Return to Transcripts main page
What Motivates ISIS?; Kasich Wants Government to Promote Judeo- Christian Values; Belgium on High Alert; No Consensus on U.S. Terror Threat Response; Could ISIS Attack America; Colorado Keeps Door Open for Syrian Refugees. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired November 21, 2015 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:00] FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Christi, back to you guys.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thank you so much, Fred.
You'll see him again, and us, at 10:00.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: And "SMERCONISH" starts now.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: A pitiful week in American politics. To my ear, no one person has set forth both a strong and yet thoughtful response. And several things stand out. Last Saturday night, in Des Moines, despite ISIS's claim of responsibility for the Paris attacks, none of the Democratic debaters would use the words "radical Islam." Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, they all took a page out of the president's book assuming that using the term would be badmouthing all Muslims. Not true. Look at what just happened in Mali. Gunmen stormed the Radisson in Bamako shouting "Allah Akbar," and then reportedly released some hostages because they could recite the Koran. Why ignore the obvious religious motivation of the terrorists where it's entirely possible to distinguish their actions from peace-loving Muslims?
On Sunday, at a middle school in Myrtle Beach, Ted Cruz told reporters the U.S. should accept only Christian refugees from Syria. Senator Cruz, our Constitution forbids religious tests as a qualification for federal office, and it should be the same for refugees.
Then on Monday, when questioned by the press at the G20 summit in Turkey, as to whether he had underestimated ISIS, the president grew testy. But, Mr. President, the questions pointing out that you once referred to ISIS as a J.V. squad, and more recently you said that ISIS was contained, they were totally fair.
That same day, presidential contender, Chris Christie, whose state shares the Statue of Liberty off its shore, told a radio interviewer that the U.S. couldn't risk allowing anymore Syrian refugees, not even young children who had lost their parents. He said, quote, "I don't think orphans under five should be admitted into the United States at this point." Hey, Governor, have you read what it says on that statue? What happened to, "Send us your weary"? Tuesday, I was disappointed to hear the routinely rational governor of
Ohio, John Kasich, make a reactionary proposal. While speaking at the National Press Club, he proposed a new federal agency to promote Judeo-Christian values. No, Governor, promoting a set of religious values, that's what they do.
It only got worse as the week wore on. Thursday, when a reporter asked Donald Trump whether his White House would compile a database of all Muslims in America, Trump replied, "Oh, I would certainly implement that, absolutely." And then, he added that he would go I don't understand a database. He later tried to blame his poor response on the reporter's question. Mr. Trump, such a list doesn't sound Fascist, it is.
That same day in Mobile, Alabama, Ben Carson likened some Syrian refugees to rabid dogs. Dr. Carson, do you realize that you're referring to people that ISIS itself regards as traitors?
And then the House voted to halt the Syrian refugee resettlement program with 47 Democrats joining 242 Republicans. Let me remind everyone, if we reject true refugees, we leave them with no choice but to choose between ISIS and Bashar al Assad.
Look, we're living in trying times that present a defining opportunity for American politicians to distinguish themselves. And somebody needs to step up and offer solutions as to how we best combat the threat we face from radical Islam. I believe it's a combination of sober thinking, a strong response, and fewer sound bites.
This story is far from over. As the hunt for terror suspects continues, Brussels is now on high alert.
And for the latest, we go to CNN's senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin.
Drew, presumably, they've got the specific Intel or they would not have closed the metro system. What can you tell us?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: They said it is an imminent and serious threat. The prime minister, Charles Michel, went on TV this morning saying that they were -- had information it was something akin to a Paris-type attack, guns, explosives in many locations, but there was nothing specific in the targeting, and that's what has so many concerned here. The Belgian region is a wide area, the Brussels region is wide area to be on high alert. Basically, what you're saying is we don't know where this could take place and it could take place anywhere in the entire city, and that's why concert venues have been closed, theaters have been closed, some shops have been closing. And people have been encouraged, believe it or not, not to gather in groups. So, on the one hand, they are reacting to specific information. On the other hand, this is such a wide-ranging threat, it seems pretty clear that Belgian authorities don't have a handle on exactly where that threat might be targeted -- Michael?
