April 16, 2011 | National Review Online

The Audience Is Listening

There is always great intrigue in Barack Obama’s speeches. Not much heft, mind you, but substance is not the point. In this Chicago-style presidency, what is said is often less telling than who is invited to hear what is said. That’s where you find out who is in and who is out.

Count Rep. Paul Ryan among the outs. The GOP budget guru got a coveted invitation to hear the president outline his new vision for escaping the economic catastrophe wrought by his current vision. The speech was much anticipated, because it was Ryan’s own ambitious plan to slash trillions in spending that roused Obama from his customary crouch in the tall grass.

Ryan was reeled in by the suggestion that the invitation was an olive branch, a White House concession that he had grappled responsibly with a monstrous problem and that a gracious, cooperative presidential response was in order. But it was a setup. The Chicago mob strategically seated Ryan a few paces from the lectern, whence the don went Al Capone on him. The congressman was made into a prop, Exhibit A in a presidential tirade that mocked his plan and his party as scourges of the elderly, the destitute, and the chronically ill.

It wasn’t that way in Cairo in June 2009. That was when al-Azhar University — the font of Sunni theology and training ground for the virulently anti-American clerics who green-light jihadist terror — sponsored his eagerly awaited oration on U.S. relations with the Muslim world. As usual, the speech was specious: a whitewash of the legacy of Islamic savagery, the expurgation of violent injunctions from Islamic scripture, historical ignorance of the Jewish claim to Israel, and even the adoption of “resistance” as the euphemism for Palestinian terrorism — a touch that must have brought a smile to the faces of Hamas and the president’s pal Rashid Khalidi, the former PLO mouthpiece turned Columbia professor.

More interesting than the speech, though, was the guest list. The Obama administration made a point of inviting prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood. And they didn’t get the Paul Ryan treatment. This really was an olive branch, more like the Corleones having the Tartaglias over for a sit-down. The ramifications rumbled through both Egypt and the United States.

The Mubarak regime fulminated. The Brotherhood was at that time a banned organization — having attempted to murder one of Mubarak’s predecessors and succeeded in offing the other. Now, of course, after more than two years of what passes for Obama’s foreign policy, gone is Mubarak — a despot to be sure, but a staunch American ally against terrorism, and one who kept the peace with Israel for 30 years. Poised to fill the power void is the Brotherhood, anti-American Islamists who seek to disappear Israel (for starters) but who lull progressive elites by smearing the catnip of democratic rhetoric over their pursuit of a sharia state.

Still, we don’t control Egypt. We have to take it as we find it, and that means taking it as a predominantly fundamentalist Arab Muslim society where, unavoidably, the Brotherhood enjoys a strong following. Our own country is quite something else. It is in the management of domestic affairs that the Obama administration’s Brotherhood outreach is veering from the outrageous to the downright scandalous.

In 2008, not long before Obama’s Cairo speech, the Brotherhood was proved to be the prime mover in the biggest terrorism-financing conspiracy ever prosecuted by the Justice Department — specifically, by the Bush-era U.S. attorney’s office in Dallas. Five defendants were convicted in the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) case of routing tens of millions of dollars to Hamas during the intifada. As its charter attests, Hamas is the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch. Since its creation in the late 1980s, Hamas’s sustenance has been the top priority of the Brotherhood’s U.S. operatives, including Mousa abu Marzook, who actually ran Hamas from his Virginia home in the early 1990s.

Using documents seized by the FBI from a Brotherhood leader, prosecutors proved that the organization considers itself to be engaged in a “grand jihad” (the title of my book on the subject). The goal, in the Brotherhood’s own words, is to destroy Western civilization from within by sabotage. The Brothers seek to accomplish this through companion organizations they’ve embedded in the West, groups like the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), and CAIR (the Council on American Islamic Relations).

That is why prosecutors designated those groups, along with some of their members, as unindicted coconspirators in the HLF case. As the evidence showed, HLF, ostensibly an Islamic charity, was a piggy bank for Hamas. Not only was it run out of the office space jointly shared by ISNA and NAIT, money for Palestinian jihadists was routed through an HLF account that ISNA and NAIT maintained. Moreover, CAIR was created in the mid-1990s largely because changes in U.S. counterterrorism law made life difficult for groups already on record as Hamas sympathizers. With a clean slate and camouflaged as a civil-rights organization, CAIR would use media savvy to promote the Islamist agenda.

All of this information about the Brotherhood and its American tentacles was very fresh when Obama spoke in Cairo. It was not rumor, innuendo, or “Islamophobia.” It was evidence that had convinced a jury to convict several members of a terror-financing conspiracy. Yet, once the Obama administration took the helm, not only was there no further action taken against the unindicted coconspirators; Obama’s outreach to the Brotherhood in Egypt was coupled by similar outreach to the Brotherhood’s American accomplices. Indeed, in July 2009, just a month after the Cairo speech, the White House dispatched Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s old Chicago friend and close political confidant, to be the keynoter at ISNA’s annual convention.

Among the most disturbing lines in Obama’s Cairo speech had been the absurd assertion that “in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation” of zakat — loosely translated as “charitable giving.” As I explained at the time, American law actually places no restrictions on Muslim charitable giving. What is prohibited is material support to terrorism. It is well known that many purported Islamic charities are, like the HLF, fronts for financing terrorism. Unfortunately, it is not as well known in the United States that, in Islamist ideology, one of the eight legitimate categories of zakat is funding for those fighting in Allah’s cause — e.g., jihadists such as Hamas. (I told you it was loosely translated.) That is, using charities to finance terrorism is not a scam that pulls the wool over contributors’ eyes; it is mainstream Islam — a fact we would know if the government hadn’t spent the last 20 years insisting that terrorism has nothing to do with Islam.

Obviously, there is only one way to ease what the president disingenuously portrayed as U.S. legal restrictions on Muslim charitable giving: The Justice Department would have to suspend material-support prosecutions against Islamists who use Muslim charities as conduits for terror financing. In other words, DOJ would have to stop bringing cases such as the HLF prosecution.

Have you noticed any cases like that in the last two years? Me neither.

And now, just in case you were wondering whether that’s a coincidence, we have even more reason to know it is not. At Pajamas Media on Thursday, terrorism researcher Patrick Poole broke the news that the Obama Justice Department has put the kibosh on the Dallas U.S. attorney’s plan to bring follow-up terror-financing cases against some of the unindicted coconspirators from the HLF case.

Relying on “a high-ranking source within the Department of Justice,” Poole reports that a top CAIR official and several other HLF accomplices have been spared from indictment thanks to the intercession of attorney general Eric Holder’s minions. There is said to be a mountain of evidence collected over the course of a decade, but the political decision not to prosecute means it may never see the light of day — and these Islamist organizations and their operatives will be able to continue passing themselves off as moderate Muslim champions of social justice, just like the Brotherhood.

Poole asked why his source was coming forward at this point. The answer was chilling:

Until we act decisively to cut off the financial pipeline to these terrorist groups by putting more of these people in prison, they are going to continue to raise money that will go into the hands of killers. And until Congress starts grilling the people inside DOJ and the FBI who are giving these groups cover, that is not going to change. My biggest fear is that Americans are going to die and it will be the very Muslim leaders we are working with who will be directly or indirectly responsible.

As the Obama administration’s rough treatment of Representative Ryan shows, it’s not a comfortable time to be a member of Congress who starts asking a lot of questions this president doesn’t want to hear. Fortunately for the economy, it appears that Ryan is not backing down. For the sake of our security, though, somebody up on the Hill better step up. It is past time to ask: What on earth is this administration’s infatuation with the Muslim Brotherhood?

—  Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.

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