For the 13th anniversary of 9/11, Col. Allen West tells Mida how America has responded – and how it should respond – to Islamic terror.
13 years ago, the worst terrorist attack on American soil took place • Col. Allen West believes that while America started out well, it “took its foot off the gas pedal” and focused too much on appeasing ‘moderate’ Islamist movements • President Obama in particular has led America astray on this issue, alienating allies and emboldening enemies • A talk with a man from the military and political front lines
On the 11th of September, 2001, American experienced the worst terrorist attack in its history. Ever since then, the superpower has struggled to find a way to combat the many-headed hydra of Islamist terrorism, while debating how best to do so at home. ‘Mida’ took the opportunity of the attack’s 13th anniversary to speak with Col. Allen West, a Republican politician and political commentator who served in Iraq and Afghanistan in both a military and civilian capacity, to ask how he thinks America is presently doing in the struggle against radical Islamism, and what it should do to strengthen America’s hand in the ongoing war.
I would like to talk to you about events in the Middle East today, beginning with the upcoming anniversary of 9/11. Do you think America, Israel and the Western world reacted correctly to those attacks on American soil?
Well, I think we did. We went after the organization we felt was responsible – al-Qaeda – and at the time they were based out of Afghanistan and the actions we took at the time were very important. But I believe that, in a way, we took our foot of the gas pedal, and we got sidetracked with other things instead of continuing to focus on Islamic terrorism, or Islamofascism if you want to call it that. I think the problem we have in America since 9/11 to today is that we have tried to define or put Islamic terrorism in a very comfortable box – everything is al-Qaeda. We don’t talk about Hezbalah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, and so we have allowed this cancer to metastasize into a global movement.
You’re effectively saying that there’s a war against Islamic Jihad around the world, and it isn’t one organization or one state.
Yeah, absolutely. I think that the problem that we have in America that we came up with a horrible misnomer called the War on Terror. Terror is a tactic; you can’t fight a tactic. I tell people it would be very much the same if we said we’re going to war against the Blitzkrieg or against the kamikaze. So, America and the West now play a dangerous game of political correctness and avoid declaring who this enemy is. I think good terminology Islamofascism or Islamic totalitarianism. Terrorism is just a tool of that movement. We also need to understand who the premier state actors are, such as Iran, such as Qatar, such as Turkey, such as Saudi Arabia and force them to cut off the funding stream to that movement.
What is your reaction to President Obama when he and Secretary of State John Kerry say that ISIS doesn’t represent Islam, that it’s a radical part of Islam and that they don’t represent their own religion?
Well, I think that this is a dismissive attitude we have from this administration and – let’s be very honest – you had it from the Bush administration, who didn’t really understand the ideology behind the movement, behind Jihadism, behind this new 21st century Islamofascism. If you read the Quran, you read the Hadith, you read the Sura, you see that they are enacting what they are commanded to do through those books and those writings, and so it’s very hard to try and separate the one from the other. The reason why we want to do this in the West is because we are uncomfortable in confronting this, and when you have a movement that says that their activities are based within their religion, you’ve got to accept the reality of your enemy and stop trying to make up some kind of fantasy world.
What went wrong with ISIS? How did we let this happen? Could we have stopped it?
Yes, we could have stopped it. The problem is we have a president who is more wedded to his political ideology than the practical reality of the global situation. So he believed he was elected to end wars, but as I believe Plato said ‘only the dead have seen the end of wars’ […] he made the decision not to pursue a Status of Forces Agreement and to have a residual force in Iraq. When I visited Israel in August 2011 on a Congressional Delegation and we had the time to sit with Prime Minister Netanyahu – he warned us against zeroing out our presence in Iraq, saying it will create a vacuum. That’s exactly what happened: President Obama created a vacuum and ISIS has filled it.
We saw ISIS and what they were doing back even in December/January of this year, when they took over al-Ramadi and Fallujah and Anbar province and we did nothing. As a matter of fact, the President infamously referred to them as a JV team. Well, that’s not the case. And so again, we have allowed this terrorist army to grow, to recruit, to gain large swathes of territory so now it’s almost [the size of] Great Britain. They have a financial stream, they have taken over key infrastructure – oil fields and air fields. So now we have an entrenched force that we’re going to have to contend with and it is a force that will threaten our best ally in the Middle East, which is Israel and is already threatening our second best ally – the Kurdish People.
What is the strategy that America should have against ISIS? [See here for West’s assessment of Obama’s latest speech on ISIS]
There’s only one thing we can do with ISIS, which is the same thing we need to do with Hizballah, with Hamas, with Islamic Jihad, with al-Sharia, al-Qaeda – the whole host of Islamic terrorist Jihadist organizations. We have to destroy them. You know this. In that part of the world, the enemy only understands two things: strength and might. And what has just recently happened between Israel and Hamas, where our administration put pressure on Israel to – again – take their foot off the gas pedal. But you’re going to still have to contend with this situation with Hamas at a later date, because how do you have a cease fire with a terrorist organization whose entire reason for existence is your elimination, your destruction?
Speaking of Hamas, it’s really hard to explain the administration right now supporting Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. How can you explain this?
I cannot explain other than telling you the truth -and that is that President Obama is an Islamist sympathizer. His first phone call was to Mahmoud Abbas, not to Benjamin Netanyahu. His first interview after being elected and seated as President was to al-Arabiya. He talked about his support for the Muslim Brotherhood; when he gave his speech in Cairo in 2009, he was the one who requested that members of the Muslim Brotherhood be seated front and center – the first two rows in that auditorium.
