A revealing piece from the Washington Post this morning about the possible extent of infiltration by radical Muslims into the American military.
“Just after the 1991 Persian Gulf War against Iraq, huge tents were erected in Saudi Arabia near the barracks of U.S. military personnel. Inside, day and night, Saudi imams sent by their government lectured the GIs about Islam and made aggressive pitches to convert them. Saudi officials had promised that the discussions would touch only on Arab culture. But within months, about 1,000 soldiers, and perhaps as many as 3,000, converted to Islam — the largest surge of Muslims ever into the U.S. armed forces.”
I wrote about Saudi proselytizing efforts among the military over two weeks ago in the Washington Times. Glad to see the Post is catching up! But more importantly, note the Saudis’ promise that these lectures would touch only upon “Arab culture.” For the Saudis, that means Islam, and our military brass should have known that.
But they didn’t. The article continues: “‘It was quite aggressive,’ said David Peterson, then the military’s top chaplain in the region. In retrospect, he said, there was reason for concern that foreign clerics had gained influence over the troops, but military officials were slow to grasp the implications, he said. Twelve years later, with three Muslim employees at the Guantanamo Bay prison accused of security breaches, some U.S. military officials are again wondering whether they have been inattentive to outside influences on the small community of Muslims in the armed forces.”
Here’s the rub: “But even asking that question is a delicate matter for an institution that has long embraced tolerance of all faiths.”
That’s why it hasn’t been asked for so long, and why efforts to portray Islam as wholly peaceful or non-political can be lethal. There are millions of peaceful and secular Muslims, but radicals appeal to traditional understandings of Islam as a political and social system as well as a faith for individuals; in doing so, they introduce a thing that military officials have been wholly unprepared for: a religious faith with almost immediate implications for political action.
Even worse, “some military officials believe that the al Qaeda terrorist network is trying to recruit Muslim members of the U.S. armed services and contractors who work with them. Other officers have expressed fears that some Muslim soldiers, sailors and airmen might one day decline to take up arms against fellow Muslims.”
Why would they decide to do that? I explain why in Onward Muslim Soldiers. Among other things, radical Muslims appeal to the Qur’an: “If a man kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell” (Sura 4:93). We have already seen a British Muslim soldier go AWOL rather than go to Iraq. Why? He feared hell.
Later on in the article, we’re told that the military was concerned: “‘There was a concern about the ability of the Muslim community to take up arms against fellow Muslims,’ recalled Herman Keizer, then an Army colonel who headed the military’s chaplains board. ‘There was also concern about what influence events in the Middle East could have on Muslims in the military.'” But evidently not all that much concern.
In the article, Air Force General Ralph Eberhart, identified as the “head of the U.S. Northern Command, the military’s homeland defense unit,” downplayed the success of terrorist efforts to turn American Muslim soldiers, but added: “There’s no doubt in my mind there’s an effort [by al Qaeda and other terrorists] to turn our people. . . . I’m concerned, and I know others [in the military] are concerned” about such efforts at Guantanamo.
The article also informs us that “military sociologist Charles Moskos is traveling to Iraq this month to poll troops about morale issues. He plans to ask whether Muslim soldiers seem to have their hearts in fighting fellow Muslims, and whether the troops trust Muslims in their ranks. I’ll ask, ‘How do you feel about having a Muslim in your tent?’ Moskos said.”
It’ll be interesting to see the reaction to this.
How has it come about that this is necessary at all? “Some critics of government terrorism policy say the Pentagon is so devoted to promoting religious brotherhood in its ranks that it fails to discern traces of anti-American sentiment among Muslim troops. ‘The military has a style of political correctness that says, “We’re not in the business of judging anyone’s religion,” ‘ said Thor Ronay, a terrorism researcher at the conservative Center for Security Policy.”
Even when it comes to Saudi tent meetings proselytizing for Islam? That’s right; those are ok too: “Despite their initial upset that Saudi officials had misled them about the tent lectures, U.S. officers did not end the gatherings, in keeping with the military’s bedrock principle of accommodating all faiths . . .”
Yet I know that they don’t accomodate other faiths to the extent of allowing proselytizing. Why are the Saudis exempt? They were certainly pouring money into the effort: “The well-financed team paid for the converts’ pilgrimages to Islam’s holy cities, and upon their return home, arranged follow-up visits by Muslim clerics in the United States . . .”
Meanwhile, Bilal Philips, one of the imams who organized all this, went on record saying: “The clash of civilizations is a reality. Western culture led by the United States is an enemy of Islam.” The article states that “with his encouragement, some of his U.S. military converts trained Islamic fighters in Bosnia in the 1990s and were later investigated by the FBI in terrorism probes in this country, he added.”
Moreover, “by the early 1990s, the Pentagon was working closely with U.S. Muslim activists to hire Islamic chaplains to minister to Philips’s new converts and their co-religionists. One architect of this initiative was Abdurahman Alamoudi, who was indicted Oct. 23 on money-laundering charges for allegedly taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from Libya, which is designated by U.S. officials as a state sponsor of terrorism.”
Military officials now say that they “might have been more suspicious” of all these proselytizing efforts. Yes, I would say so.
Also: The scarcity of Arabic translators has led military officials to cut corners in security checks of them, officials said. Both Halabi and Mehalba [two of the those who worked at Gitmo and are now under arrest had received quick ‘interim’ clearances. . . . Kevin Hendzel, a spokesman for the American Translators Association who works closely with the military, said officers often are so desperate for Arabic linguists they employ them despite fears they are al Qaeda plants. ‘Al Qaeda knows we’re short of linguists, so it’s a natural pipeline for infiltration by them,’ he said.
Yet I know of scores of Arabic-speaking Jews (and Christians also) who were turned away by the FBI. Why couldn’t they have been told about these military jobs for which applicants were so scarce?
Finally, the article registers the objections of Marine Sgt. Jamal Baadani, “founder of a group called the Association of Patriotic Arab Americans in the Military.” Baadani “resents implications that Muslim soldiers may be disloyal, an insult he said is compounded by criticism he receives from other Muslims. ‘I’ve been called a traitor and an Uncle Tom by fellow Muslims’ for serving in the military, he said.”
Um, why do you think they call you that, Sergeant? Maybe for the same reasons why there are legitimate concerns about the loyalty of Muslims in the military?
There is also a good deal of evidence: “In 2000 Ali Mohamed — a highly placed al Qaeda operative who had infiltrated the U.S. military and became a sergeant in the Army Special Forces — pleaded guilty to conspiracy in connection with the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa. Last month, Jeffrey Leon Battle, a former Army reservist from Portland, Ore., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to levy war against the United States after trying for months to enter Afghanistan to fight U.S. forces. U.S. prosecutors said he enlisted in the reserves ‘to receive military training to use against America.’ Last March, as his unit prepared to enter Iraq from Kuwait, Army Sgt. Hasan Akbar killed two of his commanding officers in a grenade attack as they slept. Relatives said Akbar, a Muslim convert recently disciplined for insubordination, had sensed persecution as a Muslim. He had avoided serving in the first Gulf War because it conflicted with his faith, said relative Quran Bilal.”