For the German canoer, see Michael Scheuer (kayaker).

Michael F. Scheuer (born 1952[1]) is a former CIA intelligence officer, American blogger, historian, foreign policy critic, and political analyst. He is currently an adjunct professor at Georgetown University's Center for Peace and Security Studies and an Expert at Wikistrat.[2] In his 22-year career, he served as the Chief of the Bin Laden Issue Station (aka "Alec Station"), from 1996 to 1999, the Osama bin Laden tracking unit at the Counterterrorist Center. He then worked again as Special Advisor to the Chief of the bin Laden unit from September 2001 to November 2004.

Scheuer became a public figure after being outed as the anonymous author of the 2004 book Imperial Hubris, in which he criticized many of the United States' assumptions about Islamist insurgencies and particularly Osama bin Laden. He depicts bin Laden as a rational actor who is fighting to weaken the United States by weakening its economy, rather than merely combating and killing Americans. He challenges the common assumption that terrorism is the threat that the United States is facing in the modern era, arguing rather that Islamist insurgency (and not "terrorism")[3] is the core of the conflict between the U.S. and Islamist forces, who in places such as Kashmir, Xinjiang, and Chechnya are "struggling not just for independence but against institutionalized barbarism."[3][4] Osama bin Laden acknowledged the book in a 2007 statement, suggesting that it revealed "the reasons for your losing the war against us".[5][6]

In February 2009, Scheuer was terminated from his position as a senior fellow of The Jamestown Foundation. Scheuer has written that he was fired by the organization for stating that "the current state of the U.S.-Israel relationship undermined U.S. national security."[7]

Biography[edit | edit source]

Scheuer was born in Buffalo and graduated from Canisius College in 1974, and went on to earn an M.A. from Niagara University in 1976 and another M.A. from Carleton University in 1982.[8][9] He also received a Ph.D. in British Empire-U.S.-Canada-U.K. relations from the University of Manitoba in 1986.[10][11]

Scheuer served in the CIA for 22 years before resigning in 2004. He was chief of the Osama bin Laden unit at the Counterterrorist Center from 1996 to 1999.[12] He worked as Special Adviser to the Chief of the bin Laden Unit from September 2001 to November 2004.[13] He is now known to have been the anonymous author of both the 2004 book Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror and the earlier anonymous work, Through Our Enemies' Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America.[14] After his anonymously-published books had been publicly associated with his name, he was mentioned in an Osama bin Laden statement of September 7, 2007. According to bin Laden, "If you want to understand what's going on and if you would like to get to know some of the reasons for your losing the war against us, then read the book of Michael Scheuer in this regard."[5]

After leaving the CIA in 2004, Scheuer worked as a news analyst for CBS News and a terrorism analyst for The Jamestown Foundation's online publication Global Terrorism Analysis.[15] He also makes radio and television appearances and teaches a graduate-level course on Al-Qaeda at Georgetown University. He also participates in conferences on terrorism and national security issues, such as the New America Foundation's December 2004 conference, "Al Qaeda 2.0: Transnational Terrorism After 9/11."[16]

In 2009, Scheuer reported that he had lost his position as a Senior Fellow with the Jamestown Foundation, after "several major financial donors to Jamestown threatened to withdraw funding" if he continued in that role.[17] The funding threats were pursuant to his criticism of Barack Obama's "dancing the Tel Aviv two-step" in allegedly kowtowing to the Israeli lobby, as well as Scheuer's disdaining of Obama's selection as Chief of Staff of Rahm Emanuel, "a U.S. citizen who during the 1991 Gulf War left America to serve in Israel's military."[17]

Scheuer's book, Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq was released on February 12, 2008.[18]

Publications[edit | edit source]

Through Our Enemies' Eyes[edit | edit source]

His first book, published anonymously, is an analysis of the public discourse available on al Qaeda's ideology and strategy. In it, Scheuer explores the bin Laden phenomenon and its implications for U.S. security. He began the book in 1999 as an unclassified manual for counterterrorism officers. Due to the secrecy agreement he signed as an employee of the CIA, the book is based solely on unclassified intelligence or material available from open sources such as media reports. His main thesis in the work is that the view of bin Laden as a lunatic is a form of "myopia" that limits Western military thinkers' ability to respond to the bin Laden phenomenon. He writes that "the West's road to hell lies in approaching the bin Laden problem with the presumption that only the lunatic fringe could oppose what the United States is trying to accomplish through its foreign policy toward the Muslim world. Bin Laden's philosophy is slowly harnessing the two most powerful motivating forces in contemporary international affairs: religion and nationalism."[19]

