Nearly 150 showed up for the first of several “myth busting” programs the Haywood County Democratic Party is organizing.

The first program featured criminal and humanitarian jurist David Crane and Andrew Morgan, a Haywood resident who is Muslim.

Haywood County Democratic Party Chairman Myrna Campbell said the program was hatched in the aftermath of the “hometown hate” that was evident at a Haywood Republican event held in February. The event featured Chris Gaubatz, a controversial national security consultant and co-author of “Muslim Mafia.”

The anti-Muslim rhetoric expressed at that event was one of the reasons Campbell said she invited Morgan to speak — to present another view.

Crane’s talk, “We Are Our Own Worst Enemy,” stressed that the U.S. has lost the moral high ground when it comes to influencing peaceful resolutions to global conflicts, most recently through actions taken in the aftermath of 9/11.

Crane took the audience through a recent history of the U.S. — a time both he and his wife were deeply involved with the nation’s intelligence forces doing activities that are still classified.

“We got involved with counter-intelligence organizations — the kind that don’t exist on paper. We would find the terrorist and hand him over to U.S. Marshalls,” he said. “We (as a nation) were good at that. For the next 20 years, we were facing down terrorism throughout the world and ensuring that America was safe.”

During the 20th Century, 235 million people died. Of that number, 115 million died at the hands of their own government, Crane said, and 90 million died during the Cold War — more than in both world wars combined.

“In middle of the bloody 20th century with WWI and WWII, there was a shining moment with the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention,” he said, “a time when mankind for the first time in 4,000 years decided to take up the rule of law and prosecute people who destroy their own citizens.”

This happened under the leadership of the U.S., but events that came later shook confidence. There was the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, domestic turmoil as the Civil Rights Act was implemented and riots in every major city over involvement in Vietnam. Then there was the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Things took a turn for the worse in 2001 with the bombing of the World Trade Center’s twin towers, the Pentagon and an attempted attack on the White House.

That was when the U.S. started looking at the world as “you are either with us or against us,” Crane said, noting the reaction to the tragedy led to electronic eavesdropping, the use of torture and other acts both allies and foes considered as outside the rule of law.

The war in Iraq was based on the myth that Sadaam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Crane said then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who convinced the UN Security Council Iraq was a threat, has subsequently said that was a low point of his career.

“He later admitted he was lying,” Crane said. “He took a bullet for the president. The Iraqi War was based on that lie because the UN Security Council authorized the use of force in Iraq based on fake evidence. Most of the world, once this came out, felt this was an act of aggression.”

The loss of moral authority after 9/11 has caused many problems, he said, including the “ability to stop things from happening or stop them quickly.” The vacuum lead to the rise of populism as the rule of law was replaced by the age of the strongman — dictators such as Russsia’s Vladimir Putin who use tactics employed by Mussolini and Hitler.

“Nobody paid attention to us,” he said, recalling the nation’s fall from international grace. “You can’t use terrorist tactics at Guantanamo or Abu Graib and still try to settle disputes peacefully when you are using the rule of the gun, now the rule of law.”

While there is no international definition of terrorism, Crane pointed out that tactics associated with terrorism have long been part of world history, suggesting that some definitions would consider George Washington a terrorist.

He maintained the greatest terrorist threat against the U.S. is not Muslims, but the angry white male connected through social media to white supremacist groups. He cited attacks such as in Charleston, South Carolina and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as well as the most recent attack in New Zealand where 50 people worshipping at two mosques died at the hands of a lone gunman — a gunman who said he drew inspiration from U.S. President Donald Trump.

Crane said he has lived with and fought beside Muslims all his professional life — individuals who were Americans first that preached love and worship the same God we do.

“There is no Islamic terrorist threat in the U.S. That’s just a boogeyman diverting attention from what our leadership is doing,” he said. “It’s a tactic to keep us diverted from true problems. America is great because we are inclusive. We’re great because we respect laws, and more importantly, we’re great because we respect each other and are a nation under God with a belief in liberty and justice for all. Don’t let anybody take that away from us.”

Peace is primary

When Morgan took the podium, he began with a Muslim prayer and then took issue with remarks by the guest speaker at a GOP meeting last month.

Morgan said Guabatz got almost everything wrong — except that Marxists are great at organizing. He disputed that a deep cover was needed to infiltrate a Muslim group, saying when he walked into a mosque expressing interest in the faith, he was welcomed with open arms.

He also found it unlikely that a terrorist group would give “the new white guy” sensitive documents to shred, as Gaubatz claimed happened to him, and noted that information the speaker shared about the Muslim faith was simply inaccurate.

“Koran means recitation,” Morgan said. “It is a dramatic monologue God talking, not thoughts or views of Muhammad.”

Peace is of primary importance to Muslims, and it is gained by submitting personal will to the will of God, he said.

As a boy, Morgan said he flirted with the idea of joining a white supremacist group, but then realized the music and books he loved were written by those of other cultures or races.

“There was not a prejudiced bone in my body,” he said, noting that the more he learned about the Muslim faith and the emphasis on all mankind being brothers, the more it appealed to him.

What’s next

The next two Haywood County Democratic Party “myth-busting events” will feature the Affordable Care Act and climate change, but Campbell said the party has a long list of topics that will be part of future talks and discussions.

“I couldn’t have been more pleased with the turnout and the quality of the presentations,” Campbell said of the Tuesday event featuring Crane and Morgan. “I was hoping to attract 100, but had only set up for 70. I expected the program to be over no later than 8, maybe even before and was thrilled the audience was so engaged and still be asking questions at 8:20.”

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