Dixieland jazz resonates from Michael Ledeen's computer speakers as INSIGHT interviews the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. "It's the Louisiana Repertory Jazz Ensemble and they're great," he says.
It is hard not to call Ledeen a Renaissance man, for this leading authority on terrorism also is author of well-received studies of such figures as Alexis de Tocqueville and Niccolo Machiavelli. His desk is piled high with books in Italian, part of the research for a book on which he is working about the city of Naples.
Ledeen admires President George W. Bush and talks about U.S. leaders who were not traditional intellectuals but proved to be very effective in foreign policy. "Since World War II, we have had three presidents with no intellectual pretensions, and all have been terrific in foreign policy: Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Intellectuals like me believe that years of study are required to conduct a successful foreign policy," Ledeen muses. "There is a lesson in here somewhere."
He chides his fellow Americans for being, in his words, the first people in the history of the world to believe that peace is a normal condition of mankind. And he has harsh words for the failure of the U.S. media to report on the daily atrocities committed against the Muslim people by gangs of radical mullahs.
He castigates past U.S. leaders for jailing to recognize and report that it was a decidedly progressive regime that led Iran under the late shah. It was he who granted rights to women, enfranchised the nation and industrialized, Ledeen points out. "Compared to his Arab neighbors the shah was the St. Francis of the Middle East."
INSIGHT: You have a new book out, The War Against the Terror Masters. Who are these terror masters?
Michael Ledeen: Iran, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia.
Q: Even our ally Saudi Arabia?
A: Yes, all of them. According to the State Department, both Saudi Arabia and Syria have been especially good at helping us fight terrorism.
Q: In your book you state that, "Many members of the Saudi royal family are as eager as bin Laden to take revenge against infidels and crusaders." Isn't the intelligence community aware of this?
A: Saudi Arabia is the intelligence community's greatest failure. How can it be that in more than 50 years not a spy, not a diplomat, not a journalist so much as noticed that Saudi Arabia was exporting [anti-Western, violent and fundamentalist] Wahhabi Islam worldwide?
Right here in the U.S. the Saudis are funding Islamic religious schools and mosques where militant Islam is preached. There are more than a thousand of them. To have allowed this to go unremarked if not unnoticed is an intelligence failure of monumental proportions.
Q: Is the United States insisting the Saudis close these centers of radicalism?
A: I hope so, because if we try to do it directly there will be problems. The American Civil Liberties Union will whine about the First Amendment and protected religious practice and free speech. It will be a nightmare.
Some of these Saudi operations still are ongoing, but at least we are aware of it. People like counterterrorist expert and journalist Steve Emerson [see picture profile, Jan. 28] have alerted us to this danger.
Q: Let's return to Syria. What is their involvement in terrorism?
A: Every major terrorist organization in the world trains in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, which is militarily occupied by Syria. These terrorist groups all have offices in Damascus.
Syrian-occupied Lebanon is the homeland of international terrorism, and has been so, nonstop, since the early 1970s. Nor should we forget Iran, the mother of all terrorism. It was the Ayatollah Khomeini who gave birth to modern Islamic terrorism at the time of the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
Q: Does evidence exist that links Iran to terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden? …