[T]he crux of my argument is simply that America is in a war with militant Islamists that it cannot avoid; one that it cannot talk or appease its way out of; one in which our irreconcilable Islamist foes will have to be killed, an act which unavoidably will lead to innocent deaths; and one that is motivated in large measure by the impact of U.S. foreign policies in the Islamic world, one of which is unqualified U.S. support for Israel.[20]

Imperial Hubris[edit | edit source]

Main article: Imperial Hubris

In his second book, Imperial Hubris, a New York Times bestseller, Scheuer writes that the Islamist threat to the United States is rooted in "how easy it is for Muslims to see, hear, experience, and hate the six U.S. policies bin Laden repeatedly refers to as anti-Muslim:

  • U.S. support for Israel that keeps Palestinians in the Israelis' thrall.
  • U.S. and other Western troops on the Arabian Peninsula.
  • U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • U.S. support for Russia, India, and China against their Muslim militants.
  • U.S. pressure on Arab energy producers to keep oil prices low.
  • U.S. support for apostate, corrupt, and tyrannical Muslim governments."[21]

Scheuer contends that Al Qaeda is following a martial strategy that is more rational than it is given credit for among Western politicians and media. He cites Clausewitz's dictum that one must strike one's enemy's "center of gravity", and pairs it with an al Qaeda writer's assertion that "the American economy is the American center of gravity".[22]

In a videotape released around September 7, 2007, Osama bin Laden stated, "If you want to understand what's going on and if you would like to get to know some of the reasons for your losing the war against us, then read the book of Michael Scheuer."[5]

Marching Toward Hell[edit | edit source]

Released in 2008, Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq how the 2003 Iraq War has affected Al-Qaeda and the United States. He argues that the instability in the Iraq War has benefited Al-Qaeda without serving any U.S. interests.

Views[edit | edit source]

War on Terror[edit | edit source]

Scheuer's views have emphasized the danger of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, as well as the ineffectiveness of U.S. policy against these imminent threats. The threat to the United States, Scheuer has consistently maintained, continues to grow, and the U.S. continually fails to grasp the nature of the struggle in which it is engaged:[23] Islamist and anti-American sentiment continue to grow around the world, and the bin Laden movement is aimed, not at killing or conquering Americans or reforming their internal political systems, but rather bankrupting them in order to reduce their worldwide influence and thereby liberate Muslims from the yoke of American political, military, and financial influence. The failure of the U.S. to apprehend this threat is, in part, rooted in a misunderstanding and underestimation of Osama bin Laden himself. To Scheuer, Osama bin Laden's "beliefs, goals, and intentions" are

carefully chosen, plainly spoken, and precise. He has set out the Muslim world's problems as he sees them; determined that they are caused by the United States; explained why they must be remedied; and outlined how he will try to do so. Seldom in America's history has an enemy laid out so clearly the basis for the war he is waging against it.[24]

Scheuer's criticism of U.S. foreign policy includes a sweeping condemnation of the invasion of Iraq, which he has characterized as a "Christmas present" to Osama bin Laden's Islamist recruitment efforts, and a validation of bin Laden's claims that the U.S. is at war with Islam. From his personal involvement in background research in the run up to the war, Scheuer states that "there was no connection between [Al Qaeda] and Saddam."[25]

U.S. rhetoric about bin Laden's allegedly "hating freedom" has also irked Scheuer, who suggests that those "willing to give their lives to destroy the dictatorship in Saudi Arabia... must want freedom in some kind of way."[26] This erroneous rhetoric, according to Scheuer, is not only to be found in the media and among politicians, but even in the 9/11 Commission report, in which bin Laden and his followers are identified "as takfiris, who kill Muslims if they don‘t agree with them. They‘re not takfiris. They‘re just very devout, severe Salafists and Wahhabis."

