On February 10, 2011, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper appeared before the House SelectCommittee on Intelligence to testify on threats to the United States. Mubarak was one day away from resigning, under pressure from Washington, paving the way for a Muslim Brotherhood takeover, and the situation in Egypt was on everyone’s mind.
Clapper, who would later be accused of altering the CIA talking points on Benghazi to remove any reference to Al Qaeda, assured the members of the Committee that they had nothing to worry about from the Muslim Brotherhood.
“The term ‘Muslim Brotherhood,’” he said, “is an umbrella term for a variety of movements, in the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried Al Qaeda as a perversion of Islam.” Congress and the American people need not fear a Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt. Not when, as Clapper said, “They have pursued social ends, a betterment of the political order in Egypt.”
It was not the first time that the establishment had badly misjudged events and personalities. State Department officials described Hitler’s first Reichstag speech as moderate. The New York Times wrote that that the “men around Hitler hold diverse views.” Reporting on the Nazi boycott of German Jews, the Associated Press wrote that the “left wing of the Nazis had temporarily triumphed over the more moderate wing of Chancellor Hitler.”
Still even by these standards, Clapper was presenting a report from another planet. The one thing that the Muslim Brotherhood was not and could never be was secular. The Brotherhood’s motto, “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope” could be described in a number of ways. Secular would not be one of them.
Nor was the Muslim Brotherhood a mere umbrella group. Its control over its members was tight and absolute. The Brotherhood had purged members and entire subgroups before and would do so again. And while the Muslim Brotherhood found it convenient, at one point, to distance itself from Al Qaeda, every one of Al Qaeda’s leaders, including Bin Laden, had been members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Three months after Clapper’s testimony, the Muslim Brotherhood responded to the death of Osama bin Laden with a virtual endorsement of Al Qaeda, condemning “the assassination of Sheikh Osama bin Laden” and endorsing “the legitimate resistance against foreign occupation of any country” and describing the United States’ presence in Afghanistan as an occupation.
After Mubarak’s resignation, Obama did his best to turn the focus to himself by delivering remarks in which he praised the protests of Tahrir Square as a universal cry for freedom that the world could not ignore. But after Morsi’s power grab led to 200,000 protesters assembling again in Tahrir Square, there was no comment from the White House. The State Department made vague noises that fell far short of an actual condemnation.
As the Iranian protesters had discovered to their chagrin, Obama’s ears could only hear some cries for freedom. While the ears of Obama were highly attuned to any Islamist protests against non-Islamist regimes, they had a built in filter that tuned out any outcries against Islamist governments. This time around the Tahrir Square protesters could not count on any support from Obama. Nor was Obama likely to tell Morsi that he had to go now, as he had told Mubarak.
During the Gaza fighting, Obama Inc. had chosen to ignore Morsi’s threats of war against Israel and his support for Hamas. Instead Obama had lavished praise on Morsi, and the Muslim Brotherhood leader had leveraged the shiny new image that Obama had bestowed on him to become a new pharaoh. And the mainstream media columnists wondering what went wrong had bought a line of spin that depicted a genocidal group funded and inspired by Nazi Germany as a “moderate” movement.
At the end of June 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had told reporters at a news conference that the State Department would be resuming contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood in order to “engage with all parties that are peaceful, and committed to non-violence.” The Muslim Brotherhood was neither peaceful nor non-violent, but Clinton’s certification of it as such helped set the precedent.
Obama’s people had insisted that ten Muslim Brotherhood members be allowed to attend his Cairo speech. They had forced Mubarak and the military to make way for the Muslim Brotherhood. And the only way to avoid criticism for these actions was to portray the Brotherhood as a moderate movement committed to democracy, human rights and all the rest of the trimmings.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s homicidal political language, its constant application of martyrdom to the political process, was a warning sign that it had no intention of participating in the democratic process that Secretary of State Clinton and other State Department officials spoke of. The Muslim Brotherhood viewed elections in the same way that its Hamas cousins viewed suicide bombings: as instruments of a crusade to take power and establish an Islamic state. There was no innate commitment to the tool, only to what it could be used for.
There were those in the media, like Eric Trager at The Atlantic and Richard Engel at NBC News, who warned from the start that the Muslim Brotherhood was neither moderate nor democratic. “In Tahrir Square Muslim Brotherhood members were celebrating their victory, calling it not a win for democracy, but divine intervention,” Richard Engel wrote, and went on to describe the badges featuring Morsi’s photo, the crossed swords of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the quote, “And Prepare.” “And Prepare” means to “prepare for battle against Allah’s enemies.”
Now the battle is being joined. It was joined in Gaza and in Tahrir Square. The Muslim Brotherhood, like the Nazis, views any society, Egyptian or Gazan, as only the raw material for a militarized culture bent on establishing a global Islamist state.
Like the American diplomats and European leaders who put their faith in Hitler’s moderation, their modern successors are having to face the fact that Egypt’s new rulers are as moderate as Germany’s old rulers were. The lie is coming undone in Tahrir Square, but the foreign policy of Obama Inc. has been a stream of lies flowing from Iraq to Libya to Afghanistan and over to Egypt. Egyptians, Israelis and Americans have died because of that foreign policy. And the dying isn’t over yet.