Saturday, December 10, 2005

Book Review: Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Chris Banescu

C.S. Lewis is one of the most influential Christian writers of the 20th century, and probably the most down to earth theologian that Western civilization has ever produced. His eloquent and reasoned defense of the core beliefs and truths of Christianity are timeless. Lewis is indeed an expert at making complex theological issues accessible to believers and non-believers alike. Lewis' profound clarity of thought, grace, and wisdom has inexorably altered the lives of millions of readers.

An agnostic in his younger years, Lewis understands the objections of non-believers and deals with their arguments head on. In one of his most well-known observations in Mere Christianity, Lewis dismisses the most "foolish" idea people have regarding Christ: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." Lewis magnificently disposes with such fallacious thinking in one paragraph:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic -- on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg -- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

The existence of evil in the world is frequently used to attack Christianity's categorical proclamation that there is a God and He is the Lord of all creation. But such simplistic criticisms and immature objections are torn to shreds by common sense and Lewis' magnificent, effortlessly articulated logic:

Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata -- of creatures that worked like machines -- would hardly be worth creating.

Mere Christianity is full of memorable and powerful revelations that elucidate the foundations of Christian theology, our relationship to God, and the meaning of life. Only C.S. Lewis could summarize such broad concepts so eloquently without coming across as overly-religious or preachy. His extraordinary ability to focus on the core tenets of Christianity and explain them with remarkable ease reinforces the wide appeal of his writings.

Regarding man's relationship with and need for God:

God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just not good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.

Regarding true happiness and freedom:

The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free.

On pursuing truth and finding comfort in our lives:

In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth -- only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.

Love is another complex subject that is described and ultimately differentiated from the more ephemeral emotion of "being in love." Countless marriages have been destroyed because people often mistake the latter for the former and go on trying to recapture that feeling without truly understanding what God intended. Many erroneously believe that ceasing to be "in love" means ceasing to love. They forget that Christ commanded us to love. Why would He need to do that if love was simply a feeling? Lewis eloquently explains:

Love as distinct from "being in love" is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both parents ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be "in love" with someone else.... It is only on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.

Finally, the idea of Christian morality is presented in its proper perspective. Rather than a "kind of bargain" that many believe God makes with mortals in which He rewards those who follow the rules, Lewis depicts salvation as a journey driven by our decisions. Each choice we make turns the central part of us, that "part that chooses," into something "a little different from what it was before."

Embracing life's "innumerable choices" allows us to turn ourselves into "heavenly" creatures that are "in harmony with God and the other creatures," or "hellish" creatures "in a state of war and hatred with God," with "other creatures," and with ourselves. "Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state of the other," Lewis writes. It is up to individuals to decide how to live, but one thing is certain: there are no neutral acts in God's universe.

In a world that is often hostile to religion, particularly the Christian faith, Mere Christianity stands as a testament to truth, love, faith, and the value of human life; its enduring and inspiring message shines like a beacon, guiding and helping all those who have eyes to see and ears to listen.

Chris Banescu is an attorney, university professor, and public speaker. He also manages the conservative site, writes articles, and has given talks and conducted seminars on a variety of business, cultural, and religious topics. This review was originally published on

Mere Christianity$9.56

Tony Snow: Publish the Barrett Report Now

Dec 9, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- "No wonder they call us the Stupid Party," said a disgusted Republican operative in Washington. "You've got to wonder what these guys were thinking."

At issue was the publication of a report by David Barrett, an independent counsel who has spent the better part of a decade looking into some of the most hair-raising allegations of presidential malfeasance in American history.

Like most independent counsels, Barrett didn't set out on such a mission. He was assigned the duty of looking into whether former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros committed tax fraud in trying to cover up payments to a former mistress.

Yet, as published reports have indicated, he soon discovered that he was onto something much bigger. He found unsettling evidence that Justice Department officials were actively interfering with the probe and even conducting surveillance of Barrett and his office. Worse, there were indications that Team Clinton was using key players at the IRS and Justice to harass, frighten and threaten people who somehow got in the former president's way.

The pattern was set early on, when the White House sicced the FBI on Billy Dale, who had served as the director of the White House Travel Office since the days of John F. Kennedy. They mounted a baseless probe of Dale's finances, while chasing after his daughter, his sister and others. Dale was guilty of holding a job coveted by presidential pal Harry Thomasson. But rather than simply firing Dale, the Clinton White House chose to destroy him.

By all accounts, the 400-page Barrett report is a bombshell, capable possibly of wiping out Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential prospects. At the very least, it would bring to public attention a scandal that would make the Valerie Plame affair vanish into comical insignificance.

Democrats know this. Using provisions in the independent-counsel statute that permit people named in a report to review the allegations against them and file rebuttals, attorneys close to the Clintons have spent the better part of five years reviewing every jot and tittle of the charges arrayed against their clients and friends.

This careful and continuous monitoring of the report explains why Sens. Byron Dorgan, Dick Durbin and John Kerry took the highly unusual step earlier this year of trying to slip into an Iraq-war spending bill an amendment to suppress every word of the Barrett report. (Every other independent counsel finding has been printed in its entirety, with the exception of small sections containing classified material.)

Alert Republicans, pushed by talk-radio listeners and bloggers, managed to short-circuit that effort, but Democrats patiently pursued their goal. They got what they wanted recently, when the House and Senate met to iron out differences in yet another appropriations bill. Democrats inserted language that would prevent public release of the 120 pages of the report listing the Clinton transgressions. They offered what may have looked like a good deal. They promised not to object to letting Barrett continue with any prosecutions already underway.

Republicans negotiators, led by Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., and Rep. Joe Knollenberg, R-Mich, took the bait. They agreed to keep the public in the dark about the important stuff in exchange for a big, fat nothing. Unbeknownst to Bond and Knollenberg, Barrett shut down his grand juries three years ago.

The move represents more than just boneheaded politics. It's grossly irresponsible. If the report contains the kind of bombshells that have been hinted at in reports published by The Wall Street Journal and National Review, among others, the public not only has a right to know, Congress has a duty to investigate.

If Barrett has found evidence that officials at Justice and the IRS served as a praetorian guard, that means some bureaucrats felt it appropriate or beneficial to ignore their duty to the public and instead to perform dirty work for the people who oversee their budgets.
Another big "if": If such behavior were covered up, the malefactors would conclude that they may do the same thing again for other presidents.

Something stinks, and the only way to get at the truth is to release the full report. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who fought a lonely battle to ensure the document's publication, is furious. So is House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc. The question is whether Republican leaders Bill Frist and Denny Hastert will step in and ensure the report's publication, or whether they'll just sigh and look the other way.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Frederica Mathewes-Green: Doing Lewis Justice

December 09, 2005, 8:57 a.m.

Any director who attempts to bring a beloved novel to the screen can expect his fair share of slings and arrows. Just ask Peter Jackson, the hardworking genius behind the Lord of the Rings trilogy, or any of the parade of directors who have delivered Harry Potter films. The latest to step up for a smackdown is Andrew Adamson, previously known for Shrek, as he offers his fresh and magnificent production of C. S. Lewis’s novel, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Unlike the Potter directors, Adamson has not only junior readers to please, but armies of adults who have treasured every page in this seven-book series over the 50-plus years since it was published. (That accounts for the bulky title: The whole set is The Chronicles of Narnia, and the Wardrobe volume, published first, makes an excellent introduction.) And, unlike Jackson, Adamson has to deal with fairly explicit religious content. J. R. R. Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings, and Lewis were fellow professors at Oxford; they were close friends, and Tolkien facilitated Lewis’s conversion to Christian faith. Both men hoped to use fiction to convey profound truths, and they met regularly to share works in progress. But Tolkien felt that Lewis went too far in Narnia, and warned his friend that the allegory was laid on too thick. Evangelical Christians prize this book because it presents the Gospel squarely, and any attempt to soften those elements would bring out the gangs carrying pitchforks and torches.

Never fear. Thanks no doubt to the guiding hand of Lewis’s stepson, Douglas Gresham (himself a well-known evangelical), the script keeps the faith. Yet the message does not overpower the story (despite Tolkien’s fears), but rather hits the very target Lewis intended. It draws its emotional power from the spot inside that lifts up when we catch the refrain of that “old, old story,” in which a supernatural battle is won by glorious self-sacrifice. This is a story, Lewis would say, that God has prepared human beings to recognize when we hear it, and hid inside our hearts from our creation.

Everything that is strong and good and satisfying in this movie can be found in the book. The main characters are brilliantly realized, and skirt potential problems by wise casting. The littlest of the four children, Lucy Pevensie (Georgie Henley) is indisputably a child, with a broad face made squarer by a side part, wearing a Peter Pan collar and with a bow pinned in her hair. This is a refreshing change after excessively pretty leads in movies like A Series of Unfortunate Events and Because of Winn Dixie, young actresses who look more like beauty pageant sweethearts than real little girls.

