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War of Ideas for Human Rights is Essential to Challenge Terrorism

R.E.A.L.'s Orange Ribbon Campaign for Equality And Liberty

The most vital components of a homeland security strategy are our minds, our conscience, and our universal human rights.

Everything else is a very distant second priority in the essential human rights objective to protect our society, our families, and each other from terrorism and extremism. But we have too often allowed our secondary priorities to become our primary priorities, and then we seek to shore up such misguided construction regarding security, by adding more and more tactics, which simply build the tower of secondary priorities, higher and higher. Such a focus only on secondary priorities gives us a misguided belief that we can simply add layers of tactics without a strategy, and we can defeat terrorist and extremist enemies of human rights without defending ideas and values. Without a priority of a set of beliefs and values, and relying only security tactics, studies, institutes, organizations, tools, watch lists, etc., we will build nothing more than a house of cards built on sand. The world changes – every day. We must be capable of change, while remaining consistent in a strategy firmly rooted in the truths of universal human rights for all human beings.

Senior members of the U.S. counterterrorist establishment, government, institutions, and media, also realize that tactics alone are a house of cards. They have already reach the conclusion that tactics, institutions, and organizations cannot keep up with the growing challenge of extremism, and violent terrorism by such extremists. So they have tried to reset the public’s expectations on the human right of public safety. Some have such denial on the priority of human rights first in challenging terrorism, that they have begun a campaign that “acceptable losses” in terrorist attacks are to be “expected.” They argue that, since no one can “defend” against every terrorist attack, we just need to accept that our families and neighbors will be killed. This flight from accountability is further complicated by their belief that we can “engage” with extremists as an effective means to prevent terrorist violence from extremists. They believe that engagement and legitimizing those in direct opposition to our shared universal human rights will help stop such extremists from killing us. Such “house of cards” tactics then seek to depend on extremist informants to sacrifice violent members, all the while providing shelter and legitimization of extremist views, in the desperate belief that if we collect enough informants, enough names on watch lists, enough “information,” that somehow we can manipulate a mountain of intelligence to keep us safe. Such tactics are dependent on the fallacy that we should be able to trust the very extremists, who are against our shared human rights, and that ultimately seek our destruction. Some establishment experts believe this “house of cards” approach will keep us ahead of violent terrorist attacks.

Just until it doesn’t. Like in Orlando, San Bernardino, and in other cities. Like we are seeing throughout Europe and the rest of the world nearly every day. As you read this, it is very likely that a terrorist is killing someone in some part of the world. The pandemic of terrorist violence has gotten that bad. The Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP) Global Terrorism Index report for 2015 showed a growth of terrorist attacks from 3,329 global attacks in 2000 to 32,685 attacks in 2014, with an 80 percent increase between 2013 and 2014. In 2014 alone, 32,685 terrorist attacks over 365 days in a year would be an average of 90 terrorist attacks EVERY DAY, or nearly 4 terrorist attacks EVERY HOUR. If those were the statistics in 2014, can you imagine what the statistics will look like for this year?

An estimated 33 terrorist attacks have occurred in the United States of America in the past 15 years, since 9/11, with 2/3’s of those terrorist attacks occurring in the past 8 years, and the most deadly post-9/11 terrorist attacks occurring since the summer of 2015, with 53 Americans killed in terrorist attacks in the USA by ISIS supporters since December 2015. Terrorist attacks have been dramatically increasing, not decreasing in the United States. The reality is that in a global society, we cannot pretend the massive pandemic of global terrorism will not reach our shores, and affect our families and our communities. That is blind denial.

This week, on the 15th year after the 9/11 attacks, the West Point Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) Sentinel tells the American public not to worry about this. Their primary article by an Establishment counterterror specialist states that Americans should not be concerned about “average of six or seven jihadist-inspired murders a year in a country” with thousands of other homicides. Former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge told the American public this week that Americans “should just accept the inevitability” of terrorist attacks. This defeatist “acceptable loss” argument represents the hollowness of an approach dependent on tactics alone, with no real values, no real strategy, and certainly no real “war of ideas.” In essence, we have leaders who throw up their hands in defeat, and state that since we can’t find the backbone to defend our shared human rights values in a “war of ideas,” we should simply accept the losses that we receive from extremist terrorism, and not make to big a deal out of them. Such defeatist surrender is not the thinking of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave that I know as the United States of America.

