In a remarkable appearance on Countdown Monday evening, Evan Kohlmann provided a compelling explanation of how the anti-Muslim hysteria that is now calling for the Park 51 project not to proceed with the building of a Muslim center in lower Manhattan is a tremendous recruiting tool for terrorists:
Most striking is Kohlmann’s warning that until now, terrorist recruitment has been outside the United States. However, Kohlmann tells us that there could be a change. With chickenhawk politicians saying "Muslim are evil" "nonstop over the past three weeks", Kohlmann predicts that we will begin to see Muslims within the United States driven to striking back. I would add that the spreading of attacks from Park 51 to other areas, especially the fire and gunshots at the mosque building project in Murfreesboro, Tennessee will add to the likelihood of a backlash within the US. . . .
As for the chickenhawk politicians who are fueling the hatred of Islam, the lineup is not surprising. The Los Angeles Times provided a summary recently:
[Newt] Gingrich, in recent appearances, has compared construction of the mosque to placing Nazi signs near Holocaust memorials. Sarah Palin, former GOP vice presidential nominee, called the mosque project an "unnecessary provocation" in a Twitter message.
"Ground Zero Mosque supporters: Doesn’t it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland," read another message by Palin, who like Gingrich is a potential presidential aspirant with an eye on the party’s conservative base.
Republicans redoubled their efforts, with [John] Boehner criticizing the president. "The decision to build this mosque so close to ground zero is deeply troubling, as is the president’s decision to endorse it," the Ohio Republican said Saturday.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has joined with the chickenhawk Republicans in calling for Park 51 not to be built, as well.
Perhaps most troubling about this attack on Islam is that the chickenhawks are repeating the same major mistakes made in the torture controversy, with the same direct effect on terrorist recruitment. Here is Matthew Alexander, a former Special Operations soldier, on his experiences interrogating prisoners in Iraq:
I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It’s no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, our counterterrorism strategy has focused on stopping terrorist attacks. That’s an important goal, but only part of the equation. A comprehensive strategy should include a greater focus on removing the root causes of terrorism. The only way to deliver a sustainable defeat to al Qaeda is to both destroy its leadership and cut off its ability to recruit.
Building a Muslim community center near the site of Ground Zero will bolster our ability to do the latter. Imagine an al Qaeda recruiter attempting to sway a potential charge by citing an imaginary American war against Muslims but having to face the counterargument that Americans built a Muslim community center near the site of the former Twin Towers.
The Cordoba House would be a powerful symbol of U.S. tolerance and freedom that will stand in direct contradiction to al Qaeda’s narrative that Americans hate Muslims. As a symbol, its construction demonstrates that the U.S. is not at war with Islam and that Muslims are welcome in America. It communicates a message of moderation that stands in stark contrast to al Qaeda’s bankrupt ideology.
Kohlmann and Alexander are providing a rational viewpoint that demonstrates how living up to the ideals of religious freedom on which our country was founded will take away the primary basis for terrorist recruitment both internationally and domestically. In stark contrast, the chickenhawks, while trying to score quick political points, are playing right into the "trap" Kohlmann describes, and fueling the next round of terorist recruitment while destroying the ideals of our country.