Saturday, June 25, 2016

Defenseless in the Face of Our Enemies

What keeps America from protecting itself against radical Islam?

By Andrew C. McCarthy — June 25, 2016
President Barack Obama (R) and Attorney General Loretta Lynch arrive for the Public Safety Office Medal of Valor ceremony in the East Room of the White House May 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. According to the White House, the medal 'is the highest national award for valor presented to a public safety officer. The medal is awarded to public safety officers who have exhibited exceptional courage, regardless of personal safety, in the attempt to save or protect human life.'

Two weekends ago in Orlando, Fla., in the wee hours of the morning, a gunman opened fire in a gay nightclub teeming with revelers. After killing and wounding scores of people, he took hostages in a restroom. He began calling police and media outlets, began crafting social-media posts, all for the point of announcing what was already clear to the nightclub denizens who’d heard him screaming, “Allahu Akbar!” — Allah is greater! — as he fired shot after shot: Omar Mateen was a stealth Muslim militant.

He was an adherent of radical Islam who committed his atrocity in furtherance of its ongoing jihad against America and the West. He took time in the midst of the carnage to make bayat — a pledge of allegiance — to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the emir of the Islamic State terror network and its proclaimed caliphate.

By the time police barged in three hours later and killed Mateen in a firefight, he had murdered 49 people and wounded another 53, many quite seriously.

It should have been possible to see Omar Mateen coming. He was a first-generation American citizen, born in this country to immigrant parents from Afghanistan and raised in a troubled household — one in which the father is a visible and ardent supporter of the Taliban, the fundamentalist jihadist group that ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s, harbored al-Qaeda as it plotted and executed the 9/11 attacks, and to this day wages war against American troops as it fights to retake the country.

Mateen, who was 29 when he committed his mass-murder attack, was repeatedly suspended for fighting throughout his childhood school years. Academically, he had great difficulty — despite being nominally American from birth, he was mired for years in English programs for students who speak other languages in the home. His rantings during the attack indicated that he considered Afghanistan to be his home, and that he identified, first and foremost, as a Muslim: a member of the worldwide ummah — not a citizen of the United States, the nation he volunteered to levy war against, just as the Islamic State (or ISIS) exhorts its acolytes to do.

Mateen was investigated not once but twice by the FBI in the three years before he turned the Pulse nightclub into an abattoir. The first time because, while working as a security guard, he claimed to have ties to both al-Qaeda and Hezbollah — two infamous jihadist organizations that have killed more Americans than any others. Mateen also claimed mutual acquaintances with the Tsarnaev brothers, who bombed the Boston Marathon. He spoke of longing for a martyr’s death — meaning: He wanted to be killed while waging jihad against Allah’s enemies, the Americans.

The FBI further learned that within a two-year period starting in 2011, Mateen had made two pilgrimages to Islamic sites in Saudi Arabia. In Islamic terms, both pilgrimages were considered lesser ones — umrah, which is not required and can be done any time of year, as opposed to hajj, the visit to Mecca, which all physically and financially capable Muslims are required to make at least once in a lifetime, during the last month of Islam’s annual lunar calendar.

An investigator open to drawing commonsense conclusions about Mateen’s potential attachment to Islamic extremism (perhaps the more precise term is sharia supremacism) would be apt to note that Mateen’s trips were voluntary immersions into fundamentalism in an Islamic society in which sharia is rigorously enforced and jihadism is known to thrive. Many Muslims never make umrah at all; to make it twice in a short space of time is highly unusual.

But, as we shall see, the FBI — through little fault of its own — is encouraged to shun commonsense conclusions about Islamic ideological attachments. The investigation was closed because agents concluded Mateen was not a threat: He was simply making outlandish, belligerent claims for the purpose of spooking his co-workers. (To be fair to investigators, that theory was consistent with Mateen’s provocative and anti-social behavior throughout his childhood.)

The second investigation of Mateen was indirect. The actual focus of the FBI’s probe was Moner Mohammad Abusalha, who is believed to be the first American Muslim to conduct a suicide bombing as part of the Islamic State’s jihad in Syria. It turns out that Abusalha attended the same Orlando-area mosque frequented by Mateen.

This fact is worth pausing over for a moment. The Washington Post’s report is telling. It informs us that Mateen and Abusalha “prayed at the same Fort Pierce, Fla., mosque” (emphasis added). This description of what the two men must have been doing in the mosque is consistent with a quarter-century of government, media, academic, and other opinion-elite sculpting of public perception: Islam, we are to believe, is a religion just like any other; a mosque, therefore, must be a house of worship like any church, temple, or synagogue in the West — nothing more than a sanctuary where believers gather for communal prayer.

Of course, to the student of fundamentalist Islam and its sharia-supremacist teachings, this is sheer nonsense.

There is a reason why much of the jihadist violence in the Middle East and its environs occurs on Fridays — Juma, the Muslim Sabbath, on which believers pour out of mosques after being treated to the imam’s political diatribes and incitements to jihad against Western imperialism.
While there are various ways of interpreting Islam, many of them benign and reformist, sharia supremacism is not so much a religion as a radical political ideology with a religious veneer. It does not recognize a division between mosque and state, or between spiritual and political or civic spheres of life. In this aggressive, fundamentalist construction of Islam, the mosque is not a mere “house of worship” where believers gather strictly “to pray.” Far from it. The mosque is the political and ideological center of what, in the West, is an anti-assimilationist movement bent on conquest, not prayerful pluralism.

Hassan al-Bannah, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s most influential, most sophisticated sharia-supremacist movement, taught a farsighted form of ground-up revolution. It would plant its flag and grow outward in enclaves, small towns, and — eventually — big cities, districts, counties, states, provinces, and countries across the globe.

