RUSH: Now, as you know, folks, we don’t do too many interviews here. We’re not on the author circuit. Friends of mine, however, do write books; and I try to have them on, especially in this most recent example. Andrew McCarthy has written a book entitled Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad. Its timing is beautiful, because we have been so successful in thwarting another attack, terrorist attack on our country, that it is easy for people to assume the threat has subsided when it really hasn’t. I welcome to the program, Andy McCarthy, good friend, how are you sir?
MCCARTHY: Is this the C-in-C USOC?
RUSH: This is C-in-C USOC: Commander-in-Chief US, Operation Chaos.
MCCARTHY: Happy to talk to you, sir.
RUSH: It’s great to have you here. Now, let’s get started with this, because there’s a lot to discuss with you. There are three themes in Andy’s book, folks. The first theme is that a foreign threat to national security is fundamentally a political issue of self-defense that would involve military. It’s not a legal issue involving lawyers and criminal law. The second theme is that we have been at war with these people — declared by them — since the late eighties, early nineties, and it wasn’t taken seriously until 9/11. The third one is what’s fascinating to me. I can’t wait ’til we get to that portion. It’s ‘You Can’t Take the Islam Out of Islamic terrorism.’ Andy tried the blind sheik, and I’ll let him tell you the story when we get there about preparing to cross-examine the blind sheik. He expected to find that this guy was just a fringe nut, making things up — and nothing he said was made up about Islam. So let’s start where you think we need to start for people to understand the threat that we still face, and maybe you want to do that by starting at the beginning and how you became aware of it.
MCCARTHY: Well, I knew nothing more about radical Islam, Rush, in 1993 when I got brought into this than, you know, anyone who’s had a fairly good education in the United States; which is to say, you know, maybe the barest headlines, but not a whole lot of substance underneath that. The whole experience was really an eye-opener for me in many ways. Probably most basically, by realizing that the people who founded our country had a much more humble and better idea about how the country would need to be defended. They didn’t assume that America would be forever, and they certainly were not under a delusion that we could be protected by our legal system from foreign threats to our security. They had a very strong conviction that there had to be an accountability nexus between the people who made national security decisions and the people whose lives were at stake. And what that meant was that the courts essentially were going to have no role in national security. They had an important role in our system, but not in protecting our nation from foreign threats. I guess what my battle scars are about is trying to basically square that circle, trying to use our criminal justice system as a means from protecting us from people who actually mean us an existential threat to our system.
RUSH: All right. So what are the numbers? Through the Clinton years and even prior to that, we sought to deal with this threat via the courts, indictments. How successful have we been?
MCCARTHY: Well, if your point of reference is national security, it’s an abysmal failure. Most of the time when I talked about this it turns out to be at law schools, where what they’re interested in is due process, and they look at it and say, ‘But look, you convicted everyone. You know, you batted a thousand,’ which obviously you can’t do better than that. But in point of fact in eight years we took out 29 people, which, when you consider the fact that, you know, between the time the trade center was bombed in ’93 — which I think is the declaration of war — and the time it was destroyed on 9/11, we had an enemy that was growing bigger and bolder, attacking us about once a year, and our response to it — even as the attacks became more ferocious — was essentially to add more counts to the indictment, which is really not impressive to people who are willing to immolate themselves in terrorist attacks.
RUSH: We indicted Bin Laden, right, in 1998? This was before all the embassy bombings and the millennium plot, the USS Cole and 9/11. We indicted Bin Laden, and yet, we don’t have Bin Laden. So tell me something: Why is it? Is it a political issue, is it ideological? Is it most of the people that want to use the legal system to go after these people, are they liberals? Are they on the left? What is their philosophy behind this is the best way to go about it?
MCCARTHY: Well, I think it’s a variety of different explanations for it, but I think the predominant one is mainly a human nature-type element, which is that we’d like to believe we’re in more control of this than we are. One way that you can convince yourself of that is that you take it on in court, which really does not require you to go to a war footing; and then you look at the bottom line, and you seem to be convicting people — and as I try to explain in the book, you know, with all the appearances that you have in court, and all the proceedings, pretrial, post-trial sentencing et cetera, you know, four people can look like 40 or 400 people pretty soon. You know, and it’s a real opportunity if you want to use it that way — and I think a lot of our politicians have wanted to use it that way — to make it look like you’re doing more than you are actually doing at a low cost. But you can’t put the costs off forever, and I think we found that out on 9/11. The reason that it’s so obvious, I think, that the criminal justice approach is too paltry a way to respond to this is: Why haven’t we had another attack in seven years? Now, some of it is unquestionably luck. But a lot of it is the fact that we’re killing and capturing terrorists. In a single day of combat in Iraq or Afghanistan, we will often take out more people than we took out in the eight years between the bombing of the trade center and the destruction of it. That is very meaningful in terms of confronting people who mean you real harm.