The insistence on referring to al Qaeda and the Islamist movement around it as a terrorist group or terrorist movement has also been a mistake, according to Scheuer. The U.S. is faced with an insurgency, rather than mere terrorism.

Clinton and Bush administrations[edit | edit source]

Scheuer has been critical of the Bush and Clinton administrations for not killing bin Laden, for costly and disastrous policy missteps, and for not taking decisive measures to defend the country. He states that Clinton had eight to ten opportunities to kill bin Laden prior to September 11, and Bush had one opportunity thereafter. Richard A. Clarke and the Clinton administration, according to Scheuer, thwarted the CIA's ambitions to kidnap or kill bin Laden when they had the chance.[27] According to Scheuer,

Clarke's book Against All Enemies is also a crucial complement to the September 11 panel's failure to condemn Mr. Clinton's failure to capture or kill bin Laden on any of the eight to 10 chances afforded by CIA reporting. Mr. Clarke never mentions that President Bush had no chances to kill bin Laden before September 11 and leaves readers with the false impression that he, Mr. Clinton and Mr. Clinton's national security adviser, Sandy Berger, did their best to end the bin Laden threat. That trio, in my view, abetted al Qaeda, and if the September 11 families were smart they would focus on the dereliction of Dick [Clarke], Bill [Clinton] and Sandy [Berger] and not the antics of convicted September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.[28]

Of the Bush administration, Scheuer warns against assigning it full responsibility for the nation's troubles since September 11, 2001. Although the "unprovoked attack of Iraq" will forever be remembered as "infamous", as will Dick Cheney's "reptilian contention that Americans who criticize U.S. foreign policy are 'validating the strategy of the terrorists'," according to Scheuer, a "bipartisan governing elite", both Democratic and Republican, is to blame for the nation's woes.[29] (Notwithstanding the bipartisan responsibility, Scheuer comments, "the thought of what history will say about Donald Rumsfeld's tenure at the Department of Defense ought to make his relatives shudder down to their latest generation.")[29]

Pending threats[edit | edit source]

"The Iranians are no threat to the United States unless we provoke them. They may be a threat to the Israelis. They‘re not a threat to the United States. The threat to the United States, inside the United States, comes from al Qaeda....These people are going to detonate a nuclear device inside the United States, and we're going to have absolutely nothing to respond against." (Countdown with Keith Olbermann, February 19, 2006)

Israel and the Lobby[edit | edit source]

Scheuer has stated that the Mearsheimer and Walt paper The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy is essentially correct. Israel, according to Scheuer, has engaged in one of the most successful campaigns to influence public opinion in the United States ever conducted by a foreign government. Scheuer said to NPR that "They [Mearsheimer and Walt] should be credited for the courage they have had to actually present a paper on the subject. I hope they move on and do the Saudi lobby, which is probably more dangerous to the United States than the Israeli lobby."[30]

In Marching Toward Hell, Scheuer laments "the war in Iraq that was instigated by U.S. citizen Israel-firsters and their evangelical Christian allies".[31] He continues,

Because both U.S. political parties are wholly owned subsidiaries of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Israeli government, there is no large-scale U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq in the cards... If you doubt this, keep in mind the name Rahm Emanuel. Slated to be the president-elect's chief of staff, Mr. Emanuel has labored as a volunteer for AIPAC's various anti-U.S. causes, strove to ensure the defeat of anti-Iraq War Democratic congressional candidates in 2006, and in 1991, as a 32-year-old U.S. citizen, chose to serve with the Israeli Defense Forces rather than volunteer to fight for the United States in the war against Saddam's Iraq.[32]

The Doha Debates[edit | edit source]

In April 2009, Scheuer participated in the Doha Debates at Georgetown University, where he debated for the motion "This house believes that it is time for the USA to get tough on Israel" with fellow speaker Avraham Burg. Speakers against the motion were Dore Gold and Alan Dershowitz. Burg and Scheuer won the debate, with 63% of the audience voting for the motion. During the debate, Scheuer suggested that "the war in Iraq is the responsibility of the American fifth column that supports Israel" and accused Dershowitz of being part of this "fifth column". Dershowitz responded that he opposed the war in Iraq, that "more Jews than any other ethnic group in America opposed the war in Iraq" and that Scheuer was engaging in "bigotry."[33]

Iraq and al-Qaeda[edit | edit source]

Thomas Joscelyn of Weekly Standard wrote a critical piece on Scheuer and an interview Scheuer did on Chris Matthews Hardball.[34] According to Joscelyn, Scheuer's claims that "there was no evidence of a relationship between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and al Qaeda", in various interviews, "directly contradicted" Scheuer's earlier assertions, in his first book, in which Scheuer "cited numerous pieces of evidence showing that there was, in fact, a working relationship between Saddam and al Qaeda."