And where would it plant its flag in every place it sought conquest? Bannah instructed that the mosque and its companion Islamic community center would be “the axis of the movement” wherever the movement took root.

Nor does an American investigator need to be steeped in Muslim Brotherhood doctrine to grasp this — however much those of us with eyes to see might wish every American counterterrorism agent were acquainted with Brotherhood doctrine.

In the quarter-century since I prosecuted the jihadist cell that bombed the World Trade Center in 1993 and had plotted — unsuccessfully — to conduct simultaneous strikes against iconic New York City landmarks, the Justice Department has indicted and tried numerous terrorism cases. In these prosecutions, the hub is invariably the mosque. To take my case back in the mid-nineties as a typical example, we proved that the mosque was used for jihadist radicalization, recruitment, fundraising, training, and plotting, in addition to serving as a safe space for the storage and transfer of firearms.

Why were jihadists so brazen in this regard? Because while our government consciously avoids acknowledging the straightforward tenets of sharia supremacism, Muslim militants go to school on the West. They know that, heedless of what courtroom proof shows and what common sense says, our opinion elites stubbornly cling to the depiction of Islam as a monolithic “religion of peace,” in which the mosque is merely and unvaryingly a place of prayer.

In this second investigation in which the FBI crossed paths with Mateen, it concluded that he and Abusalha, the suicide jihadist, were passing acquaintances at best; that their connection to the same “house of worship” was mere happenstance.

Still, in the course of the investigation, the Bureau stacked new, troubling facts atop the Mateen intelligence haul that had already been compiled. A witness told investigators that Mateen had been a devotee of videos featuring the late al-Qaeda firebrand Anwar al-Awlaki — a jihadist who, before finally being killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen, mysteriously slipped through the FBI’s net several times over the years, beginning with his apparently conspiratorial meetings with some of the 9/11 suicide hijackers.

Moreover, it turned out that Mateen had enrolled in an online Islamic “seminary” run in Orlando by Marcus Robertson, a Muslim militant who had been known to the FBI since the early 1990s, when he served as a sometime bodyguard of the Blind Sheikh — the leader of the jihadist cell in my aforementioned terrorism prosecution.

Back then, Robertson was the leader of a violent gang that robbed banks and post offices in order to underwrite the jihad. He was also described by one jihadist as a reliable source for explosives, detonators, and high-powered weapons. Robertson, however, served only a brief stint in prison, apparently because he agreed to become a covert agent for American intelligence agencies, a dubious arrangement that came to an abrupt halt in 2007, when Robertson physically attacked his CIA handler in North Africa and was ousted from the informant program.

Robertson resurfaced in Florida a year later — naturally, as an imam in yet another “prayer” center, the al-Ihsaan mosque, formerly known as the Islamic Center of Orlando. Simultaneously, he reinvented himself as a sharia scholar, running the Fundamental Islamic Knowledge Seminary (later redubbed the Timbuktu Seminary). That was the seminary in which Mateen enrolled.

For now, the extent of the Robertson–Mateen connection is unknown — it is possible that Mateen merely enrolled in the online course and did not deal with Robertson personally. It is known, however, that Robertson used the seminary at least once for the purpose of jihadist recruitment. He and a co-defendant, Jonathan Paul Jimenez, were convicted in a criminal case involving tax fraud, the purpose of which was to raise money to finance Jimenez’s paramilitary training in Africa.

In connection with that case, which also involved a firearms offense, Robertson was incarcerated for nearly four years and proved alarmingly adept at converting inmates to his radical interpretation of Islam. Yet because the Justice Department had charged Robertson only with a tax offense, not a terrorism offense, a federal judge released him in mid-2015 on a sentence of time served. According to the court, the FBI’s evidence that Robertson had terrorist ties was too flimsy to warrant the ten-year sentence urged by prosecutors.

Was Mateen inspired by Robertson, just as he was clearly inspired by ISIS? Just as there is reason to believe he may have been inspired by Abusalha? Do his roots in radical Islam run deeper, a progression from his father’s attachment to Taliban fundamentalism, an ideology tracing back a millennium and of which the brutalization of homosexuals is a core element, firmly based in scripture and deeply rooted in sharia?
Only further investigation will tell us for sure.

Or will it?

Emerging reports indicate that the FBI may have missed some behavioral clues, such as a reported attempt to purchase body armor — a report that may have been sketchy and hard to link to Mateen. I can assure you, though, based on nearly 20 years as a prosecutor, that such clues are missed in nearly every case. They tend to look a lot clearer in 20–20 hindsight than they were in real time.

Jihadist atrocities are more common homeland occurrences now, in the eighth year of Obama, than they have ever been — more common even than in the pre-9/11 Clinton years, when terrorists bombed the World Trade Center and plotted against other targets but usually struck American facilities overseas (our Air Force dormitory in Saudi Arabia, our embassies in East Africa, our naval destroyer in Yemen).

And while government officials and media analysts spout on about the phenomenon of “lone wolf” attacks by “homegrown” terrorists, it is more myth than fact. Repeatedly, we find out that the wolves in question were not “lone” and hidden, but known and in plain sight. And though they may strike at home, the ideology that fuels them is foreign and hostile to the West.

All that said, we should stipulate that the FBI is overwhelmed. There is a natural tendency, after an atrocity occurs, to focus myopically on the lead-up to the attack — as if any relevant investigation must have been the only investigation in the world. But that is a gross distortion of reality.

Of the nearly 36,000 people who work for the FBI, fewer than 14,000 are investigative agents. National security is a crucial part of the Bureau’s portfolio, but the FBI is statutorily the lead investigative agency in virtually every category of criminal offense in federal law. At most, there are a couple thousand agents assigned full-time to counterterrorism. Those numbers are multiplied somewhat by joint federal-state efforts — the Joint Terrorism Task Forces in several metropolitan areas across the nation. Even so, because the Bureau is an intelligence agency as well as a law-enforcement agency, there are over a thousand terrorism investigations ongoing at any one time. The FBI director indicates that there is activity that must be monitored in all 50 states. Unless there are flashing neon signs of imminent attack, the small number of investigators can only spend so much time on any one suspect.