RUSH: Explain something to me, if you would. How is it that some people think that, with the legal system — the foundation of it is the presumption of innocence.
RUSH: Presume everybody that comes to court is innocent in our domestic legal system. How can anybody think that will apply to armed militants under declared hostilities against the country? Not individuals. How can anybody think that that would apply?
MCCARTHY: They can’t if they actually sit down and think it through logically, but that’s not the way it works, and it certainly was not the ethos of government when I was in it. What people think instead of the logic of the point that you’ve just made —
MCCARTHY: — is that it is important in terms of not only our self-esteem, which is generally speaking their self-esteem, but our, quote, unquote, ‘image in the world.’
MCCARTHY: You hear a lot about, ‘We need to bring terrorists into our system, give them the full power of due process that we would give to a tax cheat,’ and get them convicted under all those presumptions that you just described, and then that way we can feel good about ourselves.
RUSH: Yeah, but they wouldn’t be convicted.
MCCARTHY: (laughing) No, right.
RUSH: By the time you let the defense bar at these guys —
MCCARTHY: Oh, that. (laughing)
RUSH: — they wouldn’t be convicted. That’s the whole point, and, you know, some people are of the opinion that there is a group of people in this country that would love to have the enemy win, by hook or by crook. Close Guantanamo, bring those prisoners here, make them subject to US constitutional rights when they’re not even citizens; all for the purposes of embarrassing the country, primarily due to a hatred of George W. Bush.
MCCARTHY: Yeah, it’s hard to argue with that because that’s exactly what we’re seeing. And as you pointed out a second ago, Bin Laden himself is case in point of the limitations of the criminal justice system if what you really wanted to do was take on this threat. I’ve heard nonstop about how we went to Afghanistan, we did a lot of damage and we broke a lot of things but we didn’t get him. Well, it’s not like he just started in 2001. He had something of a career before then, and we did indict him in the spring of ’98.
RUSH: I’ll bet he was quaking in his boots, too.
MCCARTHY: Yeah, well, it hasn’t seemed to do much to him. We actually indicted him even before the embassy bombings and there’s probably about six weeks time between the time we indicted him and the time the embassies were taken out. So, look, if you are trying to do is stop this enemy from having an ability to project power on the scale of a nation; you’re never, ever, going to do it by indicting him in the criminal justice system. It just can’t work.
RUSH: Talking to Andrew McCarthy, author of Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad. We’ll continue right after this.
RUSH: We’re talking with a good friend of mine, Andrew McCarthy, author of Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad. Andy, let’s explain to people your direct involvement with this. You were at the US attorney’s office SDNY, for those of you in the know, Southern District New York. You prepared for trial; you’re on the prosecution team I think with Pat Fitzgerald, correct?
MCCARTHY: That’s right. Actually we like to say he was with me, back then.
RUSH: Yeah, well, I like the way that sounds.
RUSH: So who were the suspects, who were the defendants in this case?
MCCARTHY: Well, the World Trade Center had been bombed when I got brought into the case. There was already four people under arrest for that, and the trial was being prepared by another group of prosecutors, but what we found right after the Trade Center bombing was that this same organization was plotting something that was even more ambitious and horrifying, which was an attack that would be simultaneous against the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, the United Nations complex on the east side of Manhattan, and possibly also the FBI’s downtown Manhattan headquarters. And they were going to try to hit them all at the same time. But we had the fortuity of actually having an informant who had infiltrated the organization.
Regrettably, he had infiltrated it before the
Trade Center bombing, but in a dispute with the FBI he left the investigation and then was brought back in after the Trade Center bombing. So we managed to stop that attack, I was brought in at the investigative stage. I think the interesting thing about that is not so much my participation in it as the fact that there really is no substitute for human intelligence. It’s really the only terrorism attack that we stopped by anything other than dumb luck, which I think is sort of a lesson we should have learned by now. But I was brought in basically to run that investigation and then try to bring in indictments that was going to target the organization that had carried out not only the Trade Center attack, but this other attack, and really kind of bring it back to where it first began here in America.
RUSH: And this is where you first came into contact in a legal sense with Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. He was the mastermind, the leader, the guru of this gang?