Lucy’s sister Susan (Anna Popplewell) and brother Edmund (Skandar Keynes) are likewise believably real, and only big brother Peter (William Moseley) appears to have been plucked from a teenaged Brad Pitt lookalike file. Unfortunately, Peter also has the most unrelievedly noble role of the four children, and such a character threatens to turn bland even with much more experienced actors.

Tilda Swinton is extraordinary as the White Witch. When I made a recording of this book for my grandchildren, I gave the Witch the full Cruella DeVil treatment, going from oily to raging to haughty to manic in a single paragraph. Well, that’s one approach, and at least one young recipient preferred to listen to the recording with the lights on. But Swinton does something much more intelligent with the role. Even when most exhilarated, at the height of her powers, she is still apprehensive; she breathes with her mouth open, like an animal. She’s pale, hungry and tense. It’s an original approach, and juices up the movie.

Aslan caps all, however. I expected to be disappointed — it would seem that any visible depiction of this majestic character would inevitably reduce it. But this Aslan succeeds, and I think one secret is that the character’s eyes are somewhat hard to read. They’re the same color as his tawny mane, and sometimes hidden by it. This inscrutability preserves mystery in a character who, if he was fully comprehensible, would be too small.

But if the film just misses perfection, it’s because elements that don’t appear in the book have been imported to fit contemporary moviegoers’ expectations. For example, though the book’s battle scene takes just three swift, clean pages, in the film it is a grand set-piece, piled with all the CGI extravagance we now take for granted. There’s an invented sequence in which the children must cross a frozen river as it thaws, and ride an ice floe down the flood, but it feels contrived, not to mention pointless. Not for a moment do we believe that any of these characters are in serious danger. Tension is cranked up and cranked down again, just because that’s the way the formula goes.

Moviegoers expect tension in the dialogue, too. In the book, the children are touchingly polite and sensitive to others’ feelings. In an early passage, when a guilt-stricken Faun tries to tell Lucy that he is a wicked kidnapper, she persists in consoling and reassuring him, not realizing that she is his victim. Yet children aren’t touchingly polite any more, so these characters must bicker at each other (“Why can’t you do as you’re told!” “Mom isn’t here!”). I guess they don’t apologize either; the exchange toward the end, when Edmund asks his siblings’ forgiveness, is quietly dropped. Sarcasm is now ubiquitous, and even innocent Lucy has an occasional snarky line.

Not every new element is unwelcome, however. Book fans will be surprised by the opening, which shows London during a wartime bombing raid. We see the children and their mother huddling for shelter as a formation of planes, regular as a wallpaper pattern, cover the night sky. This supplies the backstory that Lewis’ original readers would have known too well, and explains why the children are sent to the Professor’s countryside estate. In the shelter, Edmund grips a framed photo of his soldier dad, though the glass is smashed. Later, the Faun Tumnus looks at his own father’s portrait, and mourns that he is not as good a Faun as his dad; on a next visit to Tumnus’s cave, the portrait is smashed on the floor. And, when the great battle begins, the flying griffins that hurl rocks on the enemy cover the sky in familiar formation. Visual echoes like these work well in a movie, but would seem forced in print.

The best parts of this film are those that are urgent and authentic — the tense and glittering Witch, the dear, believable child Lucy, the piercing moment of Aslan’s death. The parts that limp are those that were invented to fulfill the dreary rules about what a contemporary family blockbuster must include. Those are the moments that, a few decades from now, will seem dated and out of tune with the harmonious original. But that’s all right, because in the future there will still be fast-forward buttons on home-video systems, when your great-great grandchildren watch and re-watch this marvelous story — as they surely will.

Frederica Mathewes-Green writes regularly for NPR's Morning Edition,, Christianity Today, and other publications. She is the author of Gender: Men, Women, Sex and Feminism, among other books.

Catherine Seipp: Narnia & Its Enemies

December 09, 2005, 8:59 a.m.

Sexist, racist, intolerant Lewis?

This weekend’s long-anticipated opening of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first film adaptation of C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series of children’s fantasy novels, has brought in the past few weeks a torrent of Narnia commentary in the media — most of it intelligent and worth reading, but also, in many instances, absolutely wrong.

For those unfamiliar with the stories, (and given the power of the Hollywood publicity machine, I wonder how many remain?), Narnia is a magical country in a parallel universe created and ruled by a Christ-like lion deity named Aslan. Various English schoolchildren find themselves transported there by magical means; the wardrobe of the first book, for instance, leads to an snowy enchanted forest, which an evil White Witch has made “always winter and never Christmas.”

The series is generally called Christian allegory, but that’s simplistic as well as somewhat misleading. Lewis, whose theological writing for adults made him one the 20th-century’s great Christian apologists, coined the word “supposal” to describe Narnia — suppose the Son of God appeared as the King of Beasts in a land of talking animals? And suppose that humans, with all their sins, entered this world? What then?

To call the stories allegory also gives no hint of why readers return to them many times (as I have over the years, even past childhood), long after the page-turning adventures hold no more surprises. Lewis was a master stylist, and his children’s series are marked by the same dryly witty prose, comic characters, and shrewd insight into the human condition that distinguish The Screwtape Letters and his other books for adults. Yet Narnia has its enemies, and now they are out in force.

Chief among them is the British fantasy writer Philip Pullman, whose popular His Dark Materials trilogy was conceived as an atheistic answer to Lewis’s vision. Pullman, as the Washington Post reminded readers Thursday, sees Narnia as “a peevish blend of racist, misogynistic and reactionary prejudice.” In the British Guardian last week, Polly Toynbee wrote that “Narnia is the perfect Republican, muscular Christianity for America — that warped, distorted neo-fascist strain that thinks might is proof of right.”

Even critics generally appreciative of Lewis have come up with some strange notions. Last month, in The New York Times Magazine, Charles McGrath wrote that the Narnia stories “are not nearly as well written” as J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books or Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. And writing in The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik declared that a lion isn’t a very Christ-like animal — Aslan really should have been a humble donkey instead.
So let’s consider these complaints:

Narnia is sexist. “Girls always come second to boys,” Alison Lurie wrote last week in the Guardian. “They have fewer adventures.” Actually, Lewis typically makes his main protagonists in each story one boy and one girl, and the girl is usually more sympathetic. The English child who discovers Narnia in the first book is a girl, the brave and virtuous Lucy, who also has the closest relationship to Aslan.

Lewis clearly favors independent, free-thinking girls over those stuck in traditionally frivolous female roles. In The Horse and His Boy, Aravis, a girl escaping a forced marriage in an autocratic land south of Narnia called Calormen, runs into an old acquaintance who seems to be something of a Maureen Dowd in miniature: “The fuss she made over choosing the dresses nearly drove Aravis mad,” Lewis writes. “She remembered now that Lasaraleen had always been like that, interested in clothes and parties and gossip. Aravis had always been more interested in bows and arrows and horses and dogs and swimming. You will guess that each thought the other silly.”

Narnia is racist. Speaking of those Calormenes, McGrath’s complaint in the New York Times that they “are oily cartoon Muslims” is typical, if not quite correct; actually, they are pre-Islamic Islamofascists who keep slaves, oppress women, and worship a Baal-like god named Tash. That they have dark complexions, which Lewis’s critics harp on more than Lewis did, really isn’t the problem. As it happens, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’s evil White Witch, interpreted by Tilda Swinton as an Aryan goddess in the movie, is “not merely pale,” as the book describes her, “but white like snow or paper or icing-sugar...proud and cold and stern.”

The Calormenes speak in a flowery, Arabian Nights-style manner worthy of Osama bin Laden, but Lewis gives them their due for that. In Calormen, he explains in The Horse and His Boy, story-telling “is a thing you’re taught, just as English boys and girls are taught essay-writing. The difference is that people want to hear the stories, whereas I never heard of anyone who wanted to read the essays.”

Lewis is religiously intolerant. Critics are horrified that a bland, minor character named Susan doesn’t make it to heaven in The Last Battle, which depicts Narnia’s Armageddon. Susan had convinced herself that Narnia wasn’t real, and was “interested in nothing nowadays except nylons and lipstick and invitations.” Philip Pullman accuses Lewis of condemning Susan for reaching puberty, although since she was supposed to be about 21 during her nylons-and-lipstick phase, puberty would seem to be long past. The passage appears to be more about the danger of focusing only on material things — and denying the truth — than sexuality.

In any case, those upset by Susan’s exclusion from heaven in The Last Battle never mention that in its final chapter, an honorable (but Tash-worshipping) Calormene is surprised to find himself face to face with a welcoming Aslan. As Gregg Easterbrook noted in The Atlantic a few years ago, the message here is that “paradise awaits anyone of good will.” So it hardly seems fair to lump Lewis with Left Behind fans.

