My name is Emerson, Steve Emerson

Many of the inhabitants of Birmingham were surprised to learn from Fox News yesterday that their city has become an ‘entirely Muslim’ city which non-Muslims ‘simply don’t go in.’ But no one familiar with Steven Emerson, the pundit who expounded these views, will be surprised at all.     In the United States Emerson is one of the most prominent members of that highly-dubious breed known as the ‘terrorism expert,’     whose expertise consists of an ability to offer up interpretations of terrorism that certain governments and media want to hear.

Emerson’s particular forte has always been ‘Islamic terrorism.’   Like many American terrorism experts, he has close ties to Israeli intelligence and Israeli security thinktanks, but even more than most he has always shown a remarkable ability to make fact-free and often nonsensical statements and assumptions that invariably conflate Israel’s enemies with those of the US.

Emerson has been in this game for a long time.   In 1994 he made a documentary called Jihad in America, which claimed that the US was riddled with jihadist sleeper cells. In the immediate aftermath of Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 bombing of the Alfred Murrah building in Oklahoma City he famously told a CBS interviewer that the bombing was carried out ‘with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible.   That is a Middle Eastern trait.’

Emerson played a key role in the US government’s 11-year persecution of Palestinian academic Sami al-Arian in Florida, that began in 2003 when al-Arian was arrested on charges of assisting suicide bombings in Israel, and ended last July when all charges against him were dismissed.       After the 2013 Boston marathon bombings,   Emerson claimed that a Saudi national was responsible, though it subsequently turned out to be Chechens.

None of this has prevented the former sociology graduate from doing very well for himself, because ‘experts’ like him will always be in demand in certain circles regardless of their insight, analytical ability, or the accuracy of their information.   Emerson is the director of a tax-exempt ‘non-profit research group’ called the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), whose finances have come under scrutiny for channeling funds into another for-profit company that he himself controls.   In 2010 the Nashville newspaper the Tennessean described Emerson as ‘ a leading member of a multi-million-dollar industry of self-proclaimed experts who spread hate toward Muslims in books and movies, on websites and through speaking appearances.’

This is exactly what Emerson was doing yesterday, and that was what Fox News interviewed him for.   Emerson has since issued an apology to the ‘beautiful city of Birmingham’   for his ‘mistake’ and declared that ‘ I do not intend to justify or mitigate my mistake by stating that I had relied on other sources because I should have been much more careful.’

But his ‘mistake’ was only one component of an interview that was steeped in Islamophobic fantasies and deliberate lies.       The interview took place only the day after Rupert Murdoch tweeted that all Muslims must be held responsible for the ‘growing jihadist cancer’ in their midst, and Emerson and his interviewer were both singing loudly from the same hymn sheet.

The interview was part of a post-Paris report on the   ‘terrorist sleeper cells’ and the ‘hundreds of no-go zones’ across Europe that according to the stunningly witless interviewer were ‘off-limits to non-Muslims.’

If you’re going to make nonsensical assertions like this you need to have a certain kind of expert that you can rely on, and that’s why you call Steve Emerson. Yesterday he  rose to the occasion. Emerson described these ‘zones’ as ‘amorphous.  They’re not contiguous necessarily. But they are safe havens’,  where governments ‘don’t exercise any sovereignty’, where the police don’t enter, where Shar’ia law holds sway, and ‘Muslim density is very intense.’

Not as intense as the density emanating from Emerson or his interviewer’s face, whose stupefied expression of gormless horror is worth the price of admission, as Emerson tells her that these ‘zones’ are ‘like a separate country almost, within a country.’

How does Emerson know this?   Well he doesn’t ‘know’ it exactly, but he doesn’t need to, because his ‘no go zones’ concept comes straight out of the ‘counterjihad’ Eurabian playbook, as written by Bat Y’eor, Melanie Phillips, Robert Spencer et al.       Emerson’s interviewer laps this up and even makes a ‘point’ of her own, observing ‘ You know what it sounds like to me Steve?   It sounds like a caliphate within a particular country.’

Yeah, it really does, doesn’t it?   Well it does to our ‘terrorism expert’ anyway, who agrees wholeheartedly and adds ‘ It’s almost like what they’re asking Israel to do, which is to set up a separate state within their own state.’

Huh?     Oh never mind.   Because the great problem, according to Emerson, is that European governments are not ‘dealing with it’ and are in active denial about these zones, even though the   ‘French official website’ says that they do exist and ‘actually has a map of them.’

I’d like to see that map, wouldn’t you?   But I doubt if I could find it, and in Britain it’s even worse, says Steve, because ‘it’s not just no go areas, there are actually cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims simply just don’t go in, and parts of London there are actually Muslim religious police that actually beat and actually wound seriously anyone who doesn’t dress according to Muslim religious attire.’