[02:05:01] SMERCONISH: In the span of the last week, a number of individuals have been taken into custody not only in Belgian, but also in France. Do we know whether this information came from anyone who has been apprehended?
GRIFFIN: We know they made one arrest last night in a Muslim community, not far, actually three kilometers from where I'm standing, Molenbeek, where many of these Paris attackers have come from or were hiding in prior to attack. We don't have many details on that arrest other than it was one man, he had some weapons, and the police were clear to say there were no explosives found and, in their own press release, said no suicide explosive vest was found. We don't have the exact timing of that arrest as it relates to the emergency threat measure, which was put into place overnight. But the timing is somewhat suspect in that they made that raid last night and then in the middle of the night, the threat level raised up from three to four, Belgium's highest level, somewhat unprecedented here.
SMERCONISH: And, finally, why Belgium?
GRIFFIN: Belgium has been the weak link. By all counterterrorism expert analysis, this country has not been doing enough to share information and has not been doing enough to get its own information. The prime minister this week and other security officials vowed to put more money, more resources, more manpower into fighting the terrorist threat within Belgium where many terrorists have come to buy their guns, to guy their weapons, to buy fake passports, and where we know many terrorists have come to plot and plan attacks in Europe.
SMERCONISH: Drew Griffin, thank you so much for the update.
There is hardly consensus among American politicians as to our response to the terror threat.
My next guest sees the debate as one involving stark choices.
Joining me now is Michael Scheuer, the former CIA intelligence officer who was in charge of the Alex Station, the hunt for bin Laden at the CIA. He now blogs at nonintervention.com.
Michael, anything I said at the outset that you want to respond to?
MICHAEL SCHEUER, BLOGGER, NONINTERVENTION.COM & FORMER CIA INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: The points you made about Fascism is very important. You'll notice in Europe and the United States, the first thing that happened after these attacks was demand for more surveillance of the entire population and collecting their phone numbers and their calls and all of that. The founders were very clear, that the longer a war goes on, the more power accrues to the central government, and you eventually creates a despotism. What we need more than anything is an American politician who will stand up and say, listen, America comes first, what do we need to do? The answer at this time is that, for the first time since 1996, when bin Laden declared war, Michael, we have the ability to break the back of the caliphate. There wasn't one then. There is one now. But to have a caliphate, to have a nation state, you need hydroelectric dams and oil wells and an electrical system and cell tower networks and you need minds engrained and a railroad. We have all of those targets. All of those targets play to our strength for a change. But there is not the one person out there who is willing to kill a civilian. So no matter what we do on the periphery, the Islamic State and its caliphate continue to grow. Basically, because we are afraid to behave as if America counted more than anything.
SMERCONISH: I read your blog, as you know, and it seems to me that you've presented this as an all-in or all-out proposition. I know what all-out looks like. What does all-in look like to Michael Scheuer?
SCHEUER: All-in, to me, I wrote this week, would be to be take out every piece of infrastructure, hospitals, universities, irrigation systems, that a make it impossible for the Islamic State to raise money, to provide electricity, sanitation, potable water. Do exactly what we did to the Germans. This is finally something that our military can do. It can't defeat these people on the ground, but it can destroy buildings and facilities.
SMERCONISH: But, Michael, we don't have the stomach for that. You've advocated not only going after hospitals, but also universities. Do you think that the Western world, Americans, in particular, would stand by for the film footage that would be shown on CNN and elsewhere of the so-called innocent civilian death count?
SCHEUER: I don't know if they would. They should. What's the difference? They're not Americans. We're defending ourselves. We wouldn't be there if we weren't attacked. My idea would be to destroy their infrastructure. And then -- you know, Senator Graham and Senator McCain say the Arabs are happy do this on the ground. Let them do it after we're gone. And if they don't do it, it's their problem, Michael.
