Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and a columnist for National Review. His book Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad (Encounter Books, 2008), has just been released in paperback with a new preface. Check out a description from Encounter Books. His new book, The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America, is to be released by Encounter Books in late May.
FP: Andy McCarthy, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Amnesty International supports individuals such as Former Gitmo detainee Moazzam Begg. Tell us what exactly is going on here.
McCarthy: Jamie, it’s great to be here, as always.
People need to understand what Amnesty International is: a hard-left political organization. It is one of the bastions of what John Fonte calls transnational progressivism, and it’s agenda is a post-sovereign world theoretically governed by an abstraction AI calls “international humanitarian law” but, as a practical matter, ruled by the leftists who make up what this purported corpus of “law” means as they go along (just as they make up what “social justice” and other such abstractions mean to suit the exigencies of the moment).
This is not to say that AI is without authentic human rights activists. There are many people who are dawn to AI because of its admirable historic mission to pressure authoritarian governments that are serial human-rights violators. But as an institution, AI is a just another leftist hack, and the country it most chooses to pressure is the United States, for the American people’s great crimes of being free and self-determining and being uninterested in a post-sovereign order, and for pursuing our interests in the world, including our national security.
Moazzam Begg is a Taliban jihadist and former Gitmo detainee. The invaluable Tom Joscelyn (of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies) has done a great deal of work exposing him — such as in this Weekly Standard essay, which collects other Begg links. Much like CAIR, Begg has discovered that if you swaddle your Islamist activism in the rhetoric of human rights, and be sure to target the United States and Israel as the cause of the world’s problem, the hack leftist organizations will flock to you regardless of the atrocities you’re willing to commit or defend. Thus has AI made common cause with Begg and his British organization, “Cageprisoners.” That this should happen is not at all surprising to anyone who does a comparative study of leftist ideology and Islamist ideology — which is the subject of a book I’ve just finished, The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America, to be released by Encounter Books in late May.
Of course, the tie between AI and Begg is upsetting to individual, authentic human rights activists, both because it associates their cause with an ideology that rejects basic human freedoms (conscience, equality of the sexes, equality of Muslims and non-Muslims, sexual orientation, the ability to legislate irrespective of sharia dictates, etc.), and because it holds up the mirror to what AI really is (as opposed to the utopian vision of AI that caused them to gravitate to it in the first place).
FP: What happened to Gita Sahgal, head of AI’s “gender unit,” recently and what is the significance?
McCarthy: Gita Sahgal protested AI’s association with Begg, and AI responded by censuring and suspending her. That is, AI decided its alliance with an unabashed Islamist who has predictably become a darling of the left was more precious to it than the inconvenient fact that this alliance betrays everything that AI purports to stand for. Of course, any objective person looking at AI’s record could have told Ms. Sahgal that AI had long ago crossed that Rubicon. But the Begg connection and the way AI is clinging to it gives us one of those welcome “king has no clothes” moments.
FP: There was a petition against AI recently for all of this and AI Secretary-General Claudio Cordone responded by defending “defensive” jihad, right? What happened?
McCarthy: That’s right, Jamie. In response to the petition, Cordone has issued a letter in vigorous defense of AI’s collaboration with Begg and Cageprisoners. Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism has the story, here. In the letter, Cordone states AI’s position outright: advocacy of “jihad in self defence” is not antithetical to human rights. Of course, that is absurd. Islamists reserve unto themselves the right to determine when Islam is, as they put it, “under siege,” and when, therefore, forcible jihad is justified in “self-defense.” As we’ve seen too many times to count (including throughout the Taliban’s reign in Afghanistan), Islamists have a very low threshold for what constitutes an “attack” on Islam. The “self-defense” canard, as Robert Spencer has demonstrated repeatedly (see, e.g., here), is just camouflage for what is a very aggressive offensive jihad campaign, involving both force and stealth. All this is plainly of no concern to AI — again, for AI, only actions America’s self-defense are worthy of condemnation.
FP: What does all of this mean about AI?
McCarthy: Simply stated, I think it demonstrates that AI and its wider movement are fraudulent. Maybe it was once about human rights. But now it is just about the international left’s campaign against human freedom.
FP: Well, all of this has very much to do with, as you say, the romance between the radical leftist and radical Islam. You have done a comparative study of leftist ideology and Islamist ideology in your new book coming out in May, The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America. Can you tell us a bit of where leftist and Islamist ideology meet?
McCarthy: They meet in two very important ways, Jamie: One I’ll call ideological and the other tactical. On the ideological front, it seems to be conventional wisdom that Islam and the Left are antagonists. That’s a very shallow analysis, relying on a handful of issues on which the two are at odds: women’s rights, gay rights, abortion, and a few others. But in fact, Islamist ideology and Leftism have a great deal in common. They are totalitarian, revolutionary, corporatist systems in which the central authority seeks to control all aspects of the individual’s life. The individual is not seen as free and independent; he is just a cog in the wheel whose value lies in his usefulness to whole, as determined by the central authority.
The greatest obstacle to the aspirations of both ideologies is a system premised on individual liberty and rooted without apology in Western culture. That is to say, the greatest obstacle is America’s constitutional republic. And that gets us to the tactical aspect. Not only do Islam and the Left have structural similarities; they have the all important common enemy that has to be eliminated, or at least transformed into something radically different, if they are to thrive.
This is not to trivialize the differences between Islamism and what — as I detail in the book — our friend David Horowitz calls neocommunism (in his insightful book on this topic, Unholy Alliance). Marriages between the two have occurred frequently, especially in the last century. They endure only until the common enemy is eliminated, at which point the two are sure to turn on each other.
FP: Andy all of this appears so bizarre and depressing, and there is so much to be pessimistic about. The Left is in power, the Left has control of our culture in so many ways. It’s now even normal that the most known human rights organization in the world sides with Islamic jihad. The jihadists are winning on so many terrains. What concerns you the most? And what can and must average citizens do? And give us some grounds for hope and optimism. Where are we winning and where and how can we successfully protect ourselves and score a blow for liberty?
McCarthy: Jamie, the best things we have going for us in a period of ascendancy for Islamism and Leftism are … Islamism and Leftism. They are dead ends, roadmaps to a loss of liberty that liberty-loving people will not tolerate. We are seeing that in the Tea Party movement and the grassroots rejection of statism. The questions are whether the Unholy Alliance will do incurable damage before the people can wrest control from it, and whether new leadership will have the stomach (and it will take a strong one) to roll back the advances of statism and address its root cause: our wayward conception of why we have a central government and what its role should be. I’m not sure how we will answer these challenges because they are daunting. But I am encouraged by the appetite growing in the country — albeit not in the political class — to take them on in a serious way.
FP: Andy McCarthy, thank you for joining us.