Crikey, bet you didn’t know that, did you readers?     Well now you do, thanks to Steve Emerson, terrorism expert.     By this time the presenter looks so shocked that you wish someone would give her medication as she breathlessly asks if there is any way to ‘get these zones back’ and worries that they are ‘metastising into a simple takeover’.

Steve, not surprisingly, isn’t optimistic, because every counterjihadist worth his salt knows that European governments are just too hidebound by political correctness to recognize the threat.   So the sage concludes that ‘ Europe is finished, because if you extrapolate the number of Muslims, and I’m not saying that all Muslims are terrorists, far from it, but the leaders of the Muslim organizations in Europe deliberately don’t want to integrate, and so they establish these zones which refuse to integrate and use them as leverage against the host country, as political and military leverage, so will these countries take it back?   I don’t see it happening at this point.’

So it looks like we’re doomed, doomed I tell you, because Muslim ‘leaders’ have deliberately turned Birmingham into an all-Muslim city whose inhabitants refuse to integrate, and they are using it as ‘political and military leverage.’ Steve still has one last nonsensical touch to add to this already remarkable achievement.   Asked about ‘these female terrorists’ like Hayat Boumedienne, he tells the interviewer ‘ there are many of them, well not many, well I can’t give you a specific number’.

Our expert may not be certain whether there are many or not many, but he does know that these female terrorists can be found in Britain, ‘where women wear burkhas to hide their identities.’

Phew.   If there was any intellectual activity going on in that interview I sure didn’t see it, but thought and intelligence are clearly not the priority here in an interview whose essential purpose to inject a massive dose of bigotry and propaganda into the minds of its credulous audience.

That was why Steve Emerson was there.     And regardless of his little faux pas about Birmingham, the ‘terrorism expert’ didn’t disappoint.




The Eyes of Richard Cheney

Some years back, Faye Dunaway starred in a vaguely kinky thriller called The Eyes of Laura Mars.     Dunaway plays a glamorous fashion photographer who specializes in taking pictures of stylised violence, only to develop a second sight that enables her to see actual murders through the eyes of a real-life killer.   At first sight (if you’ll forgive the expression) this doesn’t have much to do with former American vice-president Richard Bruce Cheney, but bear with me.

Cheney is no fashion icon, that’s for sure, but he is a man who has spent a great deal of the latter part of his long career peering into the future imagining what various evil people might want to do to America.   In fact, Americans have been singularly blessed to have such a man keeping watch over them while they sleep.     Because this is a man whose commitment to America’s safety and security has never wavered, a man who has never allowed mere facts to cloud his understanding of our troubled world, and who has the same ability that Faye Dunaway’s character has, to see acts of violence that haven’t yet taken place through through the eyes of those who perpetrate them.

OK, you might say I’m being flippant, in comparing the Vice President for Torture to a fictional character who sees real acts of violence, and you’re right, in the sense that Cheney is a real character who sees fictional acts of violence.   In September 2002, for example,   he told reporters at Meet the Press that Saddam Hussein was refitting his nuclear arsenal, boldly declaring ‘We do know, with absolute certainty, that he is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon.’

Neither then, nor at any other time, did the US intelligence services or anyone else have any such certainty. Nevertheless that same year, Cheney gave a classified one-to-one briefing to the then House majority speaker Richard K. Armey, in which he warned the Texan congressman that Saddam Hussein was ‘making rapid progress towards a suitcase nuclear weapon’ and that the threat from Iraq was ‘  more imminent than we want to portray to the public at large.’

These assertions overcame Armey’s previous opposition to the war, even though Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman later claimed in a 2008 book that Cheney’s assertions ‘crossed so far beyond the known universe of fact that they were simply without foundation’.

The ‘universe of fact’ has never been a comfortable place for a man who knows that beliefs and expectations are always more politically significant than facts, and knows how to present a vision of the future that can serve the interests of the present.

In 2001 he   introduced what journalist Ron Suskind called the ‘one percent doctrine’, into the world, when he declared that ‘ If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It’s not about our analysis … It’s about our response.’

This preference for ‘response’ over the tedious and essentially irrelevant process of ‘analysis’ is the essence of Cheney’s modus operandi.   For Cheney, the fact that something bad could happen is as good as saying that it will happen, and what could happen is always worse than what has happened.

In April 2009 he was warning that there was a ‘ high probability’ that terrorists would carry out a catastrophic attack with nuclear or biological weapons in the near future, and arguing that the possibility of   ‘mass casualty attacks’ could only be prevented by the continuation of the Bush administration’s ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques and surveillance programs.

