Can we have a moment of appreciation please for the characteristic gutsiness of President Bush’s expected recess appointment of Daniel Pipes to the board of the US Institute for Peace. Radical Muslim groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations had organized to defeat Pipes. Despite the modest importance of the Institute itself, these groups understood that the struggle over Pipes was a potentially decisive political event. For underneath the wild allegations against him (about which more in a moment), the argument over Pipes boiled down to this: is it an act of bigotry to notice that the terrorists we are fighting commit their acts of terror in the name of IslamHuh? I've read this three times and I still can't figure it out. Does Frum mean that groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations are akin to the old Pinks? I agree with that. But when did President Bush say this? Can’t we applaud the Pipes nomination and still be appalled at the president’s utter failure to say that it is the consistent application of Islam that leads to poverty, murder, and suffering?
Pipes’ critics claimed that it was. All of their other slanders against him quickly collapse on examination into a pile of distorted quotations. Pipes has never impugned Muslims in general – on the contrary, he has been an eloquent voice in favor of the need for and possibility of democracy and liberty in the Islamic world. But he has eloquently and presciently sounded the alert for a decade and a half over the gathering menace of extremist Islamic ideology – and he has fearlessly and tirelessly struggled against that menace as it has tried to sink roots into American soil.
It is for these services to the American people that this scholar who has devoted his life to the study of Islamic civilization, and who has mastered modern and medieval Arabic for his studies, has been damned by CAIR and others as a bigot.
Some people might have feared that CAIR might succeed. President Bush has boldly and consistently championed the rights and good name of the American Muslim community, and he has taken his sympathy for American Muslim to the point of being willing to meet with some of that community’s least responsible members. This openness triggered a familiar pattern of conservative response to President Bush:
Bush speaks gently.
Bush acts firmly.
Conservatives are surprised.
Now issn’t [sic] it past time to stop being surprised when this president acts in a principled manner?
Bush surely understood better than anyone what it was that the radical Muslim groups were claiming when they called for Pipes’ defeat. They were implicitly contending that anyone willing to name the enemy in this war thereby disqualified himself for a role in the prosecution of the war. They were demanding a veto over the conduct of the war for those people in American life who have shown the most sympathy for the enemy: It would be rather as if the leaders of the Communist Party USA asserted veto power over national-security nominations during the Cold War.
Oh, wait, we’d have to see that there is something wrong with faith to do that. And no one at NR is going to be fighting that battle any time soon.