Aslan should have been a donkey. Adam Gopnik’s complaint in The New Yorker is interesting, but he forgets that Aslan exists in a post-Christian universe: Jesus has come and gone from earth centuries before two Victorian children travel from London to witness Aslan’s creation of Narnia in The Magician’s Nephew. So, since he’s already risen as the King of Kings, there seems no reason that his new incarnation shouldn’t be the King of Beasts.

J. K. Rowling and Philip Pullman are better writers than C. S. Lewis. This is just jaw-droppingly wrong. Rowling and Pullman are writers of great accomplishment, and both the Harry Potter and His Dark Materials books are absorbing page-turners. But leaving religion entirely out of it, I can’t imagine reading anything in either series more than once. Pullman’s imagined worlds are fascinating and powerfully eerie, but his characters are flat, humorless, and generally annoying. Rowling, unlike Pullman, writes with sympathy and charm, but the Potter stories often descend into potboiler mode. Maybe in a generation or two Rowling and Pullman will prove to be as enduring as Lewis, but I doubt it. And until then, he stands head and shoulders above them.

— Catherine Seipp is a writer in California who publishes the weblog Cathy's World. She is an NRO contributor.

Paul Sperry: Sami's Guardian Angel

By Paul Sperry
December 9, 2005

"I didn't see the evidence," explained one male juror who this week voted to acquit former Florida professor Sami al-Arian on charges he conspired to help Palestinian terrorists kill Israelis and Americans.

Don't blame federal prosecutors for that. They did the best they could with the reams of circumstantial evidence they had, which was powerful enough by itself to sway even al-Arian's defense team to admit he had at least "some affiliation" with Palestinian Islamic Jihad and may have cheered news of the terror group's attacks.

But prosecutors could have had an open-and-shut case if it weren't for a reluctant FBI agent who in hindsight turned out to be al-Arian's guardian angel.

Gamal Abdel-Hafiz, a devout Muslim from Egypt who speaks fluent Arabic, refused to secretly tape-record his fellow Muslim brother al-Arian in defiance of repeated requests from FBI colleagues working the al-Arian case. And that ultimately hurt the government's chances of putting al-Arian away.

Rewind to 1998

That year, Abdel-Hafiz met a Muslim activist through a friend at the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center outside Washington, a hard-line Wahhabi mosque the agent regularly attended at the time, and the same mosque that would later give aid and comfort to some of the 9/11 hijackers.
The two men exchanged business cards. Not long afterward, Abdel-Hafiz got a call from al-Arian in Florida.

The Tampa professor and Muslim activist said he got the agent's business card from the mutual acquaintance and wanted to know if he would do him a favor and, among other things, poke around the FBI to see if it had ever opened an investigation into alleged death threats against terrorism researcher Steve Emerson. Al-Arian wanted to try to catch the pro-Israel Emerson possibly exaggerating claims he made in congressional testimony about such threats. Remarkably, Abdel-Hafiz agreed to look into the issue for al-Arian, bureau sources tell me.

Hearing of the encounter, the FBI's Tampa field office asked Abdel-Hafiz to follow up by asking al-Arian several questions related to a counterterrorism case they were building against him -- and secretly record his answers. Abdel-Hafiz agreed to speak to al-Arian by phone but said he would not record the conversation without al-Arian's knowledge. The lead Tampa agent on the case, Barry Carmody, was scandalized by his refusal, calling it "outrageous."

Then Abdel-Hafiz met, unexpectedly, with al-Arian at an American Muslim Council conference in Washington and wrote a summary of their conversation, which he had not coordinated with Tampa. The report he filed was not well received by Carmody and his team of investigators in Tampa -- or by FBI agents John Vincent and Robert Wright, whose Chicago investigation dovetailed with the al-Arian case."

After Gamal had a conversation with Sami al-Arian, he made a lot of self-serving statements for al-Arian and denigrated the FBI agent (Carmody) who was investigating the case," says Vincent, who also had a run-in with Abdel-Hafiz over his refusal to wear a wire to record another Muslim under terror investigation -- Soliman Biheiri, who is tied to al-Arian (investigators found the his phone number in Biheiri's computer address book). Abdel-Hafiz tried to explain to Vincent that a "Muslim does not record another Muslim.""So we knew there was a problem," Vincent adds. "We had suspicions about whether Gamal would write down conversations accurately."What's more, "There were also complaints that he was meeting with subjects of investigations in Washington without advising the Washington field office," he says. Abdel-Hafiz, 46, is a good friend and former college roommate of Biheiri's Washington-based ex-bookkeeper, Abbas Ebrahim, as I first revealed in my book, "Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington."Agent Carmody says Abdel-Hafiz hurt the al-Arian probe by refusing to record the professor in the bureau's effort to get him to admit financing Palestianian terrorist acts. Al-Arian even bragged to Abdel-Hafiz that the Tampa office did not have a strong case against him -- thanks in large part to Abdel-Hafiz.

'Sami is a very smart man'

In an exclusive interview for my book, I asked Abdel-Hafiz why he did not record al-Arian at their private meeting. And he told me, simply, "I had no recording equipment with me." Hmm.

But then he went on to say the Tampa office of the FBI handled the case clumsily. "These people think Sami al-Arian is an idiot," he says. "But Sami al-Arian is a very smart man."Or at least smart enough to get a little help from a friend on the inside.

Abdel-Hafiz, a devout Sunni Muslim whose Egyptian father is known as a Quran memorizer, showed a pattern of pro-Islamist behavior, say agents who worked with him. Yet FBI headquarters overlooked it and even promoted him.Carmody, Vincent, and Wright all complained to headquarters about Abdel-Hafiz twice refusing on religious grounds to tape-record Muslim terrorist suspects. Despite that, he was handpicked in early 2001 by former FBI Director Louis Freeh to become the FBI's deputy legal attache at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia -- a key post in the battle against al-Qaida, which had hit American military barracks inside Saudi and a warship in neighboring Yemen.

After 9/11, when 15 of the 19 hijackers turned out to be Saudi nationals, Abdel-Hafiz was in a prime position to run down leads in the Saudi capital. Only, that didn't happen, at least not as often as headquarters had hoped. Agents back in Washington complained about his performance there, saying they were not getting answers to the hundreds of leads they were sending him in Riyadh. Abdel-Hafiz says he was one of only two people manning the office there and was further hobbled by an antiquated computer system.

But he and his boss Wilfred Rattigan, a black convert to Islam, had nonetheless found time to fly off to Mecca for the hajj, where they surrendered their FBI cell phones to Saudi nationals and were out of contact with officials back in the U.S. who were trying to ring them up about investigations into al-Qaida and 9/11. Both Rattigan and Abdel-Hafiz, who have since been reassigned within the bureau, wore traditional Muslim headgear and robes while on the job in Saudi Arabia, further outraging fellow agents.

When a senior supervisor was sent to the Riyadh office nearly a year after 9/11, she found secret documents strewn all over the office, some even wedged between cabinets. She also found a huge backlog of boxes each filled with three feet of paper containing secret, time-sensitive leads. Much of the materials, including information on Saudi airline pilots, had not been translated or reviewed.

It's anyone's guess how many terror cases were compromised in the Saudi office. But agents who worked with, or tried to work with, Abdel-Hafiz on domestic terror cases have no doubt he hurt their efforts to put away al-Arian. And if prosecutors don't retry al-Arian on any of the counts the jury deadlocked over, investigators fear they might lose momentum in a related terror-financing case in the Washington suburbs involving the so-called Safa group -- a case that is potentially bigger than the al-Arian case.

Safa case now in jeopardy?

A key conduit in the alleged Safa terror-financing network, a think tank called the International Institute of Islamic Thought, or IIIT, is headquartered in a three-story brick office building at 500 Grove Street in Herndon, Va. (this site and others raided after 9/11 can be viewed by clicking on the "Wahhabi Corridor" link posted on the companion website to my book at Investigators traced funds from IIIT to al-Arian, who had been accused of heading the U.S. wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Taha al-Alwani, an Islamic scholar at IIIT, was an alleged unindicted co-conspirator in the al-Arian indictment. Investigators have accused al-Alwani -- who also heads one of the nation's most prestigious Islamic institutions, the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences (which has trained Muslim chaplains for the U.S. military and U.S. prison system) -- of taking steps to conceal alleged payments to Palestinian terrorists. In a letter seized by investigators, al-Alwani advised his pal al-Arian to construct a "facade" to disguise a $50,000 donation to one of al-Arian's alleged PIJ terror fronts in the U.S.Despite the government investigation, IIIT is still in business, still listed in the lobby directory on the second floor of the Herndon building.What's more, IIIT president al-Alwani once signed a copy of a fatwah declaring that violent "jihad is the only way to liberate Palestine," according to a federal affidavit for a search warrant used to raid the think tank in 2002. In a search of al-Arian's home computer, investigators back in Tampa found copies of a document called "The Manifesto of the Islamic Jihad in Palestine," which shuns any peaceful resolution to the conflict with Israel. It also calls the U.S. "the great Satan America."Another Safa group leader, Jamal Barzinji, is also directly connected to al-Arian -- and closely tied to Palestinian terror causes, according to the same affidavit."Barzinji is not only closely associated with PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] but also with Hamas," alleges senior federal agent David Kane in the affidavit, which was also used to obtain warrants to search the homes of Barzinji and his partner al-Alwani.In addition, Barzinji is a long-time associate of al-Qaida fundraiser Abdurahman Alamoudi, now serving time in federal prison. Al-Arian is also close to Alamoudi.

