Frontpage Interview's guest today is Dr. Michael Widlanski, a specialist in Arab politics and communication whose doctorate dealt with the Palestinian broadcast media. He is a former reporter, correspondent, and editor, respectively, at The New York Times, The Cox Newspapers-Atlanta Constitution, and The Jerusalem Post. He has also served as a special advisor to Israeli delegations to peace talks in 1991-1992 and as Strategic Affairs Advisor to the Ministry of Public Security, editing secret PLO Archives captured in Jerusalem. He is the author of the new book, Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat.
FP: Dr. Michael Widlanski, welcome to Frontpage Interview. What inspired you to write this book?
Widlanski: Terror is the chosen weapon of war for the 21st century. And it is primarily a battle of the mind. Do the terrorists gain control of our head, or do we get into theirs?
The average citizen does not have the time to master Arabic, Farsi, or Islamic culture. The average Joe and Jane must rely on the gatekeepers of our minds—our media, our academia and our government-intelligence agencies. These public intellectuals should be our "best and our brightest," but instead they became our worst and our dimmest. They sold us a politically correct and factually inaccurate ideology of idiocy, a doctrine of willful ignorance.
I have seen our supposedly best minds in academia, media and government "intel" actually aid terrorists by sins of omission and commission. And I felt it was time to call them out on it.
FP: What is the main argument of the book and who and what are its main targets?
Widlanski: The book talks about general performance, but it also gets "close and personal." It examines the record of the leaders of our elites in media, academia and government—Columbia and Georgetown, The New York Times and CNN, the CIA, the FBI and the presidents. And also in other countries, too.
There are three elites that are responsible–the university community and its Middle East Studies programs that were hijacked by doctrines of political correctness and anti-American, anti-Western and anti-Israeli ideologies led by Edward Said, Noam Chomsky and John Esposito. These universities then produced generations of largely know-nothing media pundits and government intelligence officials who do not know the difference between Hamas and hummus.
We have to understand the methods and ideologies of the newest generations of terrorists, most of whom are Arab-Islamic terrorists. I have been an active student of the phenomenon inside several Arab countries and Israel as a reporter, soldier, Arab affairs expert, security official and now as a father of three soldiers.
FP: You say some pretty tough things about some important people and organizations. Please name them for our readers.
Widlanski: From Professor Edward Said of Columbia to John Esposito of Georgetown, from Eason Jordan, Christiane Amanpour, Robert Wiener and Peter Arnett of CNN to Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Tom Friedman and Maureen Dowd of the Times, and from George Tenet to Michael Scheuer at CIA. The list is of course much longer. Many of them have minimized, ignored and even concealed the problem, and occasionally fronted for terrorists. This is intolerable. My book names names, but it also offers policy solutions.
We are also seeing some of our elites actually sliding back to the pre-9-11 complacency and worse. The Fort Hood massacre occurred because the US Army did not want to discipline an obviously Islamist major who decided his primary allegiance was to his extremist vision of Allah, and not to the United States. Yet, he was not disciplined because people were afraid they would be called Islamophobic, as if they had some "phobia" or unreasoning fear of Muslims. That is the sad truth. A Senate report confirms that the 13 people who were murdered at Fort Hood should not have died.
We are seeing not Islamophobia, but Islamophilia, a kind of phony love or protection of anything Islamic—even when it is a clearly extreme vision of Islam. That is why we see supposed CIA analyses that Iran is not working on nuclear weapons. Well, if they were working on a civilian nuclear power, then why do we see no preparation for nuclear powered electric grids and why were they hiding all their preparations? These analysts see only positive intentions, but these are the same people—or their ideological descendants– who in 1978 thought that Khomeini was a moderate. Many people have lost heir lives because of this stupidity, but those analysts kept their jobs.
FP: Are you concerned about what some of your targets might do?
Widlanski: No, I can back up everything I wrote. This book was thoroughly vetted by legal experts. I nail down all of my charges with copious source notes. These sources are an integral part of the book. And as I said, this book has been vetted legally by one of the best publishers in the business. We spent months checking and double-checking. I am not worried. If any of the people at the New York Times or CNN, Columbia or Georgetown, the CIA or the State Department would like to engage me in debate, they will find that I am prepared. And they will lose. Inshallah. That is Arabic for God-willing. And I am willing to hold the discussion in Arabic if that makes them feel more comfortable.
FP: What research went into this work?
Widlanski: The book is based on a lot of research. In the largest sense, it is about more than 30 years of primary and secondary research, including my own experiences as a reporter for The New York Times, Cox Newspapers, as a student and lecturer at universities such as Columbia —from which I have three degrees, and as a soldier and security official on the ground in the Middle East—in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan.
FP: What solutions do you suggest for dealing with the dangers and dilemmas we face?
Widlanski: We have to understand the methods and ideologies of the newest generations of terrorists, most of whom are Arab-Islamic terrorists. We have to give our security and law enforcement officials the right training and good intelligence. We have to invest in education, real education, open-minded education, not politically correct and ideologically vetted professors who were taught that "jihad" only means a spiritual journey. As someone who speaks Arabic, let me assure Frontpage readers, that all Arabs know that the common meaning of jihad is a physical war, a holy war, to expand the borders of Islam.
FP: Dr. Michael Widlanski, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
We encourage all of our readers to get their hands on: Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat!