POLITICAL DECEPTION ABOUT ISLAM.

 

Caliphate Accomplice

NOVEMBER 29, 2015 11:05 AM
BY A. J. CASCHETTA

At the G-20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey, Barack Obama gave one of the most bizarre performances of his presidency. The November 16, 2015 speech was notable, first, for its gloating over imaginary successes at a time when failures are evident and, second, for the emergence of a new strategy against the Islamic State (ISIS).

In the gloating category, the president touted his administration’s handling of Libya 26 days after Congressional hearings exposed the lies of Benghazi, boasted of improving worldwide airline security 17 days after an ISIS bomb downed a Russian passenger jet, and hectored his political foes for suggesting he reconsider accepting thousands of refugees from Syria just 2 days after it was learned that one or more of the Paris suicide bombers had come to France from Syria as refugees. It was as though he was trying to eclipse the bad timing of his November 13 interview with George Stephanopoulos, when he claimed to have “contained” ISIS only hours before the Paris attacks.

But the short speech and the long Q&A session were even more remarkable for illustrating the administration’s deliberate tactic of attempting to embarrass and belittle ISIS verbally – as though words alone will halt its growth. The president referred to ISIS as “simply a network of killers,” “a handful of people who don’t mind dying” and “killers with fantasies of glory.” He drew the facile conclusion that “ISIL pretends that they’re a functioning state” and that “we play into the ISIL narrative when we act as if they are a state.”

While it is true that military power alone is unlikely to defeat ISIS permanently, and that an attack on its ideology is necessary, this new approach is nothing more than the president casting aspersions on the Islamic legitimacy of ISIS and downplaying its operational capabilities and significance. As a strategy, it reveals a shocking failure to understand what ISIS seeks to be and what in fact it has become.

Early hints of the president’s rhetorical tactic were evident in his first significant speech about ISIS on September 10, 2014, when he claimed that “ISIL is not Islamic” (a claim few believed). This tactic will undoubtedly have the same effect on ISIS that it had on the Taliban when Bill Clinton and George W. Bush contested Mullah Omar’s Islamic bona fides and called his regime’s crimes “un-Islamic.” As Daniel Pipes pointedly asked fourteen years ago, “realistically, which Muslims accept spiritual guidance from the White House?”

Also evident in that first speech was an early version of the attempt to downplay ISIS’s significance by asserting that it “is recognized by no government, nor the people it subjugates.” Seeking to counter Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s claim that he had restored the caliphate, Obama decreed: “ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.”

But al-Baghdadi’s proclamation of a caliphate and desire to expand the territory ruled by Sharia law are part of a very clear vision. Failing to recognize that vision may have been excusable in September of 2014, but not on November 16, 2015.  The president’s apparent belief that ISIS’s existence depends on his recognition is downright solipsistic. ISIS is an Islamic polity that holds territory greater than Great Britain, stretches over three continents, and has demonstrated the ability to project power throughout the world. It is more powerful than many states, and far more dangerous than all but a few. It is a caliphate accompli.

Obama is not alone in his view. Current Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri claims that al-Baghdadi is not worthy of the name caliph.  The International Union of Muslim Scholars, one of Yusuf Al-Qaradawi’s projects, found al-Baghdadi’s declaration illegitimate and pronounced it “null and void.”

Many Western analysts concur. Writing in the Guardian, William Dalrymple finds al-Baghdadi’s “self-declaration” dependent on a “flimsy legal basis.” Jocelyne Cesari, director of Harvard University’s “Islam in the West” program and Georgetown University’s “Islam in World Politics” program, argues that since “most historical caliphates were actually fairly tolerant political entities” al-Baghdadi’s claim is “kind of ridiculous.”

Worse still, Raymond William Baker, excerpting his book for Salon.com, argues that “The United States is at war with a very different, mythic Islam of its own making that has nothing at all to do with this Islam of the Qur’an. To make sense of that conjured threat, scholarly studies of Islam or Islamic movements are of no help at all.” The president appears to be following Baker’s advice.

Of course Baker is profoundly wrong, for the history of the Islamic Caliphate is enormously instructive. According to Islamic tradition, after the death of Muhammad in 632, a leader was required to rule the empire created by what the Koran calls the “Seal of the Prophets.” That leader became known as the Caliph (Arabic for “successor”), and his empire was called the caliphate. Muhammad’s follower and friend Abu Bakr was named the first Caliph – clearly Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has chosen his nom de guerre carefully.