Scheuer wrote about a relationship between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda in his 2002 book. Yet when interviewed in 2004 he stated that he had found no evidence of a Saddam/al-Qaeda connection. Tim Russert asked Scheuer to explain the seeming contradiction on Meet the Press (30 November 2004):

MR. SCHEUER: I certainly saw a link when I was writing the books in terms of the open-source literature, unclassified literature, but I had nothing to do with Iraq during my professional career until the run-up to the war. What I was talking about on "Hardball" was, I was assigned the duty of going back about nine or 10 years in the classified archives of the CIA. I went through roughly 19,000 documents, probably totaling 50,000 to 60,000 pages, and within that corpus of material, there was absolutely no connection in the terms of a--in the terms of a relationship.
MR. RUSSERT: But your [2002] book did point out some contacts?
MR. SCHEUER: Certainly it was available in the open-source material, yes, sir.[35]

Scheuer explains more fully in the revised edition of his 2002 book the exhaustive study of the evidence of Iraq-al-Qaeda cooperation that eventually led him to the conclusion that there was no relationship between the two forces:

For a number of reasons, I was available to perform the review of Agency files on Iraq and al Qaeda, and the chief of the bin Laden unit handed me the assignment. I was delighted with the task, eager to begin, and sure that my research would support the analysis I had presented in Through Our Enemies' Eyes. For about four weeks in late 2002 and early 2003, I and several others were engaged full time in searching CIA files -- seven days a week, often far more than eight hours a day. At the end of the effort, we had gone back ten years in the files and had reviewed nearly twenty thousand documents that amounted to well over fifty thousand pages of materials. I was both pleased and embarrassed by the results of the research. I was pleased because CIA's position was reaffirmed and the analysis of Mr. Feith's unit was discredited. There was no information that remotely supported the analysis that claimed there was a strong working relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. I was embarrassed because this reality invalidated the analysis I had presented on the subject in my book.[36]

Libyan insurgency[edit | edit source]

Scheuer has stated his objection to any involvement by the US in the Libyan insurgency, being particularly critical of the work of United States' UN representative Susan E. Rice, calling the whole affair "none of our business" and essentially a "recruiting tool for terrorists."[37] His overall view being that the interests of US foreign policy are far better served by the current status quo, whereby the existing autocratic regimes are better able to suppress the threat he perceives from Al Qaida incursion than western style democratic systems. Scheuer believes that, irrespective of NATO ostensibly leading the bombing operations, "in the Muslim world, this is Americans killing Muslims again, and it looks like it's for oil."[37]

Ron Paul 2012 Endorsement[edit | edit source]

Scheuer penned an editorial in late December 2011 endorsing US Presidential candidate Ron Paul. He said, "Dr. Paul’s precise use of history and common sense exposes the exorbitantly costly effort to build democracies in the Islamic world for what it is; namely, Washington throwing money down the drain for a cause that is impossibly lost from the start and one that will involve us in wars where we have no interests." [38]

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

Books[edit | edit source]

  • Scheuer, Michael (2003). Through Our Enemies' Eyes: Osama Bin Laden, Radical Islam & the Future of America. Brassey's Inc. ISBN 1-57488-553-7.
  • Scheuer, Michael (2004). Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror. Brassey's Inc. ISBN 1-57488-849-8.
  • Scheuer, Michael (2008). Marching Towards Hell: America and Islam After Iraq. Free Press, Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-9969-8.
  • Scheuer, Michael (2011). Osama Bin Laden. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-973866-3.
  • NOTE: It would also be useful for readers interested in Mr. Scheuer's views and insights to read "Inside the Jihad" by Omar Nasiri, a Muslim and former penetrator of Al Qaeda's training camps. Mr. Scheuer wrote an introduction to the book, and Mr. Nasiri's account offers a very human voice to this complex and contentious issue.