In June this year, he was peering into his crystal ball once again to tell Fox News – a news outlet with a very similar relationship to facts and ‘analysis’ – that Obama’s failure to follow the Bush administration’s militarist policies were paving the way for the possibility that terrorists would arm themselves with nuclear weapons. Asked by his willing hostess whether ‘we could be on track for something worse than 9/11’, the gimlet-eyed magus of the war on terror was worried, just as worried as he was back in 2003:

‘I think that”s a possibility. You know, I can”t say at this point specifically when something like that might happen. But it would be foolish of us to ignore the extent to which there are people who — terrorist-sponsoring states who have in fact tried to provide nuclear technology.’

It’s disappointing that Cheney, with all his psychic gifts, can’t tell us ‘when’ something like that might happen, but then the fact that ‘the North Koreans…built a nuclear reactor in the Syrian desert’ is enough to demonstrate that nuclear weapons are ‘spreading’, which means it might happen, and with Cheney that possibility can only mean more torturing and more bombing.

Thus there is not surprise to find him back on Fox News this month, warning ‘ I am absolutely certain that someday there will be another mass casualty attack against the United States.   Except next time they will have far deadlier weapons.’

You hear that readers?   The man is absolutely certain.     Describing the murder of James Foley by ISIS as a ‘terrible development’, Cheney then asked Fox viewers to ‘magnify that a million times over because that is what”s in store for the rest of the world if we don”t deal with this crisis.’

These dire pronouncements were accompanied by an attack on Obama’s failure to understand that the world was a ‘mean, nasty place’ and that a ‘strong America’ was required to deal with it.     Nowhere was there any recognition that the catastrophic policies pursued by the Bush administration might have made made the world even meaner and nastier, and contributed directly to the disastrous implosion of Iraq.

But then, no one would expect that from the man with the crystal ball.     What is alarming is that a politician who has lied so often should still be haunting the airwaves and tv studios, still peering out with his gimlet eyes and disturbing snarl, still telling Americans what is likely to happen, when none of the predictions that he made were ever realised.

They say that a prophet is never recognized in his own land.   If only that were true in the case of Richard B. Cheney.

If only more Americans like Richard Armey had not seen the world through his eyes, and looked at it through their own, then a lot of really bad things would not have happened, a lot of ‘folks’, as Barack Obama quaintly called them, would not have been tortured, and many, many people who are now dead would still be alive.



Democrats of the world unite!

Yesterday’s General Assembly resolution against Syria was accompanied by some   quite stirring and lofty rhetoric from Western politicians.   There was U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice defending a tweet condemning Saturday’s veto of a similar resolution by Russia and China as ‘disgusting’ and ‘disgraceful’, on the grounds that:

The fact that Russia and China chose to align themselves with a dictator who is on his last legs rather than the people of Syria, rather than the people of the Middle East, rather than the principled views of the rest of the international community, was indeed disgusting and shameful and I think that over time it is a decision they’ll come to regret when there is a democratic Syria that won’t forget this action.

And William Hague, declaring

The message is unambiguous. The violence must stop immediately. President Assad and the Syrian regime must heed the call of the international community and allow a peaceful political transition to resolve the crisis.    President Assad and those around him should be under no doubt that we will continue to support the Syrian people in their aspiration for a peaceful political transition in Syria.

And Alain Juppé, the French foreign minister, was also insistent that

We must do everything so that the violence ends and that a lot of humanitarian aid is given to the Syrian people.    We are ready to work in New York on a draft resolution inspired by the Arab League to stop the violence and provide humanitarian aid.

Excuse me while I wipe away a tear.  Because it really is quite an emotional experience to hear this outpouring of moral passion and humanitarian concern from our diplomats, like listening to Beethoven or attending a Live Aid concert.   I mean just listen to that sonorous phraseology: ‘people of the Middle East, ‘Syrian people’, ‘ peaceful political transition’, ‘humanitarian aid’, ‘the violence must stop’.

Don’t tell me you aren’t moved by that.   And there you were thinking that the West’s concern for Syria was motivated by the sordid realpolitik of the bad old days, when Western states divided up the Middle East between them and supported Arab dictators and despots with endless flows of weapons and cash,  or flew terrorist suspects to be tortured by its allies in the Global War on Terror, like Morocco, Libya, Egypt…and Syria.

But a sudden excess of principle can be debilitating after such a long absence, like coming off medication too soon, so before you collapse in a blubbering heap, it’s worth keeping a few salient facts in mind that may keep you sober:

1) On the day the resolution was passed, Amnesty published a report on Libya accusing the NATO-backed militias during last year’s civil war  of ‘  committing widespread human rights abuses with impunity, fuelling insecurity and hindering the rebuilding of state institutions’ .