Islamic tradition refers to the first four Caliphs as the “rightly-guided Caliphs” who ruled the empire from the origin of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula. Then came the Umayyad dynasty which ruled the caliphate from Damascus, followed by the Abbasid dynasty which ruled from Iraq. By the 10th century, the caliphate had grown so large that it ceased effectively to be governed by one entity and fell into a state of tribal dominance. First came the Buyids, then the Seljuqs, and finally the caliphate was subsumed by the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman growth was not stunted until the Battle of Vienna on September 11, 1683, which began its two-century slide into a steadily smaller and less influential entity.

Abolition, for all practical purposes, came after World War I, when the triumphant French and British Empires carved up the Ottoman Empire, but it officially came when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk announced its dissolution in 1924. Nearly a century of irredentism followed, leaving a trail of Islamists longing for the Caliphate’s restoration.

The first serious attempt to restore the caliphate began with Hasan al-Banna’s Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Cairo in 1928. But perhaps the idea was expressed most succinctly by Syed Abul Ala Maududi’s concept of a “World Revolution.” Speaking at the town hall in Lahore, Pakistan on Iqbal Day, April 13, 1939, Maududi announced that “Islam does not intend to confine this revolution to a single State or a few countries; the aim of Islam is to bring about a universal revolution.” Osama bin Laden was essentially following Maududi in his quest to unite the numerous competing Islamic vanguards into the “World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders” in 1998.

So while the president denies that ISIS is anything other than a second-rate terrorist group (formerly the junior varsity), it functions very much like a state: minting its own currency, printing its own passports, and running its own schools (which reject the instruction of art but specialize in the art of suicide bombing).

Like the original caliphate, ISIS seeks to expand. By reaching out to other Islamists and terrorist organizations, al-Baghdadi is following Maududi’s vision of amalgamation. In October 2014, the Pakistani Taliban pledged allegiance to ISIS, prompting fears that the Afghan Taliban will follow suit. In March 2015, Boko Haram pledged allegiance. In October 2015, factions of the Somali group Al-Shabaab pledged allegiance. In fact, according to the Intel Center, 35 Islamist terror groups have pledged allegiance to ISIS, making Maududi’s dream of all the vanguards coalescing into one United Jihad Front look like a reality.

ISIS has made inroads and struck across the entire Maghreb: cells have been broken up in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, and Egypt. The new Caliphate is even encroaching on the remnants of the Ottoman Empire, where it has carried out a suicide bombing in Sucruc, and killed vocal critics of ISIS such as Ibrahim Abdulqadir and Fares Hamadi.

The fact that ISIS holds significant territory and is capable of threats more like those posed by nation states than by clandestine terrorist organizations might lead some to include it in a category dubbed the “gray area phenomenon” – which according to Bruce Hoffman denotes a terrorist organization that controls “immense regions or urban areas” and poses “threats to the stability of nation states.” Fortunately, when a terrorist group attains this level, it also becomes susceptible to conventional military tactics, as was the case with the Tamil Tigers.

The FBI says it has investigations into ISIS cells in all 50 states – territory where no caliphate ever existed, but where Islamists from Sayyid Qutb to Osama bin Laden have dreamed of conquest. Pretending the caliphate does not exist is unlikely to yield positive results. And yet this fantasy has become a significant part of the “degrade” half of the Obama “degrade and destroy” strategy.

The belief that verbal ripostes and incisive humiliation will degrade ISIS betrays the mindset of an administration still overly impressed with its rhetorical skills. John Keats summed up this delusional thinking nearly two centuries ago when he wrote: “Let the fish philosophize the ice away from the Rivers in winter time, and they shall be at continual play in the tepid delight of summer.” Unfortunately, ISIS cannot be philosophized away.

A.J. Caschetta is a senior lecturer at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a Shillman-Ginsberg fellow at the Middle East Forum.


Police 'covered up' violent campaign to turn London area 'Islamic'

Police have been accused of “covering up” a campaign of abuse, threats and violence aimed at “Islamicising” an area of London.

By Andrew Gilligan
12 Jun 2011
The Telegraph

Victims say that officers in the borough of Tower Hamlets have ignored or downplayed outbreaks of hate crime, and suppressed evidence implicating Muslims in them, because they fear being accused of racism.

The claims come as four Tower Hamlets Muslims were jailed for at least 19 years for attacking a local white teacher who gave religious studies lessons to Muslim girls.

The Sunday Telegraph has uncovered more than a dozen other cases in Tower Hamlets where both Muslims and non-Muslims have been threatened or beaten for behaviour deemed to breach fundamentalist “Islamic norms.”

One victim, Mohammed Monzur Rahman, said he was left partially blind and with a dislocated shoulder after being attacked by a mob in Cannon Street Road, Shadwell, for smoking during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan last year.

“Two guys stopped me in the street and asked me why I was smoking,” he said. “I just carried on, and before I knew another dozen guys came and jumped me. The next thing I knew, I was waking up in hospital.”

“He reported it to the police and they just said they couldn’t track anyone down and there were no witnesses,” said Ansar Ahmed Ullah, a local anti-extremism campaigner who has advised Mr Rahman. “But there is CCTV in that street and it is lined with shops and people.”

Teachers in several local schools have told The Sunday Telegraph that they feel “under pressure” from local Muslim extremists, who have mounted campaigns through both parents and pupils – and, in one case, through another teacher - to enforce the compulsory wearing of the veil for Muslim girls. “It was totally orchestrated,” said one teacher. “The atmosphere became extremely unpleasant for a while, with constant verbal aggression from both the children and some parents against the head over this issue.”

One teacher at the Bigland Green primary school, Nicholas Kafouris, last year took the council to an employment tribunal, saying he was forced out of his job for complaining that Muslim pupils were engaging in racist and anti-Semitic bullying and saying they supported terrorism. Mr Kafouris lost his case, though the school did admit that insufficient action had been taken against the behaviour of some pupils. The number of assaults on teachers in Tower Hamlets resulting in exclusions has more than doubled from 190 in 2007/8 to 383 in 2008/9, the latest available year, though not all are necessarily race-related.

Tower Hamlets’ gay community has become a particular target of extremists. Homophobic crimes in the borough have risen by 80 per cent since 2007/8, and by 21 per cent over the last year, a period when there was a slight drop in London as a whole.

Last year, a mob of 30 young Muslims stormed a local gay pub, the George and Dragon, beating and abusing patrons. Many customers of the pub told The Sunday Telegraph that they have been attacked and harassed by local Muslim youths. In 2008 a 20-year-old student, Oli Hemsley, was left permanently paralysed after an attack by a group of young Muslims outside the pub. Only one of his assailants has been caught and jailed.

Even during meetings of the local council, prominent supporters of Tower Hamlets’ controversial directly-elected mayor, Lutfur Rahman – dropped by the Labour Party for his links to Islamic fundamentalism - have persistently targeted gay councillors with homophobic abuse and intimidation from the public gallery.

The Labour leader, Josh Peck, was attacked with animal noises and cries of “Unnatural acts! Unnatural acts!” when he rose to speak. The Conservative leader, Peter Golds, was repeatedly heckled as “Mrs Golds” and a “poofter”.

Mr Golds said: “If that happened in a football stadium, arrests would have taken place. I have complained, twice, to the police, and have heard nothing. A Labour colleague waited three hours at the police station before being told that nothing would be done. The police are afraid of being accused of Islamophobia. Another Labour councillor said that the Met is now the reverse of what it must have been like in the 1970s, with a complete lack of interest when white people make complaints of harassment and hatred.”

In February this year, dozens of stickers appeared across Tower Hamlets quoting the Koran, declaring the borough a “gay-free zone” and stating that “verily Allah is severe in punishment.”

The Sunday Telegraph has learned that during a routine stop-and-search at the time police found a young Muslim man with a number of the stickers in his possession. He was released without charge on the advice of the Crown Prosecution Service. Police also had CCTV images of a second unidentified Muslim youth posting the stickers at a local railway station, but refused to release the pictures for several weeks.

Peter Tatchell, the gay human rights campaigner, said: “The police said no-one was allowed to talk publicly about this because they didn’t want to upset the Muslim community. We’ve made very clear the difference between the Muslim community as a whole and these particular fundamentalists, and the fact that the police wouldn’t publicly say what they knew was an absolute disgrace.”

When the CCTV footage was finally released, in early April, the culprit was quickly identified as 18-year-old Mohammed Hasnath, who last week pleaded guilty to a public order offence and was fined £100. Jack Gilbert, of the Rainbow Hamlets gay group, said a more serious charge should have been brought. “The vast majority of the community saw the material as threatening, but the police were not willing to accept it as threatening,” he said.