[02:10:02] SMERCONISH: Is there's anybody on the 2016 stage who is channeling Michael Scheuer? I mean, the non-interventionist path would seem to be a Rand Paul. The advocacy of an all-in solution, I think, would be Donald Trump. Where are you as you look at these candidates?
SCHEUER: I would never vote for anyone who served in the government so far. This government is corrupt. It is uninterested in protecting Americans. And it drifts towards Fascism. Instead of being willing to take the footage you just described, Michael -- you know, I'm a complete non-interventionist. I would rather get out of there right now and leave it all to the Europeans and Arabs to sort it out and come home and let what is going on continue. And that will be an all- out Shia/Sunni war.
SMERCONISH: OK. So even though you've described for me the all-in approach, Michael Scheuer says, with your years of experience running the bin Laden unit at the CIA, we should stay out and let the Sunni and Shia forces have at it and wait until the dust settles. Am I understanding you correctly?
SCHEUER: That's correct, Mike. It's almost a godsend for these people who believe in Allah. Their Allah may not be looking correctly at them, because if it comes to a Sunni/Shia civil war, that will engulf that entire region and really be detrimental to their ability to both construct a caliphate and to attack us.
SMERCONISH: Let me ask this question. These use you for propaganda purposed. I want to show a short snippet of video and then ask a question.
Roll it, please.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHEUER: Even with combat troops on the ground, we've proven that we cannot defeat these people. We are so incompetent in terms of conducting foreign policy and in terms of conducting military operations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Why are they using you? What is the message they're trying to convey with Michael Scheuer?
SCHEUER: I think they're just using the message that what I'm speaking of is the reality. And their reality -- and they need that reality to continue to grow the caliphate and to attract people.
Michael, we've lost two wars. Not because our Marines and soldiers are bad, but because our politicians have lost the idea that fighting involves killing. And until you kill the enemy to the point where he does not want to fight anymore, you will lose. I don't think we have that gumption. I think that you're exactly right. So the only option is to come home, defend our border, rebuild our military, and see if we can take care of ourselves, and let the rest of the world go wherever they want to go.
SMERCONISH: OK. So the takeaway from Michael Scheuer is either all- in or let the Sunni and Shia factions have it and stay completely out. And, Michael, I worry that we don't have the stomach for either of those approaches.
But thank you so much for being here.
SCHEUER: Yes, sir. Michael, the halfway approach leads directly to Fascism in this country.
SMERCONISH: Michael Scheuer.
So what do you think? Tweet me @smerconish and I'll read some of the best at the end of this program.
Just ahead, the New York City Police Department is stepping up its ability to rapidly respond to terror. With the closing of mass transit in Brussels today, I want to ask former police commissioner, Ray Kelly, what precautions need to be taken here.
And as Congress turns anti-Muslim rhetoric into policy, I'll talk to one key governor who is not shutting the door to Syrian refugees.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [09:17:08] SMERCONISH: This morning, we've learned New York City's police department is beefing up its ability to rapidly respond to terror with a new permanent unit that, by year's end, will have more than 500 officers. That move has been in the works for a while, but it adds resources in the wake of the Paris terror attacks. The Brussels subway system is closed today. And threats by ISIS to hit New York City and Washington, D.C. So how safe are Americans and how difficult would it be to mount attacks here? While many analysts have called the Paris attacks sophisticated and coordinated, my next guest disagrees, saying they were, in fact, shockingly simple.
Ray Kelly is former New York City police commissioner. He's the vice chair of K-2 Security. He's written an excellent memoir, called "Vigilance."
Commissioner, for the Brussels subway to be closed today, you'd think they have pretty specific Intel, no?
RAY KELLY, VICE CHAIR, K-2 SECURITY & FORMER NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: It appears that way. In fact, that's what they said, it was the result of very specific information. But they're closing a larger area than just in Brussels itself. So they have something going on. What it is, we can only guess.