Some of the information gleaned from the Herndon raids aided the conviction of Alamoudi. And investigators say their investigation of Barzinji, al-Alwani and their Saudi-backed Safa group entities is still alive.

But they had hoped for a conviction of al-Arian, because it would have moved the Safa case forward. "We were hoping for a snowball effect," says a law enforcement official who originally helped the feds build the case.

Right now he says only a small share of the hard drives and other materials confiscated from the homes and offices raided more than three years ago have been fully translated. "They don't have the damn resources," explains the official, who works with the FBI and the National Counter Terrorism Center in McLean, Va. "They don't have the (Arabic) language skills or computer forensic personnel to go through it all. And yet it's a gold mine of information."

Secret plot to 'infiltrate' Washington

One of the more disturbing developments from both investigations so far is the allegation that al-Arian and al-Alwani and other Islamic activists in the Washington area may have hatched a secret plan, according to other confiscated documents, to "infiltrate the sensitive intelligence agencies"in Washington, and spy for the enemy.

Both Alamoudi and al-Arian were no strangers to the White House. During the trial, al-Arian's lawyers used his meetings with senior government officials, including Karl Rove in the White House, to defend him against charges he was involved in terrorist activities. They argued that official Washington would not have embraced a terrorist (even though they had embraced convicted terrorist Alamoudi).

But that may have been part of the plan. Al-Arian had ingratiated himself with Rove's best friend Grover Norquist, a powerful GOP operative in Washington sympathetic to Muslim causes. Norquist, whose name was invoked by al-Arian's lawyers in the trial, started an Islamic lobbying group several years ago and recently married a Palestinian Muslim activist. The Islamic group, which was founded with seed money from Alamoudi, has placed a number of questionable Muslim activists -- including the son of a Wahhabi preacher who helped Osama bin Laden's second in command raise money -- inside the Bush administration, including the White House, the Transportation Department and the Homeland Security Department, as well as other sensitive agencies.

Al-Arian, who has met privately with Norquist in his Washington offices, has said that Norquist "delivered" on his promise to get President Bush, via Rove, to agree to end the government's use of undisclosed evidence to deport suspected Middle Eastern terrorists. A paid lobbyist for Norquist's Islamic Institute -- David Hossein Safavian -- in fact lobbied the government hard on that issue, as I first reported in my book. (Safavian also shows up on Senate lobbying records as a paid agent for terrorist Alamoudi.) And before 9/11, al-Arian was scheduled to meet with Bush in person to discuss the issue. It seems plausible to some investigators now that al-Arian may have also got Norquist to deliver on the placement -- or infiltration -- operation. Even Safavian ended up inside the White House with a high-level job, before getting caught up in the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal and losing his coveted position.

And loyal Muslim brother Abdel-Hafiz all the while was inside the FBI also doing al-Arian favors -- and he is still working there as an agent with access to classified information. And believe it or not, the bureau is busy hiring more Muslim agents like him.

That's right: before Abdel-Hafiz graduated from the FBI academy in 1995, there were no other Muslim agents in the bureau. Now there are seven, and FBI Director Robert Mueller is busy recruiting more."We are recruiting Muslims as special agents," he said. "We have been very active in pushing more for Muslim Americans to consider a career with the FBI."

How comforting.

Paul Sperry, formerly Washington bureau chief of Investor's Business Daily, is a Hoover Institution media fellow and author of "Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington" (Nelson Current, 2005). Email:

(Note: The backdrop to this story is the Muslim Brotherhood, a worldwide jihadist movement that gave rise to Hamas, PIJ and al-Qaida. The more famous members of this Muslim mafia include Osama bin Laden's mentor Abdullah Azzam, bin Laden's deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. But it has a large American presence, too, and its known American members include Alamoudi. Before going to the slammer, he attended 9/11-tied Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Va., which is run by several members of the Muslim Brotherhood who also run the Muslim American Society, or MAS, which is headquartered in neighboring Alexandria, Va. -- in the same office park where bin Laden's nephew ran a charitable front. Investigators believe MAS operates as the U.S. front for the Brotherhood. Dar al-Hijrah's original deed of trust was signed by Alamoudi pal Barzinji. Their associate Biheiri is also a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Biheiri's ex-bookkeeper is pals with FBI agent Abdel-Hafiz, who is from Egypt, birthplace of the Muslim Brotherhood. Abdel-Hafiz also attended Dar al-Hijrah. I will stop there.)

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Debbie Schlussel: Why Al-Arian Walked

Debbie Schlussel
December 9, 2005

My friend, Michael Eisenstadt, dedicated his life, among other things, to seeing terrorist leader Sami Al-Arian face justice.

In September, Mike, spokesman for Tampa's Jewish community, died of lung cancer. While his passing is a source of great sadness, I'm glad Mike didn't get to see Al-Arian's acquittal, Tuesday.

It was a sad day in America, but not one that was unexpected. At least by me. Everyone predicted that the jury would throw the book at the man who was a founder of terrorist group Islamic Jihad, and ran its worldwide headquarters from his University of South Florida offices.

But not me.

I followed the trial and predicted all along (here and here) that Sami Al-Arian and his three co-defendants would walk. Why? Because our Justice Department, while desperate for victories, is really not serious about the War on Terror. In fact, more important to Gonzalez and Company (and before that, Ashcroft and Company) is outreach to radical Islamic individuals and groups that support terrorists like Al-Arian and prosecution of anything they perceive as "hate crimes" against those Muslims.

One need only look at the Justice Department record of fighting terrorism in court. It's a complete failure.

It's not just this case, blown big-time by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cherie Krigsman, but a host of other high profile case that were either flat-out lost or botched beyond belief.

Take the Sami Omar Al-Hussayen. A Saudi graduate student living in Boise, Idaho, he used his computer expertise to set up websites for Islamic terrorist groups and help them recruit members and financial donors. The evidence was pretty clear. One of the sites urged followers to use planes as weapons, flying them into American buildings. And that was BEFORE 9/11. And did I mention, he was here illegally?

Yet, the Justice Department--with all resources at its disposal--managed to lose. Al-Hussayen was acquitted.

Then, there is the Detroit Al-Qaeda terror cell trial. It was the first major jury terror trial after 9/11. The four men he was trying lived in Detroit house they shared with Nabil Al-Marabh, a Bin Laden associate who was among the FBI's 25 most wanted. They had over 100 extremist jihadi tapes urging the murder of Americans, Christians, and Jews. They also took videotape of major American sites and tourist attractions with girls singing Al-Qaeda songs in the background of the tapes. They had diagrams of American and Israeli F-16 and AWACS planes and their order of take-off from the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.

Sounds like a slam-dunk, right? Well, not exactly.

Prosecutor Richard Convertino's superiors at the Justice Department repeatedly, deliberately put obstacles in his way at every turn. His own boss, then-U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Collins, didn't want Convertino to win this case, let alone pursue it. The men had ties to Detroit's Islamic community, whom the ambitious Collins was aggressively courting, ad absurdum.

The accused terrorists received thousands of dollars in federal job training money from a major Detroit Arab welfare agency, dominated by Muslims. The "job training" consisted of commercial driving lessons and attempts to get hazardous materials hauling certificates--exactly what an Al-Qaeda operative wanting to blow things up would have on his Ramadan gift wish list. Collins could not afford to see these men convicted because it would embarrass the Islamic community and--especially--himself.

So when Convertino won terror convictions against the Detroit terror cell, Collins and the Justice Department higher-ups, like then-Assistant Attorney General James Comey and Justice Department official Barry Sabin set to get the convictions overturned. They began a witch-hunt investigation and searched Convertino's office, looking for ways to get his successful verdict against terrorists overturned. They also set out to destroy Convertino's reputation in a campaign of whispers in cooperation with the case's judge, Gerald Rosen and a fabricating Detroit News reporter.

