Obama's choice to head CIA looks good--on paper
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Of Hitler, Himmler and Heydrich, who was the moderate?
To those familiar with the bloody history of the Third Reich, this is a ridiculous question. Distinctions can and should be made between Nazi leaders. But there were no "moderates" among them.
Can groups that enthusiastically allied themselves with the Nazis (and praise them to this day) -- that share their vile goals and their hatred for Western democracies -- be described as moderate? Can they be trusted? Should we befriend them?
If you have doubts, you should worry about the man President Barack Obama has chosen to run the CIA.
On paper, John Brennan, 57, looks terrific. A career CIA officer who once was director of the National Counterterrorism Center, he's currently the White House counterterrorism adviser. From that post Mr. Brennan has, in effect, been running the drone assassination program that has killed so many al-Qaida leaders. He speaks Arabic.
But though he's on the frontlines in the war on terror, Mr. Brennan seems blind to what motivates the terrorists he's fighting. He praised jihad as a "holy struggle" in a February 2010 speech to Islamic law students at New York University. In that speech he called Jerusalem "al Quds." Terrorists are victims of "political, economic and social forces," he said.
Mr. Brennan backed the effort of Attorney General Eric Holder to try 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a New York courtroom, which most terrorism experts -- and most New Yorkers -- thought was a terrible idea. He described the 20 percent recidivism rate of detainees releases from the prison at Guantanamo Bay as "not bad."
Since Islamic terrorists call themselves jihadists, Mr. Brennan's remarks were understandably alarming to conservatives. But more is made of them than ought to be. Mr. Brennan's point was that terrorists aren't true jihadists; they profane the name. I think this is dubious as a matter of fact. But it's the sort of thing someone might say while trying to curry favor with a Muslim group.
His other remarks in that speech ought also to be interpreted in that light. Al-Qaida has had few more determined enemies than John Brennan. But Mr. Brennan seems not to regard as enemies Islamists who share al-Qaida's goals, but who plot to do us in by other means:
• For the speech referenced above, he was introduced by the president of the Islamic Society of North America. Founded by American members of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1981, ISNA was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terror financing trial ever.
• Before 9/11, no Islamic terror group had killed more Americans than had Hezbollah, Shia Muslim extremists based in Lebanon and financed by Iran. "Hezbollah may be the A-team of terrorists and maybe al-Qaida is actually the B-team," Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said in 2002.
Hezbollah has evolved from a purely terrorist organization, Mr. Brennan said in another 2010 speech. It now has a militia, and representation in the Lebanese government. The U.S. should try to bolster the moderate elements, he said.
That speech prompted speculation about what constitutes a "moderate" in Hezbollah. They "are the ones who make car bombs only out of midsize vehicles rather than SUVs or trucks," said Michael Rubin, a terrorism analyst at the American Enterprise Institute.
After joining the German government, the Nazis didn't become more moderate. Hezbollah's presence in the Lebanese government means only that Hezbollah has become more powerful.
• Another unindicted co-conspirator in the terror funding case mentioned above was given a guided tour of the National Counterterrorism Center. Frank Gaffney, a former assistant secretary of defense who heads the Center for Security Policy, thinks Mr. Brennan was responsible. He should not be "promoted to a position in which he can do vastly more harm," Mr. Gaffney said.
There are distinctions an intelligence chief should make between those who plant bombs, and those who finance terror or just make excuses for terrorists. But those who have the same goals as al Qaida and Hezbollah are not our friends.
There were moderate Germans, but no moderate Nazis. There are moderate Muslims, but no moderate Islamists. John Brennan doesn't understand the distinction. That should disqualify him.
First Published January 18, 2013 3:32 pm