At the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s West Coast Retreat in Rancho Palos Verdes, California on April 9, 2016, I was on a panel with Bruce Thornton and Richard Miniter on “How to Defeat the Jihad.” Here is a transcript of my remarks; for those of Thornton and Miniter, go here.
Robert Spencer: I have to apologize to you straight up because I’m a little bit distracted this afternoon. I was talking to my wife just before I came to the hall today and we’re having a little trouble with her brother. He thinks he’s a chicken and I said to her, “You know, we’re going to have to have him committed” and she said, “I would but we need the eggs.” And that about sums up the Obama administration’s foreign policy. They won’t call Islamic terrorism, Islamic terrorism. And Obama has said I won’t call Islamic terrorism Islamic terrorism because that will only empower and embolden and validate these people, who are not Islamic, who call themselves Islamic and wrap themselves in the mantle of this noble and peaceful religion.
So I ask you, imagine if you were a Muslim and you were about to join ISIS. And then you heard John Kerry say that they were not Islamic. That would make you change your mind, right? Because everybody knows that Muslims look to non-Muslim political leaders to tell them what’s Islamic and what isn’t. Now that’s just as absurd as if you were an observant Christian, let’s say, and you’re in your church and you heard that the supreme leader of Iran was saying that what your church was doing was not Christian. That would make you stop because everybody knows that the supreme leader of Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini is an authority on Christianity.
Obviously people who are observant believers in one religion are not likely to look to political figures who don’t even hold to that religion to get the idea of what is and is not the proper exercise of the religion. But more importantly, besides the absurdity of the Obama administration position is the fact that our refusal to call this conflict what it really is only exacerbates the conflict and emboldens the enemy because it leads us to underestimate the problem.
Obama has also said that Muslims are our best allies in fighting terrorism. I had a friend who went to the Council on American Islamic Relations, Florida Chapter Convention last year and sent me photos of the fliers and brochures that they had out. A picture of the Statue of Liberty going “shh” and saying, “Don’t talk to the FBI.” And these are the people that Barack Obama is saying we can go to and depend on to fight against terrorism. He refuses to acknowledge that the problem is rooted in Islam and so he refuses to acknowledge that there is any possibility that it could be a larger problem than just ISIL, as he calls them, and Al Qaeda and maybe a few other groups. It absolutely does not enter his mind or the mind of the Washington establishment in general that this could be a problem inside American mosques because they refuse to acknowledge that it’s Islamic.
Four separate independent surveys have all shown since 1998, 80 percent of American mosques are teaching hatred of Jews and Christians and the necessity of the Constitution to be replaced by Islamic law at a certain point when that is possible. These studies were all done separately by different people and they all came to this same result. And it’s not in the least a surprising result when you read the Quran and see that it does say make war against the unbelievers. And it says in particular to make war against and subjugate the People of the Book, that is, the Jews and the Christians. Now this is another way in which calling these things by wrong names and pretending that the problem is other than what it is and continuing to apply failed solutions is only making things worse.
We’ve spent hundreds of billions of dollars building schools and hospitals and highways and the like in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, how many people who were handed a basketball by an American soldier do you think thought, “Gee, the Americans are really nice. I’m not going to become a jihadi”? It doesn’t work. It’s predicated on the idea that poverty causes terrorism and if we empower these countries by building their infrastructure then everything will be okay and the jihad will evanesce. Study after study shows that jihadis are actually better educated and wealthier than their peers. And the jihadi imperative in the Quran is not predicated on whether or not the infidels are nice to you. It is predicated on the fact that they are infidels and only on that fact, and so no matter how many schools and highways and hospitals we build there will still be people who will point to the Quran and say we have to fight these infidels because they are infidels and they will not in the least be dissuaded by the fact that these infidels have been so very nice to us.