Of course, that time can be maximized, or wasted, depending on whether investigators know what they’re looking for . . . and whether they are permitted to look for it.

Clearly, the FBI spent a lot of time on Mateen. It sent confidential informants to interact with him, conducted physical surveillance, covertly monitored some of his phone calls, and interviewed him face-to-face three separate times. It concluded that his bark was bad, but his bite was non-existent. Honoring guidelines imposed on terrorism investigations, the FBI closed its case. That is, in addition to concluding that no charges should be filed, the Bureau further decided that additional monitoring of Mateen was not warranted.

In retrospect, this seems reckless. But the FBI is not incompetent, far from it. The agency knew Mateen was worth a heavy investigative investment. The problem is that the FBI answers to the Washington political class. The bipartisan Beltway has long ruled that advocacy of radical Islam is protected by the Constitution. It has long instructed its investigators, preposterously, that seditious beliefs and agitation are immune, not just from prosecution, but even from mere inquiry.

What passes for Obama’s national-security strategy, known as “Countering Violent Extremism,” exacerbates this problem. CVE delusionally forbids the conclusion that radical Islamic ideology has any causative effect on terrorist plotting. The FBI is in the impossible position of trying to conduct investigations that follow the facts wherever they lead, while fearing that such investigations — by illuminating the logical progression from Islamic scripture to sharia supremacism to jihadist terror — will enrage its political masters.

Understand: Nothing in the Constitution mandates this suicidal betrayal of national security. It flows from Washington’s lunatic concoction of an imaginary Islam — a belief system the sole tenets of which are peace andanti-terrorism. President Obama and the counsel he keeps (many of whom are connected to insidious Islamist organizations tied to the Muslim Brotherhood) insist this “anti-terrorist” “Religion of Peace” is the onlyviable interpretation of Islam. We are not just to believe, we are pressured to endorse, the fantasy that sharia supremacism is a “false Islam.” Its palpable mainstream status in the Middle East and elsewhere is not to be spoken of.
The FBI is bound by guidelines promulgated by the Justice Department, most of which have been in place since the administration of President George W. Bush. They impose a caveat on every investigation:
These Guidelines do not authorize investigating or collecting or maintaining information on United States persons solely for the purpose of monitoring activities protected by the First Amendment or the lawful exercise of other rights secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States.
On its face, this admonition should not be problematic. It instructs that agents may not investigate for the sole purpose of monitoring activities protected by federal law. Consequently, if agents have other legitimate purposes for investigating — such as preventing terrorist attacks or probing terrorism conspiracies — the Justice Department guidance is no bar to conducting an investigation in which a mosque or a protest rally may foreseeably come under scrutiny.

Political dissent and the exercise of religion are protected by the First Amendment. But this is a protection against being prosecuted merely for one’s words or religious observance. It is not a shield against investigation for criminal activities that are motivated by religious or political belief.

Not only may one be investigated and prosecuted for criminal offenses that are motivated by one’s beliefs or speech; it has long been the law that evidence of one’s beliefs and speech, which is often highly relevant to proving criminal intent, may be admitted in a prosecution for such offenses.

Simply stated, if you are a Muslim who believes sharia law must be imposed on society, and you tell people that Allah commands the commission of violent jihad to impose sharia, that belief and statement are admissible evidence if you are charged with bombing or terrorism conspiracy crimes. You are not being prosecuted for what you believe or what you said; you are being prosecuted for the crimes. The beliefs and statements are evidence of your state of mind — just as they are in all kinds of criminal cases beyond terrorism.

That being the case, there is nothing inherently wrong with, much less constitutionally offensive about, the concept that radical religious or political beliefs should trigger investigations. That is especially the case if those beliefs are conveyed by aggressive language, or by association with other radicals or mosques known to endorse jihadism.

Here’s an important principle we must get right: It cannot be that evidence an investigator may use to prove guilt of terrorism offenses is somehow insulated from an investigator’s suspicions about potential terrorism offenses. The goal of counterterrorism is supposed to be the prevention of jihadist attacks, not the hope that there may be a living terrorist or two still around to be indicted and tried only after Americans have been murdered.

In law enforcement, however, what matters most is not what the law allows investigators to do. It is what the investigators’ superiors allow them to do.

That brings us to “Countering Violent Extremism.” In essence, CVE holds that terrorism has nothing to do with Islam, or even with Islamist ideology that reviles the United States. President Obama has conclusively proclaimed: “Muslim American communities have categorically condemned terrorism” — end of discussion . . . as if that were an incontestable proposition or one that told the whole story.
Thus, the administration narrative continues, the real threat to our security is not Muslim terrorist plots against us but our provocation of Muslims. By the Obama administration’s lights, our national-defense measures following the 9/11 attacks have conveyed the misimpression that America is at war with Islam.

Remember, we’re in Fantasy Land, so we’re not supposed to pause at this point to ask: What, then, prompted the 9/11 attacks in the first place? What prompted the increasingly audacious series of attacks from the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center to the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole — all during those sensitive, Islamophilic Clinton years when, we’re to believe, jihadists didn’t think America was “at war with Islam.”

Instead of asking such impertinent questions, we are simply to accept the president’s say-so that the key to our security is to “partner” with the leadership in Muslim communities — much of which just happens to be tied to or heavily influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood.

