Mitt Romney at CPAC 2011 (Photo: Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney followed the Israeli right's line on Palestinians during last week's Florida debate. To get an idea why Romney's rhetoric was so extreme, just take a look at the schedule of speakers for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this year, where Romney is also scheduled to speak.
CPAC, held from February 9-11 in Washington, D.C., will be hosting all the big names in the GOP. And Romney, the front runner and "moderate" Republican, will be lending legitimacy to a conference that includes notorious anti-Muslim speakers, as well as advocates of continued Israeli control of the West Bank. As the success of Newt Gingrich's candidacy shows, this pro-occupation, anti-Muslim outlook on the Middle East is a core part of the Republican Party.
Below are some of the extreme speakers on Islam and the Middle East whom Romney and CPAC, unsurprisingly, have no problem being associated with.
Pamela Geller, speaking on "Islamic Law in America: How the Obama Justice Department Is Selling Us Out":
When there's a ginned-up controversy over Islam in America, turn to Pamela Geller. The bomb-throwing blogger and anti-Muslim activist has for years denigrated Islam and American Muslims, and she led the fight against the Park 51 Islamic center in lower Manhattan, calling it a "victory mosque." Geller has claimed that Barack Obama is "the secret 'love child' of Malcolm X" and has pined for the destruction of Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock. The Southern Poverty Law Center notes that Geller, "the anti-Muslim movement's most visible and flamboyant figurehead," has "mingled comfortably with European racists and fascists, spoken favorably of South African racists, [and] defended Serbian war criminal Radovan Karadzic." Geller's writings also showed up in the manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, the perpetrator of the Oslo massacre last year. A recent column lauded Newt Gingrich for defending the "Jewish territories of Judea and Samaria." And in a New York Times interview, Geller explained her devotion to Israel:
Now do I see everything through the prism of Israel? No, I don’t, but I do think it’s a very good guide. It’s a very good guide because, like I said, in the war between the civilized man and the savage, you side with the civilized man
Ilario Pantano, speaking on "Islamic Law in America: How the Obama Justice Department Is Selling Us Out":
This Tea Party favorite rose to prominence during the 2010 congressional campaign, which he eventually lost. Pantano is a favorite of the anti-Muslim blogosphere, and made opposition to Park 51 a centerpiece of his campaign in North Carolina. He's also come under fire for an incident that occurred in Iraq, where Pantano served as a Marine. Here's the Guardian on Pantano:
The basic facts are undisputed: on 15 April 2004 Ilario Pantano, then a second lieutenant with the US marines, stopped and detained two Iraqi men in a car near Falluja. The Iraqis were unarmed and the car found to be empty of weapons.
Pantano ordered the two men to search the car for a second time and then, with no other US soldiers in view, unloaded a magazine of his M16A4 automatic rifle into them, before reloading and blasting a second magazine at them – some 60 rounds in total.
Over the corpses, he left a placard inscribed with the marine motto: "No better friend, No worse enemy."
This article authored by Pantano gives a good idea on where's he's coming from:
If we allow mosques to go up like mushrooms everywhere there is a terrorist bombing or shooting we will create a perverse incentive, not a deterrent. This mosque at Ground Zero will serve as a big trophy and we are welcoming it?...
One thank you note can be struck early for the mosque’s front man: Kuwaiti-born Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. Chairman of the Cordoba Initiative, Rauf is also the CEO of American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA). But he’s more than just an apologist for the religion-based sharia law, which many experts see in direct opposition to the U.S. Constitution. Rauf is also a key member of the Malaysia-based Perdana Global Peace Organization, reportedly the single biggest donor to the Free Gaza Movement (FGM) and its affiliated activists, which include former Weather Underground founders William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, as well as Jodie Evans, the leader of Code Pink: Women for Peace (see discoverthenetworks.org for information on this web of Leftist relationships).
Robert Spencer, also speaking on "Islamic Law in America: How the Obama Justice Department Is Selling Us Out":
Geller's partner in the crusade against Muslims, Spencer authored a book that called Islam "the world's most intolerant religion." Here's how the Center for American Progress described Spencer in its landmark report, Fear, Inc: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America:
A prolific blogger, author, and commentator, Spencer is “the principal leader... in the new academic field of Islam bashing,” according to Robert Crane, a former deputy director of the U.S. National Security Council and former adviser to President Nixon. Spencer is the primary driver in promoting the myth that peace- ful Islam is nonexistent and that violent extremism is inherent within traditional Islam. “Of course, as I have pointed out many times, traditional Islam itself is not moderate or peaceful,” Spencer said in June this year. “It is the only major world religion with a developed doctrine and tradition of warfare against unbelievers.”
And of course, Spencer is a big backer of Israel, for much the same reason as Geller is. Here's a post Spencer published on his JihadWatch.org site:
And the moral of all this? Israel must give up nothing more. It should have permanently annexed in June 1967 everything it took, but who then knew about Islam in the Israeli government? And more importantly, who in the Israeli government knows a sufficient amount now?
Because if the Israeli government understood the permanent nature of the implacable Muslim and Arab hostility, rooted in the immutable texts of Islam, including in those texts the acts and words of Muhammad as recorded in Hadith and Sira and understood by all Muslim jurisconsults, then the nonsense of further surrender of territory critical to Israel's survival would end. Israel has legal, moral, and historic title to that territory, not least by the preamble and express provisions of the Mandate for Palestine established by the League of Nations.
Those three speakers are just some of the reactionary speakers CPAC is slated to host. But where does Romney fit in all of this? While Romney is perhaps the least anti-Muslim candidate in the race, that doesn't say much.
Romney has come under attack from the right for saying that "I believe people of the Islamic faith do not have to subscribe to the idea of radical, violent jihadism." But he's also pandered to the fear-mongering over the "threat" of sharia law in the U.S. At a CNN debate in June, Romney said: "Of course, we're not going to have Sharia law applied in U.S. courts. That's never going to happen. We have a Constitution and we follow the law."
The worst aspect of Romney's campaign on the Middle East front came when he announced that Walid Phares is serving as a "special adviser" in his "shadow National Security Council." Again, here's the Center for American Progress on Phares:
Walid Phares is currently a senior fellow and the director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, D.C. Phares, age 53, also acts as an “expert” lecturer on “Islamist Jihadism” for the Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies. Phares is touted as an authentic expert on Muslims and political Islam despite being a former militiaman and foreign affairs spokesman for the mostly Christian Lebanese Front, which was responsible for the Sabra and Shatila massacres of Muslims during the September 1982 Lebanese Civil War.
Phares promotes the conspiracy theory of mainstream Muslim organizations posing as radical Islamist cells. He warns that “jihadists within the West pose as civil rights advocates” and patiently recruit until “[a]lmost all mosques, educational centers,and socioeconomic institutions fall into their hands.” He was originally scheduled to testify at Rep. King’s criticized hearings on the alleged radicalization of the Muslim American community but was dropped at the last moment after his sordid history with the Lebanese Forces was uncovered.
When Phares was asked about his connection to the leadership that allowed the atrocities to occur, he simply replied, “Everybody did silly stuff, on both hands… but amazingly enough, the Guardians of the Cedars [a right-wing Christian religious group within the Lebanese Forces] have been the most moral fighters."
With Romney hearing views like that routinely from an adviser, nothing at CPAC should surprise him. And that's the problem.