The idea that poverty causes terrorism I think was most deftly exploded by an incident that was related to me a few weeks ago. I was giving a seminar that was attended by some military people, and a colonel who had served in Iraq, he told me about an Iraqi that he worked with, quite extensively, and he was going back to the States. And so he was saying goodbye to his Iraqi counterpart, and the Iraqi said to him, you’re a good man, and it’s been good to work with you, and I’m going to be very sorry when the time comes for me to kill you. True story.
Now, the idea that we can spend away this problem is so deeply entrenched in both parties that if we’re going to be serious about defeating jihad, then there needs to not just be a new president in January 2017, but an entire cleaning out of the foreign policy establishment, and a rejection, a definitive repudiation of the people who have applied these failed policies again and again and keep on applying them and keep on recommending them despite the ever increasing evidence that they are failed, and that they don’t work, and that they’ll never work. If we had a presidential candidate who was saying that, well, that would be one worth supporting. And we also need to reconfigure our international alliances. Our international alliances are still based on the Cold War. I’m happy to say the Cold War is over. The Soviet Union is gone. Maybe, it’ll be back. But right now, to continue to pretend that Pakistan and Turkey are our allies is just a waste of money to the point of being suicidal. George W. Bush made a deal with the Pakistani president after 9/1,1 giving him, at that time, $1.3 billon a year to fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban. It was soon documented that a lot of that money was being funneled by the Pakistani government to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and Congress, what do you think Congress did in response to this revelation? They increased the money. That’s right. You know how the system works. They increased the money being given to Pakistan. This would be a joke if people weren’t getting killed.
John Kerry went to ask Turkey to please stop the oil sales that ISIS is using to finance its operations. ISIS overran quite a few oil wells in Iraq, and they’re making millions if not billions of dollars on the basis of selling black market oil. The Turks refused. Why? They’re buying it. And we consider Turkey an ally. There’s abundant evidence that they are allowing ISIS fighters to travel across Turkey into Syria and Iraq to join the group. So, meanwhile, Vladimir Putin said, “Obama we need an international alliance against jihad terror,” and Obama refused. Now, I think Putin has a terrible record in many ways, but we allied with Stalin to beat Hitler. We can’t ally with Putin beat ISIS? We need to reconfigure our alliances such that we are standing with the countries that are threatened by jihad, as we are, and against the countries that are enabling it. Instead, right now, we are allied with far too many countries that are enabling it, and we are helping to finance our own killers.
We need to stand finally for own values, and Bruce alluded to this a little bit, that there has been nothing like the way that we confronted the Nazis and the Japanese in World War II. We went into Iraq and Afghanistan, defeated the people who were in power very quickly, and then the whole thing went wrong because we implemented Sharia constitutions in both countries that enshrined as law the very same beliefs and attitudes that had led those countries to be hostile to the United States in the first place. It is as if we had gone into Germany after the war and put Goering in charge after Hitler had killed himself. In the Japanese occupation, Douglas McArthur, the leader of the occupation, issued an edict very soon after he got there saying that there will be no representation for state Shinto, which had fueled Japanese militarism, in the government or in the schools. Imagine if we had done that in Iraq and Afghanistan and said you’re perfectly free to pray to Allah and read your Quran, but there’s not going to be any Islam taught in the schools and any representation of political Islam in the government. Things would look very different today. But we have never stood. If we had gone into those countries and said, “Women who are being beaten, non-Muslims who are being terrorized, you have safe-haven in the American-controlled areas.” We didn’t do it. We could have gotten a huge ground swell of support among people in Muslim countries who were just as threatened by jihad and hate Sharia just as much as any freedom-loving American. Missed opportunities.
If we’re going to defeat Jihad, we need this kind of massive reconfiguration of policy. I hope whoever becomes president next year will do these things, and I think the force of reality will ultimately make some president have to do them, but unfortunately, it’s most likely that that will come at a time of great crisis due to the fact that we have been emboldening and enabling the jihadis for so long, and they will continue to strike here. Thank you very much.