Ground Zero Mosque: Speaker Pelosi Speaks With Forked Tongue?
by THE EDITOR
August 19, 2010
As I reported earlier, before President Obama made his curious endorsement of the “rights” of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf to build his mosque near Ground Zero, State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley spoke about the imam. Crowley was answering reporters’ questions on August 10, and discussed the fact that Rauf had been sent by the American government to various Middle Eastern countries. Crowley had said then:
“Imam Feisal will be traveling to Qatar, Bahrain, and the UAE on a U.S. Government-sponsored trip to the Middle East. He will discuss Muslim life in America and religious tolerance. This is part of a program – and yesterday, I actually was in error. I attributed it to our ECA Bureau, Education and Cultural Affairs. It’s actually our International Information Programs – IIP, our office that handles this particular program.
We have about 1,200 of these kinds of programs every year, sending experts on all fields overseas. Last year, we had 52 trips that were specifically focused on religious – promoting religious tolerance. We will expect to have roughly the same number of programs this year. For Imam Feisal, this will be his third trip under this program. In 2007, he visited Bahrain, Morocco, the UAE and Qatar. And earlier this year in January, he also visited Egypt. So we have a long-term relationship with him. His work on tolerance and religious diversity is well-known and he brings a moderate perspective to foreign audiences on what it’s like to be a practicing Muslim in the United States. And our discussions with him about taking this trip preceded the current debate in New York over the center.”
During the same session, Crowley had mentioned the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 which was first designed to prevent American citizens to be subjected to propaganda campaigns by their own government. A later ruling from 1985 had changed the emphasis of the law, effectively meaning that because American citizens should not be given propaganda by their government, they should also be prevented from hearing American propaganda made in foreign countries. Crowley admitted that this issue was potentially problematic, as I discussed in a previous entry.
Smith-Mundt had recently, according to Foreign Policy, been invoked earlier this year to prevent a radio station in Minneapolis from broadcasting Somali-language VOA broadcasts as an antidote to the pro-Al Shabaab propaganda already being broadcast by radio in Minneapolis.
The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2010 updates existing law by acknowledging the Internet as an information medium, ensures the State Department shall make material available and distributed upon request, states the Act applies only to the State Department. The State Department has long been prevented from providing material to domestic audiences due to the Act, even to US middle school children writing term papers seeking copyright permission of a State Department book called "Outline of American Literature."
When Philip Crowley got himself slightly sidetracked by discussion of the effects of Smith-Mundt in relation to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s trip abroad, funded by the American taxpayer, he made an error. He had downsized the actual number of Rauf's taxpayer-sponsored trips from four to three.
On August 11, Crowley announced that he would try to find out more details of Rauf’s trip. On August 17, Mark C. Toner, the acting deputy department spokesman for the State Department, was asked if he knew about when Rauf’s State Department sponsorship had begun, where he would be going and how much he had been paid, Toner appeared out of his depth. He said:
“It’s – I have the dates. I apologize to leaf through, but I believe they’re in here somewhere. And of course, I can’t find them. I’ll get them for you afterwards. I can get you the dates. It’s – I just don’t know it off the top of my head.”
On Wednesday August 18, Philip J. Crowley was at the State Department Daily Briefing. The following is from the official transcript:
QUESTION: P.J., on the trip of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf to the Gulf states, what is the purpose of the trip? Why was he chosen? Has he been given any guidance, parameters on what he’s to speak about? And if you can, what are the costs?
MR. CROWLEY: Richard, let’s see. Let’s start one at a time. He will be traveling to the region at the end of this week starting, as I recall, in Bahrain, then Qatar, then the United Arab Emirates. He is participating – I think this is fourth trip – as part of an International Information Program. We have about 1,200 experts in a range of fields that travel on behalf of the United States every year. About 50 or so of those are religious figures. They come from every stripe. We have rabbis, imams, Protestants, Catholics who participate as part of our effort to promote religious tolerance and religious freedom around the world.
The guidelines that we provide him – he is there to promote this kind of international dialogue. We have had conversations with the imam to make sure he understands that during these kinds of trips, he’s not to engage in any personal business. He understands that completely. But this is his fourth trip and we value his participation as a religious figure here in the United States who can help people overseas understand the role that religion plays in our society.
QUESTION: Excuse me, just for –
MR. CROWLEY: As to the specific costs of the program, I don’t have them here.
QUESTION: Just for clarification, it seems to me in answering this question earlier, you’ve said this was his third trip.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, and – well, he made two trips – and I looked at some fine print – he made two trips in 2007, made a trip to Egypt this year. So actually, this is his fourth trip.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, President Obama has expressed his opinion on this mosque. Will Secretary of State be saying anything tomorrow on the Humanitarian Day?
MR. CROWLEY: About the mosque?
QUESTION: Yeah, its –
MR. CROWLEY: I doubt it.
QUESTION: -- humanitarian effort.
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.)
Associated Press, via Breitbart.com, maintains that the State Department said on Wednesday that Rauf will receive $3,000 in fees ($200 per day) for his 15-day trip to Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The State Department is funding the trip at a cost of $16,000.
Imam Rauf will be in Manama, Bahrain from today until Monday August 23, in Doha, Qatar, from August 24 until Friday August 27, and in Abu Dhabi from August 28 until Tuesday, September 2.
Philip Crowley had maintained at his August 10 State Department Daily Briefing that Rauf would not be expected to fundraise while on this Middle Eastern tour. He said:
“It is something that we have talked to him about and we have informed him about our prohibition against fundraising while on a speaking tour. We do not expect him to fundraise.”