MCCARTHY: Yes. And he actually had a considerable history before he ever got here. He has taken credit for it, and I think credibly, having issued the fatwa for the murder of President Anwar Sadat in 1981, the Egyptian president who committed the great crime of making peace with Israel. He was murdered, and the murder was carried out by Egyptian terrorist organizations. Abdel Rahman, the Blind Sheik, was a major mover and shaker in those circles, and then he gets himself basically to Afghanistan, where he hooks up with people like Bin Laden and Zawahiri and, you know, the other names that were not household names like he was back then, but have become that way for us and ultimately came to America in 1990. And the way he got here basically is an unfortunate comedy of errors which seems to be a running theme in my book, but, you know, basically we didn’t put him on the terrorist watch list when we should have.
RUSH: But we knew he was a terrorist when we let him in?
RUSH: Did he come in through JFK and ask for asylum, did he use that method?
MCCARTHY: No, he came in a variety of different ways, and he didn’t have to ask for asylum until the end because we just let him in. It really was awful. I mean, he was on the list, but we didn’t read the list and then when he got here it turned out that, you know, one office is investigating him and the other is giving him a green card as a religious instructor, you know, not our finest hour, but unfortunately a sort of a steady theme of all this. You know, if we look back at the 1993 attack, we had very good reason to know that it was coming. We had the FBI conducting surveillance in the late 1980s of these guys as they were conducting paramilitary training out in Long Island. We had, you know, a CIA angle to this because they were basically funding large parts of the mujahideen in Afghanistan, and they were doing it through the Pakistanis who were very sympathetic to the most anti-American elements of the mujahideen, and then we had this murder of Meir Kahane, the founder of the Jewish Defense League in 1990 where that murder was committed by a guy named El Sayyid Nosair, who was actually reporting to the Blind Sheik even while the Blind Sheik was over in Egypt, and though it was quite clear from the stuff that was seized from him that he was part of something that was much bigger and had much more ambitious designs than just the murder of Kahane, there was a decision made at that time to treat that murder like it was the work of a lone gunman, in order to prevent any religious element from getting into the case, which I think was a big mistake unfortunately.
RUSH: Well, there you go, the legal situation again, the legal circumstance seems to be present in this in misjudging the way to actually go about this and assessing the threat. But I can’t help but go back to say you only learned all this because you had an informant. It’s beyond dumb luck, but human intel is how you learned about all this.
RUSH: And that, of course, helped you prepare your case. What was your role in the trial against the Blind Sheik?
MCCARTHY: Well, I was the lead prosecutor, and that informant turned out to be the main witness in the case, and he was my witness, so I spent, you know, quite a bit of time studying what he had done and also, you know, having to do the other odds and ends that you do when you do a case like this, one of which was to try to get prepared in the event the Blind Sheik decided to testify, which, you know, ultimately he didn’t do but that didn’t mean we didn’t have to prepare for it. And that was an eye-opener. In fact, the whole experience in watching the dynamic of him and other people in the Muslim community throughout the trial was a real eye-opener for me. I wanted to believe in 1993 the stuff that we were putting out, you know, that he basically perverted who was otherwise a peaceful doctrine. But what I found was going through all of his thousands of pages of transcripts and statements, was that when he cited scripture to justify acts of terrorism, to the extent he was quoting scripture or referring to it, he did it accurately, which shouldn’t be a surprise.
RUSH: So you went in thinking this guy might be a fringe little kooky and perverting Islam, and you were stunned to find out that everything he said or proclaimed had a root basis?
MCCARTHY: That’s correct. There’s no other way of putting it. And it shouldn’t have been a surprise. I mean, he was a doctor of Islamic jurisprudence, graduated from Al-Azhar University in Egypt. Why in the world I would have thought that I or the Justice Department would know more about Islam than he would is beyond me now that I look back on it, but back then I was pretty confident that we must have been right when we said that he was basically perverting the doctrine.
RUSH: Look, I’ve got less than 45 seconds here, and I want to spend a little time on the second theme. We’ve jumped from one to number three here. The second theme, we touched on it a little bit, we’re at war, they declared it, we haven’t really accepted it, I want to ask if you think — you can ponder this during our profit center time-out, Obscene Profit Center break coming up, you can ponder whether or not we have gone soft again, and I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but the time in your book I think gives me some indication of the answer. We’re talking to Andrew McCarthy, author of the important and timely Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad. And we got one more segment with him. I’m sure you have the time. I didn’t ask you if you could go longer than a half hour.
MCCARTHY: I’d be delighted.
RUSH: All right, we’ll be back and continue after this.