SMERCONISH: So here we are about to begin one of the biggest, if not the biggest travel weeks for the year. How concerned are you about Americans flying, Americans on the New York City subway, Americans going about their day to day activities?
KELLY: We live in a dangerous world. There are no guarantees. But in New York's case, New York has done more than any other city in the world to protect itself. This latest move of creating a permanent unit I think is a good move. If I could have done it, I would have done it. We had a reduction of 6,000 police officers in our head count. This administration is hiring another 1300 police officers. This is a good move.
But we don't have specific information. I will say this, though. ISIS will try to do what it says it will do. They don't do too much bluffing. If they say they want to come to the U.S., want to come to New York and Washington, I believe they will try to do it.
SMERCONISH: Chief Bratton says we've gone blind regarding technical advances. That ISIS now has this capability of encryption. Will you briefly speak to that concern?
KELLY: Yeah, we have encryption now that has exploded all over the place. We have apps that are encrypted. Cell phones don't allow law enforcement to get into that system. I think it should, but it looks like this administration and certainly the I.T. industry is against that. So we'll have a standoff. And the immediate situation is we simply can't get into these iPhones and encrypted apps.
SMERCONISH: In other words, they have apps now that ISIS is able to use for terror purposes that individuals, who do what you used to do for a live willing, they can't crack, and if I understand what Commissioner Kelly is saying, we're not getting the support from Silicon Valley that we need to combat this?
[09:20:04] KELLY: Oh, that's correct. They are obviously very much against it. The administration says there is a key, that it will soon be breached, so it defeats the purpose of it. So, yeah, I don't see it changing anytime soon unless there is legislation from Washington that mandates it.
SMERCONISH: Commissioner, Mayor de Blasio in New York City ended the Demographics Unit. What was the Demographics Unit and is there still a need for it, given this threat?
KELLY: The Demographics Unit was a unit that went out to determine who was living in New York City. New York is the most diverse city in the world. And we wanted to know who was in the city. In many ways, it's very tribal. It came about in 2003 when we saw suicide bombers in Iraq coming from certain towns in Libya. We wanted to know who in New York perhaps is from that area. So it was done above board. It was done in the open. It was never meant to create leads. And as we said many times, people have said, hey, no leads coming from this unit, it's like saying Derek Jeter never scored a touchdown. That was not the purpose of the unit. I'm assuming that function is going on now someplace else in the department without the unit being in existence.
SMERCONISH: Here's the reason I bring it up. It seems like so much of the law enforcement activity in Belgium is concentrated in one particular neighborhood, a neighborhood where there is a large Muslim population. And my recollection is that the hands have been tied here in New York City for doing the type of mapping that you've just referenced because some people use the word "profiling" as a pejorative. Speak to that.
KELLY: Yeah. I certainly hope that is going on someplace else in the department. As I say, New York is the most diverse city in the world. It's constantly changing. People come from all over. I think it's a very legitimate function of government to know where people are coming from and where they're settling, certainly in New York City, a city attacked twice successfully and had almost 3,000 people killed in it. It's a clear function of government that should be supported and not touted for its elimination.
SMERCONISH: Commissioner Kelly, your book is titled "Vigilance."
Thank you for being here.
KELLY: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Up next, in the wake of the Paris attacks, more than three dozen of America's governors have closed their borders to Syrian refugees. I'll talk to one of the few who is letting them in.
[09:26:43] SMERCONISH: In America, the fallout of the recent ISIS attacks has been to amp up anti-Islamic rhetoric and to turn it into policy. The House easily passed a bill Thursday that would suspend the program allowing Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the U.S. And there were 47 Democrats on board. The overall total is enough to override President Obama's promised veto.
31 governors have closed their states' doors to all Syrian refugees, all but one of them are Republican. A dozen are on the fence. And only seven states are keeping the door open, including Colorado, whose governor, John Hickenlooper, joins me now.
