sinister, and something much more sophisticated than these candidates seem to realize, or to be.

There is a reason, of course, for them to deflect questions about military tactics against ISIS. There are no easy answers, and even the difficult options are severely limited. No realistic proposal for tackling the jihadi group will play well with primary voters and all of the candidates know it. Presumably, this is why the Republican candidates have taken the discussion into the realm of paranoid fantasy and insinuation, where they seem much more comfortable.

Consider Donald Trump’s bizarre statement that “we should be able to penetrate the Internet and find out exactly where ISIS is.” Actually, we know exactly where the Islamic State is and have a good idea of where its main bastions are. We essentially already know what is needed to fight them.

The problem is that no matter how good our intel is, there is still the pesky issue of how to take and hold territory, which is a costly proposition. And while ISIS potentate Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi recently conceded he’s been losing ground, but gradually, he figures that, up against the disorganization of his enemies, and the U.S. presidential campaign is a prime example of that, he will be able to get it back—and then some.

Then there’s the question of torture, or “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and the notion that they could have prevented the Paris attacks in November that killed 130 people.

At a Council on Foreign Relations event Chris Christie said “it’s not a coincidence to me that this happened in the aftermath of restricting these programs and remember also demoralizing the intelligence community. That awful report that came out from the Senate Democrats at the end of last year was a complete political instrument that did nothing more than demoralize American intelligence officers all around the world.”

Using religious language like “Radical Islam” has also been touted as a Republican “strategy” for some time. Such words, one way or the other, have zero effect on the ground.

Ted Cruz’s anti-ISIS strategy is to rename the terror group, which results in a meaningless sound bite, not a strategy. You can rebrand a cancer however you like; the threat it poses will be unchanged. But the “Radical Islam” rhetoric plays well into a broader trend of advocating racial, ethnic and religious profiling by the general public. Cruz’s followers do not hear the word “radical,” as any spin doctor knows. They cut straight to “Islam” as the threat.

When asked if the American government should engaging in profiling, Jeb Bush’s answer was concrete and definitive: “Yeah, absolutely, that is what screening is. We should be profiling. Of course we should. This is Islamic terrorism. The Democrats have no clue about this, or they refuse to call it what it is. These are Islamic terrorists that are trying to take out our country and destroy Western civilization. If you start with that premise, which I think the great majority of Americans believe, then you have a totally different approach on how you deal with it.”

Yet when asked about his military strategy, Bush replied with a platitude: “The main thing we should be focused on is a strategy to defeat ISIS…. Leading the world, funding [the military] to make sure we have a military that is second to none and doing the job.”

When Republicans rally so strongly behind the anti-refugee hysteria, torture and religious rhetoric, it is because they need unifying issues that allow them to attack President Barack Obama and, by extension, Hillary Clinton.

According to Robert Y. Shapiro, a professor of government at Columbia University, the refugee issue is a convenient tool used by the GOP to criticize the Obama administration without confronting military realities.

“I think they want to keep the focus on the refugees since, first, they are a reminder of Obama’s perceived failure against the Syrian government and the conquests of ISIS,” says Shapiro. “Second, they are a reminder of the potential terrorist threat which is an issue on which the Republicans, since George W. Bush, have had the high ground over the Democrats. The current polls strongly reflect this.”

“It is a way of avoiding the tougher issue of what to do about Syria and ISIS,” says Shapiro. The political strategy keeps the focus on the the failings of the Obama administration and its longtime secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

If there is one thing Republicans agree on, in fact, it is that Obama somehow created ISIS. Yet when it comes to exactly why they think that, the reasons are vastly different and completely contradictory.

So, for instance, former New York (9/11) Mayor Rudy Giuliani said in a recent Fox News interview that he believes ISIS is an “Obama creation.” According to Giuliani, ISIS rose to prominence because Obama refused to implement a no fly zone over Syria after the Assad regime’s chemical weapon attacks in 2013.

According to Trump, however, ISIS is a result of Obama’s weak personality and his intervention in Libya, which Trump says destabilized the region. Trump has also claimed that he believes Obama may have directly armed ISIS, and that America should support Russia’s intervention in Syria.

According to Ted Cruz, political correctness is to blame and Obama should try to ramp up the religious rhetoric.

According to Jeb Bush, ISIS is Obama’s fault because he drew down U.S. forces in Iraq, allowing the jihadis to fill the vacuum.

Rand Paul insists that Obama “armed the allies of ISIS.”

On the far-out fringes of the right (whose votes are coveted as well) there are the persistent conspiracy theories that Obama is a secret member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that moderate Republican Sen. John McCain met with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS, when he visited Syria.

If Obama is a dictatorial warmonger, a secret jihadi or, as Christie puts it, “a feckless weakling,” what Republican could come to his defense?