In a major 2007–08 prosecution (the Holy Land Foundation case), the Justice Department proved that the Brotherhood financed the Hamas terrorist organization to the tune of millions of dollars. That same Muslim Brotherhood is the main subject of my 2010 book, The Grand Jihad. The title is lifted from an internal Brotherhood memo seized by the FBI and presented at the Holy Land trial — a memo in which Brotherhood honchos stationed in the United States explained that their mission here is a “grand jihad” to “eliminate and destroy Western Civilization from within” — by “sabotage.”

Under CVE, we are to let our Islamist “partners” train the police, and let them be our eyes and ears in Muslim communities. Because we all share the same interests, you see, we should rest assured that these Islamist leaders will alert us if there is any cause for concern.

Makes perfect sense, right?

If it is possible, the practice of CVE is even more of a national-security disaster than the theory. This is probably best documented by my friend Stephen Coughlin in a recent and essential book: Catastrophic Failure: Blindfolding America in the Face of Jihad.

Apart from being an exceptional lawyer, Steve is a trained military intelligence officer who has studied our enemies’ threat doctrine, Islamic supremacism. Again, to be precise, it may be best to call it “sharia supremacism” because it reflects the classic sharia-based Islam that is mainstream in the Middle East. Catastrophic Failure is about how the United States government has systematically stifled the study of this doctrine since before 9/11. CVE is the paragon illustration of how the Obama administration has exacerbated this catastrophic failure — a failure that I have branded “willful blindness” since first encountering it as a prosecutor two decades ago.

As Coughlin demonstrates, CVE is no secret. For example, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties — which is every bit as radical as the infamous Civil Rights Division in the Obama Justice Department — has worked with the National Counterterrorism Center to develop government-agency training programs that “bring together best [CVE] practices.”

One product of this effort is a handy two-page instruction document of CVE “Do’s and Don’ts.” The “Don’ts” tell agents to avoid, among other things, “ventur[ing] too deep into the weeds of religious doctrine and history” or examining the “role of Islam in majority Muslim nations.” The guidance further admonishes:
Don’t use training that equates radical thought, religious expression, freedom to protest, or other constitutionally protected activity, with criminal activity. One can have radical thoughts/ideas, including disliking the U.S. government, without being violent; for example, trainers who equate the desire for Sharia law with criminal activity violate basic tenets of the First Amendment.
As we’ve already observed, this interpretation of the First Amendment is patent rubbish. Again, there is no free-speech protection against having one’s words examined for intelligence or investigative purposes. Free-expression principles protect Americans against laws that subject speech to penalty or prosecution — a protection, by the way, that the Obama administration seeks to deny to speech unflattering to Islam, under a U.N. resolution it jointly sponsored with several Islamic nations.

In sum, Obama’s CVE strategy expressly instructs our investigators to consider only violent or criminal conduct. They are told to ignore radical ideology, particularly if it has the patina of “religious expression.” They are directed to turn a deaf ear to anti-Americanism and the desire to impose sharia, which just happens to be the principal objective of all violent jihadists, and of the Obama administration’s oft-time consultants, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Our agents, furthermore, are cautioned to avoid doing anything that smacks of subjecting particular groups to heightened scrutiny. After all, that might imply that terrorism committed by Muslims has some connection to Islam — specifically, to the undeniable, unambiguous commands to violent jihad found in Muslim scripture.

Obviously, this CVE guidance is exactly what our investigators follow when they consciously avoid scrutinizing jihadist social-media postings by visa applicants from Muslim-majority countries — such as Tashfeen Malik. She was the Pakistani immigrant who joined her jihadist husband, Syed Farook, in carrying out last December’s mass-murder attack in San Bernardino (in which 14 people were killed and dozens wounded).

There is nothing secret about CVE. It is right there in black and white. Willful blindness, furthermore, is a guiding principle of Obama’s governance. It is the same rationale used to justify purging instruction about the Islamic doctrinal roots of violent jihadism from materials used to train our law-enforcement, military, and intelligence agents.

Finally, the mulish determination to hamstring our investigators is manifest in federal immigration policy, which actually promotes the infiltration of alien radicals into our country.

As a matter of law, it remains true that the first obligation of the federal government is national security, particularly protecting the lives of Americans and the homeland. It is also true that aliens outside the United States do not have a right to enter the United States, nor do they enjoy Bill of Rights protections under the Constitution.

It should come as no surprise then, that there is considerable legal and historical precedent for excluding from our country aliens who have exhibited an affinity for foreign enemies of the United States, hostility to the Constitution, and hostility to the government of the United States.

Moreover, it has historically been the goal of our immigration law and policies to promote assimilation and fidelity to American constitutional principles on the part of newly admitted aliens. To this day, aliens about to be naturalized as U.S. citizens are required to take an oath to defend the Constitution and renounce allegiance to any foreign sovereign.

It also remains true that aliens outside the United States do not have constitutional rights. Their legitimate expectations of due process are quite low. The Supreme Court ruled in 1950 that they get only whatever due process Congress chooses to give them. And under a long-established legal doctrine (“consular non-reviewability”), courts are theoretically barred from second-guessing the rejection of visa applications by State Department consular officers.

Nevertheless, these foundational principles were eroded in the latter half of the 20th century by the political Left. As James R. Edwards recounts in an essential 2005 report for the Center for Immigration Studies (“Keeping Extremists Out: The History of Ideological Exclusion and the Need for Its Revival”), progressives argued that historical restrictions against immigration by alien anarchists and (especially) Communists had been based on nativist fears and an exaggerated estimation of the threat that our government would be violently overthrown — an estimation that, to the contrary, was bolstered by extensive proof of Communist infiltration that emerged after the Soviet Union’s collapse.