Governor, I'll put up on the screen a map of the country that is color coded and shows the relative position of the different governors. You're one of the very few allowing refugees. What is it that you see that you think the others do not?
GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER, (D), COLORADO: Well, first, my understanding is we don't really have a choice. In this country, our Constitution, our laws say that once someone is legally in the United States, governors can't say that they can't drive through your state. You can't say that they can't live in your state. We have the freedom of mobility. It's one of the reasons ISIS hates us. And I think sacrificing that freedom to make a political statement -- you look at all the risks from terrorists, it's not the same for refugees. They go through years of background checks. That's not where terrorists come from. They're getting student visas or tourist visas. It's just out of balance. So our sense is if the president of the United States says that this is our foreign policy and part of our war on terror, then I think, I feel that, as a governor, I took an oath to uphold the laws of this country, I think I have to follow through.
SMERCONISH: I know that we invited at least 10 of the Republicans who feel differently about this to come on and explain themselves, and they opted not to. Have you satisfied yourself that the vetting process that is currently used for the Syrian refugees is satisfactory and safe for Colorado residents?
HICKENLOOPER: Well, like any governor, the safety and security of our residents, out community is the number-one concern. So I have every belief that the federal government is continually trying to improve the vetting and making sure that that screening process goes through. But at a certain point, after 2010, the top minds in the Department of State and all the military agencies all worked together on this, the counterterrorism institute -- or Counterterrorism Center. All these people are doing the best they can, and at a certain point, you have to say-- you know back since 1980, we've had millions of refugees come through and through those vetting processes and through traditional law enforcement, so far, not one of those refugees has done an act of terrorism in the United States.
SMERCONISH: Why then -- and I'll put on the screen some polling data. 53 or 54 percent of Americans feel differently than you do. Why do you think the polling is as decidedly opposed to your view? I mean, it says only 28 percent want to resettle 10,000.
Has this not properly been explained to the American people? What do you see in that data? HICKENLOOPER: Well, it's an election year so a lot of voices with a
lot of different opinions. And anyone who watched the events in Paris as they happened, I mean, it is -- they are -- these people are creating terror. The terrorists are succeeding in creating fear.
But we've got to fight back against that. And I think -- this is -- we are at war and we've got to recognize that winning a war is not just military, we're fighting for the hearts of -- at some point five, 10 years from now, Syria, we're going to win this war and we'll want people to go back to Syria and want to live there. And we want them to come with some sense of that this is where democracy can be. And ideally, they will want to live there and defend their country and fight for it in a way that they can't do or at least they feel they can't do now.
SMERCONISH: Governor, finally, let me show a Paul Ryan quote, the Speaker Paul Ryan, after that vote was taken Thursday in the House. He said this, "We cannot let terrorists take advantage of our compassion. This is a moment where it's better to be safe than sorry. We were all raised with that adage."
Why doesn't it apply here according to you?
HICKENLOOPER: Well, I think -- I don't -- I mean, I think we have to keep improving and make sure our safety is at our maximum highest priority. I don't disagree with that at all.
But I also recognize that a terrorist is not going to go through a refugee program where they spend 2 1/2 to 4 years of intensive interrogation and process. I mean, these are the tailors, and the candlestick maker, these are mostly orphans and widows. I mean, the reason they are refugees generally is because is hated them and they were being persecuted or terrorized in their home country. I think if we send them away, we're playing right into ISIS' hands.
SMERCONISH: To your point, they then have a choice of either joining Bashar al Assad or joining ISIS. I totally get your point.
John Hickenlooper, Governor John Hickenlooper -- thank you for being here.
HICKENLOOPER: You bet. Thank you.
SMERCONSH: This week, another governor, John Kasich, who is running of course for president, said our government should have a Judeo- Christian values agency. I've got a problem with that. Isn't that the concept that is awfully close to what ISIS is all about?
