(Stare into the eyes of a hardened killer.)
Oh, the things you can read on the internets! Would you believe that we found WMD in Iraq, and Muslims in America seek to make the United States subject to an Islamic Caliphate? (I suppose they should hurry, before those dangerous Mexican immigrants reclaim the American Southwest and dub it Aztlan!)
One Dave Gaubitz has won himself fans among many rightwing bloggers, a few neocons plus Peter Hoekstra, Curt Weldon and Rick Santorum. Glenn Greenwald quotes an article by British neocon Melanie Phillips, who writes:
It’s a fair bet that you have never heard of a guy called Dave Gaubatz. It’s also a fair bet that you think the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has found absolutely nothing, nada, zilch; and that therefore there never were any WMD programmes in Saddam’s Iraq to justify the war ostensibly waged to protect the world from Saddam’s use of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.
Dave Gaubatz, however, says that you could not be more wrong. Saddam’s WMD did exist. He should know, because he found the sites where he is certain they were stored. And the reason you don’t know about this is that the American administration failed to act on his information, ‘lost’ his classified reports and is now doing everything it can to prevent disclosure of the terrible fact that, through its own incompetence, it allowed Saddam’s WMD to end up in the hands of the very terrorist states against whom it is so controversially at war.
Even though the Great Leader himself, George W. Bush, has admitted that there were no WMD in Iraq (however reluctantly), four years later true believers refuse to buy it. Scott Johnson from Powerline, Glenn Reynolds, Michelle Malkin and David Horowitz' publications have all been promoting Gaubatz. Greenwald also cites John Bolton promoting similar dribble (no surprise). Needless to say, this is crazy. Of course, denial is a way of life for many rightwingers. There's a saying that comes to mind: The more you pay for a fake picture, the more insistent you'll be that it's not a fake.
The Gaubatz insanity doesn't stop there, however. Gaubatz is a leading member of an organization ironically called SANE, or Society of Americans for National Existence. Here's their mission statement (hat tip to A Tiny Revolution):
National Existence is political order experienced by men of the nation as a Rise to Being. Its opposite is a replacement of political order experienced by men, women, children and slaves as a Fall from Being. This Redirection in the experience of the Terms of Being (Self, Society, G-d and World) results in the collapse of Self into Society and all into World. The goal, wittingly or otherwise: a World State.
SANE opposes this Redirection and its manifestations: chants of Racism, Democracy, Equal Rights, Human Rights, Women's Rights, Animal Rights, and the always growing list of what is the Single Concept: Certainty/Uncertainty = Science/Open Society = World. To understand this reciprocal and how it affects a convergence of factors bent on the destruction of National Existence is to be SANE.
SANE is the first step back into the Present. And it is this step "back" to National Existence that will secure the present and protect the future.
The fall-from-grace tone is pretty clear, but I also have to wonder about any group which opposes itself to "democracy," "human rights" and the rest. I'm finding it hard to decide — is this more Book of Genesis, more Scientology, more bad college experimental theater or just painfully incoherent conservative reactionary claptrap?
If you scan through the SANE site, it really reads as if it's satire. Sadly, it's not. Perhaps most alarming is one of their key projects "to map every mosque and Islamic day school in America and to index the Shari'a threat level." This project has its own site, Mapping Sharia, while the actual project name is Mapping Shari'a in America: Knowing the Enemy. Yes, American citizens who happen to be Muslim are now "the enemy."
(Click for a larger image.)
It puts Michelle Malkin's little rant in perspective that she will:
...resist the imposition of sharia principles and sharia law in my taxi cab, my restaurant, my community pool, the halls of Congress, our national monuments, the radio and television airwaves, and all public spaces.
SANE recently explained the program on a Christian news network:
"We're going to go into the mosques ... we're going to go into the day schools, [and] we're going to get the literature, we're going to listen to the courses, and we're going to rate them," says [SANE founder] Yerushalmi. A rating of zero will indicate no sharia being taught; a rating of 10, says the group, will imply it is being taught at "al-Qaeda level."
Well, that's a comfort. It's also a great way to make friends with one's fellow Americans. A salaam aleikum, Monsieur Gaubitz!
Meanwhile, Dave Gaubitz penned a piece titled "Suicide & Islam: The connection to the slayings at Virginia Tech." While Gaubitz acknowledges that Seung-Hui Cho was not a Muslim terrorist:
I want to emphasize that the unfortunate murders in Blacksburg may have erupted initially from a domestic dispute, but the media and the authorities must not rush to judgment to rule out terrorism in any murder, especially a multiple murder. Doing so puts our nation at risk.
The jeopardy of ruling out the motive of Islamic terror or even of what we might term generic terror or terror for terror’s sake is ever present and real. When the media and law enforcement focus on a publicly-announced motive, whether that assumed motive is drug- or alcohol-related, marital issues, financial stresses, or emotional disturbances such as depression, the investigators almost immediately lose their objectivity and begin to focus exclusively on the reported causation. The tendency to do so is understandable but it is also dangerous in this day and age of Islamic terror.