The political Left championed new international arrangements, such as the 1975 Helsinki Accords, that aimed to facilitate international travel and began a gradual rejection of immigration restrictions based on radical political ideology. Simultaneously, the Warren Court’s expansion of First Amendment protection for anti-American radicalism served to erode immigration restrictions that had sought to exclude aliens ideologically hostile to our society and system of governance.

The Court extended First Amendment protection to the abstract discussion, teaching, and advocacy of the overthrow of our government (tenuously distinguishing it from conspiratorial action to achieve that goal). Similarly, the justices protected the “mere advocacy” of illegal acts (tenuously distinguishing such “advocacy” from actionable incitement to violent crime).

While federal courts did not expressly and directly recognize constitutional rights for aliens, they used a loopy theory to derive such rights. They reasoned — if you can call it that — that the First Amendment rights of Americans to free political speech and assembly were somehow violated by the exclusion of alien radicals from our midst. The exclusion, we were to believe, deprived American citizens of the “right” to hear what these radicals had to say — as if their physical presence were necessary for this purpose.

The overarching theme was that immigration restrictions based on an alien’s radical, anti-American ideology were to be discouraged. Restrictions, instead, were to be limited to situations in which there was evidence of subversive or terrorist action.

There were still restrictions in federal statutory law that enabled the government to exclude aliens who were members of subversive organizations, or who had advocated seditious acts against the United States. But leading congressional Democrats warmed to the Supreme Court’s suggestion that radical ideology is basically harmless and has no causative connection to violent action. Led by Senator George McGovern (D., S.D.), lawmakers in 1977 pushed through legislation that waived these provisions in almost all cases.

Later, in 1988, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D., N.Y.) and Representative Barney Frank (D., Mass.) succeeded in enacting an amendment that effectively granted First Amendment protections to non-immigrant aliens. Finally, the 1990 Immigration Act, spearheaded by Congressman Frank, largely repealed the reliance on radical ideology as a basis for excluding aliens. Henceforth, aliens could be excluded for involvement in terrorist activity, but not for holding the belief, or “merely” advocating, that the United States government should be overthrown.

In short, as the Soviet Union teetered and collapsed, Washington convinced itself that the “End of History” was upon us: It was only a matter of time until progressive welfare-state democracy spread across the world. In the meantime, we were to believe that the American people would never again face significant threats to our security and our way of life.

The post-sovereign, international Left, which sought to eliminate distinctions between citizens and aliens, saw no contradiction in awarding aliens outside the U.S. the privileges of constitutional protections, with no expectation of their taking on the duties and loyalties of American citizens. Political progressives haughtily assumed that there were no real foreign threats on the horizon.
About a year later, jihadists bombed the World Trade Center. They’ve been striking us ever since.
So are we defenseless against our enemies?

Well, we are as defenseless as we can be when the impediments to strong national defense are self-imposed. As bleak as things may seem, most of the restrictions on us could be quickly reversed were the will there to do so. Eyes willfully shut can be willfully pried opened. We could recognize what ought to be the undeniable connection between radical ideology and violent action. We could subject Islamists to heightened scrutiny while remaining mindful of our Muslim allies — those who help us infiltrate terror networks and stop attacks, those who celebrate liberty and reject the imposition of fundamentalist sharia as a system of totalitarian governance.

We could recognize that, however one assesses the seriousness of the Communist threat and the likelihood that it might have pursued the violent overthrow of our government, the modern jihadist threat is vastly different. Whether its belligerent sharia-supremacist ideology leads inexorably to murderous atrocities is not an abstract academic question. The progression from scripture to incitement to violence is a fact too often repeated to doubt. We could therefore conclude that an immigration policy crafted for the challenges of the Soviet era is not suitable for our current threat environment. We could make sensible changes.

These are things we can do to become less defenseless, but they do not address a basic cultural question. Sometimes a people becomes defenseless because it decides it is no longer worth defending. This is a prospect we must dread as we hear, more relentlessly it seems with every new jihadist attack, that we are to blame — that America is always the culprit that provokes, not the target defending liberty against would-be tyrants.

A sound counterterrorism strategy can right a lot of wrongs and shore up a lot of weaknesses. Alas, it cannot convince us that what we stand for is worth the effort.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior policy fellow at National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

A Mandate for Liberty, a Rejection of Subservience: What Brexit Means

June 23, 2016

Image source :

Yesterday, Britain was offered a choice between fear and freedom. It chose freedom. Decisively.

As I write, shortly after 6:00 a.m. London time, the tally is not quite complete, but it is already clear that Brexit won by more than one million votes. The projected margin, with only a handful of localities yet to count, is rather more than 52% to nearly 48%. Not an absolute blowout for those who believe Britons ought to be allowed to rule themselves rather than submit, Vichy-like, to unelected commissars in Brussels, but still no squeakeroo, either.

This vote was a mandate for liberty, a rejection of subservience, and above all a rejection of the disgusting moral blackmail of "Project Fear" disseminated by the vested interests of the world establishment.

Britain presides over the world's fifth-largest economy (edging out France for the spot last year), the fourth- or fifth-largest military, and -- it cannot be measured precisely but is nonetheless palpable -- a common law tradition that has underwritten democratic institutions, self-rule, and individual liberty.

President Obama, jetting over to lecture the Brits about how they should run their lives, warned that they would go to "the back the queue" in the world's and in the United States's favor should they opt to leave the European Union. In fact, Britain has a lot to say about the organization of the queue that is its destiny, and it just demonstrated that it doesn't need the officious intervention of the worst president in the history of its former colony.
What does Brexit mean? The headline at the Drudge Report crowed "Global Order Jolted." But it would be more accurate to say that -- in the Anglosphere, at least --global order has been restored.

Had Britain voted to remain in the EU, the Anglosphere would have continued, but Britain would have lost its prominent role in it as it slipped more and more into the adipose embrace of the central planners in Brussels.