RUSH: And we resume our conversation with Andrew McCarthy; author of Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad. If you just missed it, we just finished a discussion of Andy being the lead prosecutor on the conviction of the Blind Sheik — 1993 World Trade Center — and I want to repeat this point because I think it’s crucial. In preparing for the prosecution and possible witness testimony on the stand of the Blind Sheik — who ended up not taking the stand — you had to prepare for it, and you assumed him to be a fruitcake. Nobody, nobody’s religion could actually have things in scripture that he was citing, and you found out everything he said was there. It opened your eyes, and I think this is the kind of thing… We’re in the middle of a presidential campaign, and you’ve talked about the notion here that they declared war on us, you cite 1993. We didn’t take it seriously until 2001. Do you think we still take it seriously?
MCCARTHY: We’re taking it less seriously. I think there was a time right after 9/11, probably I put it at about 18 months — probably into the Iraq operation, so longer than that — that I think we really were taking it seriously. We certainly changed our enforcement methods. The Justice Department still had a role, but it was much more subordinate. The military was out front, which it needed to be in that phase, but there was a realization that it needed to be a wholesale government approach. But when I read things like what we’ve heard in the last few days about how we’re getting guidance inside the government about purging our lexicon and saying things like jihadism and mujahideen and the like and —
RUSH: Wait. Wait, wait, wait! Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Who’s getting what? Guidance? Who in the government is sending this out to who?
MCCARTHY: Well, the reporting that’s come out since — I guess it was about April 24th — is that the internal syncing at least in parts of the administration — and this is something the State Department’s pushed for a long time — is that we make a mistake call jihadism, jihadism; because there are all kinds of jihad, not just forceable jihad. This is how the thinking goes. And, by the way, while there may be all kinds of jihad, jihad is a military concept. That’s how it grew up. That’s the reason there is a Muslim world in the first place. But secondly the idea is that when you call them jihadists, you are somehow emboldening them as if what they were relying on is how we regard them rather than how they see themselves. And that you also —
RUSH: So what are we supposed to call ’em?
MCCARTHY: Well, I’m down to thinking — as I wrote in a piece in National Review a couple years ago, I think maybe — we should just call it ‘Mabel’ or something. Because it seems like everything that you say that touches on this… We’re so intimidated by the idea that there’s a religious label on this and everybody is so afraid of their shadow to talk about it, that whenever you say what is obvious — which is that you can’t take the ‘Islam’ out of Islamic terror and that the main cause of this is not democracy or lack of democracy; or, you know, ancient hatreds or the economy, poverty, or whatever our excuse is this week. This is driven by doctrine. You know, we have poor people all over the world. They’re not all committing terrorism.
RUSH: Are the leaders of this movement people of wealth? We know Bin Laden’s a man of great wealth; his family was. I don’t know about Zawahiri, but he was a doctor in Egypt. What about Rahman? Are the leaders of this movement who are getting hold of these young kids at very impressionable ages and turning them into little hate missiles, are they wealthy people? I mean, so many people in this country believe that it is our usurpation and actual stealing of the world’s resources leading these poor people, these nomads with nothing, and they just hate us for that reason?
MCCARTHY: You know, that’s a great point. The ideology that we’re talking about here is 14 centuries old. It existed and thrived before there was a United States. It has commanded the allegiance of the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the educated and uneducated — to some extent, Sunnis and Shi’ites, princes and paupers. You know, you can’t pigeonhole one rationale for why it exists other than the obvious one, which is that it’s a matter of doctrine and the people who believe it believe it’s a divine injunction and that mankind doesn’t have a right to make laws which run afoul of what they believe is the law that was handed down by Allah directly to Mohammed 14 centuries ago.
RUSH: We live in the United States of America, and the people who live here, many of them have not traveled abroad; and as a result there are many things that they take for granted and one of the things I think a lot of people take for granted is that we’re pretty much like the rest of the world, except they’re very impressionable and they’re told that the rest of the world hates us. They despise us because of our affluence, because our productivity, because we are a small portion of the world’s population and we use a majority of the world’s resources. All these things, and the education system labels guilt throughout our society. You mentioned these people in the fourteenth century. One of the things I constantly try to tell people is that — to demonstrate the true greatness of western democracies, representative republics and a western civilization, a culture. We are all born as little savages. If we were not raised by parents — if we were not instructed in right and wrong, morality and so forth — we would turn out however we did. These people remind me of just that. They’re being raised to behave and think as they do. I’m talking about the jihadists, this culture that’s 1400 years old. Human beings are not by instinct, not by nature good. That has to be programmed into them, it has to be raised in them — and these people of course have a different definition. They think they are good, they’re doing everything in the name of God, and yet their crimes are against humanity.
