Daveed Gartnerstein-Ross, an expert on counter-terrorism, is Vice President of Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the organization that the estimable Cliff May runs. Gartnerstein-Ross is himself estimable and he performs yeoman’s work as an opponent of Islamism.
Gartenstein-Ross has come to the defense of Rashad Hussain, the White House attorney who is under fire ( including ours) for, among things, statements he made attacking as a “politically motivated persecution” the prosecution of professor Sami al-Arian. Al-Arian later pled guilty to assisting terrorists. Garenstein-Ross has known Hussain for years and describes him as a friend.
Gartenstein-Ross’s defense of Hussian deserves serious consideration. He does not rely on his own willingness to vouch for Hussain or on conclusory assertions that his friend’s words have been taken out of context. Rather, he examines intelligently, and in some detail, the statements and actions that have prompted criticism of Hussian.
Whether his analysis persuades is another matter. Gartenstein-Ross deals with two main charges: (1) the finding of the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report (GMBDR) that Hussain “has a history of participation in events connected with the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood, as well as support for Brotherhood causes” and (2) Hussain’s statement about the prosecution of al-Arian, described above.
As to the first charge, Gartenstein-Ross’s main defense, to over-simplify a little bit, seems to be that Hussain’s participation in the events in question was a product of “the culture of academia,” in which Hussain — a graduate student in Harvard’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations — was immersed. Readers can decide for themselves whether Hussain’s immersion in the left-wing, stridently anti-Israeli academic culture of advanced Near Eastern studies is a defense to his involvement in events connected with the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood or (as I tend to think) additional cause for concern.
As the second charge, Gartenstein-Ross’s argument (again to over-simplify) is that Hussain’s comments about the al-Arian prosecution and other such matters “stemmed not from an Islamist ideology but rather from a civil-libertarian ideology.” According to Gartenstein-Ross, “it is clear from his 2004 speech that [Hussain] is a Kerry-supporting Democrat rather than a bin Laden-supporting jihadist.
I agree with Gartenstein-Ross that there’s no good reason to think Hussain supports bin Laden or that he is a jihadist. And Gartenstein-Ross is also correct that the statements Hussain made about the al-Arian prosecution are consistent with a certain type of civil-libertarian ideology. However, it’s a bit much to conclude that Hussain is nothing more than “a Kerry-supporting Democrat.” Between “Kerry supporter” and “bin Laden supporter” lies a substantial terrain in which one can sympathize and associate with Islamist enemies of the United States and Israel. The issue is whether Hussain has occupied that terrain in the past and, if so, whether he still does.
As Jennifer Rubin points out, Hussain’s 2004 statement tracks those of “the grievance-mongering lobby of CAIR,” citing “chapter and verse on the supposed persecution of Muslims.” I don’t recall John Kerry presenting this litany of grievances, nor do I recall mainstream Kerry supporters doing so. Moreover, Hussain now concedes that some of his positions were “ill-conceived.” If they were nothing more than standard issue liberal Democratic civil libertarian positions, I doubt he would make this concession.
It seems to me that, taken together, the extreme nature of Hussain’s “civil libertarian” positions, their origins in the playbook of CAIR (not Kerry), and his participation in Islamist-related events, raise serious questions about whether Hussain is a good choice to serve as envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference or, indeed, as a high-ranking official in the administration.
SCOTT adds: Gartenstein-Ross fails to address Hussain’s lack of veracity on the points in issue, about which Hussain’s memory was allegedly hazy until Josh Gerstein turned up a tape of Hussain’s remarks. Hussain’s lack of veracity caused the White House to issue a denial that Hussain had made the remarks. It may not loom large in the context of his support for al-Arian et al., but doesn’t Hussain’s lack of veracity also call for comment? Or the fact that he sought to airbrush his views from the public record? About these interesting aspects of the Hussain case, Gartenstein-Ross has nothing to say.
DAVEED GARTENSTEIN-ROSS writes to note this passage at the end of his post: “This is not to say, of course, that there are no legitimate lines of criticism in this case. Part of politics in the United States is public scrutiny of nominees and appointees. There is now controversy about whether Rashad lied about his al-Arian remarks rather than suffering a memory lapse. If he did lie about the matter, I would find it highly disturbing as a citizen; as a friend, I would fear that it signaled Rashad’s growing cynicism consonant with the process of US politics” (emphasis added). I regret the oversight.
Gartenstein-Ross adds in a message to me (Scott): “The main point of my piece was to contextualize who Rashad is against what I’m sure you’ll agree is the very exaggerated image of Rashad that has appeared in the public debate (obviously I do not include your own work in that category). It is my view that Rashad should resign if he lied about the matter.”
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