Doubtless, there will be short-term turmoil. As I write, the pound is off about 10% and nearly everyone expects turbulence in the markets. Long-term, however --and it will not be that long in coming -- Britain's assertion of its right to govern itself will redound to its own and the world's economic vitality.

The pound will recover -- if I were in the currency trading biz, I'd buy Sterling now and for the next couple of weeks -- and Britain's economy, free, free at last from the regulatory nightmare that is a signature of the EU's despotic regime, will go from strength to strength.

The banks are not going to leave London, England will continue to trade with Europe. It will now also be free to trade as it sees fit with the rest of the world, unencumbered by the myriad protectionist rules stipulated by Brussels.

The winners in last night's vote are the British people, the British economy, and the tradition of democratic capitalism underwritten by individual liberty and the rule of law.

Who are the losers?

Well, David Cameron is no doubt polishing his resume this morning. [UPDATE: Cameron just announced that he would be stepping down in the next few months.] But the biggest loser is the sclerotic, self-dealing political establishment that transformed the EU from a plan to open markets to a scheme to co-opt freedom and create a self-perpetuating cadre of untouchable elites.

Jean-Claude Juncker has been the president of the European Commission for the last couple of years. He presides over a population of nearly 500 million -- well, 500 million minus 64 million as of today.

Do you know how he was elected? He wasn't.

His fellow commissioners, all baker's dozen of them, went into a room, closed the door, and appointed him. As with all European commissioners, the people didn't hire him, nor can the people fire him.

Like all commissioners, he lives tax-free at public expense and enjoys an essentially unlimited expense account.

The EU has never presented the world with a certified budget, because it is so rife with corruption that the accountants cannot get (or are told not to get) to the bottom of it.
Britain's vote to leave the EU is a historic act. It is a welcome reassertion of freedom and democracy in a world that has been drifting, and sometimes paddling vigorously, in the opposite direction. It is not a final, definitive act. There will be at least two years of negotiations as Britain begins to uncouple itself from the Leviathan of Brussels. There will be much "fletus et stridor dentium" as the Establishment bemoans this blow to its prerogatives.
But this assertion of freedom will also have plenty of salubrious emanations and penumbras.

I predict that other countries will eye Britain's newfound courage enviously, and begin taking back some of their own freedoms.

Brexit might also have the salutary effect of inspiring a little self-reflection on the part of the EU bureaucrats who have grown complacent exercising power without responsibility. With Britain's example before them, perhaps they will think twice about telling people what sort of bananas they may eat, how to manage their national borders, or whom they may deport.

As Brexiteer Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London (and likely next Tory leader), repeatedly said, the vote to leave the EU was a positive and optimistic act. It was a forward-looking vote of confidence in Britain's bright future and a proud assertion of its glorious traditions of liberty and economic strength.

This is a great day for Britain and and great day for freedom.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Britain Exits, Democracy Lives, And Everything Has Changed

A dispatch from liberated London.

24 June 2016

A man carries an umbrella past a polling station for the EU referendum in central London Thursday. (Reuters)

London feels like a city liberated by one side in an ongoing civil war. The papers on the newsstands seem to come from a foreign country—yesterday's country. At twenty minutes to five this morning, it became apparent that Britain's citizens had voted by a 4-point margin to leave the 28-nation European Union. Most Londoners, politicians across Europe, and virtually all pundits and politicians are in a state of shock and rage.