The Muslim Brotherhood is an enemy of freedom, the Muslim Brotherhood killed Anwar Sadat, who wanted to bring more peace with Israel and the Middle East. President Obama supported the Muslim Brotherhood government and he does not show the same type of support for the al-Sisi government today in Egypt. President Obama went into Libya and destabilized the situation there, so now we see Islamist groups are in control of that country. We lost our ambassador and three other Americans, when they attacked our special mission compound in Benghazi, we have evacuated our embassy in the last three weeks, and now we have eleven to twelve civilian airliners that are missing from Tripoli airport and are unaccounted for.
When it comes to Iran – we have backed off from the sanctions on Iran and backed off from holding their feet to the fire on stopping their nuclear development program, and President Obama didn’t support the green movement which was standing up against Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and the Ayatollahs. So, by all of his actions: working with Qatar on a cease fire with Hamas, releasing Taliban members when they’re still fighting us – those are the messages that the President sends. They’re well understood in the Middle East.
Do you think it’s because he doesn’t understand Islam?
No, President Obama is not incompetent. When he declared in 2008 that we are five days away from fundamentally transforming America, he knew exactly what he was talking about and he knew exactly what that agenda was. So, I think you see in all his foreign policy decisions – looking at how we are gutting our military capability and reducing the ability for us to have an influence and a positive global standing – he does not want to have any confrontation, really, with the Islamist forces. Using drones does not show a dedicated strategic objective to defeat Islamic terrorism. Those are pinpricks.
PM David Cameron stated that he was facing a threat from radical Islam outside Britain and inside Britain. Do you think America is facing the problem of radical Islam from inside?
No, we’re not. And that’s very disconcerting for me, because we know that we had two Americans from the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, who were killed on the battlefield in Syria, fighting for ISIS. Instead, we have an Attorney General here in America, Eric Holder, who is more interested in attacking the police department in Ferguson, Missouri for being racist, than going after home-grown Jihadism right here in the United States of America.
As a matter of fact, this Obama administration embraces Muslim Brotherhood associated and affiliated groups and individuals – Mohammad Elibiary – who served as an advisor to the Department of Homeland Security – if you google some of the things that he has said, it will send chills down your back. The Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR), which is no more than Hamas in America, their uninvited co-conspirator, embroiled in the largest terrorist funding funding case – the Holy Land Foundation case – in America’s history. These individuals that are embraced by the administration, so we are not contending with this problem here at home. But the American people are starting to see that and are very concerned; we have a porous open border to the south and it’s very easy for the Islamist elements to come across that border and establish cells and operations here in this country.
You’re saying the American people are starting to see this. How could they reelect Obama after all the serious foreign mistakes he made and the bad economic situation he’s left.
When you have a very complicit progressive-socialist media like we have here in the US, that’s what the American public paid attention to. So, in 2012, when Obama said that Osama Bin-Laden is dead, al-Qaeda is decimated and on the run, everyone just took it at face value. Now we’re starting to see and experience the true failures of his foreign and economic policy, but you still have a media that’s trying to stand up for him, and even worse, you have an American Jewish community that is still heavily supportive of the President even when it is heavily obvious how much disdain he has for the State of Israel. So, I think there is even a schism between Israeli Jews and American Jews as far as their support for this president.
Recently, you wrote an article on a speech you think Benjamin Netanyahu should give. Do you think he has dealt well with the last crisis? Do you think he should have done anything different?
I think that he has dealt the hand that’s been given him quite well. I think the problem right now is that Prime Minister Netanyahu is not real confident that he has the best ally that has his back in the United States of America. As a matter of fact, in this last episode when John Kerry and President Obama were trying to push him towards a bad cease fire deal being brokered by Qatar and Turkey, I think that the words from Prime Minister Netanyahu to President Obama was “Don’t ever second-guess me again”. So, that shows a strain in the relationship.
When you don’t have a “wing-man,” a “foxhole-buddy” as we say in the military – that affects the decisions that Prime Minister Netanyahu can make as far as his security and how far he can go. Israel can secure itself, Israel can fight. But can Israel sustain in a three front war, if Hamas comes back – and they will – as well as Islamic Jihad, Hizballah from the north. You’re already seeing the pressures from the Syrian border from Jabhat al-Nusra, and what if ISIS turns its sights on Jordan and marches through Jordan, then they’re there to come against you as well? So, now’s the time when Prime Minister Netanyahu, a former airborne commando – he needs a good airborne jump buddy.
Some in the government, but from the left mostly, argue that the crisis with the US is Netanyahu’s fault for building settlements and that that causes tension between the two governments. What do you think about such a statement?
I don’t think that the United States of America has any business telling Prime Minister Netanyahu where his people can live. That is Israel’s land. I refuse to say West Bank – it’s Judaea and Samaria. And what we need to do is stop kowtowing to the language of others and the propaganda of others. When Israel in 2005 decided to exit Gaza, what did they get in return? So, those are the facts on the ground and we have to come to understand those facts. And when you’re talking about “settlements” – you’re building neighborhoods, you’re talking about suburbs – that’s what you’re constructing. Israel’s building within its sovereign territory, and no-one should be dictating anything to Israel anything thereof.
Is there a message you would like to pass on to our readers?
My commitment to Israel has nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with who I am. The People of Israel are my spiritual homeland as a Christian. The two opportunities I had to visit Israel were very exciting for myself and my wife, and I hope to come again, this time with our two daughters.