Thursday, December 31, 2009

The madness of Michael Scheuer

Michael Scheuer, who headed the CIA's so-called "bin Laden unit" during the Clinton presidency and in that role helped develop and put into practice "extraordinary rendition", has taken a trajectory toward increasingly radical and, frankly, batty thinking in recent years. That may explain his attraction to the equally batty Ron Paul, for whose 2008 presidential campaign Scheuer served as chief foreign policy adviser and legitimacy fig leaf. Scheuer's ideas on foreign policy now sometimes encompass contradictory extremes concerning the United States' role in the world -- a sort of cognitive dissonance tolerable only to an ideologue with an inflated opinion of his own abilities. Thus Scheuer the advocate for American exceptionalism and extraordinary rendition is also Scheuer the critic of American intervention who blames the United States for creating terrorism. His latest piece, published on, is a case in point. It's title alone speaks volumes about Scheuer's confusion: Barack Obama, Interventionist and Ultimate Jihadi Hero. Here's a quote:

Then there is Iran. Listening to Obama as he spoke gave the impression that he was eager to get the Detroit-attack stuff out of the way so he could rhetorically intervene in Iran’s internal affairs. Joining with our allies — read other Western interventionists and pawns of Israel — Obama said he wanted to condemn the Tehran regime’s at-times-lethal crackdown on opposition demonstrators. He said that Ahmadinejad and the ruling clerics were trampling on the "universal rights" of Iranians, and that such actions must stop. There are, of course, no universal political rights; this idea is the pipedream of Western secular intellectuals and interventionists, and is part and parcel of the interventionist nonsense Obama included in his Nobel speech about the "perfectibility" of the human condition through the efforts of "enlightened" men and women.

Obama’s mind is emerging as a mind filled with war-causing secular theology of the French Revolution. That revolution was all about enlightened leaders "perfecting" the common man for what the revolutionary elite deemed to be his own good, and using the vehicles of government edict, fanatic secularism, and force to do so. (Sounds a bit like the universal health-care plan, doesn’t it?) The French Revolution went on to father Hitler, Stalin, the Khmer Rouge, and other mass-murdering regimes. In the American context, the revolution’s impact has been the slow but increasingly complete replacement of the Founders’ sturdy non-interventionism — which recognized the pivotal and necessary role religion plays in all polities — by our current bipartisan elite’s obsession with interfering in other peoples’ internal affairs, especially if those internal affairs are interwoven with religion. For Obama and most members of our governing elite, today’s Iran fairly screams for Western intervention to break the mullahs’ backs and install secularism; to destroy an Israeli foe and ensure AIPAC funds to continue to flow into their pockets; and to make them feel good about themselves, no matter the cost to Americans and their children.

Bad writing doesn't always reflect bad ideas, but in this case that connection is clear. Let's take the errors in that excerpt in order:

1) President Obama's reaction to the attempted airline bombing in Detroit has not been to avoid dealing with it, as Scheuer and others on the right (such as Dick Cheney) contend. The president has ordered immediate reviews of the errors which allowed the bomber to get a visa and board a plane with a bomb before issuing an official, in-depth response. That decision to get as much information about the issue as quickly as possible before he acts seems a wise one for any leader in such a situation, regardless of their ideological orientation. (The previous administration had no need for such a deliberative process considering that they predetermined their course of action before a review of facts. Their only consideration was how to sell that decision to the public in light of those facts.) When President Obama does issue a comprehensive official statement on the attack, such pointless criticisms as those made by Scheuer, Cheney, etc. will disappear to be replaced, no doubt, by other criticisms similarly motivated mostly by a desire to sling mud. Such criticisms really say nothing about the president's policies or his decision-making processes, but say a great deal about the partisan motivation of the critics.

2) Criticizing the horrendous human rights abuses committed by the Iranian regime hardly constitutes "rhetorically interven(ing) in Iran’s internal affairs" as Scheuer puts it. Those words, which could have come directly from the mouth of a spokesman for Ahmadinejad, set a ridiculous standard of what constitutes intervention. Scheuer's isolationism, in this instance, excludes any response whatsoever to the outrages committed by Iran's leaders against those unfortunate enough to live under their rule. That simply takes isolationism, or as he would term it "non-interventionism", to an absurd extreme.