Hasnath’s “interests” on his Facebook page include Khalid Yasin, a hate preacher who describes Jews as “filth” and teaches that homosexuals must be killed. Yasin has spoken at least four times since 2007 at the East London Mosque, Tower Hamlets’ most prominent Muslim institution. Although the mosque claims to be against extremism, discrimination, and violence, it has hosted dozens of hate, extremist or terrorist preachers and also hosted a “Spot The Fag” contest.

In the same week that it issued a press release condemning the anti-gay stickers, the mosque was also due to host a “gala dinner” with Uthman Lateef, a homophobic hate preacher.

The mosque is controlled by a fundamentalist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe, which says that it is dedicated to changing the “very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed ... from ignorance to Islam.”

The IFE’s community affairs co-ordinator, Azad Ali, is chairman of the Muslim Safety Forum, an organisation officially recognised by the Met as its “principal [liaison] body in relation to Muslim community safety.” Mr Golds said: “This relationship may explain the police’s feebleness.” The IFE also has close links to the Tower Hamlets mayor, Mr Rahman.

There is no suggestion that any mosque official has been personally involved in any act of violence or intimidation. However, in an email obtained by The Sunday Telegraph, one IFE activist, Abu Talha, used the name of the group to threaten a local Muslim woman who ran a dating agency.

“I am asking you kindly to stop these activities as it goes against the teachings of Islam,” he wrote. “Let me remind you that I have a huge network of brothers and sisters who would be willing to help me take this further…If by tomorrow you haven’t changed your mind … then the campaign will begin.” The dating agency has now closed and the woman has left the area.

Mr Ahmed Ullah said: “There has been a gradual increase in these kinds of attacks, that’s for sure.” A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: “When any allegation of crime is made to us, we investigate appropriately. We will always take action against hate crime in accordance with, and within the confines of, the law.”

Are We At War Against Terror or Islam?
By Thomas D. Segel (03/14/2006)

Harlingen, Texas, March 13, 2006: The Bush Administration keeps telling Americans that we are fighting a war against terror. But, is the country really buying into that vague description of what is going on in our world? With each passing day, the answer seems more likely to be...No!

A Washington Post article dated March 9, 2006 is headlined “Negative Perception Of Islam Increasing”. It states, “As the war in Iraq grinds into its fourth year, a growing proportion of Americans are expressing unfavorable views of Islam, and the majority say that Muslims are disproportionately prone to violence.”

What the Administration wants to deny is there are growing numbers across the United States that do not buy into the politically correct mantra that Islam is a peaceful religion. Their attitudes have become more and more negative concerning Muslims worldwide with the media reports about Islamic outrage and savagery.

The Muhammad cartoon riots resulting in property destruction and deaths are repeatedly used as examples of Islamic mindset. Political cartoons printed months ago in a Danish paper were used as justification to attack anything Western.

James Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute claims the growing negative attitude of the country is because, “Politicians, authors and media commentators have demonized the Arab world since 2001.”

It is clear there is no “Pro-Arab” attitude in Congress. The votes and comments coming forth from that body were so negative they resulted in a terminated a multi-billion dollar port management contract purchased by an Arab company.

Less than one month ago at the Intelligence Summit in Washington D.C. Brigitte Gabriel, a former news anchor with World News for Middle East television spoke to the committee. FrontPageMagazine.com reported her words on February 20. She said in apart, “As a victim of Islamic terror, I was amazed when I saw Americans waking up on September 12, 2001, and asking themselves ‘Why do they hate us?’ The psychoanalyst experts were coming up with all sorts of excuses as to what we did to offend the Muslim World. But, if America and the West were paying attention to the Middle East they would not have to ask the question. Simply put, they hate us because we are defined in their eyes by one simple word... Infidels.”

Brigitte grew up as a Christian in Lebanon. When she was ten years old Islamic terrorists blew up her home, leaving her buried under the rubble. For the next seven years she lived in a dark bomb shelter. By age 13 she was dressing in her burial clothes before going to bed each night, because she didn’t think she would live until morning. By age 20 she had buried most of her friends, all killed by Muslims. She says that all of Islam has declared and “Intifada” on the West.

A New York Times article on March 11, 2006 contains an even more damning story. Titled “For Muslim Who Says Violence Destroys Islam, Violent Threats” the article explains how Dr. Wafa Sultan, a Syrian-American psychiatrist appeared on Al Jazeera Television and speaking in Arabic bitterly criticized Muslim clerics, holy warriors and political leaders who she claims have distorted the teachings of Muhammad and the Koran for 14 centuries.