Yet none can say that Obama is not striking ISIS, because he is. GOP candidates cannot say that Obama has overstepped his executive authority, because this would be interpreted as opposition to the military campaign. The Republican candidates cannot advocate sending in ground troops, because that is an unelectable position.

No one is going to make waves by advocating a no-fly zone, because Hillary Clinton has been the most vocal advocate of an air exclusion area since the beginning of the conflict, long before any Republican candidates raised the issue.

Four years of contradictory statements and shortsighted posturing from the GOP with regard to Syria have made emotionally charged peripheral issues the safest bet when it comes to politicizing ISIS.

A review of Republican positions since the conflict began reveals broad opposition to Obama’s anti-Assad-regime plans and serious criticism of his executive actions against ISIS.

In 2014, John Boehner was quick to criticize Obama’s military actions as unauthorized, but became visibly uncomfortable when asked why he didn’t introduce an authorization to use military force. Numerous Republicans dissented when Obama said he intended to retaliate against the Assad regime for chemical attacks in 2013, and were largely responsible for staying his hand. With regard to military action against ISIS, many Republicans chose to avoid a vote on the subject so they could assess the success of the campaign before risking a position. This is hard to spin as a courageous stance against the Islamic State.

Before the Paris attacks and the current anti-refugee hysteria, the Republican contenders, especially Cruz, had focused their criticism of Obama on the fact that he refuses to equate the Islamic State with mainstream Islam. This is clever, up to a point, because it is vague and draws on a widely held belief among conservatives that political correctness and cultural sensitivity are largely to blame for their unhappiness. Thus Cruz proclaimed, incongruously, “It is not a lack of competence that is preventing the Obama adminstration from stopping these attacks it is political correctness.”

Do the candidates really believe what they are saying about refugees? It is important to listen to the specific words that they and governors opposed to resettlement have been using.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie knows that his biggest weakness is being perceived as soft on Obama, because he worked closely with the president after Hurricane Sandy. In interview after interview, Christie has deflected questions on his refugee scapegoating back to Obama, stating that he does not trust the President to vet the refugees.

During the GOP debates in Las Vegas Christie focused heavily on his involvement with minor terrorism cases as a prosecutor and the fact that he lived in New Jersey on 9/11.

Ted Cruz keeps the focus on buzzwords meant to energize his evangelical base. In a single interview with Sean Hannity, he repeated the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” 19 times. And since the Paris attacks, Cruz has also been sure to repeat the words “tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees” verbatim several times per interview.

Despite all the tough talk none of this rhetoric comes close to resembling a strategy, which is why the GOP has more to lose than anyone from a real debate on military tactics against ISIS.

The fear mongering has been successful turning conservatives against a vulnerable community that had no role in the Paris or San Bernardino attacks. According to a Yougov poll, support for accepting refugees has dropped from 39 percent among Republicans in early September to 17 percent now. The major GOP contenders need issues like refugees and religion to stay in the conversation because they have no clue how to beat ISIS.

In fact, the threat does not come from Obama, refugees, and civil rights, as opposed to from the actual Islamic State. The Republicans give the overall impression that they would increase U.S. military operation and that the Obama administration has no clear strategy. ‘In fact the Obama administration does,” say Shapiro “but it is a much slower long term one… leaving the fighting on the ground to the Kurds and Iraqi forces.”

Most of the actual proposals presented by GOP candidates are basically just variations on that theme.

On the ground in Syria, debates among the Republican candidates have sounded unrealistic if not surreal. It is obvious that ISIS can only be beaten through intelligent alliances and precise military planning. This should not be a great mystery given the fact that ISIS has been beaten before. In early 2014 Syrian rebels forced ISIS into a massive retreat from Aleppo province. I personally had the privilege of visiting parts of Aleppo that were recently liberated. This objective was achieved through military coordination among rebels factions who took heavy casualties.

It’s strange to hear politicians speak about ISIS as though it is some mysterious threat that will require America to change its identity. The leaders and fighters of ISIS are simply human beings, and in battle, they die.

When I hear politicians demonize Syrians and Muslims or advocate torture and carpet bombing, it shows how deep their lack of commitment to the actual fight is.

Syrians are the only people I have ever encountered who have actually stood up to and beaten back ISIS. The 2014 rebel offensive was the most significant blow that ISIS has ever been dealt and it didn’t magically occur when Ted Cruz uttered the words “Radical Islam.” It certainly didn’t come from preventing desperate refugees from settling in America. The biggest defeat ISIS has ever suffered came from Syrians who are the exact same religion and nationality that candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are so determined to turn into an enemy.