3) Scheuer argues against the idea of universal rights, calling the very concept "the pipedream of Western secular intellectuals and interventionists". Setting aside the evident anti-intellectualism of the comment (and its inexplicable use of the word "secular"), Scheuer's idea that the concept of inalienable human rights -- the sort advocated by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison -- is somehow the product of elitist war-mongers is simply astounding. Scheuer, like Ron Paul, argues that he is motivated by a desire to restore the U.S. to a state envisioned by its founders, yet is painfully ignorant of American history. He absurdly links the Jeffersonian ideas embodied in the Declaration of Independence to "Hitler, Stalin, the Khmer Rouge, and other mass-murdering regimes", tenuously arguing that the French Revolution believed in those same ideas and (he says) that revolution went on inspire Hitler, Stalin, et al. As if that French connection weren't tenuous enough, Scheuer finds a way to throw the idea of universal health care into this logical morass, saying it's all a part of a plan by elites to control the lives of the masses. (Scheuer previously demonstrated a weak grasp of U.S. history by attributing the "America First" slogan of World War II isolationists to the founding fathers. Read here.)

4) Speaking of elites, Scheuer has no trouble identifying the "elite group" he claims to be behind the president's criticism of the Iranian regime's brutality: it's the Zionists. The president's condemnation of Iranian abuses, he says, is just part of a conspiracy to vanquish a foe of Israel which is being carried out by cash-wielding agents of AIPAC. Scheuer's anti-Israel paranoia is nothing new. In the past, he accused those who wanted to build the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum of putting Israel's interests before those of the United States. (Read here.) He also accused Americans who serve in the IDF of disloyalty, singling out for criticism Rahm Emanuel who actually served Israel in a civilian capacity. (Read here.) Scheuer likes to accuse Jews of being traitors.

The absurdity and bigotry of these paranoid views is evident. What remains unclear to me is how this man still maintains a good enough reputation as an expert on foreign affairs to qualify him to be interviewed on topics such as Afghanistan, about which he was interviewed recently by BBC World Service. How on earth can anyone read his ravings and continue to maintain that he is an expert on anything? It is bad enough when paranoid views are promoted on Fox News by a self-described "rodeo clown" such as Glenn Beck. Scheuer may be a clown, but he doesn't describe himself as one. Neither does the BBC. Maybe they should.

Judging by that BBC interview, Scheuer seems to have broken his habit of compulsively addressing his interviewers as "sir" or "ma'am" at least once per answer. That odd mannerism of excessive politeness just sounded a little quirky. However, he has already shown himself in many interviews and columns to be a proponent of paranoid views concerning Jews, dangerously ignorant about history, and biased beyond reason against President Obama. Now that he has added this column defending the right of the Iranian regime to oppress its people, condemning those who criticize that horror, and summarily dismissing the Jeffersonian ideals upon which this country is based as being of a piece with Nazism and Stalinism, maybe its time for news organizations and presidential candidates to stop giving Scheuer a forum.


AJ Weberman said...

No wonder OBL was allowed to plot his evil deeds while Scheuer was in charge of capturing him. Scheuer is a secret Islamist mole or at least identifies with the enemies of America. If he thought the way he does now back then he skillfully made sure OBL remained free. In retrospect he is an Islamist Mole! Where is Jim Angleton when we need him???

Adam Holland said...


Scheuer's confusion and bigotry tend to cloud the debate. The confusion of someone in his position is contagious, so we have to be aware of the need to counter it.

To be clear: Scheuer blames Israel for causing terrorism. He doesn't understand that al Qaeda and their allies are intent on restoring the caliphate. With or without Israel, their war would continue until they reach that goal or are defeated. In fact, peace between Israel and the Palestinians would do absolutely nothing to end the terrorist threat.


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