MCCARTHY: You know, Rush, that’s exactly right. It actually brings me to another memory of the dynamic between the Blind Sheik and the community, which was an eye-opener and a frightening one to me. We had very long defense case in the case. It actually went on for about two months; and during the course of it, any number of moderate people came in — and they really were authentic moderate people. There’s no way on God’s green earth they ever would have crossed into terrorism activity. But every now and then when they were on the stand, a question of theology would come up, of doctrine. You know, ‘What does jihad mean? What does this concept mean?’ and at least three different times, they answered, ‘I wouldn’t be competent to say. You’d have to ask someone like him about that.’
RUSH: Meaning Rahman.
MCCARTHY: This was the homicidal maniac sitting in the corner of my courtroom. What it flagged for me was even though these people were very moderate and peaceful people — you’d never see them be terrorists — they were willing in a matter of importance in their own doctrine to rely on his viewpoint of it. The second thing is, the world is exactly as you’ve described it, and every place is not America. When you go overseas — and particularly when you go to parts of the Muslim world where there’s rampant illiteracy and where they think that learning the Koran is really the kit and caboodle of what you need in the way of education — these fiery clerics, whatever we may think of them, are powerfully influential in those parts of the world; and it’s not an accident that when you have the cartoons — the Dutch cartoons come out or you have this woman in the Sudan who, you know, named the teddy bear Mohammed — it’s not a big surprise that you get riot on demand. When these guys say, ‘Islam has been insulted,’ when they say, ‘Islam is under siege,’ a lot of people snap to. They’re very influential. It’s frightening, and I think that we underestimate at our peril how much influence they have.
RUSH: We’re in the middle of a presidential campaign, and the sum total of discussion on this focuses on distorting McCain’s statement that if we have to stay in Iraq a hundred years, we’ll do it; talking about ending torture (of course we’re the guilty ones); closing Guantanamo; getting out of Iraq. There is literally hardly any discussion about the war on terror other than the Democrats promising — just as they promised to lower gas prices after they won the House in 2006 — that they’re going to get Bin Laden. It’s not part of the presidential campaign. Granted, there are more pressing issues daily that people face and see now with economic circumstances as they are. What’s it gonna take? (chuckles) I almost hate to hear the answer to this. What’s it going to take to wake people up again to the existence of this threat, and just because we’ve thwarted one on our soil for seven years; however we’ve done it, doesn’t mean the threat’s gone away or is any less intense. What’s it going to take?
MCCARTHY: Well, I hope it doesn’t take another attack, but it’s probably going to take at least a sense that we could be attacked that certainly isn’t present for us now — and in terms of what you’re talking about now, you know, I haven’t been the biggest McCain fan to the planet, but let me give him this much of his due. He wants to get the job done in Iraq at least insofar as it means defeating Al-Qaeda there. I can’t stress to people how important that is. Even if you don’t agree with why we went to Iraq in the first place — and, you know, say we should never have been there –the fact is that the worst thing we ever did was pull out of Lebanon in 1983 when the Marine barracks got hit. The next worst thing we probably ever did was pull out of Somalia when that got ugly. These people — and when I talk about ‘these people,’ I mean people like Bin Laden and the Blind Sheik — if used to a fair thee well as a recruiting tool this notion that they’re the strong horse, we’re the weak horse; and if they make it ugly enough and bloody enough for us, that we will pull out. It’s like when a very strong team plays a very weak team in sports. The strong team can never give the weak team a sniff, because the minute you do and they start to think they can win, and they start to believe in themselves, they become much more efficient. It becomes much more easy for them to recruit, to raise money, to do all the things they have to do to take on a superpower. What they have going for them that we don’t, is they have basically eradicated our threshold idea of what is civilized behavior. They are willing to do anything to win, and they’re absolutely sure that history is on their side. Unless we become more sure than we are now that we’re right, and that we have a need to show them that however long it takes, we’re going to do what has to be done to win; you know, we can’t rely on the fact that we’re a super power and that it’s inevitable that we’ll win this thing.
RUSH: Andy McCarthy, thanks so much for your time. This is a book that if you don’t want to get scared too much, you should read. It’s timely and it’s important, and we just scratched the surface. The title of the book: Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad. Best of luck with it, Andy, and thanks so much for your time here today.
MCCARTHY: Rush, thank you. I appreciate it.
RUSH: You bet. Andrew McCarthy.