Re: Obama National Security Advisor - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Re: Obama National Security Advisor

Phil’s post below takes a shot at Salam al-Marayati, head of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. As a major and inveterate supporter of Israel and admirer of Binyamin Netanyahu, and as a major supporter of the Bush-Cheney war against terrorists, I perhaps am in a position to provide, in effect, this chance for Mr. al-Marayati a chance to respond, if something written in advance can be treated as a response. He did so, in effect, a month ago, with this column at JTA. Here is what he said to explain what truly, on its face, was an outrageous statement of his back in 2001: “On 9/11, just hours after the horrific terrorist attacks, I was interviewed on a local radio show in Los Angeles right after a guest “expert” stated that Islam was the prime suspect. In reacting to that awful stereotype, I made a mistake. I said that if we were going to look for suspects, then we should also put Israel on the list.

It was wrong and I apologized for it on the same radio show the very next day, as well as directly to Jewish leaders. It is a shame that people today continue to exploit that mistake and do not want to accept my apology.”

I continue to cringe when Mr. Marayati insists on describing Israeli settlements as “occupation.” I almost certainly disagree with him on far more issues related to the Middle East than those on which we agree (if there are any). And I admit that I have not done a painstaking job of research on Mr. Marayati’s background. (By the way, is the proper address “Mr. al-Marayati”? I mean no offense if I do it wrong. So from now on I’ll just refer to him as Salam.) So I am in no position to do a full-throated defense of Salam.

But I will say this: About 30 months ago, Salam was one of about eight people who went on a Pentagon-sponsored trip with me to the prison at Guantanamo Bay. I had plenty of time to talk to him on the plane. He has made a point of keeping up with me since then. And from what I’ve seen, I like him. I think he sincerely wants peace and sincerely loves the United States and sincerely abhors extremists and especially killers. I think Salam — unlike, for instance, the leaders of CAIR — is a responsible and essentially moderate voice, at least overall. I have heard him, in private settings and public, castigate extremists. And I have always had a knack for correctly adjudging sincerity — and I do find Salam sincere.

What Reagan said about the Soviets should also be said about those like Salam who have a record of a few incendiary statements but a longer record of publicly opposing terrorism at every opportunity: Trust, but verify.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council gave its annual award this week to Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi. She is clearly a brave lady, although from American eyes her record overall is a mixed one. Anyway, I attended the reception at which the award was presented, as an interested observer. I was going to write something about the reception, and Salam’s group, anyway this weekend, after some more reflection and research. When Phil mentioned Salam, though, in his blog post, I thought it would be appropriate for me to jump in now. Unlike G. W. Bush, even when I have a high opinion of my ability to discern real sincerity, I do NOT let my personal impression override the need to do due diligence on that actual facts. You’ll never catch me saying like Bush said of Putin that I know somebody is good because I think I can see into his soul. So I merely offer these impressions, NOT conclusions: 1) Salam seems to be a constructive actor.  2) Americans need to foster good relations with constructive actors in the Muslim community.  3) Salam is certainly and demonstrably far more moderate than CAIR. 

I’ll save my thoughts on Ms. Ebadi for later. But for now, with all the misgivings that stem from me being an inveterate supporter of Israel, and knowing that Salam probably will be aghast to know of my admiration for Netanyahu, let me just urge people not to write off Salam or MPAC on the basis of one or two bad statements. Dialogue is good. And Salam is good company.

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