The doctor, who was born and raised in Syria, charges that the world is not seeing a clash between religions but a battle between modernity and barbarism. She further feels it is a battle Islam will lose.

Some of her most provocative remarks concerned an unfavorable comparison between Muslims and Jews. Referring to the Holocaust she said, “The Jews have come from the tragedy and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not their terror, with their work, not their crying and yelling.”

“We have not seen a single Jew blow himself up in a German restaurant,” she noted. “We have not seen a single Jew destroy a church. We have not seen a single Jew protest by killing people. Only Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people and destroying embassies. This path will not yield any results. The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them.”

Dr. Sultan says her life changed in 1979 when she was a student at the University of Aleppo in Syria. The Muslim Brotherhood burst into her classroom at the university and killed her professor as she watched. “They shot hundreds of bullets into him, shouting ‘God is great!’”

Since her appearance on Al Jazeera the doctor’s life has been repeatedly threatened, her telephone answering machine has been filled with hate messages and Muslim clerics around the world have condemned her. Even with that, her interview has been replayed on the Internet to more than 1 million viewers and emails of the complete text have been sent to hundreds of thousands around the world.

It is against this backdrop of articles, interviews and news bulletins that Americans have formed their opinions. In a new Washington Post poll 46 percent of Americans were found to have a negative view of Islam. According to that same poll the proportion of Americans who believe Islam helps to stoke violence against non-Muslims has more than doubled since the 9/11 attacks.

So, are we at war against terror or Islam? Only you can answer that question.

 

No Conflict Between Islam and Democracy, Rice Says

Secretary meets with Muslim community representatives in Blackburn, England

There "is no conflict between Islamic values and democratic values," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reiterated April 1 (April Fool’s Day – Don’t believe her) at a press conference in Blackburn, England.

Addressing reporters with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw following a meeting with members of Blackburn’s Muslim community, the secretary said that all over the world – in Great Britain, the United States, India and Indonesia – those who practice the tenets of Islam are also participants in great democracies.

Rice was in the United Kingdom on the third leg of a trip to Europe that began in Berlin on March 30 and included a stop in Paris to meet with French President Jacques Chirac.

The people of the Middle East "are perfectly capable of self-governing," she said in Blackburn. The United States remains steadfast in its belief "that human beings desire democracy and they ought to be supported in that desire," Rice said.

Straw, who moderated the Rice’s dialogue with the Blackburn residents, called it "a serious discussion" of cultures, values and political interests -- "one of the best I’ve ever seen." In addition to the immediate political concerns of the Middle East, the discussion also addressed women’s issues. Straw said he found it "fascinating" to hear the U.S. secretary of state pressed for career advice.

Empowerment of women can have a tremendous effect on entire societies, said Rice, adding, "[W]hen women have economic opportunities and educational opportunities, whole societies do change. … [T]he economic and political empowerment of women makes a difference to people’s lives."

Both foreign ministers answered questions about the U.S.-operated detention center in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Straw repeated the British view that the center should be closed down, but reminded listeners "that this did not happen out of nowhere; it happened as a consequence of the world’s worst ever terrorist attack on September the 11th."

"Guantanamo is there for a reason," Rice concurred, but "the United States doesn’t desire to keep Guantanamo in being any longer that it’s needed because we don’t want to be the world’s jailer."

She added that the facility, where detainees are allowed to practice their religion and are served religiously appropriate meals, should be evaluated based on "the work that’s been done by the people who have been there" rather that on the reports of those who never have visited the detention center, an apparent reference to a draft United Nations report. (See related article.)

For additional information, see Detainee Issues.

Following is the transcript of remarks by Rice and Straw:

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesman
(Liverpool, England)
April 1, 2006

REMARKS

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
And British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
At Blackburn Town Hall

April 1, 2006
Blackburn, England

FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW:  Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Blackburn.  And, Secretary Rice, welcome on your second day of this memorable and historic visit to Liverpool and to Blackburn.  We've just spent an hour talking to representatives of the Muslim community here in Blackburn, women as well as men, a very important point.  And the dialogue that I witnessed -- I simply chaired this -- was one of the best that I've ever seen between a group of people concerned out their heritage, their culture, their religion and their political interests and one of the people who literally helps to lead the world.  It was a very serious discussion.  It covered all big issues, including that of the position of Islam in the world, immediate political issues including Guantanamo Bay, Israel, Palestine, Iraq, and it covered too women's issues, which was fascinating for me and all the other men to listen as Secretary Rice was asked advice by some of the Muslim women present about how they could advance their careers, just as one way or another she seems to have managed to advance hers.  So it was really a terrific hour.

