We’ve arrived at yet another teachable moment in the war. The West has been distracted for years by the leftwing shibboleth that poverty and adverse conditions, as opposed to a religion and an ideology, are at the roots of terrorism. Those doctors who plotted to blow up London and the Glasgow airport provide powerful evidence to the contrary: It’s not the poverty, stupid. A savvy administration that actually knows how to lead could have used this moment to remind us all that it’s the ideology that drives the enemy in this war, and that the doctors are just the latest in a long string of evidence to that effect. Starting with millionaire Osama bin Laden and working through Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri to several of the 9-11 hijackers and on to these doctors, an awful lot of terrorists come from middle class or better backgrounds, and are professionals. They’re not poor in anything but their humanity. But what did the Bush administration do instead? Agh. It dispatched several of its top lights off to the nearest mosque. I realize, not in direct response to anything in particular, but it just doesn’t look good. And after seeing this, I need a vacation.

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The caption reads:

Senior White House staff members attend the rededication ceremony of The Islamic Center in Washington June 27, 2007. From L-R are: Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Frances Townsend, White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, and Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES)

Thaaat’s right. That’s two of our top officials donning hijabs, in effect genuflecting to a religion they don’t believe in for the sake of diplomacy. They’re not doing this on foreign soil, where it’s at least arguably defensible. They’re down the street from the White House.

Want to know a little more about the event they were attending? Steve Emerson looked into it and didn’t like what he found.

An informed source has told me that the White House was completely unaware that a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) representative would be present at President Bush’s speech last week for the rededication ceremony of the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., and, in fact, had no idea who the mosque leaders had invited to the event, basically surrendering the vetting process to the Islamic Center, a Saudi-funded institution with a documented history (pdf) of extremism and anti-Semitism.

Further, the source told me, “We desperately need to know what radical Islamists are doing in this country” and he was “shocked and surprised to learn that the White House would not take greater care of who was vetted to this event,” adding, “this was not your typical Rotary Club invitation.” The source told me that a White House official said that it does not vet all attendees at events to which the President is invited to speak, and the Islamic Center ceremony was no exception. Additionally, the White House was warned by a senior government official that it was making a huge national security error in not vetting those in attendance at the mosque. A White House liaison has told me in the past that CAIR has been barred from attending White House events on national security grounds.

And on cue, CAIR is playing up spokesman Ibrahim Hooper’s attendance at the speech and taking full advantage of its presence to insinuate itself into the President’s agenda.

Very nice. CAIR, recently discredited by being an unindicted co-conspirator in terror financing and by the fact that is has fewer members than the average gym, is back in the saddle again.

The symbolism of this won’t be lost on our enemies and it won’t be lost on fence-sitters who are wondering who will turn out to be the strong horse. It won’t win any friends among the “moderates” and won’t soothe a single one of the savages.

After the immigration fight and now seeing the picture above and reading about what when on in that event, this may be the last straw for me. Seriously. This administration just can’t lead, or won’t lead, or when it does decide to lead, the direction it wants to go doesn’t make much sense. It is making it harder and harder to support them, even while I recognize that as far as war leadership goes, they’re the only game in town. We need them to be strong, wise and agile, but at this point expecting any of that is a little like expecting the Baltimore Orioles to win the AL East. You can hope for it all you want, but it just ain’t gonna happen.

Update: I see a little pushback in the comments, as to why this incident is such a bad thing. Well, in isolation it’s not. But this isn’t an isolated incident. This administration, our best dog in the fight against radical Islam, is in many respects out of sorts. If it’s not trotting down to the mosque, with CAIR slipping in the back way to make itself relevant again, it’s letting Wahhabis control who can become a Muslim chaplain in the military, and it’s letting CAIR control government “sensitivity” training, and it’s the DHS head announcing to the world that we can’t and won’t secure the nation’s border, and it’s administration officials allowing themselves to be photographed appearing to kowtow to Islamic sensibilities. Ayaan Hirsi Ali has a lot to say about image and symbolism, but evidently she and others like her–who know what they’re talking about from personal experience–aren’t being listened to.

As with all wars, symbols are important. But this is especially true in the Muslim mind which is governed by a rigid code of honor and shame. In this context symbols are not just images, but a matter of life and death. He who stands by and watches as his symbols are trashed has lost his honor.

The honor-and-shame code affects all Muslim societies from top to bottom – family, tribe and the Umma, or the Muslim nation. An insider who breaches this code, which is Salman Rushdie’s great “crime,” must be put to death. He shamed Muslims in two very serious ways: He left Islam, and he insulted Islam’s infallible founder.

She’s talking about Muslims who burned effigies of the Queen and Salman Rushdie in Pakistan, but it’s the talk of symbolism that’s the takeaway. Images are more important than words in this war. That iconic image from Abu Ghraib has done more damage than a hundred great articles or speeches can fix, no matter that Abu Ghraib didn’t reflect administration policy at all. The above image won’t do anything like that kind of damage, but it won’t help anything. Townsend and Hughes just look craven and clueless, like they’re trying and failing to appease Islamic sensibilities. And the failure to vet the crowd and keep the likes of CAIR out is another sign of cluelessness. To me it’s all just one more sign that they really don’t understand the war at a very fundamental level. Google any of Karen Hughes’ speeches over the past couple of years wrt Islam and you’ll see what I mean.

On the one hand, we allow our images to be defaced and burned and destroyed and we do nothing about it, other than to trot out the nonsense about a “tiny minority” being behind the all the problems. On the other hand, our own leaders adopt albeit briefly the images of Islam. We end up looking weak, lacking confidence in our own ideals, and ready to submit to the nearest imam. That’s not the image we ought to project.

Update: Daniel Pipes comments. I guess he’s a bigot, too.

It’s bad enough that the left trots out the bigot hammer against us every day. It’s bad enough that that the Bush administration slung it at us during its own dishonest turn on immigration. But it’s another thing entirely when we start wielding that weapon against our own. That’s a riehl disappointment.