Articles[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes and references[edit | edit source]

  1. "Michael Scheuer". Retrieved 2010-08-27. 
  2. "Wikistrat profile of Michael Scheuer". Wikistrat. Retrieved 17 January 2012. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Imperial Hubris. page 253
  4. L. Ali Khan. A theory of international terrorism. 2006, page 243-4
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2
  6. "CIA Chief Says Al-Qaida is Plotting Attack on U.S.". NPR. Retrieved 2010-08-27. 
  7. Scheuer, Michael (February 10, 2009). "Lobby? What Lobby?". 
  8. "Terrorism Analyst, Former CIA Officer To Speak" (Press release). Canisius College. 2007-01-12. Retrieved 2010-02-25. 
  9. Scheuer, Michael Frank (1980). From the St. Lawrence to Lake Superior; Peter Buell Porter, the Anglo-American Joint Commission of 1816-1822 and the charting of the Canadian-American boundary (MA thesis). Carleton University. OCLC 290201870. Retrieved 2010-02-11. [page needed]
  10. "Georgetown Biography". Georgetown University. Retrieved 2009-08-09. Template:Self-published inline
  11. Scheuer, Michael Frank (1986). Loring Christie and the North Atlantic community, 1913-1941 (PhD thesis). University of Manitoba. OCLC 184881579. Retrieved 2010-02-11. [page needed]
  12. "Six Questions for Michael Scheuer on National Security—By Ken Silverstein (Harper's Magazine)". 2006-08-23. Retrieved 2010-08-27. 
  13. Scheuer. Marching Toward Hell.
  14. The authorship of these books is now widely known, and advertised as such. See [1] Council on Foreign Relations, Transcript of Interview Winning or Losing? An Inside Look at the War on Terror by Nicholas Lemann Dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, February 3, 2005. Also see: The Phoenix
  15. Global Terrorism Analysis.
  16. "New America Foundation : event -430- "Al Qaeda 2.0: Transnational Terrorism After 9/11
    Conference will air live on
    C-Span 2""
    . New America Foundation. Archived from the original on 2005-11-07. Retrieved 2009-08-09.
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Lobby? What Lobby? - by Michael Scheuer". 2009-02-10. Retrieved 2010-08-27. 
  18. Find Out What S&S Authors Are Doing Right Now. "Michael Scheuer | Official Publisher Page". Retrieved 2010-08-27. 
  19. (p. 27).
  20. "On 'Michael Scheuer's Bloody Logic' - Thanks, and a Comment from Scheuer". TCS Daily. 2005-03-18. Retrieved 2010-08-27. 
  21. Imperial Hubris, page 241
  22. Imperial Hubris. page 101
  23. Imperial Hubris. p262-3
  24. (pp. 45-6)
  25. The Dark Side, PBS Frontline Interview, (22 June 2006).
  26. (Al-Jazeera TV on September 11 and 12, 2005)
  27. [2], Washington Times Guest Editorial, July 5, 2006.
  28. Michael F. Scheuer, "Bill and Dick, Osama and Sandy," Washington Times (5 July 2006).
  29. 29.0 29.1 Marching Toward Hell, page xxiii
  30. Amos, Deborah. "Paper on Israel Lobby Sparks Heated Debate", Morning Edition, NPR, April 21, 2006
  31. Marching Toward Hell page viii
  32. Marching Toward Hell page xiv
  33. "This House believes it's time for the US to get tough on Israel - Transcript". The Doha Debates. 2009-03-25. Retrieved 2009-04-07. 
  34. Softball on Hardball - Chris Matthews gives Michael Scheuer a pass--again, The Weekly Standard, 11/10/2005
  35. Michael Scheuer Interviewed by Tim Russert,, November 30, 2004
  36. Michael Scheuer, Through Our Enemies' Eyes (revised edition). Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2006) p. 136.
  37. 37.0 37.1 Michael Scheuer interview on CNN, 1 April 2011
  38. Editorial Article "Iowa’s Choice: Ron Paul or U.S. Bankruptcy, More Wars, and Many More Dead Soldiers and Marines"

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