There is a classic scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where King Arthur comes across a witch hunt in progress. A crowd of villagers has seized a woman that they have accused of being a witch and are preparing to burn her alive when they are asked how they know that the woman is a witch. A member of the crowd then yells out, “She looks like one!” Upon further questioning though, the crowd admits that they put a fake nose and witch’s hat on her, but that doesn’t change the fact that she looks like a witch.
It is unfortunately the case that this scene provides perhaps the best illustration of the madness currently occurring in the halls of Congress, where Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann and four other Republican representatives apparently found themselves in possession of “evidence” of what is referred to as “deep penetration” of the US government by persons affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. It would be a very serious charge, if the evidence wasn’t roughly the caliber of that produced by the witch-hunting villagers.
Letters were then sent to the Inspector Generals of the Departments of Justice, State, Defense, and Homeland Security urging them to investigate supposed Brotherhood influence in their organizations. Each organization received a specially tailored letter pointing to purported signs of influence in their organization. The Defense Department, for example, is faulted for “myriad acts of submission” to “our enemies” because of the efforts it has made to integrate cultural sensitivity into its counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan.
This could all be written off as a cry for publicity if Rep. Bachmann & Co. had stuck to making absurd charges about Brotherhood infiltration of the government, but they made the unfortunate choice to take the McCarthy-esque path and start naming names.
No name features more prominently in the accusations than that of Huma Abedin, deputy chief of staff for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The letter the State Department received expresses concern that she may be influencing American foreign policy decisions for the benefit of the Brotherhood. However, it contains no specific instance of Ms. Abedin, or anyone else, for that matter, intervening in policy making in favor of the Brotherhood.
Instead, the letter makes the allegation that three of her family members have close ties to the Brotherhood, which should prompt a re-evaluation of whether she should have a security clearance. This allegation fails to hold water for a number of reasons. First of all, to gain employment with the State Department, lengthy and thorough background checks are required. Among the things that they check for are family members who might have ties to countries or organizations with agendas contrary to those of the American government. If Ms. Abedin is dealing with sensitive information, she must have cleared some sort of check. Were there any reason to be concerned about her family members, she would likely not have been allowed to rise as high as she did.
Why wouldn’t the State Department have found anything concerning? Perhaps because there wasn’t anything to be concerned about. Let’s take a look at the allegations. The chief one is the “quiet and active support” that Dr. Umar Abdallah Nasif, the former General Secretary of the Muslim World League gave to the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, founded by Ms. Abedin’s now-deceased father. The Muslim World League, in turn, “has a longtime history of being closely aligned and partnering with the Muslim Brotherhood.”
As CNN’s Anderson Cooper pointed out, the essence of the charge is that the Brotherhood once worked with an organization that was once headed by a man who once quietly supported another organization founded by the dead father of Ms. Abedin, thus proving that she is incapable of handling classified information. Convoluted, to say the least.
What’s fascinating is that family ties apparently fail to cut both ways. Ms. Abedin is married to disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who was known for being a strong pro-Israel voice in Congress before his resignation in a sexting scandal a few years ago. One might think that perhaps that might cancel out some of the six degrees of separation-style Islamist indoctrination she was receiving, but it doesn’t seem to. The most convincing evidence that Ms. Abedin is an agent of the Muslim Brotherhood remains that, Monty Python-style, she looks like one.
Where then, did the “evidence” come from? It originates from a website affiliated with the innocuous-sounding Center for Security Policy. A quick look at the website, though, reveals it to be the creation of Frank Gaffney, a man the Southern Poverty Law Center has named “the anti-Muslim movement’s most paranoid propagandist.” He is probably thrilled with the inevitable comparisons that Bachmann is drawing to 1950’s anti-Communist crusader Joe McCarthy, as he has seriously advocated reviving McCarthy’s old House Un-American Activities Committee for the purpose of rooting out Muslim subversion.
This is hardly Mr. Gaffney’s first foray into the world of slanderous and ridiculous allegations. In the past he has gotten himself banned from the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) because of his insistence that two of the organizers, Suhail Khan and Grover Norquist, were also Brotherhood agents. Khan was a Bush administration appointee and Norquist is the founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform and author of such clearly subversive tracts as Leave Us Alone: Getting the Government’s Hands Off Our Money, Our Guns, Our Lives. Gaffney has also accused Gen. David Petraeus of “submission” to sharia law because of his vocal opposition to Florida Pastor Terry Jones’s plans to set fire to the Quran, proving that leading two wars for this country is not enough to insulate yourself from Mr. Gaffney’s paranoia.
There is, however, an encouraging sign that emerged from all of this, namely the immediate and powerful blowback that this witch hunt triggered. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Mn.) sent a letter back to Rep. Bachmann stating that, “A careful review of your 16-page response reveals that you fail to provide any credible evidence for your claims, engage in guilt by association, and continue to rely on discredited sources.” The attacks on Ms. Abedin were blasted by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on the floor of the senate as having “no logic, no basis and no merit.” Even the former campaign chief of Bachmann’s presidential bid, Edward Rollins, was quick to distance himself from his former boss, saying her accusation was, “downright vicious and reaches the late Senator Joe McCarthy level.”
There is, of course, the temptation to simply ignore Rep. Bachmann and hope that she goes away. Unfortunately, she has refused to back down, and these sort of allegations, if left unchallenged, destroy reputations and lives. She and the four congressmen who co-signed the letter cannot be allowed to haphazardly accuse people who have devoted their lives to serving this country just because they happen to be Muslim.