Part II of our Interview with Steve Emerson
Posted by Joshua Price on September 26, 2007
The following is the second and final part of our interview with terrorism expert Steve Emerson. We would like to thank Mr. Emerson for taking the time to be with us, and please don’t forget to check out steveemerson.com where Mr. Emerson has a wonderful blog and investigativeproject.org, one of the most comprehensive sites on Islamic terrorism.
Price: We had Michael Scheuer on a few weeks ago and I know that he and you do not agree on some aspects of why we are being attacked. It’s his belief that we are being attacked not because of our civilization or representative-democratic government, or that their objective is to establish a caliphate or Islamic empire like the Ottoman Empire, but rather because of our positions in the Arab world. Do you disagree with that assessment?
Emerson: I definitely don’t share that view. I take Bin Laden at his word, and his word says he wants a caliphate. In fact, Scheuer himself said that that’s what they wanted. So, Scheuer has a problem deciding what he thinks he knows–which is not much. And I think the fact that Scheuer was at the Bin Laden unit all of those years where we didn’t get him, and believes this kind of nonsense, gives us an idea why we never caught Bin Laden.
I think that Bin Laden’s disagreement with the U.S. is civilizational. He believes the U.S. is part or the main agent of a conspiracy to suppress Islam, and therefore the U.S. has to be defeated. The U.S. is a country governed by crusaders (i.e. Christians) and Zionists (i.e. Jews), and he has a fundamental disagreement with democracy rather than Sharia—which he believes in—with secularism rather than a theocracy—which he believes in—and with a Christian country rather than a country ruled by Islam.
While Bin Laden may refer to different concepts all over the world from Chechnya to Pakistan, to Israel to Bosnia to the Philippines, he’s fundamentally referring to a battle of civilizations between the West and Islam in his views. Though I believe it’s really between militant Islam and the West.
Price: What do we know about al-Qaeda’s or other Islamic extremist group’s presence in the U.S. post 9/11?
Emerson: Post 9/11 there is still an extensive presence of Islamic extremists, but organizationally they have been taken down a notch by prosecutions, indictments, deportations, and asset forfeiters.
In general, there are several types of categories of jihadists in the United States. You have the one category of al-Qaeda-type jihadists that believe in attacking the U.S. from within, and they can be either directed by al-Qaeda itself or inspired—the Fort Dix plot, the JFK plot are examples of those types.
Then there’s also the other types of jihadists who use the United States as a place to fundraise, recruit, proselytize, train for operations overseas—the trial right now of the Holy Land Foundation in Dallas, Texas which alleges to have funded Hamas falls into that category.
Then there’s another category of what I call cultural jihadists. It’s not a formal category, but rather a certain type of belief system that it’s okay to kill Americans but they don’t want to do it themselves—they’re not the ones carrying out suicide bombings, they’re the ones plotting suicide bombings. If we look back at the poll taken by Pew several months ago, I think it showed that upwards of a quarter of all young Muslims justified suicide bombings in the United States. That’s a quarter of all young Muslims in the U.S. justifies suicide bombings (emphasis added). Now, I don’t believe that all of them would be prepared to carry out suicide bombings, but they justified it. Many of them are cultural jihadists, and of a course a certain percentage of them probably would carry it out, but they’re much more unlikely to carry it out here because the United States has been a paradise for them compared to existing in the Middle East.
Price: What are the priorities for fighting and winning this War on Terror?
Emerson: Well the first thing that needs to be done is to be able to readily state who your enemy is. The enemy is radical Islam. It’s an enemy of moderate Islam; it’s an enemy of the West; and seeks nothing other than the destruction of Western societies, or our allies, whether it’s in Denmark, Germany, Britain, Israel—wherever. So that’s the first thing that needs to be done, which unfortunately I believe is falling by the wayside with Western governments like the U.K. saying they’re not even going to use the term “Islamic terrorism.”
Price: Why do you think that is?
Emerson: Political correctness and appeasement. What has happened is that the cultural jihadists have put out the word that their alienation and anger stems from the West’s use of terms like Islamic terrorism, and they’ve got the causality reversed. It’s Islamic terrorism that causes the West to be fearful of radical Islam. The alienation isn’t caused by the West, it’s caused by Muslim organizations, and Islamic ideology that champions the notion that Muslims are victims of the West; that they’re victims of Western conspiracies—that the Jews and the Christians want to conspire to dominate them.
The hatred that is taught of Jews, for example, in madrasas in the West Bank in Gaza and in Egypt, in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and is distributed throughout the world—through radio, television, the Internet—is enormous. That’s what causes radicalization and ultimately terrorism.