Since then, Detroit's new U.S. Attorney, Stephen Murphy III, has made it his priority to prosecute not terrorism, but trumped up "hate crimes" against Detroit area Muslims.
Remember, this is OUR Justice Department. But it seems like someone else's. Someone who prays at an extremist mosque and wants to destroy America.

Then, there is Cherie Krigsman, the "prosecutor" in the Al-Arian trial. She could have taken a few lessons from Convertino. He had as much evidence as she did in her trial. But he knew how to trim the fat from the meat. Krigsman took over five months to put on her case--five months in which she threw in every piece of evidence no matter how weak, causing jurors' eyes to repeatedly glaze over. A Tampa TV reporter I know told me that he and other reporters were so bored, they stayed awake by betting on which juror would fall asleep next.

Clearly Krigsman was out of touch with the jury and didn't know what she was doing. She had strong evidence, including a videotape of Al-Arian at the Cleveland Mosque--at which he was proudly identified as the chief of "armed operations" for Islamic Jihad and he and the Cleveland Mosque imam, Fawaz Abu Damra, call for violent jihad and death to America, Christians, and Jews. She had evidence of money transfers, a letter to Kuwait in which Al-Arian speaks of a merger with "the brothers in HAMAS" which is almost complete, a speech in which Al-Arian calls for a river of gushing blood. Krigsman's case should have taken a month to put on, but instead she took more than five--confusing the jury with a myriad of weak evidence that ended up overwhelming the strong stuff.

Then, there is the judge. Federal Judge James S. Moody, a Clinton appointee, is the Dancing Judge Ito of terror trials. Caught up in the glamour of intense media coverage, he used the trial to showcase his bad nightclub-style comedy act, just like Judge Rosen in the Detroit terror trial.
When a female attorney objected to the inclusion of a certain male juror, he joked that he would get the attorney his phone number after the trial. When Krigsman wrapped up cross-examination on a witness, saying "And finally," Moody interrupted with, "You're teasing us, right?" Not the kind of guy you want overseeing a serious terror trial.

If anything is an argument for treating terrorists as a national security problem, instead of a legal one in the courts, this is it. But the judge, jury, and prosecutors are exemplary of America's psyche, today. We've fallen asleep again, forgotten 9/11, and don't take Islamic terrorism very seriously.

Contrast that with the brave men of yesteryear. Sixty years ago, the Nuremberg trials of Germany's most heinous war criminals began. "The were evil men, and what they did was our task to expose," American Nuremberg prosecutor Whitney Harris, now 93, remembers. "And we did get the evidence and we were able to do so." Twelve of the 21 men on trial were sentenced to death, six received tough prison terms, and only three were acquitted.

Back then, most Americans knew what we were fighting, had the resolve to do it, and we beat the Nazis. Today, we're just too busy with XBox 360 to notice--or give a damn.

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Visit Debbie Schlussel's website at She can be reached at

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Bernie Williams: Yank of a Singular Stripe

By Mike Lupica
New York Daily News -
Wednesday, December 7th, 2005

It started with Bernie Williams as much as any of them, back in Joe Torre's first October, in 1996. Williams had finished off the Rangers in the first round of the playoffs, hitting home runs from both sides of the plate in the game that put the Yankees into the American League Championship Series. All he did then, against the Orioles, was hit that 11th-inning shot off Randy Myers in Game 1, tie Game 3 with an eighth-inning hit off Mike Mussina, hit a two-run shot in the first inning of Game 4.

In the series that put the Yankees back in the World Series, Bernie Williams hit .474 and was named MVP and was the best of all of them. But then he has been one of them for a long time, as much a Yankee as they have ever had.

When the Yankees last won the World Series, against the Mets in October of 2000, maybe it was fitting that the last out ended up in Williams' glove. Mike Piazza hit it and Bernie tracked it down, way out there in left center at Shea. We didn't know at the time that Williams and the Yankees would go the next five years without winning it all. Nobody would have believed such a thing possible at the time.

Nothing lasts forever. Joe DiMaggio limped away from center field at the Stadium at the age of 36, a year younger than Bernie is right now. Mickey Mantle limped away. If Williams leaves the Yankees today, he will leave in better shape than either one of them, even if he isn't close to what he used to be. It doesn't change that when you talk about all the center fielders in the history of the New York Yankees, there is DiMaggio, there is Mantle, there is Williams. It is not such a terrible way to run third.

He has played 1,945 regular-season games for the Yankees. He has played 115 more in the postseason, during which he came to the plate 443 times and had 22 home runs and 79 RBI and hit .280. Once he finally made it to October with the Yankees, in 1995, that unforgettable first-round series against the Mariners, he ended up having the equivalent of a whole season of Octobers. And in those games, he was one of the truly great Yankees, the one who came from some of the worst teams in Yankee history to play center field on Yankee teams that won four World Series in five years and once again made the Yankees the proudest name in sports.

"There is such a thing as Yankee character, and it's real," Reggie Jackson said yesterday. "If you want to trace it all the way back, you'd have to say it starts with Lou Gehrig. Character plus class. Bernie's been that kind of class, and he's been that kind of Yankee.

"There are special Yankees, and special people. Bernie's been both. He would have fit in on any great Yankee team of any era, and he would have delivered the way he always did with the money on the table. And the whole time, he never made it about him. What was good for him was good for the Yankees."
Finally Jackson said, "One of those quiet, special guys. They tell me Bobby Richardson was like that. Catfish Hunter was always like that. Bernie's been like that. It's why in my heart, I hope he's not going anywhere."

Maybe midnight tonight is a deadline for the Yankees and Williams, maybe not. If the Yanks don't offer Williams arbitration, he can't re-sign with them, even if he wants to, until May 1. Sometimes there is a wink and a nod between a team and a player, an arrangement where arbitration is offered and rejected, and the deadline is extended for another month.
Suddenly, after a Yankee career that goes back to 1991, after 2,000 games in the uniform, it has come to that for Bernie Williams.

He will come back in some form of the role Ruben Sierra has filled the last couple of years, a switch-hitter off the bench, a part-time outfielder. Or Williams will leave the Yankees for good, after the kind of good long run only a handful of great Yankees have ever had. Reggie was here for five seasons. A-Rod would have to play here until he is 40 to play as many games for the Yankees as Bernie Williams has. If Williams doesn't put on the uniform again until his first Old Timers' Day, he has played 200 more games as a Yankee than Don Mattingly did.

Williams and Jeter were a center fielder and shortstop teaming up for a decade of big October games the way DiMaggio and Scooter Rizzuto did. The only difference between them is that Jeter never lost here the way Bernie Williams did at the beginning of his career. It is one of the reasons why Yankee fans, and that means ones who didn't decide to start rooting for the Yankees in 1996, have always cheered Bernie the way they have. It was as if they all got up together.

It is why they cheered him at the Stadium the way they did this season, at the last regular-season home game, cheered him because the Yankees still weren't a lock to make the playoffs then, cheered him every chance they got thinking it might be his last game as a Yankee.

He almost left once for the Red Sox. Now he might leave for good. If he does, it means that only Jeter and Mo Rivera and Jorge Posada are left from the glory years. Those years really started in October of 1996, when the Yankees became the Yankees again and the center fielder, the best since Mantle, had 20 hits that month and was the best of all of them.

Golden Years Have Been a Blast for Clemens

Dec. 8, 2005, 12:11AM
The Houston Chronicle

In the giddy days of January 2004, with Houston engaged in a collective pinch to assure itself that Roger Clemens really was coming home to pitch for the Astros, skeptics speculated Clemens might soil his Hall of Fame credentials by pitching again at age 41.

It was a fair question for the master of all statisticians, baseball historian Bill James, whose predictions that day would become astonishing reality in Clemens' brief but spectacular career in Houston.
"Could he damage his legacy? Sure," James wrote in an e-mail to the Chronicle. "But he could build on it as well. Suppose he goes 15-8 and helps the Astros to the World Series. Suppose he goes 19-8 and wins another Cy Young Award."

Two years later, we no longer have to suppose. In 2004, Clemens went 18-4 and won an unprecedented seventh Cy Young Award. In 2005, he went 13-8 with a league-leading 1.87 ERA as Houston advanced to its first World Series.

Getting better with age

In a two-year coda that may or may not signal the end of his baseball career, Clemens solidified his stature among the game's greats.
"He's become even more of a legend," said author, broadcaster and former Astros pitcher and manager Larry Dierker. "But you're right in saying that he could have damaged his record. A lot of guys do."

While conducting research for a book he hopes to publish next year on baseball's all-time greats, Dierker said he compiled a list of more than a dozen pitchers who over 10 good seasons had ERAs in the 2.50 to 3.00 range.