In addition to

‘  widespread and serious abuses, including war crimes, by a multitude of militias against suspected al-Gaddafi loyalists, with cases of people being unlawfully detained and tortured – sometimes to death’

The report also notes that

‘  African migrants and refugees have also been targeted, and revenge attacks have been carried out, forcibly displacing entire communities – while the authorities have done nothing to investigate the abuses and hold those responsible to account.’

2) Throughout the Libya war, there was no ‘humanitarian corridor’ of the kind that Juppe is now advocating in Syria.  In fact NATO rejected various calls to create  a corridor that would have provided humanitarian aid to the tens of thousands of migrants who were stranded in Libya – or ensure safe passage to the thousands who tried to reach Europe by sea, many of whom drowned in the attempt.

In June France explicitly rejected a proposal  for a ‘humanitarian suspension of hostilities ‘ from the Italian government, on the grounds that a ceasefire would weaken the pressure on Gaddafi and allow his regime ‘  to play for time and to reorganise’.  Yesterday however, the European Parliament called for the creation of ‘safe corridors’ that would act as a ‘shield for defectors and dissenters’ in Syria –  ‘corridors’ that will undoubtedly be used as tools to further militarise the conflict.

3)Two days ago, at least 70 people were arrested in Bahrain on the anniversary of last year’s protests, as police fired bird shot, tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters.  Last year dozens of unarmed protesters were shot dead.  Others were tortured to death by security forces, who also dragged wounded protesters from hospital beds.

Bahrain is a key ally of the U.S. and Britain, neither of whom expressed any concern about such repression.   Both countries are leading arms suppliers to the Bahraini government, and British arms sales include shotguns, teargas, stun grenades and other forms of ‘crowd control ammunition.’

4) Contrary to the narratives emanating from Western politicians and the mainstream media, the opposition to Assad’s regime is not ‘peaceful’ – or at least not all of it is.  Last month’s Arab League Observer Mission  refers to the  armed anti-Assad opposition on various occasions, such as its visits to  Homs, Idlib and Hama, where

…the Observer Mission witnessed acts of violence being committed against Government forces and civilians that resulted in several deaths and injuries. Examples of those acts include the bombing of a civilian bus, killing eight persons and injuring others, including women and children, and the bombing of a train carrying diesel oil. In another incident in Homs, a police bus was blown up, killing two  police officers. A fuel pipeline and some small bridges were also bombed.

Even the hapless stooge Ban ki-Moon insisted in his condemnation of the ‘crimes against humanity’ perpetrated by the Assad regime yesterday that ‘  This violence should stop from all sides, whether by national security forces or by opposition forces.’  This week,  U.S. intelligence officials reported  that al-Qaeda may have ‘infiltrated’  Syrian opposition groups and may have carried out last week’s bombings in Aleppo.

If the West were genuinely interested in bringing about a ‘ peaceful political transition in Syria’ it would make sense to pressure both the opposition and the Assad government to negotiate such a transition.   Instead Western states and Gulf Cooperation Council members are currently debating whether to arm the Syrian opposition.

The Arab League has just passed a resolution which will enable it to channel weapons to the opposition, and it is difficult to believe that such operations have not already begun.  The Obama administration has so far ruled out arming the opposition,  but it has also declared, as usual, that all options are on the table, including some form of foreign military intervention.

In the U.S. the ‘arm the Syrian opposition’  school of thought is summed up by former presidential candidate John McCain, and by Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer of the Center for Advanced Defense Studies, who told Fox News:

‘I’d look to engage/recruit proxies to run the arms into the Syrian resistance from member states of the Arab League…much like we did using the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence agency and Army during the support of the Afghan resistance. Again, this is a known method of black ops the U.S. has done – we have folks around who could advise and put it together.’

You can bet they do.  Shaffer does not seem remotely concerned by the fact that the kind of intervention he is recommending for Syria turned Afghanistan into a Cold War battlefield that ripped Afghan society to shreds.   But such indifference is built into the  interventionist mindset.

What if intervention produced a similar outcome in Syria?  What if the democrats who are currently calling for intervention have not the slightest clue about the kind of government that would emerge in Syria and don’t really care?  Could it be that rather than ‘stopping the violence’, Europe, the United States and the GCC are actually interested in intensifying and increasing it, regardless of the consequences for Syrian society, as long as it enables them to destroy the Assad regime, isolate Iran, and further their wider geopolitical interests in the region?

So many questions.  And maybe it’s better not to ask them.  Maybe it’s better to  just close your eyes and let that humanitarian rhetoric wash all over you and fill you with a warm glowing feeling.   And if it wasn’t for the fact that the stench of lies and hypocrisy was so overwhelming, maybe I could.