 

By: Patrick Hilsman, The Daily Beast, December 28, 2015

December 30, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, ISIS, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“ISIS’ Best Recruiter”: Will Clinton Apologize To Trump? ‘Hell, No’

During Saturday night’s debate, Hillary Clinton raised a familiar concern that has a lot of merit: Donald Trump’s bigoted rhetoric has the effect of helping America’s enemies. We need to make sure, Clinton said at the debate, that Trump’s more hateful rhetoric doesn’t “fall in receptive ears” abroad.

“He is becoming ISIS’s best recruiter,” the Democratic frontrunner added. “They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.”

The syntax got a little garbled, but it sounded as if Clinton was saying there are already ISIS videos in circulation featuring Trump’s rhetoric. Since that does not appear to be the case, Trump is demanding an apology.

That’s not going to happen.

A spokesman for Hillary Clinton says “hell, no,” the candidate won’t apologize to Donald Trump for calling him “ISIS’ best recruiter.”

“Hillary Clinton will not be apologizing to Donald Trump for correctly pointing out how his hateful rhetoric only helps ISIS recruit more terrorists,” said spokesman Brian Fallon in a statement.

It’s worth unpacking this a bit, because the entire story helps capture just how odd this year’s presidential race really is.

First, let’s focus on the substance. Trump’s whining notwithstanding, the truth of the matter is Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric is noticed abroad and has been utilized by radicals. Rita Katz, executive director of the SITE Intelligence Group, recently explained to NBC News that Middle Eastern radicals “love” Trump “from the sense that he is supporting their rhetoric. They follow everything Donald Trump says. When he says, ‘No Muslims should be allowed in America,’ they tell people, ‘We told you America hates Muslims and here is proof.’”

Clinton could have worded this better, but her underlying point is sound: Trump is providing rhetorical ammunition to America’s enemies. There’s ample evidence to bolster the argument.

Second, the lack of self-awareness surrounding Trump’s complaints is astounding, even for him. Without a hint of irony, the Republican frontrunner said this afternoon, in reference to Clinton’s debate comments, “There is no video.” Seriously? Wasn’t the reality-based community using the same four words when Trump claimed he saw imaginary video of thousands of American Muslims celebrating 9/11 in New Jersey?

Third, Trump may not realize this, but for a guy who’s preoccupied with “strength” and “toughness,” watching him whine about Hillary Clinton hurting his feelings isn’t exactly consistent with the image he works so hard to project.

Finally, note that the fight itself is exactly the kind of showdown Clinton and her team want to have. It’s to their benefit to treat Trump like the Republican nominee, and offer a preview of the kind of general-election fight they’d love to have – with the Democrat on the offensive, and the Republican waiting for an apology that will never arrive.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 22, 201

December 23, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, ISIS, Radicalization | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Its Not Just About Bombing ISIS”: Organizing Global Action Related To Financing Of Terrorism

I’ve written previously about the strategy behind President Obama’s containment policy with regards to ISIS.

Its [U.S.] containment policy, Watts explained, is designed to wall ISIS into increasingly restricted territory and letting it fail due to its own mismanagement, economic problems, and internal discord, rather than because of the actions of a foreign oppressor.

If you want to establish an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East and engage in an apocalyptic battle with the West, you need financial resources to do so. Hence, the United States has been pursuing a financial as well as military containment policy.

But those efforts won’t succeed unless the countries of the world join us in both abandoning any financial transactions with ISIS and policing private entities within their own borders who might attempt to do so. That’s why, as U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power wrote, last week Treasury Secretary Jack Lew took on the role of foreign diplomat.

…to defeat these terrorist groups — as we must and will do — the United Nations must reach beyond the expertise of foreign ministries, and our traditional means of countering State aggression.

Instead, we must look to the policymakers who are developing innovative tactics to fight these groups, from strengthening border security and countering violent extremism in communities to choking off various sources of ISIL’s financing.

On Thursday, Secretary Lew is chairing the first-ever meeting of U.N. Security Council finance ministers to intensify international efforts on combating terrorist financing. We recognize that if we want to cut off ISIL’s access to the international financial system and prevent it from raising, transferring and using funds, we need other countries on board.

That is an innovative approach to how the U.N. might function in a world of asymmetrical threats. The idea that it is not simply a place for foreign ministers to discuss state-on-state military matters, but is also a place to organize global action related to terrorism financing means that it can be a vehicle for strategies that address 21st century challenges.

I am reminded of the approach a lot of Republicans have taken to the United Nations – from former Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton’s casual reference to “losing 10 stories” of their building in NYC to continuous efforts by Congressional Republicans to defund it.

What we have seen from the Obama administration is a strengthening of the United Nations (and other coalitions like NATO) as a way to establish the kinds of partnerships that are necessary to accomplish everything from a global climate accord to a plan to end the Syrian civil war to cutting off the flow of financial resources to ISIS.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 21, 2015

December 22, 2015 Posted by | ISIS, Republicans, Terrorism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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