Accuracy in Media

The complaint that the Iraq War is the result of a neoconservative conspiracy to unduly expand U.S. interests abroad has become popular among professors and antiwar activists, as is the assertion that the War on Terror has undermined American civil liberties and destroyed America’s reputation abroad.

A new policy report by Politics professor Ian Lustick, published by the Independent Institute, is no different. However, the University of Pennsylvania professor’s report is unique in that he derives most of his inflammatory material from news outlets, including ABC News, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Time Magazine, Democracy Now, US World and News Report, and Al Jazeera English.

Lustick believes that the War on Terror is a self-inflicted disaster promoted by a supremacist, neoconservative cabal intent on recreating the Crusades and Holy American Empire at the expense of innocent Muslim youth who only “sympathize” with the plight of the Palestinians and their violent methods. He also implicitly defends Palestinian activists working with charities “linked to Hamas or Islamic Jihad” as victims of an America “in search of enemies and self-justification.”

Characterizing the search for terrorists as “McCarthyite hysteria,” he writes,

“We overcame the McCarthyite anti-communist hysteria, including baseless fantasies of communist “sleeper cells” ready to take over the country…and went on to adjust psychologically, politically, and militarily to the real capacity of the Soviet enemy to incinerate our cities on a moment’s notice. Why…are we having such a difficult time calibrating our response to the problem of terrorism?”

Instead, he argues, “our leaders continue to conjure the images of these ragged bands of Muslim fanatics as if they were the historic enemies of the Christian West that they wish to promote” (emphasis added).

Readers of this column and other Accuracy in Academia writings need little reminder that new research demonstrates that Senator Joseph McCarthy only pursued Communist suspects under FBI investigation. “When people say [he made false accusations], I usually say ‘Name one.’ Who were the innocent people that Joe McCarthy smeared? It’s kinda hard to find them,” said M. Stanton Evans, author of Blacklisted By History, at an AIA event this Fall.

Lustick bases his assertion that America has found no “evidence of a threat anywhere near the magnitude of the response” on an ABC news article, “Secret FBI Report Questions Al Qaeda Capabilities.” However, he seems to not have read the entire article.

The report does indicate that there are no sleeper cells in the United States, but then goes on to discuss other popular Al-Qaeda recruitment methods. ABC quotes the report as saying

“‘A senior al Qa’ida detainee instructed an operative who is currently in U.S. custody, to settle in the United States with his family and maintain a low profile before eventually conducting an attack…Al-Qa’ida operatives have also married U.S. women to obtain U.S. visas and foreign documentation from other countries, according to sensitive reporting.’”

The authors make this dual point abundantly clear, writing in the very first line of the article that “A secret FBI report obtained by ABC News concludes that while there is no doubt that al Qaeda wants to hit the United States, its capability to do so is unclear” (emphasis added). Lustick, author of Trapped in the War on Terror, somehow concludes that this means there is no significant threat to the United States.

Indeed, Lustick’s analysis is replete with inaccuracies and non-sequiturs, displaying an ignorance of basic facts about counterterrorism. For example, he criticizes the FBI for paying a Lodi, California informant $250,000 for claiming to have seen Ayman al-Zawahiri in 1999. “The intelligence community knew (or at least should have known) this report was false because of its knowledge of al-Zawahiri’s whereabouts at the time of the supposed sighting,” he writes.

Lustick conveniently forgets that in 1999, the FBI and CIA were not allowed to communicate or share information. The 9/11 Commission belabored this point at length as one of our key weaknesses. Even in the post-9/11 climate, interagency information exchanges remain limited.

Lustick makes a similar mistake when citing a Syracuse University study as evidence of police force “entrapment.” He writes, “These figures reflect the fact that the great majority of these prosecutions are not really for terrorism offenses but for visa violations, telling untruths to law enforcement officers, and the like.”

Again, the author overlooks the 9/11 Commission’s conclusion that Al-Qaeda’s attack was made possible primarily through the ease of obtaining American visas. Lustick’s own cited evidence indicates that greater visa scrutiny has foiled Al-Qaeda attempts to infiltrate and forced other tactics, such as marrying American women.

In all, Lustick’s article amounts to little more than an anti-American attack on par with Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s sermons. Not only does he accuse Christians of promoting Crusader interests and a “New American Century,” but he characterizes the entire United States population as engaging in “baseless fantasies” over nonexistent threats. He accuses police officers of government-sponsored entrapment for political convenience and condemns homeland security efforts as little more than pork-barrel spending. America becomes the evil empire run by a predatory cabal intent on subjecting the world to its hegemonic will at the expense of democratic ideals and humanitarian interests at home and abroad.

To add insult to injury, Independent Institute Fellow Ivan Eland—the moderator at Lustick’s panel—recently defended Reverend Wright’s condemnation of America as a terrorist nation. His article can be read here.

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