"But for their careers, a lot of them wound up over 3.00 because they kept pitching," Dierker said. "It's that way with everybody. The longer you play, the more your records are diluted.
"But Clemens was able to maintain his ERA. It actually got lower (from 3.19 when he retired from the New York Yankees after the 2003 season to 3.12 after two years in Houston).

"He benefited from pitching in the National League, but what he was able to accomplish here added to his legend rather than detracted from it."

Moving up lists

In a game where numbers are everything, Clemens certainly benefited from playing in Houston. His two All-Star appearances in an Astros uniform boosted his career total to 11.
His 31 wins in Houston improved his spot on the career list from 17th with 310 wins to ninth with 341. He moved into second place on the career strikeout list at 4,502, trailing only Nolan Ryan. He is now 10th in career starts and 19th in innings pitched.

By pitching so well into his 40s, Clemens also placed himself alongside Ryan as the best of Texas pitchers.
They ranked 1-2, in fact, in a recent ESPN documentary rating the best performances by athletes in their 40s.

"Roger is the greatest pitcher in his 40s of anyone," Peter Gammons, the longtime baseball writer for the Boston Globe who now works for ESPN, said in the documentary. "To dominate the way he's done these last two years is incomprehensible."

Added Hall of Famer Don Sutton in the same show: "Every time I watch Roger Clemens go to the mound, I keep thinking, that old dude's dealing. ... I admire his work ethic, I admire his passion for the game, and I certainly admire his performance."

But Houston benefited as well by Clemens' presence, said former Phillies first baseman John Kruk, now an analyst for ESPN.
"What he did in Houston was above and beyond the call of duty," Kruk said Wednesday. "At the All-Star Game (in 2004), he took it upon himself to entertain the world. Granted, he didn't pitch well, but he accomplished his goal. Baseball in Houston was alive and well.
"I will never take away anything that Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio did for the Astros, but Roger Clemens did more for that organization in two years than anybody."

Raised franchise a notch

Even if Clemens doesn't return — some speculated Wednesday he might re-sign with the Astros after pitching for the United States in the inaugural world baseball tournament next spring — Kruk said the Astros will continue to benefit from his presence and his performance.
"Roger Clemens didn't have to say a word to anybody on that pitching staff," Kruk said. "All they had to do was watch him. You learn from the best, and he's the best."

Though the Astros still trail the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox and the California teams as a contender for big-time free agents, "Roger Clemens made people think about the Astros," Kruk said.
"When he's gone, it will free up money (for payroll). You'd be crazy not to go there. If I were a position player, you have to look at Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt and Brandon Backe, and you know they'll find another pitcher. Who wouldn't want to go there?"

Worth the risk

James said two years ago that Clemens will go into the books as one of the five best pitchers in baseball history, and his performance in Houston did nothing to change that.
"That's what the game's about — taking on that risk in the effort to better yourself," James wrote in 2004.
"I've got no sympathy for the guys who want to rush to the sidelines, and I have always observed that that's not really something athletes do. It's something that people who aren't competitive think that athletes ought to do. (But) there's plenty of time to be old." -- Section: Baseball This article is:

The Houston Chronicle: Roger, Over and Out?

After not being offered salary arbitration, Roger Clemens may have made his last pitch for the Astros

Dec. 8, 2005, 10:02AM

DALLAS - Roger Clemens, the greatest pitcher of his time and perhaps all time, is no longer a Houston Astro.

On the 17th anniversary of Nolan Ryan's signing with the Texas Rangers — one of the darkest days in Astros history — Clemens' two-year stint as a player in Houston apparently came to an end as well on Wednesday.

The Astros decided not to offer Clemens salary arbitration by Wednesday's 11 p.m. deadline. The move made Clemens — who is pondering retirement — a free agent, eligible to sign with any other team.

In addition, the Astros can't negotiate with Clemens until May 1, a month into the 2006 season. While Clemens could conceivably return to the Astros at that point, the 341-game winner will likely be playing elsewhere by then if he chooses not to retire.

That leaves open the possibility that Clemens, like Ryan before him, could finish his career with another team — possibly the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees.

The Astros' decision was based on the uncertainty of Clemens' status for next season and the potential of having to pay him between $15.4 million and $22 million if he does opt to play in 2006.

Through his representatives, Randy and Alan Hendricks, Clemens informed the Astros on Sunday that he wouldn't decide until late January or early February whether he'll play his 23rd major-league season or retire.

The Astros were not willing to wait.

"This is probably one of the more difficult, gut-wrenching decisions we've made in this organization," Astros general manager Tim Purpura said. "When you make a decision like this with somebody like Roger Clemens, you have to look at it on all levels in every perspective that you can.

"It's one of those things that you regret you have to do. But you also have to realize that when you're in our role trying to build a club, we need to move forward, and we don't know just what Roger's status will be."

Beltran's shadow remains

Last season's pursuit of free agent Carlos Beltran also had an impact on the Astros' decision. The Astros lost out on several possible free agents as they waited to re-sign Beltran, who eventually bolted to the Mets.

"We got so far behind on the Carlos Beltran negotiations last year," Astros owner Drayton McLane said. "And do you remember (All-Star) Moises Alou was interested in coming here, and several others were, too? By the time we got done with Carlos, we had an empty hand. We got behind, and Roger understands.

"This was one of the most difficult decisions that I've ever had," McLane added. "We didn't want late January to come, and we're holding out for Roger, and he's not ready to come back, and then we have an empty bag. So we have to go to work."

The Astros had hoped by now to have at least opened negotiations with Clemens to have an idea of how to proceed with next season's budget. The payroll for 2006 is already close to $80 million with just the five contracts guaranteed to Jeff Bagwell, Andy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman and Craig Biggio and the expected raises through arbitration for third baseman Morgan Ensberg, closer Brad Lidge, shortstop Adam Everett, catcher Raul Chavez, reliever Dan Wheeler and infielder Mike Lamb.

Clemens had a record one-year contract of $18,000,022 in 2005. Had the Astros offered arbitration, Clemens would have remained on the roster and he would have had until Dec. 19 to accept arbitration.

If Clemens had taken the Astros to a hearing, he would have earned no less than $15.4 million next season but more likely in the $20 million range. By offering arbitration, the Astros would have at least extended the negotiating window with Clemens until Jan 8.
"They made an economic decision, but I respect it," said Randy Hendricks. "I might have done differently than that, but it's their decision, not mine."

Clemens was unavailable for comment, but Hendricks alerted him of the Astros' move via e-mail.

"Roger just told me that he was somewhat surprised but that he will live with it," Hendricks said. "Alan and I had told him about the possibility, but I believe, like most fans, he was still surprised at Drayton's decision."

Clemens, who won his record seventh Cy Young Award in 2004 in his first season with the Astros, led the majors in earned run average in 2005. He was a National League All-Star both seasons, even starting for the NL in the 2004 All-Star Game at Minute Maid Park.

Clemens was believed to have retired after a farewell tour in 2003 with the New York Yankees. After Pettitte signed with the Astros on Dec. 11, 2003, Clemens reconsidered.

With a steady lobbying effort from McLane and many Houston fans, Clemens signed with his hometown Astros on Jan. 12, 2004, for a $5 million, one-year contract and a $2 million, 10-year personal services contract.

Clemens' signing was a major reason the Astros drew 3 million fans in 2004 for only the second time in franchise history. Since his arrival, the Astros won a postseason series for the first time last year and went all the way to the franchise's first World Series this year.

'No hard feelings'

After compiling a 13-8 record and a 1.87 ERA in 2005, Clemens is now 341-172 with a 3.12 career ERA. He is the winningest pitcher alive and ranks ninth all-time on the career victories list. With 4,502 career strikeouts, he trails only Ryan (5,714).
"There's no hard feelings," Hendricks said. "It's just a strange situation."

On Dec. 7, 1988, Houston fans screamed as Ryan left via free agency after former Astros owner John McMullen tried to cut his salary 20 percent after Ryan's ninth season in Houston.

"There's no parallel between those two (Clemens and Ryan)," McLane said. "Nolan was still at the peak of his career. He wanted to pitch. Alan and Randy have said to Tim and I several times that Roger is 50-50 or more that he'll retire. Nolan was ready to negotiate, and Roger is not.
"Other than both of them being Texans, being two of the best pitchers ever and two great Texans, there's no parallel." -- Section: Sports This article is:

Robert Spencer: Jihadism and the Qur'an

Robert Spencer
December 8, 2005

Last week in New York, Oriana Fallaci stated that the Qur’an was the Mein Kampf of the Jihadi movement. She pointed put out that Islam’s holy book demands the annihilation or subjugation of the other, and that it wants to substitute totalitarianism for democracy.

Her statement, as you may imagine, has caused considerable controversy. A few of the statements I have seen:

"Calling the Koran Mein Kampf is muddle headed and hysterical.....deserves a rebuttal."