And, in fact, what is the ultimate goal of the ISIS terrorists? The author of a widely read article, "What ISIS Really Wants", says it's all about the Koran. An American professor who is a Muslim scholar contends they're criminals who are ignoring their religion. And both of them are next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said the program should be renewed. I'm asking, is our strategy working?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What strategy? Tell me what the strategy is and I'll tell you if it's working.
That right there is the problem because they have a strategy. They're gathering right now in Raqqa by the tens of thousands, hidden in the civilian population. And they know exactly why they're there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They call it the end times. What do you think the beheadings are about? Crucifixions, revival of slavery. Do you think they make that (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up?
It's all in the book, (EXPLETIVE DELETED), the only book they read, they read it all the time. They never stop. They're there for one reason and one reason only, to die for the caliphate and usher in a world without infidels.
That's their strategy and it's been that way inside since the 7th century. So do you really think that a few Special Forces teams are going to put a dent in that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: That scene from the Showtime series "Homeland" couldn't be more relevant this week. You heard Peter Quinn's reference to ISIS's plan.
So what does ISIS really what?
Graeme Wood is a contributing editor at "The Atlantic" and lecturer at Yale University when he wrote an essay with that as the title, it was posted more than a million times on Facebook and tweeted more than 41,000 times.
Abed Awad is an expert in Islamic law who teaches at Rutgers University Law School.
Graeme, Peter Quinn was channeling your essay. No? Isn't that your point?
GRAEME WOOD, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Yes, he got most of it right. You know, when ISIS describes what it wants, it wants exactly as is he says, Islamic State closely associated with end times belief -- the belief that they are ushering in the apocalypse by doing this.
SMERCONISH: And you say their most ardent followers derive from a coherent, even learned interpretation of the Koran and the Hadith. WOOD: That's right. So, I've spoken to followers of ISIS. I've
looked at the writings of some of the leaders of ISIS, and yes, there's no question that they know their text. They have a very specific and weird interpretation of those texts, but they read them very carefully.
SMERCONISH: Is it a weird interpretation or is it a literal interpretation?
WOOD: It's a kind of literal weird interpretation. You know, there is a long history of Islamic law that is not literal in the sense that they read it, but they have a kind of learned view of this that breaks from Islamic tradition, but breaks in creative ways that are closely attached to the text that they cite.
SMERCONISH: Do you agree?
ABED AWAD, SPECIALIST IN ISLAMIC LAW: Absolutely not. It is the farthest thing from a learned interpretation. It's a political reading of religious text. ISIS is nothing but a political ideological movement. They're a bunch of criminals that are deforming the religious text to serve a political agenda.
Their agenda is a reign of terror that contradicts the overarching moral and humanitarian framework of the Koran.
[09:40:07] The Koran and the directives of Islam prevent and prohibit the killing of women, children, elderly, desecration of houses of worship, destroying harvests are not acceptable. If the enemy asks for peace, the Koran says you have to give him that peace. If there's no compulsion in religion, there's no coercion.
This is directly against every tenet of what Islam is. They are a political group that has a reign of terror to serve political agenda. It's a political reading. It's deformed. It's disjointed. It's incohesive and it's based on the Baathist regime who has left a huge vacuum of our war in Iraq and created this kind of agenda.
SMERCONISH: Graeme, is that what it is? Or is this what we would be if we acted via a literal interpretation of Deuteronomy?
WOOD: Yes, I think that's a good way to look at it.
SMERCONISH: We've been able to discount some of that kind of stuff in the Old or New Testament.
WOOD: That's right. And what Mr. Awad has just said is I think a good reflection of the mainstream Islamic point of view about ISIS. However, what ISIS agrees with him about is that they are taking 1,000 years of tradition and they're reforming it. They're reading it in a different way and in a way that is disagreed with by most Muslims.
SMERCONISH: Is a reformation necessary of Islam? Is that really what we need to sort of cleanse the Hadith or Koran, some of that which they point to? AWAD: Absolutely not. A reform is not needed. There is discourse and theological discussions going on for 100 years about the role of the Koran and the moral message that is in the Koran that that has relevance to modernity and what we're having.
