I have a lot of respect for Michael Scheuer. Scheuer, the first leader of the CIA’s Usama Bin Laden Unit (with the old-school spelling) in the 1990s, knows a lot about al-Qaeda, and in two books after 9/11 he proposed, simply, listening to what al-Qaeda leaders were saying as a guide to informing strategy. When he was still anonymous, I conducted an interview with him for TPM in 2004, and it was clear in our discussion that his opinions about U.S. strategy in the war on terrorism were difficult for me to embrace. But so what, really. You *should *want to listen to someone of a much different political perspective when he knows what he’s talking about about a given issue. Additionally, Scheuer can be a provocateur: I’ve seen him give lectures in which he follows the invocation of Ronald Reagan’s name by saying, “Peace Be Upon Him.”
So I can only hope that this is what Scheuer is doing in this Glenn Beck appearance, in which he really seems like he’s urging al-Qaeda to attack the U.S. as a way of waking America up to its political mismanagement. “It’s an absurd situation,” Scheuer tells Beck. “Only Osama can execute an attack that will force Americans to demand that their government protect them effectively, consistently, and with as much violence as necessary.” Video:
I don’t have the full exchange, so it’s possible that Scheuer is being taken out of context here. Whatever frustrations Scheuer has about the Obama administration, this is a man who devoted years of his life to fighting al-Qaeda, and it’s tremendously hard to believe that he’d actually want America to be attacked. But even if he’s just being provocative, he’s walking so close to that advocacy line that he’s got chalk on his shoes. It’s disappointing to see Scheuer express himself this way. Adam Serwer and Jason Linkins have more.