Yes, Gaubitz seriously wants cops and the FBI to consider whether every murderer might in fact be an Islamic terrorist. Hmm. Even without a statistical analysis of the miniscule number of terrorism-related deaths in America compared to, say, domestic disputes or armed robbery, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that's crazy. I'll further say that if an investigator is looking at every murder, regardless of the evidence, as a terrorist act, that's the very definition of losing "objectivity."
My first reaction to the SANE site was that it probably was the most bigoted, xenophobic rhetoric I'd seen outside of outright hate speech. Jim Henley (link via Greenwald) did some valuable digging in this vein on their paranoia and religious roots. Here's an expansion of one of the key passages he uncovered, from SANE founder David Yerushalmi:
White Christians were at the founding of this nation a distinct people and privileged as such. Men of means among this people were given the opportunity for representative government. This is, for those of you flinching, not a thesis or “viewpoint”; this is historical fact.
After the Civil War, this changed; with the move into the 20th century this change became a wholesale reformation. Today, you cannot speak of Christianity in the public sphere and if you mention “white” and “Christians” in the same sentence you will be set upon as a despicable racist by every “fair-minded” public person. And, this phenomenon extends far beyond race. It is now the case that you cannot speak of the evil of Islam and remain a serious participant in public discourse. In order to speak of the unfathomable murder and mayhem brought to the Western world by Mohammed and his god Allah and the threat it poses to our very existence, we must label it in such ways as to disfigure our very meaning. Thus, Islamists are the bad guys not Muslims; Islamo-fascism is their political ideology not Islam simply and not even Islamic law; and we must, almost per force of law, begin by noting that our critique is not of the noble religion of peace but of radical Islam hijacked by the few extremists among the faithful.
Really, why can't we just hate them openly? Yerushalmi is clearly ignorant of how American was founded or is just lying as he parrots historical revisionism common among American Christian theocrats. He also adds (or highlights) a charming strain of bigotry to the mess. Curse those "fair-minded" people!
Funny, when I did a search for "American" and "Muslim" I found several interesting organizations, all of which seem less fearful and militant than SANE.
The American Muslim has on its front page:
In the name of God, The Compassionate, The Merciful
Oh mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (Not that you may despise each other). 49;13
They also feature an article by Aaron Greenblatt called "Jewish-Muslim dialogue deeper than it seems."
The American Muslim Alliance provides links to many interesting studies and polls, including a U.S. Government demographic study of Muslims in America. SANE actually quotes the same statistics to raise a spectre of fear, but I'm rather encouraged by the following statistics:
• American Muslims who "strongly agree" that they should participate in American institutions and the political process: 70 percent
• U.S. mosques that feel the Koran should be interpreted with consideration of its purposes and modern circumstances: 71 percent
• U.S. mosques that provide some assistance to the needy: nearly 70 percent
Rather than a plot to overtake the government or the country, this says to me that American Muslims believe in a civic life as well as religious one, that they care about the poor, and that they're at least somewhat receptive to a non-literal reading of the Koran and how it applies to contemporary times. Sounds good to me!
The Muslim American Society describes its objectives as:
• To present the message of Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims, and promote understanding between them,
• To encourage the participation of Muslims in building a virtuous and moral society,
• To offer a viable Islamic alternative to many of our society’s prevailing problems,
• To promote family values in accordance with Islamic teaching,
• To promote the human values that Islam emphasizes: brotherhood, equality, justice, mercy, compassion, and peace, and
• To foster unity among Muslims and Muslim organizations and encourage cooperation and coordination amongst them.
The American Islamic Congress has several pieces on their site about ending war crimes and the killing in Darfur. As to the purpose, they explain:
The American Islamic Congress (AIC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to building interfaith and interethnic understanding. Our organization grew out of the ashes of September 11. We believe American Muslims must take the lead in building tolerance and fostering a respect for human rights and social justice at home and throughout the Muslim world. Within the Muslim community, we are building a coalition around the agenda of unequivocal denunciation of terrorism, extremism, and hate speech. Reaching out to all people of conscience, we promote genuine interfaith dialogue and educate about the diversity within Islam.
The Islamic Society of North America claims to be the largest Muslim organization in the United States. Their mission statement reads:
ISNA is an association of Muslim organizations and individuals that provides a common platform for presenting Islam, supporting Muslim communities, developing educational, social and outreach programs and fostering good relations with other religious communities, and civic and service organizations.