The EU has always found, by hook or by crook, the wherewithal to forestall populist outrage against it. A poll released on election eve showed that those who favored remaining in the EU would scrape through pretty easily. But so deep is the cleavage between those who profit from the present order and those who feel screwed by it that the latter have become unfathomable to, and unpollable by, the former. Despite driving rains across Britain on Thursday, voter turnout was at record highs—72 percent, higher than in last year's general election. Within hours, prime minister David Cameron, who led the Remain side, had announced he would resign. Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn was facing a party vote of no confidence. The pound had fallen to its lowest level against the dollar since 1985, and people were dancing in the streets of various European capitals and calling for referenda of their own.
"It was a noble idea for its time," said the former conservative London mayor Boris Johnson, Cameron's rival since their days together at Eton, and now his probable successor. "It is no longer right for this country." The universe of what is politically possible has expanded—and not just for Britain.
Remain was backed by the leaderships of all three major parties, not just Cameron's Conservatives but also Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Yet British people have never particularly liked the European Union, and Remain never aspired to convince them to. Instead, in an extraordinarily well-funded and well-choreographed campaign, it trundled out one high-ranking functionary after another to warn that outright catastrophe would befall the U.K. should it retake control of its political destiny. Cameron and his colleagues coordinated anti-Leave interventions by the IMF, various economists, and even Barack Obama, who, during a visit, threatened to discipline an independent Britain by sending it to the "back of the queue" on trade relations.
People derided this coordinated effort as "Project Fear," but it was highly effective. This created a rallying and broadening of the establishment. Even the usually conservative Mail on Sunday made its peace with the EU, editorializing: "The great chorus of economists, businessmen, educators, historians, scientists and others who have urged that we remain in the EU cannot simply be brushed off as if their opinions are so much babble."
Brushing off those opinions was exactly what Leave intended to do and, ultimately, succeeded in doing. As Leave saw it, those whom Remain called "experts" were nothing more than what voters in a more democratic age used to call "bosses" and "elites." The conduct of the EU's leaders provided eloquent proof. European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker spent half his time urging Britain to unite with its European partners in brotherhood, love and solidarity; and half the time, warning that, should it decide to leave the EU, he would personally see to it that the country was chopped off at its knees. What is more, he insisted, there would be "no kind of renegotiation" of any agreements on immigration even should Britain opt for remain.
The well-read Tory cabinet minister Michael Gove reacted to this daily procession of prominent naysayers by citing an anecdote about Albert Einstein, whose theories had been denounced in the late days of the Weimar Republic, in a book called A Hundred Authors Against Einstein. Einstein replied, "If they were right, one would have been enough." To his old ally Cameron, this was likening Remain to Nazis. Cameron said Gove had "lost it." Ultimately fear was all the Remain side had.
But the Leave side did not have much more. Leave was split, rather like the Republican party of the Reagan era, between sunny free-trading libertarians like Gove and former London mayor Boris Johnson (who joined a movement called Vote Leave), and romantic pessimists, like Nigel Farage of the U.K. Independence party (who rallied behind a group called This split worked to Leave's benefit. Voters in politically correct Britain, who would be embarrassed to associate with UKIP, could identify themselves with Johnson and Gove's cosmopolitans, but the issue that really rallied many of them to the Leave cause was immigration, and it was only Farage who dared mention it.
Net migration into England is perceived as being out of control. It runs to over 370,000 people a year, most of it from non-EU countries. On Wednesday June 15, Farage unveiled a poster reading "Breaking Point"—it showed mobs of Middle Eastern migrants moving across Europe towards Britain. Not a good word was said about it in the press but it made its impression. The only solution the EU has proposed for stopping this migrant flow is accelerating negotiations to bring Muslim Turkey into the Union, a process Cameron supports. Cameron could not assuage voter fears about that. Remain called it racist even to discuss such things, but it was evidently out of desperation. The migration issue was swinging polls sharply towards Leave.
And then, the following day, the whole narrative of the campaign changed. Jo Cox, a young and pretty Labour party member with a bent for solidarity campaigns abroad and multiculturalism in Britain, was murdered on the street in her Yorkshire constituency by a psychopath with ties to American neo-Nazis. The incident very much resembled the attack on US congresswoman Gabby Giffords in 2011, and it left Britons even more shaken. Two strong narratives had been established in the campaign—Remain evoked fear of chaos, Leave evoked fear of foreigners—and here was an event that seemed to support the former. If Leave had ever had a chance, it seemed to evaporate with Cox's death.
It turned out not to be decisive. Apparently there was too much at stake. Odd as it sounds, there were always signs that Britons wanted to leave. Although most polls showed roughly equal numbersvoting for each side, very different results emerged when the Independent newspaper asked people how the results would make them feel. Forty-four percent said they would be "delighted" with a Leave vote and only 28 percent would be delighted with Remain. Only 33 percent said they would be "disappointed" with an exit from the EU, versus 44 percent who said they would be disappointed staying in. The referendum resembled many such mimetic phenomena in which a people tries to work up its gumption against its elites. It is possible that two-thirds of the country wanted to leave the EU. They just didn't know whether they had elites' permission to want it.
But there were sharp divisions in how those attitudes were spread. Remain seemed to be a coalition of those who owned second homes and those for whom English was a second language. A YouGov poll showed that voters who could be described as upper-class favored Remain, 53 percent to 38 percent. What you could call working-class people were for Leave, 52 to 29. Remain won in rich London 60 to 40, and its top 3 English results came in the heavily immigrant boroughs of Lambeth, Haringey and Hackney. When Boris Johnson emerged from his house in London to head to Vote Leave headquarters, he was met by what the BBC called a "sea of boos." Remain also won Brighton, the university towns of Oxford and Cambridge, and the immigrant hubs of Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool as well as Scotland and Northern Ireland. Leave won overwhelmingly everywhere else—by margins running as high as 75 percent in parts of Lincolnshire.
At midday on Thursday, the leader of Scotland's devolved government warned that she would not see her country taken out of the EU against its will and said she had been in touch with Sadiq Khan, London's newly elected Muslim mayor, who had shared her sentiments. Such political moves were a more important and more ominous story than the various shifts in the market that the media have grown used to prioritizing—the fall the pound, the drop in home-building stocks, both of which seemed to be moderating by midday, anyway. These can be seen as merely the responsible revaluing of a mispriced asset: democratic consent.
It is worth remembering that that asset has been mispriced in every Western country, and that in all of them some turbulence will result from the British decision to leave. There will be rejoicing in the streets of Athens. In Italy last week, the populist, Euroskeptic Five-Star movement took the mayor's office in Rome and Turin. Forty-eight percent of Italians—who helped found the EU—now say they would leave if they could. Fifty-eight percent of the French want their own referendum.
And consider the United States. There was a debate on the Tuesday before the vote pitting Johnson and two Leave MPs on the side against Khan and two Remain leaders. It may have tipped the balance. Khan had little to offer but invective and shaming, accusing the other side of "lies." His sidekick, the Scottish Remainer Ruth Davidson, deferred to Obama's remarks about sending Britain to the back of the queue. But the Leavers scored points when talking about migration, bureaucracy and economics. "The European Union has 10,000 officials who earn more than the English prime minister," MP Andrea Leadsom reminded voters, "and you're paying for them." Johnson sought to dispel worries that Europe would erect tariff barriers against an independent U.K. by noting that Germans exported a fifth of their automobiles there. Did anyone serious believe they would be so stupid as to endanger that?
Indeed, Johnson's view was confirmed the day before the vote by Markus Kerber of the Germany's federal body of industries, Kerber said it would be "very, very foolish" to raise tariff barriers. This is a version of Donald Trump's notorious view that Mexico "would pay for a wall" on the U.S. border. It amounts to saying that, contrary to recent financial orthodoxy, governments consider a trade surplus an asset worth protecting. One hopes now that talk about "legacies"—which politicians indulge in with such Promethean arrogance—will now die down a bit. Legacies get figured out by historians, not by history's actors, to whom they are unknowable. The UKIP leader Nigel Farage, the founding father of the idea of British departure from the EU, can no longer be dismissed as a clown, as he was almost universally in the British press until 24 hours ago. He is a political figure of major dimensions.
Everything is being revalued. Political institutions, too. Economic issues, fear, immigration—these all caught Britons' attention and rallied them to the polls. But at its core this was a battle over definitions of democracy and freedom. This may have been Britain's last chance to exit peacefully and democratically from a democracy-destroying, elite-flattering, and inequality-producing machine. You can say that Britain finds itself in a constitutional crisis today, but that crisis was revealed, not created, by the referendum vote. Most U.K. citizens repudiate the claim of foreign bureaucrats to rule them, and yet, on what turns out to be the defining issue of British politics in this generation, 478 of its elected members of Parliament favored Remain, and only 159 Leave. That will change.
Britain is, as David Cameron said in his resignation statement, a "special country." Its citizens are going to pay a price for flouting markets and European bureaucracies. They have gambled that what they now recover—control of their own laws—makes that price worth paying. Look at their history. They are probably right.