Secretary Rice.

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, first of all, thank you very much, Jack, and I'd like to really thank you and Alice for making the suggestion I come to northwest England and for this second day in Blackburn.  It's really been a great trip and I'm enjoying it immensely.  And I really did very much value the dialogue that we just had.  It was stimulating, it was interesting, it was candid, it was really quite wonderful.  And we talked about a lot of things, but we started with an assertion with which I readily agreed that there is no difference or no conflict between Islamic values and democratic values, that in fact people who practice the Islamic faith live here in a great democracy as great participants in this democracy, as they do in the United States, as they do in India, in Indonesia and other places around the world.  And we talked a lot about how we could further the opportunities for people to solve their differences by politics and by compromise and dialogue, and not by conflict and violence.

It was indeed also wonderful to talk to the women representatives there who raised a number of issues about their own lives, but also about what we could do for the empowerment of women worldwide, which I believe is one of the most important issues that we face.  I said to them that I thought that the empowerment of women really had an effect on whole societies, that when women have economic opportunities and educational opportunities, whole societies do change.  That's with all due respect to men, that educational and economic opportunities of course also important for men, but I think whether you're talking about Africa or Latin America or the Middle East that people will tell you that the economic and political empowerment of women makes a difference to people's lives. 

And so it was a really wonderful opportunity.  I want to thank Lord Mayor for having arranged it and for welcoming us here so warmly and I look forward to the rest of my Blackburn visit.

QUESTION:  Madame Secretary, protestors have greeted you on every leg of this trip.  You can hear them outside now.  Do you feel that your message has somehow been drowned out?

And Mr. Secretary, Guantanamo Bay is one of the key issues that protestors are demonstrating about.  Do you think it is time for Guantanamo Bay to be closed?  The British Government has called it an anomaly which must be ended at some time.  Should there be a timeline set for its closure?

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, first of all, Sue, to a certain extent the protestors make my point, that democracy is the only system that allows people to be heard and to be heard peacefully.  And it is the President's contention that that is the reason that when there are more places that people's voices can be heard peacefully, especially in the Middle East, we're all going to be far better off.

And indeed I've been very warmly welcomed.  I've also noticed the people waving along the streets.  I noticed the considerable gathering of people from Blackburn just on the other side of the demonstrations, and I'm hearing their voices equally clearly and equally well.  And so the opportunity to come here and to be in this very diverse and very interesting community that has come back from very tough times has really been stimulating for me and I've enjoyed it and I'm glad I did it and I look forward to seeing other parts of other countries in the world because I think it's important to get outside of capitals. 

FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW:  I want to comment on Guantanamo Bay.  Let me just say this, that I hope that one of the things that is reported from this morning is the fact that the crowd of people to turn up in support of Secretary Rice's visit here was as least as large as those in front of the town hall who were opposed to her views and mine in respect of Iraq.  And that was a really quite remarkable event that there was that crowd.  It was entirely spontaneous.  It's very unusual to get people to turn up to show that they agree, in this case, with the purpose of a visit.  But it just shows what we've seen right across the northwest, the strength of positive feeling and affection and support for this visit and real gratitude to Secretary Rice for the fact that's she's taken up two and a half days to come to the northwest, actually hear the concerns of the northwest and realize or to experience the rest of the United Kingdom, just as Alice and my visit to Alabama was a remarkable eye-opener for us about the real America beyond the beltway.

In respect of Guantanamo, the Prime Minister has said our opposition, our position, has indeed said it's an anomaly which ought to be ended and that we look forward to its closure.  I may say that it's not that different from what I've heard the Secretary say in public as well as in private that the United States did not want to be the jailer of the world and they do want this matter to be solved.  But we all have to understand, which is the point that the Prime Minister and I make as well as the Secretary, that this did not happen out of nowhere; it happened as a consequence of the world's worst ever terrorist attack on September the 11th.

QUESTION:  Jon Craig from Sky News.  Foreign Secretary, when you say there was a crowd welcoming the Secretary of State, one, I'm not sure it was as big as the crowd of demonstrators are, it was a very big and noisy demonstration in Liverpool last night.  Can I ask you, as the host, how embarrassed you've been by the sort of noise we can still hear now outside and the very big and angry demonstration in Liverpool last night; and, Secretary of State, how irritated you've been that every way you've gone these protestors seem just to follow you around.

FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW:  Can I say I'm not embarrassed in the least.  Should you be here on a normal Saturday morning, the person making the noise outside onto William Street is one J. Straw just down the road there.  And the crowd that I'm talking to, sometimes it gets very lively, but you hear a man on a very good public address system not always agreeing with what he's saying, but he's making, because we practice real democracy here.

As to the size of the crowds, well, I've been on plenty of demonstrations in my life and -- what?

QUESTION:  A few years ago.

FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW:  Well, it may be a few years ago, but I've not forgotten what's a big crowd and a small crowds.  (Laughter.)  And that was not a big crowd either here or in Liverpool.  I mean, I'm not trying to -- well, I am trying to make a few claims, but they said they were going to get busloads and busloads here.  And I'll tell you, well, I didn't think they did very well.  If they'd asked me, I could have done better for them.  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY RICE:  I have seen demonstrations before.  By the way, I'm a university faculty member.  I've seen lots of demonstrations before.  I have seen demonstrations before in the United States.  I suppose these won't be the last demonstrations that I see.  And I find them an exercise in democracy.  I find them not in any way off-putting or in fact all that disconcerting.  I think people are simply expressing their views.  That's just fine.

I also know that when there are demonstrators, there are people who go into the streets to demonstrate, there are an awful lot of people who, in their own private ways, let you know how very welcome you are, like the ladies who came out of shops along the way to wave or the people in the church today or the people down the street, and who do that without organization.  And so I value it very, very much. 

QUESTION:  Madame Secretary, there's been a lot of interest in your comment yesterday that the United States probably made thousands of tactical errors during the Iraq war.  We're obviously very curious about which tactical mistakes would be at the top of your list.  Is it the number of troops for the occupation, de-Baathification, disbanding the Iraqi army, the failure to anticipate the insurgency or some other issue?

SECRETARY RICE:  Glenn first of all -- first of all -- I meant it figuratively, not literally.  All right?  Let me be very clear about that.  I wasn't sitting around counting.  I also said a little later on that I've done this a thousand times.  That probably was also figurative.

Look, the point that I was making to the questioner, and it was by the way in the discussion that we had at the speech, the point I was making to the questioner is that of course, if you've ever made decisions, you've undoubtedly made mistakes in the decisions that you've made, but that the important thing is to get the big strategic decisions right and that I am confident that the decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein and give the Iraqi people an opportunity for peace and for democracy is the right decision.

The other point that I was making to the questioner is that I'm enough of an historian to know that things that looked brilliant at the moment turn out in historical perspective to be mistakes, and that things that looked like mistakes turn out to be -- turn out to have been right decisions.  And so the point was that at some point in time when I go back to Stanford and starting supervising dissertations again, this will be a question that we can look back on with some perspective of time and some perspective of where different steps led. 

But the important point is to underscore that if you don't get right the big strategic decisions, then you're not going to make history and you're not going to have a history -- you're not going to make history in a positive direction because that's how big historical changes happen.  People have to take choices and they're always difficult and they're always turbulent, but I think if you look back on history you'll see that an awful lot of them came out just right. 

QUESTION:  From ITV News.  We saw yesterday a demonstration of more than a hundred schoolchildren, predominantly Muslim schoolchildren, and the representations you've had this morning are largely from the Muslim community.  Do you accept that you've completely alienated the Muslim world, particularly in this country and indeed in America as well?

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, it certainly didn't feel like that in the meeting that I just had.  We had a wonderful and open discussion that was respectful in which we shared our views.  I also met a fair number of Muslim children in the school who were warm and generous and ready to talk.  And I certainly hope that what the Muslim world is seeing, or beginning to see, is that the United States recognizes and President Bush has recognized that there are questions about American foreign policy and perhaps not all people agree, including many Muslims, with some of the things that we've done.

But I would say that probably the most important thing that we've done is to declare for the past 60 years of American policy that in the Middle East, the heart of the problem that we currently face, that the 60 years of trying to buy stability at the expense of democracy is now gone.  There was a kind of Middle East exceptionalism in American policy and that policy was both because we were so concerned about stability but also the President suspects, and he's said it from time to time, that it was also the result of an attitude about certain parts of the world and certain peoples around the world that they really weren't quite ready for self-governance. 