When Rauf is on a visit to countries where there is great wealth, merely making contacts and exchanging phone numbers could be considered by the skeptical as preludes to fundraising. The issue of fundraising is informing the next act in this drama.
Enter the Dragon
On Tuesday, California resident Nancy Pelosi was on San Francisco’s KCBS radio, talking to reporter Doug Sovern.
This is the exchange:
Pelosi: “..Speaking of urban development in my district, I have an opinion on almost every subject. But in New York, I’m sure the New Yorkers would like to make their own urban development decisions themselves. I think everybody respects the right of people in our country to express their religious beliefs on their property. The decision, though, as to how to go forward in New York is up to New York.”
Sovern: “Senator Reid came out against that mosque, breaking with the president. Are you concerned that this is going to become a big issue?”
Pelosi: “No I’m not. I think that..I think that …er.. er.. I think… I look to my colleagues in New York, some of them have different views on the subject. It’s up to them to work it out. But there is no question, er, that there is, er, a concerted effort to make this a political issue by some. And I join the, um, those who have called for looking into how is this opposition to the mosque being funded. How is this being ginned up – Here we are, talking about Treasure Island, something we’ve been working on for decades, something of great interest to our community as we go forward to an election about the future of our country, and two of the first three questions are about a zoning issue in New York City.”
Pelosi made this statement four days after the President had openly defended Imam Rauf’s “religious right” to build a mosque near the site of Ground Zero on Friday 13. She was speaking two weeks after Mayor Michael Bloomberg had made a speech on August 3 on Governor’s Island, again discussing the rights of Rauf and his organization to build a mosque near Ground Zero. She was speaking five days after the U.S. government saw fit to republish Bloomberg’s speech onto the America.gov website, and she was speaking eight days after State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley had admitted that Imam Rauf was being paid by the government to go to the Middle east to represent America in a propaganda exercise to persuade Arab nations that the United States has religious tolerance.
Pelosi’s own government has taken the issue of the ground Zero Mosque out of the hands of those who have been concerned that a mosque near Ground Zero was an affront to the memory of those Americans who died in the name of Islamic fanaticism. Her government, which has even tried to subvert the role of NASA to appease the Muslim world’s feelings of scientific inadequacy, has already made Islam a political issue for Americans. Her own government and the president that she supports, along with Mayor Bloomberg, have tried to turn the issue of the Ground Zero Mosque to their own political advantage.
To try to make political capital out of such an event is morally far more reprehensible than people merely expressing their outrage about an act of contempt for the feelings of the relatives of 9/11, and contemptuous of those who thought that 9/11 should never be forgotten or denigrated.
Imam Rauf has done nothing to show that he really wants the site of the mosque to be about interfaith tolerance, which is what he has claimed it would represent. His wife Daisy Khan even told relatives that it would provide a “much-needed party space”. Rauf does not condemn the Islamic terror group Hamas, he has suggested that America was itself an accessory to 9/11, and worst of all, he wants the 13-story mosque/cultural center to be officially opened on the anniversary of 9/11.
Rauf has made this a political issue, pitting Islam against the victims of Islam’s extremism, and Obama, Bloomberg and now Pelosi have continued to make it a political issue.
What is unhealthy is that Pelosi, with no prompting, suggested that those who were opposing the mosque should be investigated for their funding.
The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that when asked for clarification of her position, her office sent out a press release, which reads:
“The freedom of religion is a Constitutional right. Where a place of worship is located is a local decision.
I support the statement made by the Interfaith Alliance that 'We agree with the ADL that there is a need for transparency about who is funding the effort to build this Islamic center. At the same time, we should also ask who is funding the attacks against the construction of the center.’
For all of those expressing concern about the 9/11 families, we call upon them to join us in support of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act when Congress returns in September.”
After her politically-motivated outburst against those who dared to question the positioning of the mosque (in a building so close to Ground Zero that wreckage from one the planes’ fuselages fell into its roof), she had obviously backtracked, to soften the apparent harshness of her tone.
Now, she claims that there is some need for transparency about the funding of the mosque. And she still does not address the feelings of the 9/11 relatives about the sanctity of the site of Ground Zero. Talking of compensation while an imam prepares to symbolically piss on their loved ones’ last resting place ignores the enormity of their loss. It is also an affront to American sentiments of patriotism.
There is so little empathy in Pelosi’s position it has caused Debra Burlingame and Tim Sumner to publicly condemn Pelosi’s statements as “intimidation.”
In the Wall Street Journal, James Taranto analyzes Pelosi’s position further. He cities an article by Associated Press that shows that Mayor Bloomberg decided that when mosque opponents were calling for the funding of the Ground Zero Mosque to be revealed, what they were asking for was “Un-American.” Bloomberg had made this claim back on Monday July 12, long before he made his impassioned speech about Peter Stuyvesant and the religious rights of Quakers in New Amsterdam. Bloomberg was responding to a suggestion by a Republican candidate, Rick Lazlio, that the mosque should be investigated.
As Taranto states:
“Perhaps when Pelosi reconstitutes HUAC, its first order of business will be to look into Bloomberg's allegation that the speaker of the House is engaging in un-American activities....
Why is it a good idea to build a fancy new mosque just two blocks from the site of an act of mass murder that was committed in the name of Islam? Ask this question, and the response is almost certain to be some combination of verbal abuse (‘Bigot! Un-American!’) and airy abstractions about freedom of religion. No one seems to have a real answer to the question.”
There is such hypocrisy and cant flying around now, the issue of where this administration’s true loyalties lie must be called into question.
But how far we are going to question the real motivations behind Obama, Pelosi, the State Department, Mayor Bloomberg being so “political” about what is – after all – a “religious” building may be limited. After all, we do not want to be accused of being “un-American.”