The “realistic” surrender of “acceptable losses” to terrorism is not simply a craven withdrawal from the defense of our shared human rights of security and freedom, it is also an attack on those who would lead a “war of ideas” on behalf of universal human rights and freedom. We are lectured by too many “experts” and “leaders” that is wrong to demand a consistent support for human rights values by our fellow human beings. We are told that such calls for consistency in human rights is “judgmental” and disrespectful to others. Our public has been coached to believe that unquestioning relativism is the same as defending equality, and the failure to defend our most cherished human rights and dignity is a form of “tolerance.” We are lectured by those “experts” who tell us the only way to “peace” is to engage with extremists and respect diversity of extremist views as equally valid, when they reject universal human rights for all people of all identity groups and religious views and treat women as second-class human beings. We are told that we must accept the views as legitimate by those extremists whose goal is global control, not shared stewardship of our nation and our planet. We are sternly chided that we must consider our views on equality in human rights and freedom as inapplicable to our fellow human beings and other cultures, and that the only path to true peace is to accept the views of those who deny the reality of UNIVERSAL human rights for all.

But we cannot reject the standards of universal human rights and human dignity for people in the United States and around the world. We cannot just accept that, somehow, enough tactics, lists, and “information” about terrorist threats will somehow keep us safe from extremists, when we are too afraid to even challenge their ideas. We know — and our counterterror “experts” now are faced with enough facts to admit — that tactics alone will not and cannot work. Yet whereas our “experts” tell us we should just “accept” the “inevitably” of terrorist attacks killing our neighbors and families, Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.) offers another path, where we can stand defiantly for universal human rights on our feet, not surrender such truths on our knees in the hope that it will buy us protection from the enemies of human rights.

Counterterror tactics, engagement with extremists, and shrug-shoulder defeatism on “acceptable losses” will never work to effectively challenge terrorism, and we see the very real growth of terrorism every day around the world. But while they surrender, people of conscience must pick up the cause of universal human rights to defy its enemies.

To challenge terrorism, we must first start with a “War of Ideas,” which defiantly defends universal human rights, not just for the United States of America, and not just for some Americans, but for all Americans, and for all people around the world. It is not enough to discuss what we are against. We must be clear about the standards and values that we believe and will defend for all of our fellow Americans and human beings.

For our fellow Americans, this begins with the definition of who and what it means to be an American. We don’t have to debate or guess about this. It is written, so that we will never forget it, in our very Declaration of Independence, defining what America is all about. The definition of Americanism is as follows: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” To anti-human rights extremists and violent terrorists of every type, Americans must stand defiant with these words that define who and what we are as Americans. Our responsibility to defend equality and liberty is the most inherent and fundamental aspect of who we are, and who we must fearlessly be, as Americans to all those who believe our fellow human beings do not deserve equality and liberty. In the United States of America, this inherent definition of our identity must be used as a weapon to disarm the arguments of extremists of every kind and every ideology – and to dishonor extremist ideologies used to rationalize violent terrorism.

With this keystone of our identity, we must remember that in the “War of Ideas” against extremists and terrorists, we also have a guide, not just for a “War of Ideas” in the United States of America, but also a guide to our actions in the USA and around the world, for people of every race, every religion, every nationality, every gender, and every identity group. That guide to the “War of Ideas” was developed nearly 70 years ago by the nations of the world, in the aftermath of the savage Crimes Against Humanity by Nazi Germany in the Holocaust. This guide was the world’s contribution to the stand that we should “Never Again” allow such savagery over our fellow human beings to run rampant, and genocide to rule over the Earth. It is a bitter irony that when our nation and the world needs this lantern of wisdom on human rights to fight extremists and terrorists today, our political leaders and counterterror “experts” leave this most powerful weapon for the truth on the shelf, as they engage in a tactical struggle, and leave our shared human rights values behind.