Unless we’re willing to identify a name, the actual enemy, like we did in World War II naming Nazism as the enemy, then we can’t even possibly hope to win it by just calling this a War on Terror or a war against extremists—that’s meaningless.
Number two, there’s a need to discredit and delegitimize the radicals by stopping what the Department of Justice did two weeks ago when it co-sponsored an event with the Islamic Society of North America, which is an unindicted co-conspirator in the Hamas terrorist finance case in Texas. And I see State Department doing outreach with the Muslim Student Association which is also listed in the documents in Texas as an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as outreach conducted by the FBI with the Council on America-Islamic Relations (CAIR) also designated as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Hamas terrorist case. So, to the extent that we are embracing or legitimizing these cultural jihadists groups, we are essentially allowing them to implant themselves and have legitimacy when what we need to be doing is shunning them, discrediting them, and at the same time, empowering genuine Islamic moderates who authentically condemn Islamic terrorism and who acknowledge the existence of Islamic extremism.
Price: It is unfathomable how out of one side of this government’s mouth we are hearing that we need to fight this War on Terror and take the battle to the enemy, yet we are leaving our borders essentially open and now we hear, as you touched on, this situation with the DOJ co-sponsoring a convention sponsored by an unindicted co-conspirator in a terror funding case. Is it simply political correctness and our government trying to appease certain factions, Islamic organizations, or certain Arab countries? Why can’t we just define the enemy and say, “Okay, here is our enemy and this is what we are going to do to go after them?”
Emerson: You raise a great question. There’s no reason in the world why we can’t tell the Saudis, “Stop exporting your Wahabism, or we’re going to penalize your central bank,” which we’re allowed to do under the Patriot Act. There’s no reason in the world why we tolerate the FBI mandating that its agents undergo cultural sensitivity training by the Council on America-Islamic Relations (CAIR). I mean this is absurd. It stems from political correctness and also years of fear that somehow these groups will be less violent, but unfortunately it’s an illusion. The more we appease them the more they’re empowered. The proof of that was shown in the reactions of the Danish cartoons: When the Muslim world dictated to the West what it could publish and what it could not publish. Remember that in the cartoon episode, with the exception of The New York Sun and The Philadelphia Inquirer, I don’t think there were any major newspapers in the U.S. that republished those cartoons. And that was a direct result of the threats issued by the Muslim world.
Price: Unbelievable! Let me go back to something you just said: There are government agencies that actually have to undergo cultural sensitivity training by who? CAIR?
Emerson: Yes. Yes.
Price: This is unbelievable!
Emerson: Dozens of times, I can tell you, FBI agents resent it; they think it’s repugnant; they think it’s counterproductive, but headquarters has mandated it.
Price: Has anyone asked FBI Headquarters why they continue to mandate training from a group like CAIR after some of things that they have done and said as an organization?
Emerson: I started asking them, and when you start asking questions like that at headquarters, they great pretty thin-skinned.
Emerson: Yes. It’s one of those self-destructive impulses that Western societies routinely—are increasingly—exhibiting in the face of the threat of radical Islam.
Price: Finally Mr. Emerson, going back to something Mr. Scheuer said to us and that is the situation of our borders. He seems to believe that there is no reason not to suspect that al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremist organization members are coming across our border with Mexico via shaving their beards, taking on Hispanic names and aliases, etc. Do you share that same concern?
Emerson: I think that al-Qaeda is a very adaptable, savvy organization and I have no reason to believe that they wouldn’t be using the Mexican border to smuggle in operatives. I don’t have the empirical evidence to prove that, but there is enough anecdotal stories—we know Hezbollah has done that, so why wouldn’t al-Qaeda do it?
Price: Exactly. I just don’t understand why there has been this separation, maybe not in terms of rhetoric, but when it comes to action, between national security and border security. There seems to be no linkage except in terms of rhetoric.
Emerson: Yeah, well it’s like saying there’s a War on Terrorism. What war? We’re embracing—the Department of Justice co-sponsors an event with a group that is an unindicted co-conspirator, the Depart of State under Karen Hughes embraces the Muslim Student Association, the FBI mandates sensitivity training with a group that was part of the Hamas infrastructure, and we wonder why we’re not closing the borders? Well, I mean, to be consistent we should opening up the borders. I mean all terrorists should be welcome into the United States according to the policies we are exhibiting. That’s the bizarre nature of what we’re doing.
Price: Well Mr. Emerson, thank you for taking the time to be with The Conservative Beacon. It has been a real treat, and hopefully we can have you back sometime soon.
Emerson: I’d be delighted.