Will the Senate Confirm a CIA Director Who Denies the Existence of What the Secretary of State Called “the Global Jihadist Threat”?

In observations conveniently made on the way out the door, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged that the United States faces “a spreading jihadist threat,” led by al Qaeda. [For those who may have forgotten, that would be the jihadist network the Obama administration heretofore told us had been crushed thanks to the president’s steely resolve.] Again and again, Madame Secretary told a senate committee that the administration was now gravely concerned about this growing “jihadist threat” — worried that Syrian chemical and biological weapons could “fall into the wrong hands, jihadist hands”; worried about migrant al Qaeda operatives “who are in effect affiliates, part of the jihadist syndicate”; and worried about the “complicated set of allegiances between jihadist groups.”

Sounds like a huge national security challenge, no? Only problem is that President Obama’s nominee to head the nation’s premier intelligence agency denies that there is a jihadist threat.

Our enemies, John Brennan insists, “are not jihadists, for jihad is a holy struggle, an effort to purify for a legitimate purpose, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing holy or pure or legitimate or Islamic about murdering innocent men, women and children.” In fact, Brennan, the White House counterterrorism czar through the first Obama term, maintains that the president agrees with him on this point:

President Obama [does not] see this challenge as a fight against jihadists. Describing terrorists in this way, using the legitimate term ‘jihad,’ which means to purify oneself or to wage a holy struggle for a moral goal, risks giving these murderers the religious legitimacy they desperately seek but in no way deserve.

Brennan’s confirmation hearing is today. As Steve Emerson recounts in a comprehensive post on the dreadful nomination, Brennan has repeated the trope that there is no violent jihad numerous times. In shaping Obama’s national security policy, his top agenda item has been to deny the palpable nexus between Islamic doctrine and Islamist brutality, and thus to blind our intelligence community to the ideological underpinnings of the threat against our nation, the West and Israel. Say what you will about Obama’s other nominations, including the hapless Chuck Hagel. Never has there been a more monumental mismatch between man and mission than Brennan and CIA director.

As I have explained here and elsewhere, Brennan’s meanderings about jihad are frivolous. On their face they are silly because Islam and the West do not have a single, consensus value system. In fundamental ways, we don’t agree on what a “legitimate purpose” is.

Even those who buy into the revisionist attempt to evolve the concept of jihad into a personal struggle to “purify oneself” or attain “a moral good” must, if they are being honest, concede that Muslims mean “purity” and “morality” as determined by sharia, Islam’s societal framework. To sharia-compliant Muslims, “purifying” oneself or one’s community might include demanding the killing of apostates and homosexuals, or demanding the suppression of speech that exposes some of the other draconian and iniquitous elements of Islamic doctrine. We in the West would regard these as morally monstrous … but that they are sharia desiderata cannot be credibly denied. A “personal struggle” to achieve them would thus be a legitimate “jihad,” even under Brennan’s interpretation.

But Brennan is also wrong. Reliance of the Traveller, the classic sharia manual endorsed by the hugely influential scholars of al-Azhar University and the Muslim Brotherhood’s American think-tank, the International Institute of Islamic Thought, flatly instructs: “Jihad means to war against non-Muslims.” As Emerson’s report points out, this is completely consistent with the teachings of Brotherhood icons Hassan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb. I elaborated on this theme in The Grand Jihad:

Bernard Lewis, the West’s preeminent scholar of Islam, points out that “the overwhelming majority of early authorities, . . . citing relevant passages in the Koran and in the tradition, discuss jihad in military terms.” The encyclopedic Dictionary of Islam, first published by the British missionary Thomas Patrick Hughes in 1886, defines jihad as “a religious war with those who are unbelievers in the mission of Muhammad.” So entrenched is jihad’s nexus with violence that forthright Islamophiles concede it. In The Age of Sacred Terror, for example, the former Clinton officials Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon claim that a “domestication of jihad” has transformed it into an “internal battle” for personal betterment waged through “acts of charity, good works in society, and education.” Still, they ruefully attest that jihad grew up as “exclusively actual, physical warfare,” and that the “domestication” they perceive is a “modern-day” contrivance.

Jihad is the tenet that drives Islam’s aggressive supremacism. An accurate understanding of it explains not only al Qaeda’s global terrorist rampage. It gives one a firm grasp of why Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan — not just movement jihadists but rank-and-file Muslims — are rabid about driving Western forces out of their countries and adamant in rejecting Western institutions. It tells you why the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt was hellbent on imposing a sharia constitution despite both significant opposition from minorities and behind-the-scenes discouragement by Western governments from which Cairo desperately needs financial aid. Understanding jihad, understanding the ideological underpinning of the threat against the West, understanding the fact that this ideology has an unbreakable grip on the Middle East precisely because it is inextricably tied to Islam’s religious elements — this is what we need from our intelligence community. This is what enables the CIA to predict what those hostile to us will do. This is what enables us to defend ourselves and navigate a complex, dangerous world.

It is exactly what we will not get from Brennan. Not only does he deny the undeniable. He has invited Muslim supremacists to dictate counterterrorism policy, relying on Islamist experts — whom the administration still refuses to identify — to help the administration purge the manuals and courses used to train our national security agents of information Islamists consider offensive. Emerson’s important post includes the letter Brennan wrote to Islamist activists, acceding to their demands.

Will the senate committee considering Brennan’s nomination finally force the “most transparent administration in history” to disclose its Islamist advisors?

Will the senate committee confirm a man who denies the existence of what Secretary Clinton described as a growing jihadist threat?

Will the senators allow the CIA to be steered by the very incarnation of willful blindness?

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