We must use this sword of human rights justice, fashioned from the strongest ideals for all human beings, to defend our fellow human beings and Americans from extremists and terrorists today. This weapon against terrorism, extremism, and genocide is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), agreed upon by the nations of the world on December 10, 1948, in the aftermath of the evil that devastated so many millions of lives. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was designed for the nations and the people of the world to have a guide to ensuring that the human rights, the security, the safety, and the dignity of our fellow human beings. It was designed to be used forever more, in times of peace and in times of war. But certainly, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was designed to provide a guide, a lantern, and a sword to defend our fellow Americans and fellow human beings, in the darkest hours of injustice, violence, terrorism, and extremism.

When we use the tool of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we must distinguish this tool from those attempts to take “exception” to such human rights, or weak imitations of this Universal Declaration. We would not have a separate “universal” declaration of human rights for people of just one race, one gender, one nationality… and certainly not one religion either. In fact, one of the most fundamental aspects of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is its commitment to real equality, not a commitment to supremacism or superiority of one identity group over all others. That would undermine the very POINT of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But some nations, uncomfortable with the concepts of equality and freedom, including the freedom of religion and conscience guaranteed in Article 18 of the UDHR, decided to create their own “exception-based” codes, which are designed to grant only some rights, as long as they met exceptions to allow one religious view to define the rights of all people.

The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) created its own Sharia-based “Cairo Declaration on Human Rights” that is in fundamental conflict and direct opposition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the “War of Ideas” in supporting universal human rights, those policy statements and “exceptions” to our shared universal human rights must be rejected. We can no more have a separate “Islamist” guide to human rights than we would have a separate human rights code exclusive to any other political or religious ideology, race, gender, or ethnicity. To date, the only human rights group that we are aware that has publicly protested the OIC’s challenge to our Universal Declaration of Human Rights is R.E.A.L. We need other human rights organizations to publicly defend the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and rebuke the OIC attack on it; we need a consistent defense on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has been signed by the nations of the world, as a shared guide to universal human rights on which we cannot and will not compromise.

With the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we have a guide to addressing racial extremists, and to addressing those who would deny freedoms based on our fellow human beings’ gender and identity group. We have both a defense for religious freedom and freedom of conscience, while providing a guide to challenging anti-human rights religious extremists. Such extremists do not seek to guarantee freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, as well as the right to change one’s belief. In the United States, I saw with my own eyes, the anti-democracy Hizb ut-Tahrir extremist group call for the denial of equality of women, and Hizb ut-Tahrir’s literature distributed to Americans calls for the death penalty for those who changed their religion in Islam. We must use the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to defy and reject such extremism. We must use the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to challenge those extremists who justify oppression and persecution of religious minorities, to challenge racial hate groups, to challenge persecution and oppression of women, and to reject violence, persecution, and hatred of the LGBT and atheist communities. We must use the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as our primary weapon to defend human freedom in a “War of Ideas,” for which we cannot afford and we cannot accept SURRENDER.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides more than just a guide, it is also codified as international LAW, as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). When we use this defense of our shared universal human rights against the forces of extremism and terrorism, we are not simply asking them to follow a guide, we seek to enforce the justice of International Law. Our leaders must seek the global expansion of the authority of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to act to stop genocide, as we continue to see in too many parts of the world today, as we have seen in Darfur, as we have seen by the ISIS terrorist movement in Syria, Iraq, and Libya against Christians, Yazidis, and Shiite Muslims, and as we see in other nations which reject our shared universal human rights. We need allegiances and coordinated efforts by the nations of the world to work to ENFORCE international law for those who face cruel injustice, extremism, and terrorism around the world, and who feel forgotten and abandoned, while extremists and terrorists seek the destruction of their lives and their freedoms.

To defeat terrorism in the United States and around the world, we must show terrorists and extremists that we do not fear and we that we will not cower before their attacks on our human rights, our freedom, and our nations. We must show the courage and responsibility for equality and liberty that is expected of us, both as Americans and as citizens of the world. When our political and tactical “experts” shy from such human rights justice, we must not fail to pick up the cause and stand defiantly against extremists as free human beings empowered by the truth of our shared universal human rights for all. We have learned too many times and in too many places, that we cannot have peace without justice, and we cannot have justice until we have an uncompromising defense of our universal human rights for all Americans and all of our fellow human beings.