I’m looking for video (Megyn Kelly played a bit of it a little while ago) but for now Politico’s write-up will have to do. Remember this guy? He was the one who got the deer-in-the-headlights look back in December when Diane Sawyer asked what he thought of the London terror plot that had been busted a few hours earlier. His office said afterward that he hadn’t been briefed on it because he was tied up all day with the Korean standoff. Fair enough.
What’s the excuse this time?
In response to questioning from Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) about the threat posed by the group, Clapper suggested that the Egyptian part of the Brotherhood is not particularly extreme and that the broader international movement is hard to generalize about.
“The term ‘Muslim Brotherhood’…is an umbrella term for a variety of movements, in the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried Al Qaeda as a perversion of Islam,” Clapper said. “They have pursued social ends, a betterment of the political order in Egypt, et cetera…..In other countries, there are also chapters or franchises of the Muslim Brotherhood, but there is no overarching agenda, particularly in pursuit of violence, at least internationally.”
The Brotherhood uses the slogan, “Islam is the answer,” and generally advocates for government in accordance with Islamic principles. The movement has as a broad goal unifying what it perceives as Muslim lands, from Spain to Indonesia, as a “caliphate.”
Walid Phares reacted in disbelief when Kelly read him the quote on Fox; I’m told that when Richard Engel heard it on MSNBC, he called it a “head-snap moment” and proceeded to debunk it straightaway. (Hoping to get video of that, too.) This isn’t the first time an administration advisor has tried to whitewash the Brotherhood recently either. Bruce Riedel, who chaired the 2009 review of AfPak policy for the White House, was urging Daily Beast readers not to fear the Brotherhood all the way back on day three of the protests, before they had even broken really big yet. I warned you the next day that we’d be seeing more of that as Mubarak lost his grip: If, as it appears, regime change and democracy are a fact of life, the White House will want to make them seem as innocuous as possible to blunt any “who lost Egypt?” voter backlash here. And now here’s our very own DNI spinning like a gyroscope.
Read Tom Joscelyn’s response to Riedel about the Brotherhood as a corrective to Clapper’s comments. You’ll be pleased to know that this isn’t the only whitewash on the wires either: WaPo has an op-ed today from a member of the Brotherhood itself insisting that his group and the west needn’t be enemies. Although, interestingly, even he can’t quite bring himself to repeat Clapper’s falsehood:
Because we are an Islamic movement and the vast majority of Egypt is Muslim, some will raise the issue of sharia law. While this is not on anyone’s immediate agenda, it is instructive to note that the concept of governance based on sharia is not a theocracy for Sunnis since we have no centralized clergy in Islam. For us, Islam is a way of life adhered to by one-fifth of the world’s population. Sharia is a means whereby justice is implemented, life is nurtured, the common welfare is provided for, and liberty and property are safeguarded. In any event, any transition to a sharia-based system will have to garner a consensus in Egyptian society.
Exit question from John Pohoretz: Time for Clapper to go?
Update: Here’s the vid. Click the image to watch.
Update: And here’s the clip I mentioned earlier of Engel, who’s spoken to members of the Brotherhood many times. He calls Clapper’s remarks a “complete misreading” of the movement. Click the image to watch.
Update: His office had a few hours to put some spin together, annnnnnd here’s what they came up with:
Jamie Smith, director of the office of public affairs for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence later said in a statement to ABC News: “To clarify Director Clapper’s point – in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood makes efforts to work through a political system that has been, under Mubarak’s rule, one that is largely secular in its orientation – he is well aware that the Muslim Brotherhood is not a secular organization.”
That’s from Tapper, who merrily piles on with a few quotes reminding readers of just how anti-secular the Brotherhood is.