What we need to do is look at the underlying causes, political, social and economic underlying causes for the rise of ISIS. ISIS was created because of our conduct and our foreign policy in that region, and it was created by the regional dictatorships that are in that region that are repressive.
And keep in mind, all of these tortures and things that we're seeing that ISIS is doing, these are not new to that region. The Mubarak regime did that. The Assad regime did that. The Saddam regime did that.
This repression, torture, excessive repelling force has been in existence, all has happened is the secular nationalists, for example, the Baathist general of Saddam, he's one of the leaders of ISIS. From a secular turned religious, he's doing the same repression that this regime did.
SMERCONISH: Graeme, respond to some of this?
WOOD: Again, this is something that ISIS would actually agree with. ISIS, when it talks about its origins, they say that it was born out of a vacuum of governance, that the American invasion allowed to come into being. But then they say that they are reviving practices. They are in that vacuum, they are finding a space to take these practices that they read from the 7th century and then enact them.
When they do that, they do it in a way again that is surprising to many people, that is shocking and is in itself I think a kind of reformation.
SMERCONISH: Graeme, can I say? It's hard for me to be the arbiter of what Islam does or does not represent, but I take note of the fact that in your piece, you quote from a Princeton professors Bernard Haykel who says that they distorted the text is a politically incorrect view of Islam. Respond to that.
WOOD: Yes, there are many people who would simply see practices like slavery, like beheading of infidels, that these are apostates, and say that these have nothing do with Islam.
They certainly have nothing to do with the practice of Islam by most Muslims today. But are they things that happen in Islamic history? Islamic history is a vast contradictory of tradition that includes these things. So, there is, as professor Haykel said to me for that article, a sort of cotton candy view of Islam that forgets that these were practices. ISIS --
SMERCONISH: Is he promoting the cotton candy view of Islam?
WOOD: He is well aware of the history of Islam and he's well aware of the many ways that you can interpret Islam not to require any kind of beheading or stoning today.
SMERCONISH: You get the final thought on that.
AWAD: I'm not doing cotton candy Islam. I'm doing and advocating the statement of mainstream. ISIS is the fringe of the fringe of the fringe of Islam. It does not represent Islam. The problem is not Islam. Blaming Islam is not going to resolve ISIS.
ISIS will only be resolved by the underlying causes that we need to take care of militarily and also by economics and political solutions in that region.
SMERCONISH: I appreciate you both being here. I wish we had more time. Thank you.
Thank you, Graeme Wood. Thank you, Abed Awad.
So, where do you stand on this debate? Tweet me about it @smerconish, and I will read some of your tweets at the end of the broadcast.
Just ahead, for me, John Kasich has been one of the rational GOP presidential candidates. Now, he wants a government agency to promote Judeo-Christian values. I don't think it's a good idea and I will talk with a top conservative about that next.
[09:47:22] SMERCONISH: Presidential candidate John Kasich is now touting an idea for spreading Judeo-Christian Western values which to my mind would make us almost as intolerant as ISIS. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will consolidate them into a new agency that has the mandate to promote the core Judeo- Christian western values that we and our friends and allies share -- the values of human rights, the values of democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of association.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: I want to ask Tony Perkins about that. He's the president of the Family Research Council, a conservative policy and lobbying organization.
[09:50:02] Tony, thanks for being here.
I've been favorably disposed toward John Kasich from what I've seen of him thus far in the campaign. But that disappointed me.
What was your reaction?
TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Good morning, Michael.
I actually would have to agree with you on that. I don't think we need more government. I think government is the problem. We don't need government to promote Judeo-Christian values.
What we need are government leaders that respect our constitutional freedoms of the freedom of religion, and that means the freedom of expression, which has been consistently under attack under in the last seven years of this administration.
So, we need elected leaders that are committed to upholding and living by the Constitution.