ISNA has been criticized as too conservative by Muslim Wakeup!, a progressive group, who in turn get criticized for being... too progressive. Their mission statement reads:
Muslim WakeUp! seeks to bring together Muslims and non-Muslims in America and around the globe in efforts that celebrate cultural and spiritual diversity, tolerance, and understanding. Through online and offline media, events, and community activities, Muslim WakeUp! champions an interpretation of Islam that celebrates the Oneness of God and the Unity of God’s creation through the encouragement of the human creative spirit and the free exchange of ideas, in an atmosphere that is filled with compassion and free of intimidation, authoritarianism, and dogmatism. In all its activities, Muslim WakeUp! attempts to reflect a deep belief in justice and against all forms of oppression, bigotry, sexism, and racism.
Finally, the Council on American-Islamic Relations or CAIR is apparently also controversial, with some critics charging it has ties with more extreme groups. I'm open to reading legitimate criticism of CAIR or any of these organizations from reputable sources, but I can't fault CAIR's advocacy of civil rights.
Perhaps all these groups are lying to lull all non-Muslims into a false sense of security while they pursue their secret radical agenda, but that seems more like rightwing projection. There's a great deal of language about outreach and peace on these Muslim sites. All in all, I'm much more alarmed by SANE than any of these Muslim groups!
SANE and folks such as Michelle Malkin seem terrified that Muslim extremists will take over America. That's ridiculous. It's not going to happen. America is not going to become a Muslim theocracy, not any time in our lifetimes, if ever. Even assuming all Muslims in American had such an inclination, they don't have the numbers, and we have a little thing called the Constitution. Of course, most American Muslims don't have such an inclination. Still, the best bulwark against America becoming a Muslim theocracy on the legal and political front is Freedom of Religion and the separation of church and state.
This raises the issue of Christian theocrats in America, who fall roughly into two camps. The rank and file may be sincere in their religious beliefs and sincere in their fear of Islamic extremists. The leadership among religious authoritarians, people such as James Dobson, may be sincere in their fear as well, but as I've argued elsewhere, their main objective seems to be greater power. It takes only passing familiarity with the religious right to know they're afraid of or hostile to other religious groups, atheists, and generally, people who aren't them. Fear of a Muslim planet is certainly a rallying cry for many prominent Christian religious authoritarians in America. Dobson and Gaubatz might feel more comfortable living in a Christian theocracy, but America is not a theocracy, and theocracy is unjust on a systemic level. Destroying the American system of government to create a Christian theocracy would be a step helpful for creating a Muslim theocracy, not a defense against it. I suspect Dobson knows this, but fear is always a useful political tool.
There have always been political figures happy to exploit fear. For conservatives, it used to be those damn Commies, now it's Islamist terrorists or any Islamists, or for Dave Gaubatz, all Muslims (until given a stamp of approval, perhaps). However, as many writers have pointed out, under the Cold War we faced a far greater existential threat than we face now from Islamic extremists, despite all the fear-mongering going on.
America does face threats, the greatest of which would be the detonation of a nuclear "dirty bomb" in a major city. Terrorists as fanatical as Al Qaeda cannot be stopped by rational discussion, and they're certainly dangerous. However, taking national security threats seriously doesn't necessitate paranoia, hysteria and bigotry. There's no reason terrorists can't be caught through the use of warrants and while observing the Geneva Conventions. As a rule, liberals don't crap their pants any time a Muslim or someone with brown skin walks by.
In the meantime, one of the best defenses against hatred is an improvement of social, diplomatic and cultural ties. It's sad but hardly shocking that America's popularity throughout the world, but especially throughout the Muslim world, plummeted since Bush chose to invade Iraq. We talked with the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War, but the Bush administration sees diplomacy itself as failure and apparently considers the silent treatment the height of foreign policy sophistication. The Cheney-Bush-neocon approach holds that humiliating one's opponents is the most successful policy. They're of course wrong, and it's no surprise such people can't win "hearts and minds." In the modern world, an imperialist mindset of domination and degradation isn't nearly as effective as one of cooperation and a restrained flexing of power, and that's just basic statecraft. When it comes to the domestic side of things, mapping mosques and Muslim day schools, labeling ordinary Muslims the enemy until proven innocent, with the judges a paranoid, bigoted rightwing organization, really doesn't spread the good will. It's quite shameful. The actions aren't nearly as bad, but the attitude reminds me those who created the Japanese-American internment camps back in the 1940s (defended with shoddy scholarship by Michelle Malkin). In contrast, organizations such as The Interfaith Alliance strengthen the community bonds that Gaubatz and his ilk intentionally or unintentionally shred. What a radical thought — rather than labeling one's fellow Americans as part of some dangerous "Other," one can have a conservation with them as human beings.
I believe there's a profound immaturity or arrested development in people such as Gaubitz, the rightwing bloggers mentioned, and most of the neocons (all subject for a later post). I suspect that Dave Gaubatz as a kid was the sort who was terrified of monsters in his closet, under his bed, and lurking in the toilet ready to pounce. All grown up, not that much has changed — Gaubatz and his ilk still see monsters everywhere, head deep in the swirling muck of their paranoia, bigotry, pent-up fear and constipated rage.