Britain and Obama’s ‘Back of the Queue’

By Andrew Roberts
June 17, 2016

Franklin D Roosevelt and Winston Churchill in the ’50 Years of Peace’ statue on New Bond Street. This statue was unveiled on 2 May 1995 as a gift from the members of The Bond Street Association to the City of Westminster and the people of London to commemorate 50 years of peace.

On June 23 the British people will be going to the polls to choose whether they want to continue with the present system whereby 60% of British laws are made in Brussels and foreign judges decide whether those laws are legitimate or not, or whether we want to strike out for independence and the right to make all of our own laws and have our own British judges decide upon them.
It’s about whether we can recapture the right to deport foreign Islamist hate preachers and terrorist suspects, or whether under European human-rights legislation they must continue to reside in the U.K., often at taxpayers’ expense. The European Union is currently experiencing migration on a scale not seen since the late 17th century—with hordes of young, mostly male Muslims sweeping from the southeast into the heart of Europe. Angela Merkel invited them in and that might be fine for Germany, but why should they have the right to settle in Britain as soon as they get a European passport?
Surely—surely—this is an issue on which the British people, and they alone, have the right to decide, without the intervention of President Obama, who adopted his haughtiest professorial manner when lecturing us to stay in the EU, before making the naked threat that we would be sent “to the back of the queue” (i.e., the back of the line) in any future trade deals if we had the temerity to vote to leave.
Was my country at the back of the line whenWinston Churchill promised in 1941 that in the event of a Japanese attack on the U.S., a British declaration of war on Japan would be made within the hour?
Was Great Britain at the back of the line when America was searching for allies in the Korean War in the 1950s?
When America decided to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War in the early 1990s, was Britain at the back of the line when we contributed an armored division that fought on your right flank during Operation Desert Storm?
Were we at the back of the line on 9/11, or did we step forward immediately and instinctively as the very first of your allies to contribute troops to join you in the expulsion of the Taliban, al Qaeda’s hosts, from power in Afghanistan?
Or in Iraq two years later, was it the French or the Germans or the Belgians who stood and fought and bled beside you? Whatever views you might have over the rights or wrongs of that war, no one can deny that Britain was in its accustomed place: at the front of the line, in the firing line. So it is not right for President Obama now to threaten to send us to the back of the line.
Britain is the largest foreign investor in the U.S.—larger even than China—so it makes no economic sense for you to send us to the back of the line. Yet quite apart from your economic or strategic best interests, it also makes no moral sense for America to treat your genuine friends (you also see this phenomenon in the case of Israel, of course) as though they are your enemies, while all too often you treat your rivals and enemies—Cuba, China, Venezuela and others—as though they’re your friends. In what sane world does America put Iran at the front of the line for trade deals, while sending Britain to the back?
President Obama might be very clever intellectually, but he hasn’t grasped the central essence of American foreign policy over the centuries, which is the honorable one of being a strength and beacon to your allies and a standing reproach and constant source of anxiety to your enemies and to the enemies of freedom.
Fortunately, the best kind of Americans instinctively understand that truth, and outside the Obama administration nobody seems to want to relegate my country to the back of the line. Anglo-American friendship is far stronger than any one administration or government. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve read the obituaries of people who have written the obituary of the Special Relationship. It survives because it lives on in the hearts of our two peoples—who have so much more in common than that which separates us—rather than just in the pages of venerable treaties and history books.
The good news is that the British people don’t seem to have taken much notice of President Obama—indeed, on the day he left the U.K., the Leave campaign actually saw a 2% increase in the polls. (As it’s neck and neck at the moment, perhaps we should invite him back?)
The endless threats about trade deals and GDP per capita from the EU and the IMF and the World Bank and the OECD, instead of cowing the British people, seem merely to have excited their bloody-mindedness. They recognize that they might indeed take a short-term financial hit, but there are some things more important than money.
Imagine if a bunch of accountants had turned up at Valley Forge in that brutal winter of 1777 and proved with the aid of pie-charts and financial tables that Americans would be better off if they just gave up the cause of independence. George Washington would have sent them off with a few short, well-chosen words on the subject—probably derived from the Anglo-Saxon.
Winston Churchill was warned repeatedly by the Treasury that it was bankrupting Britain to continue her lonely and seemingly doomed struggle against the power that utterly dominated the entire European Continent in 1940 and 1941, but he treated all such warnings with his characteristically coruscating ire. That is what people do who love their country, and that is what I hope my countrymen will do on June 23.
And if we do vote to leave the EU on Thursday, I hope that Americans with a sense of history, Americans with a sense of tradition who honor friendship past and future, above all Americans who know what self-government means to a free people, will rally to the cause of an independent Britain.
Mr. Roberts is the author of “Napoleon: A Life” (Viking, 2014). This is adapted from his remarks upon receiving a Bradley Prize from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., June 15.