SMERCONISH: I know that Governor Kasich walked back a portion of that, but it focused more on what you just said which is the establishment of a new agencies or arm of the bureaucracy. That wasn't the part that was so troublesome to me. The troublesome part is we'll seek to expand our religious interpretation, so-called Judeo- Christian values, that plays right into the hands of ISIS. That's the part I was finding problematic.
PERKINS: Right. Well, Michael, let me be very clear go on the record here. I don't want a government that embraces a religion and promotes a religion. What I want is a government that respects religion, which is what we are supposed to have.
I don't want a government that is exporting their brand of Christianity or anything else. What I do want is a government -- and not just me but millions of Americans -- a government that respects the right of Christians to live according to their faith and take that abroad, and we do want those principles of religious freedom.
That's not an American right. That's a fundamental human right, even the United Nations recognizes that. And it should be a factor in our foreign policy that we expect other nations to respect the human right of the religious freedom of religion, which this administration has not done.
SMERCONISH: OK. I think we're saying the same thing. I expand to it say freedom of religion or even freedom from religion because you and I both know --
SMERCONISH: -- what the establishment clause says.
Let me ask you about a related subject, the Syrian refugee situation. How does Tony Perkins look at that? Should we be letting them in?
PERKINS: Well, I think what was expressed by Congress this week and echoed by the American people, the concern over the president throwing open the door to Syrian refugees was confirmed by the French prime minister yesterday who said the attacks, the terrorists that did the attacks there last week used the crisis created by the Syrian conflict to slip into the country.
Look, we have an obligation to protect Americans. Now, I think what Congress did was reasonable. Slow down this process. Make sure we're vetting them. And we let those who meet the criteria into this country. I would say the president has impose a reverse religious test in some
ways that opposite of what some have called --
SMERCONISH: How so?
PERKINS: When you look at -- well, when you look whose come in under the president's policy, 97 percent of them have been Muslim, 2.5 percent Christian. If you look who ISIS is targeting for extermination, genocide, it's Christians, it's Yazidis, it's other religious minorities. And they under our own law, under our own law, Michael, they should be given higher priority and that is a factor. Religious persecution is a factor for who is a refugee in this country.
SMERCONISH: I only have 30 seconds left. Isn't that a reflection of the fact that Christians are few and far between in that part of the world.
PERKINS: No. They are 10 percent of the population in Syria. That should at least be reflected in the amount of refugees coming in to this country and it's not.
SMERCONISH: Tony Perkins, thank you so much for being here.
Still to come --
PERKINS: All right, Michael. Thank you. Have a great day.
SMERCONISH: You too.
Your best tweets of the program, they are just moments away.
[09:58:31] SMERCONISH: I like to say you can follow me on Twitter if you can spell Smerconish.
A lot of reaction this hour, including a lot of comments about my opening commentary. Let me show you some.
She said, "You know, I'll say stuff is getting real when Smerconish starts his show angry and sounding very hawkish."
She said I think we had a really pitiful week in American politics and the response from so many of our elected officials is not, frankly, what it should have been.
Also Gary C said, "Excellent opening monologue. As long as we govern in sound bites no solid solution exists."
Gary, I think that we're being harmed by the fact that this is being played out in political season. It's being condensed in 20 second sound bites. And it's not advancing what needs to be one.
How about this from Julia Patrick who comments, "We have Christians in our own land who distort the Bible as ISIS has done with the Koran. Remember Waco."
I would say this. There's justification in the Bible for a lot of bad behavior. And we've been able to learn to discount all of that and not act in accordance with it, and frankly I think many Muslims need to learn to do the same thing with regard to the Koran. I'm making reference to only those that perpetrate jihad in the name of Allah."
And, finally, Rory said, "Smerconish, did that guest really say bomb hospitals to stop people who hate the USA? Pretty sure that's how you make people hate you." That guest was Michael Scheuer, he ran the Bin Laden unit at the CIA, and he says, look, we got to either go all in or just stay the heck out."
Keep the tweets coming @Smerconish. I'll see you next week.