It’s hard not to laugh reading The New York Times coverage of the Trump administration’s efforts to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. The three-person-bylined article kicks off by describing the group as a “storied and influential Islamist political movement with millions of members across the Middle East.”
Sounds like a global social club! Just some folks batting around ideas. The authors didn’t even have the decency to throw in a superficial adjective like “controversial” to create a veneer of balance.
Whether the Muslim Brotherhood’s many disparate groups and organizations meet the criteria of a single terror organization under U.S. law is debatable, but what isn’t debatable is that a large faction of the Muslim Brotherhood leads a Sunni movement that aims to implement sharia law under a global caliphate. Its deep network of “charitable” institutions and political parties form an infrastructure for extremist causes.
One could, if not a New York Times writer, describe its philosophy as dogmatic, illiberal, theocratic, and violent; and its “storied” history a long-term threat to secularism, Muslim reformers, liberalism, Christians, and Jews in the Middle East. These days, members of the Muslim Brotherhood advocate for child suicide bombings, political assassinations, mass murder of minorities, violent mobs—basically the entire deadly menu of jihadist activities.
This is context that Times readers would not learn. Nor would they learn that the Muslim Brotherhood helped birth modern Islamic extremism, first to undermine nationalistic Arabic governments, but later moving onto bigger goals. Readers would not learn that Muslim Brotherhood’s spurred the creation of al-Qaeda or that its intellectual founder, Sayyid Qutb, was an inspiration to Osama bin Laden.
Zachary Laub of the Council on Foreign Relations once noted that Qutb’s writings “provided the intellectual and theological underpinnings for many militant Sunni Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda and Hamas.” It would have been easy to include such a quote.
Also not mentioned in the Times’s article is that in 2001, the U.S. government designated the Muslim Brotherhood’s Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, then the largest Muslim charity in the country, a “Global Terrorist” group, whose employees would later be found guilty of funneling millions to terrorists groups. We have already treated Muslim Brotherhood affiliates as terrorists.
Also, one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s most successful offshoots, Hamas—designated a terror group by the State Department in 1997— still runs a mini-terror state in Gaza that not only undercuts any chance of the peace in the region, and not only oppresses its own people with theocratic strictures and fascistic rule, but is also responsible for the murder of American citizens.
Those meanies in the Trump administration, though.
“American humanitarian organizations with links to the group,” the Times informs us, are concerned that Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who deposed Mohamed Morsi, “Egypt’s first democratically elected president,” will expand his power. It’s a popular, but absurd, notion that elected leaders can’t be illiberal. Morsi was a disaster for Egypt and the Middle East and freedom. And, no doubt, it’s an ugly, ethically precarious scene in the Middle East. But the fact is, we deal with plenty of bad guys to fight even worse ones.
The irony of all this is that The New York Times has a deeply ingrained antagonism towards one of the good guys. And it’s when the Times turns to the administration’s morally unambiguous designation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization that we get a true taste of its hostility.
This “novel” move by the Trump administration, we’re told, “prompted alarm among American military, intelligence and diplomatic professionals.” After eight years of institutional coddling the Islamic Republic—and cheerleading from the Times opinion and news pages—the Trump administration moved to designate the Revolutionary Guard, which runs the nation’s ballistic missile program, military aspects of its (supposedly nonexistent) nuclear program, and large parts of its statist economy, to make it easier to implement more sanctions. Yet here’s what the Times deems the problem with this arrangement:
The potential problems included creating a need to grant huge numbers of visa waivers for Iraqi officials who interact with the Iranian military agency; raising the question of whether American officials should start denying visas to members of other countries’ intelligence services that use violence, including Israel, Pakistan and Russia; and risking retaliation against American troops and intelligence officials.
(Incredulous bolding mine.)
Who raised these questions? They don’t say. One wonders what kind of “American official” would make a moral equivalence between Israeli intelligence, an American ally who has engaged in a war against terrorism and existential threats for 70 years, with a military dictatorship and quasi-authoritarian—“democratically elected”!—foe of the United States?
For that matter, what kind of American official would liken the work of Israeli intelligence to that of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, a group that has helped carry out terror attacks against civilians on every continent, funded and trained terrorist proxies that destabilize entire regions, and acted as the Stasi against its own people? (Well, like the Stasi if the Stasi had been run by a fanatical religious Mafia family.)
Does anyone in the State Department really believe that handing out visas to those associated with the Revolutionary Guard, which was involved in killing 608 American troops in Iraq between 2003-2011, is in any way analogous to working with a close ally?
Journalists often speak through proxies who “raise” convenient questions. In addition to the entrenched bias at most major media outlets, Washington now teems with Qatari money and allies, who flood cable news and think tanks and op-ed pages. Their alleged expertise is used to run interference for the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran, and to smear Israel.
Now, on the latter issue, The New York Times hasn’t needed much prodding over the decades. These days, though, it’s getting increasingly difficult to tell the difference between the newspaper of record and Qatari-state-run al Jazeera.