And that premise has been proved wrong time and time again throughout the world and America has now said it's also wrong when we talk about the Middle East, that Muslims, people of the Middle East, are perfectly capable of self-governing, as they're showing here in Blackburn, as they're showing in Dearborn, Michigan, as they're showing in India or in Indonesia.  And so that is the policy change that I would hope would be somehow acknowledged by Muslims, even if they don't agree.  And I don't want to, by the way, assume everybody.  But even people who don't agree with our particular policies, I think would have to acknowledge that that is a change in the way that the United States deals with the Muslim world.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Madame Secretary, you say that you appreciate the protests and this is what democracy is all about, but -- and you appreciate the different views.  But one of the things that you and your Under Secretary of Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes have said is that the dialogue is a two-way street and you're not just there to listen but you're really there to hear about other parties' concerns and perhaps factor that into your foreign policy going forward.

Was there anything that you heard during your visit in Blackburn, during your meeting with the Muslim leaders today, that made you think you might be able to take this back when you're factoring your foreign policy?  Is there something that you might do differently in terms of U.S. policy towards Muslim countries?

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, I certainly think that you hear a passion about a number of issues that I think is very important.  You hear passion about the plight of the Palestinians and I think everybody recognizes that these are people who live in extraordinarily difficult circumstances and where the President has said that the only answer to stability in the region for both Israel and the Palestinian people is to have a Palestinian state.  And one person asked me, you know, are you prepared to try to seize the moment for the development of a Palestinian state, and I said that it's an issue that I think about all the time and that given changes in the region, of course we're going to, even with the elections, we would very much value an opportunity to try and bring about a Palestinian state.  And so it's experiential; you do hear people's passion and that's important.

And of course we are always evaluating where we are, but I think the United States is on a course that is dedicated to the proposition that human beings desire democracy and they ought to be supported in that desire for democracy.  It's true that the dialogue is two-way and what I really like about our sessions today is that I felt that I had a chance to listen and process, but I also think that other -- that people listened to me.  Because it does have to be a two-way street.

So of course we'll constantly look at what our policies are and adjust to the circumstances, but the one thing that I don’t think needs adjustment and the one thing that I think has to stay absolutely steadfast, is the belief that people deserve to govern themselves, they deserve to be able to speak freely, and that the United States of America simply has to stand for that even if sometimes people don't like some of the policies that that leads to. 

QUESTION:  Madame Secretary of State, a couple moments ago the Foreign Secretary said that he looked forward to the closure of Guantanamo Bay.  Do you share that same wish?  And if so, can you give us some idea of the time frame in which that may happen?

SECRETARY RICE:  I've said to the Foreign Secretary and to many others the United States doesn't desire to keep Guantanamo in being any longer than it's needed because we don't want to be the world's jailer.  That's not the United States because it's not U.S. policy. 

But we have to recognize that Guantanamo is there for a reason.  It's there because we captured people on battlefields, particularly in Afghanistan but sometimes, frankly, on the battlefields of our own democratic societies, who were either plotting or planning or actively engaged in terrorist activities.  And we have released hundreds of people from Guantanamo.  It is not as if everybody who was in Guantanamo on October 1st, 2001 or January 1st, 2002 is still in Guantanamo.  We have gone out of our way to try to release people.  We've released British citizens back to Great Britain.  We've done that with many different countries.

But there are some people who cannot either be safely be released to their countries or certainly safely released, and there are people for whom the value of the information that they have is still relevant to the fight against terror. 

But I would just ask:  What would be the alternative?  If the alternative is to release people onto the streets so that they can do harm again, that we're not going to do.  If the alternative is to try people, that we want to do.  And we are looking for the means to do that, including the fact that the fate of military commissions is being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court, and so I'll say nothing more about that since it's a court case.

But I want to assure you, the reasons for Guantanamo have to do with the necessities of keeping very dangerous people off the streets.

I want to say one other thing.  A number of people who have been to Guantanamo actually understand better the efforts that we've undertaken to make it a place where, for instance, people are able to practice their religious practices, in which they get religiously appropriate meals, and so on and so on, reading materials and the like.  And we offer very often for people to go to Guantanamo.  Sometimes people decide to write reports even though they haven't been to Guantanamo.  And so I would just suggest that people look at some of the work that's been done by people who have been there. 

But that's not to say that we will not be very glad at the day that conditions permit the closure of Guantanamo and the trying of its inhabitants or for their release. 

FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW:  Good.  Thank you very much indeed.  Thank you.

 

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