The neoconservative Wall Street Journal’s monotonously Islamophilic celebration of the “Arab Spring” has become as comically predictable as the open-borders enthusiasm that colors its coverage of illegal immigration. A fine example is the paper’s profile of the general chosen by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s new president, to lead the armed forces.
The Journal is still stuck on the democracy-project dogma that free elections herald the birth of liberty, even as the Brotherhood tightens the noose in a nation whose population, by lopsided margins, keeps approving Muslim Brotherhood initiatives, electing Islamic supremacists, and telling pollsters that it would like to see Islam’s repressive sharia law strictly enforced. Thus, Journal’s story about General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi runs under a headline assuring readers that Morsi has picked a defense minister with longstanding “U.S. Ties.”
The profile elaborates that Sissi has been working with the American military for three decades and even took a basic training course at Fort Benning, Ga., in 1981. He is, we are further told, well known to, and liked by, senior Obama-administration officials. The implication is clear: Sure, there are now some Islamists running the government, but don’t be concerned, because the Egyptian armed forces are still really in charge and they remain staunchly pro-American. As the report states, “U.S. officials expressed confidence that Gen. Sissi will maintain close ties with the U.S., which provides Egypt with $1.3 billion a year in military aid, and uphold Egypt’s peace deal with Israel.”
Happy ending, right? Depends on whether you keep reading. It is not until 15 paragraphs down, by which point most readers have already moved on, that we get to the most significant part of the report, which deals with the “ties” that actually matter — not to the U.S. military but to the Muslim Brotherhood:
Mr. Sissi’s appointment may also represent an ideal compromise between the secular-minded military old guard and Mr. Morsi’s Brotherhood. People with knowledge of the Egyptian military said Gen. Sissi has a broad reputation within military circles as a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer, a rare trait in a military culture inured against Islamism. “Sissi is known inside the military for being a Muslim Brother in the closet,” said Zeinab Abul Magd, a professor at the American University in Cairo and an expert on Egypt’s military.
So to summarize, in the course of ousting the pro-American, pro–Camp David military junta that was running Egypt until last week, the leader of the anti-Western, anti-Israeli Muslim Brotherhood, who is moving quickly to take over the country, managed to install as chief of the military — Egypt’s most important institution — a Brotherhood operative. That’s the story. But that’s not the way “Islamic democracy” devotees would have you see it.
In reality, everything about the Journal’s report is misleading. Egypt’s military culture is not “inured against Islamism.” Its top tier of Mubarak loyalists may have been, at least as long as that perennial $1.3 billion in U.S. largesse kept coming. But as a whole — as an institution — Egypt’s army has always been rife with Islamists. That is because Egyptian society is decidedly pro-Islamist. The military, in which almost all men serve for one to three years, is a reflection of Egyptian society. That is why Egyptians so revere their armed forces. Obviously, Sissi’s rapid rise through the ranks despite being known as a Brotherhood guy is testament to the fact that being an Islamist is no obstacle to advancement in the army.
Furthermore, the Journal confuses exposure to the American military with being pro-American. For over 30 years, ever since the Camp David peace accord, our Defense Department has taken a leading role in arming and training the Egyptian armed forces. As a result, thousands of Egyptian military personnel have been through training by our commanders, including training at U.S. bases. Necessarily, this has entailed the training of some of Egypt’s most rabid Islamists. They are delighted to have this exposure because it is the world’s best instruction in military strategy and tactics. It makes these Islamists more proficient warriors, but it does not alter their ideology.
Indeed, Ali Mohamed — a high-ranking aide to Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri who was an officer in the Egyptian military and later drew up the plans al-Qaeda used to bomb the American embassy in Kenya — was not only trained in the U.S. as an Egyptian soldier. He actually served in our armed forces for three years after emigrating to the United States. In the course of doing so, he stole sensitive military training documents from Fort Bragg and brought them to the New York area, where he used them to instruct anti-American jihadists (some of whom went on to bomb the World Trade Center) in combat strategy and tactics. The Islamists saw the American training as useful to the spread of their Islamic supremacist ideology; it did not modify or moderate their ideology. (I recounted the hair-raising life of Ali Mohamed in Willful Blindness.)
Finally, the Journal’s suggestion that Americans can take comfort in Sissi’s elevation because he is familiar to senior Obama officials would be laughable if the matter were not so serious. President Obama has been so transparently pro-Brotherhood that Egyptian secularists have openly groused that the administration has undermined any potential for genuine democratic reform.
Secretary of State Clinton pressured the junta to surrender power to the Brotherhood notwithstanding the Brotherhood’s notorious hostility to the United States. Obama upped the ante by issuing a formal invitation to Morsi to visit the White House in September — notwithstanding the recent, unabashed calls by the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide, Mohammed Badi, for jihad against the United States and Israel. Sissi’s biggest American booster, moreover, appears to be John Brennan, Obama’s hapless counterterrorism adviser. Brennan is on the record portraying Hezbollah (long a formally designated terrorist organization under U.S. law) as a “moderate” political movement and referring to Jerusalem as “al-Quds” — the name preferred by Islamists who seek to eradicate the Jewish state, incorporating it into an Arabian caliphate with al-Quds as its capital. Brennan’s other claim to fame is the whitewashing of jihad — a scripturally based, strictly Islamic concept of conquest by violent or non-violent means. Brennan conveys jihad as if it were a universal, non-sectarian, non-threatening summons to better humanity (rather than to fortify the ummah).
The Muslim Brotherhood is irrevocably committed to “conquering” the West, to quote the Brothers’ favorite sharia jurist, Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi. The Brothers’ ascendancy in the Middle East is a disaster for us. Yet their accession to power is purportedly being achieved by “democracy” — i.e., by U.S.-supported elections and sharia-based constitution writing. Thus, the bipartisan Beltway consensus, voiced by Obama officials and Republican establishment organs, is to pretend that the disaster is actually a boon for America.
Don’t buy it.
— Andrew C. McCarthy is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.