"There are moderate Moslems.....I lived among them in Turkey while my Bulgarian relatives went to concentration camps..."

"Tarring the whole religion is counterproductive.....Arab Moslems are terrorists in training but many non Arab Moslems are not jihadists....."

"If there are no moderate muslims, as Fallaci says, then we are doomed.....Is it not better to call them Islamofascists or Jihadists?"

"The Koran is 'Mein Kampf'.....oh come on...."

"In order to be a moderate Moslem does one have to renounce the Koran? I think that as usual, Oriana goes too far."

There is a muddle in these comments that needs sorting out. Fallaci said that there was no moderate Islam; she did not say that there were no moderate Muslims. This is a crucial distinction.

As Ibn Warraq has said, "There may be moderate Muslims, but Islam itself is not moderate." In other words, there are manifestly peaceful people who have no intention of working by violent or subversive means to impose Sharia on the West, and who identify themselves as Muslims. This simple fact does not mitigate the other fact, that some high-profile moderates, such as Cleveland Imam Fawaz Damra, who signed the recent Fiqh Council of North America's fatwa against terrorism, turned out to be deceivers.

No one can claim that all peaceful Muslims are deceivers without being able to look into the soul of each one -- although I know that some ignorant and intemperate writers on Islam have made just such a claim. And to say that the Qur'an is the Mein Kampf of the jihad movement is not to deny the reality that many, if not most, people who identify themselves as Muslims are primarily interested in living ordinary lives, making a living, providing for their families, etc.

How could it be that the Qur'an could be the Mein Kampf -- that is, the inspiration and guidebook, the motivating force -- of the jihad movement, and yet there could be peaceful Muslims? In the first place, because jihadists themselves routinely invoke it as the justification for their acts of violence, and as a means to recruit other Muslims into their movement. Hundreds of photos are available online of jihad terrorists brandishing the Qur'an, often along with rifles or other weapons. And any cursory glance at the statements of jihadists shows them to be filled with Qur'an quotes and appeals to other Muslims that they represent "pure Islam."

Nor are these jihadists misrepresenting, twisting, or hijacking what the Qur'an says. Indeed, they are fiercely literalistic, taking the book's many martial verses at face value. There are over a hundred verses in the Qur’an that exhort believers to wage jihad against unbelievers. “O Prophet! Strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites, and be firm against them. Their abode is Hell, an evil refuge indeed” (Sura 9:73). “Strive hard” in Arabic is jahidi, a verbal form of the noun jihad. This striving was to be on the battlefield: “When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefield, strike off their heads and, when you have laid them low, bind your captives firmly” (Qur’an 47:4). This is emphasized repeatedly: “O ye who believe! Fight the unbelievers who gird you about, and let them find firmness in you: and know that Allah is with those who fear Him” (Qur’an 9:123).

This warfare was to be directed against both those who rejected Islam and those who professed to be Muslims but did not hold to the fullness of the faith: “Prophet, make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home: an evil fate” (Qur’an 9:73). This warfare was only part of the larger spiritual conflict between Allah and Satan: “Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah, and those who reject faith fight in the cause of evil: so fight ye against the friends of Satan” (Qur’an 4:76). “Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them captive, and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is forgiving, merciful” (Qur’an 9:5). The “poor-due” in this verse is zakat, which is a central obligation for Muslims. Thus the verse is saying that if the “idolaters” become Muslims, leave them alone.

Jews and Christians were to be fought along with “idolaters”: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued” (Qur’an 9:29).

Jihad is the highest duty of Muslims: “Do ye make the giving of drink to pilgrims, or the maintenance of the Sacred Mosque, equal to the pious service of those who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and strive with might and main in the cause of Allah [jihad fi sabil Allah]? They are not comparable in the sight of Allah: and Allah guides not those who do wrong. Those who believe, and suffer exile and strive with might and main, in Allah’s cause [jihad fi sabil Allah], with their goods and their persons, have the highest rank in the sight of Allah: they are the people who will achieve salvation” (Qur’an 9:19-20). In Islamic theology, jihad fi sabil Allah refers specifically to taking up arms for Islam.

Paradise is guaranteed to those who “slay and are slain” for Allah: “Allah hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the garden (of Paradise): they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain: a promise binding on Him in truth” (Qur’an 9:111).

One may attempt to spiritualize such verses, but there is no doubt from the historical record that Muhammad meant them literally. They are also backed up by numerous passages of Islamic tradition and law. Nonetheless, the fact that warfare against unbelievers is not a twisting of Islam, but the Islamic mainstream, and is repeatedly affirmed in the Qur’an, Hadith, example of Muhammad, and rulings of every school of Islamic jurisprudence, still does not make every Muslim a terrorist.

There are several principal reasons for this. One is that because the Qur’an is in difficult, classical Arabic, and must be read and recited during Muslim prayers in that language only, a surprisingly large number of those who identify themselves as Muslims actually have scant acquaintance with what it actually says. Although the media establishment continues to use the words “Muslim” and “Arab” as if they were synonymous, most Muslims worldwide today are not Arabs. Even modern Arabic, much less classical Qur’anic Arabic, is foreign to them. They often memorize the Qur’an by rote without any clear idea of what it actually says. A Pakistani Muslim once proudly told me that he had memorized large sections of the Qur’an, and planned one day to buy a translation so that he could find out exactly what it was saying. Such instances are common to a degree that may surprise most non-Muslims.

Other cultural factors have up until recent times also militated against Muslims, particularly in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, acting on or even knowing much about Islam’s actual teachings on how to deal with unbelievers. However, that is changing: in those areas and elsewhere around the world, Muslim hardliners, though not always financed by Saudi Arabia, have made deep inroads into peaceful Muslim communities by preaching violent Islam as the “pure Islam” and calling Muslims back to the full observance of their religion. And they are doing it by means of the Qur'an.

So is the Qur'an the Mein Kampf of the totalitarian, supremacist movement that is the global Islamic jihad? If we take seriously the words of the book itself and how they are used by jihadists, then it clearly is their inspiration and justification. Are we to ignore the jihadists' clear statements on this because they offend contemporary sensibilities? The challenge for genuinely peaceful Muslims today is to confront this fact, rather then deny it as Islamic apologists in the West so often do, and try to formulate strategies for a large-scale rejection of literalism in the Islamic community in America and worldwide, so that Muslims can coexist peacefully as equals with non-Muslims without the continuing recrudescence of this supremacist impulse.

Can it be done? The odds against it are prohibitive. But we do not do genuine Muslim reformers any favor whatsoever by denying that there is any work they need do with the Qur'an and Islamic tradition, or by pretending that the source of the problem is other than what it is.

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Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of five books, seven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). He is also an Adjunct Fellow with the Free Congress Foundation.

Stanley Crouch: Stop Blurring the Lines Between Maniac and Martyr

New York Daily News -
Thursday, December 8th, 2005

Tonight in California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is going to have a closed meeting with those trying to get Stanley (Tookie) Williams clemency and those in law enforcement who want Williams to meet his end on Tuesday.

Williams, who was sentenced to death after being found guilty of murdering four people in 1979, has the dubious honor of being one of the founders of the vicious street gang, the Crips.

Still, Williams is being held up as an example of redemption because he has supposedly turned his life around. He has written children's books that speak out against gang violence. But the actor and writer Joseph Phillips discovered that the highest selling children's book written by Williams has sold only 330 copies. Not exactly a universal audience. The murderer has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times. But almost anyone can nominate you. That does not prove universal acknowledgment of importance.

What does all of this mean? Little. When we see the NAACP, Jamie Foxx, Danny Glover and that paragon of public morality, Snoop Dogg, calling for Williams to receive clemency, one is sure that they have bought into the big con that has as its foundation the interconnectedness of the death penalty and race. The two elements have become so interwoven that some assume that if a black man is on Death Row it has something to do with bias and an unrepresentative jury pool. One of the men crying for Williams to get clemency cites the fact that he was tried by an all-white jury, none of whom were his peers. Does that mean that Williams should have had a jury of ruthless gang leaders? Williams, like all criminals, is a lawbreaker first and has an ethnic identity second.

The hard fact is that since 1980, street gangs have killed 10,000 people in Los Angeles, which is three times the number of black people lynched throughout the United States between 1877 and 1900, the highest tide of racial murder in the history of the nation.

Our commitment to redemption is fundamental to our civilization. But since the death of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, we have seen the same games run on the black community by the identical kinds of political hustlers who almost never met a criminal or a murderer who was not the real victim of society and should be forgiven all crimes, which, as in the Williams case, shouldn't even be discussed. Look to the bright side. Give the brother a break.

