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Nixon Center’s Plumbers Unit By: Patrick Poole
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, May 03, 2007

It seems that I’ve made the enemies list over at the Nixon Center. It’s been two weeks since my 3-part rejoinder to Robert Leiken and Steven Brooke was published here at FrontPage:

Showdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, Part 1


Showdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, Part 2


Showdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, Part 3


Since that time, not a word has been uttered by the Nixon Center duo in response or rebuttal. I understand their dilemma: having previously accused me in their article, “A Response to Patrick Poole’s ‘Mainstreaming the Muslim Brotherhood’” of ignoring their arguments made in the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs, “The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood” (which I initially critiqued here at FrontPage in “Mainstreaming the Muslim Brotherhood”), they surely felt that they had bitten off more than they could chew after I had buried them under the weight of scholarly opinion and readily available evidence. I suppose they thought I would run away and hide after they called me an “armchair Internet intellectual” and invoked their superior Beltway intelligentsia credentials.


They also face another problem: in trying to rehabilitate the public image of the Brotherhood to convince the State Department to initiate a dialogue with the group, which has spawned virtually every Islamic terrorist organization in the world today and whose leaders unashamedly continue to promote terrorism, they have to battle both the history and the ongoing activities of the Brotherhood itself. It certainly doesn’t help their claims that the Brotherhood has renounced violence when the Supreme Guide of the organization, Mohammad Mahdi Akef, calls for terrorist attacks against Israel and the US in Iraq and Afghanistan, as he did just two weeks ago. Thus, Leiken and Brooke are much like the mythical Sisyphus trying to roll the boulder of their revisionist history up the hill of established fact.


But a surprise development earlier this week may indicate where they intend to direct the next step of the debate. On Monday, someone from the Nixon Center paid a visit to my personal blog, Existential Space, and downloaded virtually every single post I had made since beginning the project in August 2005 (I have posted the electronic evidence here). Why this new-found interest in my writings? Have Leiken and Brooke come to their senses after having read my extensive refutation of their arguments that the Muslim Brotherhood has “rejected jihad” and “embraces democracy”? Not likely.


Having worked inside the Beltway where I observed first-hand the many tricks and sleight-of-hand of the policy intelligentsia trade, I suspect what’s at work is that Leiken and Brooke have commissioned a “Plumbers Unit” to conduct some opposition research on yours truly. It is probably a group of interns or junior Nixon Center staffers doing the heavy lifting. Riffling through my blog, articles and public policy reports I have authored over the years, they hope to find something they can twist out of context to restate their objection that none of the evidence I have offered should even be considered because I am either an “armchair Internet intellectual” (a theme they have visited once before), or more likely, some kind of raving theocratic-leaning lunatic – all in order to evade the cold, hard facts I have raised regarding the Muslim Brotherhood.


FrontPage readers might recall that this is not the first time in the debate over their “Moderate Muslim Brotherhood” thesis that they have sent out their Plumbers Unit to dig up dirt to launch personal attacks on their critics. As I have previously noted, after Middle East expert Youssef Ibrahim published a critique of their Foreign Affairs article in the NY Sun, “A ‘Moderate’ Path is Just another Road to Disaster,” Leiken and Brooke fired off a heated response, “Strategic Thinking about the Muslim Brotherhood,” characterizing Ibrahim’s criticism as a “shoddy, dishonest column” and throwing a sucker-punch against his professionalism, describing him as:


…the shaky Youssef Ibrahim, whose "scholarly" credentials include a dismissal from the Council on Foreign Relations and a reputation for subjectivity and bias during his tenure at The New York Times.


But journalist Doug Farah set the record straight on Ibrahim’s CFR tenure in a blog post, saying:


…in their response, Leiken and Brooke incorrectly state that my friend Yousef Ibrahim’s credentials include a dismissal from the Council on Foreign Relations. Mr. Ibrahim had a one-year fellowship there, paid for by BP, and he returned to his post there after the fellowship ended.


It took more than a week after Farah corrected the record for Leiken and Brooke to publicly retract their slander against Ibrahim; but in doing so, they couldn’t resist taking one more cheap shot at him:


The March 23, 2007 article "Strategic Thinking on the Muslim Brotherhood", by Robert S. Leiken and Steven Brooke, incorrectly referred to Youssef Ibrahim’s "dismissal" from the Council on Foreign Relations. Though several sources confirm that Mr. Ibrahim’s tenure at the Council was controversial, he was not "dismissed." We regret the error.


While acknowledging that he wasn’t dismissed, they cite unnamed “sources” to say that Ibrahim was “controversial” – an entirely meaningless statement, but one clearly intended to question his credibility. And the evidence to support their claim that Ibrahim had a “reputation for subjectivity and bias” at the NY Times? They have thus far offered no evidence to back up this bald assertion.


Finally, calling Ibrahim “controversial” is like the pot calling the kettle black. If they want to continue to engage in personal attacks and character assassination against critics of the Muslim Brotherhood (and myself in particular), we might have to revisit Leiken’s “controversial” statements and activities regarding the Sandinistas and Contras in the 1980s, and revisit their claim that they both “wrote the first full account” of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s rise as a terrorist leader (when at least a dozen other journalists beat them to the punch by as much as a year and a half). And if anything could be deemed “controversial,” attempting to rehabilitate the image of the Muslim Brotherhood would certainly fit that bill.


Hopefully, they will desist in making any more childish and diversionary charges and respond to the substance of the 50+ pages of documentation I have offered in point-by-point rebuttal to their “Moderate Muslim Brotherhood” thesis. That should be the sole issue at hand.

But if there recent record is any indication, we should expect more mud-slinging and less debate. This isn’t a surprise: they can’t possibly win a debate based on the facts. In the end, they are not left with much more than to demonize and demean their critics while asserting their own foreign policy prowess. If that’s the path they intend to take – as the electronic traces of their Plumbers Unit seems to indicate – they should proceed with caution. Those kinds of shoddy and dishonest tactics could easily backfire.

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Patrick Poole is a regular contributor to Frontpagemag.com and an anti-terrorism consultant to law enforcement and the military.

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