I wouldn't touch that kind of thinking with a garbage man's glove. Yesterday was the anniversary of Colin Ferguson's rampage on the Long Island Rail Road. Maybe he should come out of his mental fog and start writing children's books. Ferguson might join Williams in a nomination for the Nobel Prize and watch the chumps line up in support of clemency for his bloody acts. Who knows? Hope springs eternal.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Daniel Pipes: More Converts to Terrorism

Daniel Pipes
December 7, 2005

My column yesterday, “Converts to Terrorism,” delved into the issue of converts to Islam who engage in terrorism. Space constraints limited the information I could include, so here, I add to it in three ways: (1) providing names of converts suspected, arrested, or indicted of terrorism but who have not yet either gone into action or been convicted; (2) reviewing the matter of non-terrorist jihadis; and (3) summarizing a French intelligence report on converts to Islam.

(1) Yesterday’s list included converts who had either engaged in or been convicted of terrorism. That leaves many other converts who have not yet reached either of those stages, including:

· Australia: David Hicks, accused of joining Lashkar-i Tayyiba. Shane Kent, a red-haired, light-skinned former rock musician who trained in an Afghan terrorist camp, was one of the seventeen terrorist suspects detained in November 2005. Joseph Terrence Thomas, accused of training with and financing Al-Qaeda.

· France: Willie Virgile Brigitte, accused of membership in Al-Qaeda and helping the Taliban murder Afghan leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. Jérôme Courtailler (brother of David), arrested with two other French converts, Johann Bonté and Jean-Marc Grandvisir, for a plot to blow up the American embassy in Paris. Lionel Dumont, blamed for several terrorist attacks, including one connected to a Group of Seven summit in 1996.

· Germany: Michael Christian Ganczarski, held in France for suspected ties to Al-Qaeda and involvement in a bombing in Tunisia in 2002.

· Switzerland: Albert Friedrich Armand Huber, designated a terrorist suspect by the U.S. government.

· United States: Adam Gadahn, sought in connection with “possible terrorist threats” against the United States. Three of four members in the Jam’iyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh, accused of planning a terror spree in the Los Angeles area, are converts. Jose Padilla, accused of planning to “make an improvised dirty bomb,” or a radiological dispersion device. Three members of an alleged group, Rafiq Sabir, Tarik Shah, and Mahmud Faruq Brent, are accused of pledging an oath to Al-Qaeda. The list of unindicted co-conspirators in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing includes two American Islamist star converts, Siraj Wahhaj and Bilal Phillips, and what appears to a number of lesser ones (Jack Hamrick, John Kinard, Frank Ramos, Kelvin Smith, Richard Smith).

In addition, Charles J. Bishop (original last name: Bishara) was a teenager who drove his small plane into a high-rise Tampa building after writing a suicide note professing admiration for Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 hijackers. It is not established, however, that Bishop converted to Islam.

(2) Many converts engage in jihad in such places as Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, and Kashmir, generally acting more like soldiers than terrorists. (Those who go to Iraq or the Palestinian Authority, in contrast, are rank terrorists.) According to Bob Blitzer, who headed the FBI’s first Islamic terrorism squad in 1994, “Between 1,000 and 2,000 jihadists left America during the 1990s alone.” Some of them were converts.

Better known Americans of this description include John Walker Lindh, sentenced to twenty years for supplying services to and carrying arms for the Taliban; Earnest James Ujaama, two years for conspiring to provide goods and services to the Taliban; several members of the “Portland Seven” (Jeffrey Leon Battle, Patrice Lumumba Ford, October Lewis), up to eighteen years for trying to help the Taliban; and Aukai Collins wrote My Jihad, a book of memoirs.
Other jihadi soldiers include Hiram Torres, who died in Afghanistan; Cleven Raphael Holt, who went to fight in Bosnia; and a mysterious young black convert from Atlanta known as Jibreel al-Amreekee, killed fighting the Indian Army in Kashmir. Converts of other nationalities also joined the jihad, such as Thomas Fischer of Germany, who died fighting in Chechnya.

(3) Shortly after the London bombings in July 2005, Le Monde reported on a study of converts by the intelligence service Renseignements généraux (RG) in “Les conversions à l’islam radical inquiètent la police française” (French police worried about conversions to radical Islam). Looking at 1,610 French converts, it found no typical profile of the convert. That said, one-third of them have police records and 10 percent of them converted in prison. Converts are 83 percent male and have a median age of 32 years. The RG study finds that close to 13 percent “converted for socioeconomic reasons,” often to improve commercial relations with the Muslim community; nonetheless, more than half of them are unemployed. Tabligh Jamaat and the Wahhabis converted 28 and 23 percent, respectively, of the French to Islam, 44 percent of converts are Islamist, and 3 percent are suspected to “belong to or have gravitated to the violent Islamist movement.”

In conclusion, I repeat my yesterday’s finding: Conversion to Islam substantially increases the probability of a person's involvement in terrorism.

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Mr. Pipes ( is director of the Middle East Forum and author of Miniatures (Transaction Publishers).

Joe Kaufman: Acquitting a Terrorist

Joe Kaufman
December 7, 2005

“Today, the United States Department of Justice is announcing the indictment of Sami al-Arian and seven co-conspirators.” That’s how United States Attorney General John Ascroft began his press conference, back in February of 2003. It was a momentous day in the war on terrorism, a triumph of the Patriot Act. We caught a leader of a terrorist ring based in Tampa, Florida, and he and at least some of his compatriots were going to be brought to justice. Now, it appears justice may not have been served.

Yesterday, al-Arian and his three friends were acquitted after five months of hearing testimony that seemed to point to the contrary. Of the 17 counts al-Arian was charged with, he was acquitted on eight of them, including “conspiracy to murder and maim people abroad,” the most serious charge. The remaining nine were considered a mistrial, as the jury was deadlocked on them. Two of his co-defendants, Sameeh Hammoudeh and Ghassan Zayed Ballut, were acquitted of all charges against them. The other, Hatem Naji Fariz, was found not guilty of 24 counts, and jurors deadlocked on the remaining eight.

Until we hear from the jurors, it’s hard to say how this could possibly have happened. The judge in the trial, James S. Moody, had stipulated to the jury that the prosecution needed to prove that the money allegedly going from Tampa to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) was sent for the purpose of violence. Is it possible that anything related to PIJ can be disassociated with violence? It is a terrorist organization. Did the defense convince the jurors that this was all one big political demonstration against the “Zionists” based on the Israeli-Palestinian situation?

I cannot envision either of the above occurring, because I attended the trial. Along with the jurors, I watched the video of the 1991 Cleveland fundraiser, in which al-Arian begged his audience to create a Palestine “from the river to the sea,” concluding:

Thus is the way of jihad. Thus is the way of martyrdom. Thus is the way of blood, because this is the path to heaven.

Along with the jurors, I watched Fawaz Mohammed “Abu” Damra – the individual that founded al-Qaeda’s main American headquarters in Brooklyn – call al-Arian’s Islamic Committee for Palestine the “active arm of the Islamic Jihad movement in Palestine.” Sami al-Arian was present in the video. Did he disagree? Absolutely not.

Along with the jurors, I watched these individuals in the video raise thousands of dollars for “martyrdom” operations, apart from raising thousands for “orphans.” “Anyone like to donate for the Intifada? A knife to stab the Jews,” Damra stated, to which the crowd loudly responded “Allahu Akbar!” (“Allah is great!”) The intentions of these people could not be any clearer. Granted, there were times when half the jury looked asleep, but while this video was showing, their eyes were wide open. How could they discount this startling evidence?

Barring the unusual possibility that the U.S. government will choose to retry al-Arian for those charges declared a mistrial, he will be deported, as his brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najjar, was in August of 2002 and as his friend Fawaz Damra soon will be.

But is deportation for this man justice? If that were the case, Sami al-Arian would have been deported long ago. No, al-Arian should remain behind bars. Regardless of what the outcome of the trial was, he was guilty of being a leader in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist entity he co-founded.

One must consider al-Arian’s co-defendant, Ramadan Abdullah Shallah. Sami al-Arian brought Shallah to Tampa to work for the University of South Florida (USF). One day, Shallah disappeared from Florida only to reappear as the Secretary General of PIJ in Damascus, Syria. Sources say it could have as easily been al-Arian who left town to head PIJ, rather than Shallah. In that case, it would have been al-Arian ordering a suicide bombing, such as the one that happened in Netanya on Monday. What then? Would that have satisfied the jury?

This case was a big blow for the war on terrorism. Although most Americans are attuned to what's happening in Iraq, they may have missed what's going on right in their own country. Sami al-Arian was a major player on the wrong side of this war. Because someone like him – someone who was so blatantly involved in terrorism – was acquitted, the Justice Department may think twice before bringing future terror cases to trial. And that undoubtedly will embolden the enemy.

On this day, terrorism prevailed.

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Joe Kaufman is the Chairman of Americans Against Hate and the host of The Politics of Terrorism radio show.