The Neocon-Islamophobe Nexus: Clarion brings together Perle and Gaffney

The Clarion Fund has been careful to claim that their documentary films, which have included “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” and “The Third Jihad,” are neither partisan nor designed to fan the flames of Islamophobia. But recent associations the group has made in Washington would indicate that Clarion, which appears to be an offshoot of the Jewish ultra-orthodox Israel-based Aish HaTorah, is connected to both the core of the neoconservative movement in Washington, D.C., and one of the the country’s best-known Islamophobes.

Today, the right-wing Heritage Foundation announced that it would be hosting a special screening of Clarion’s latest film, “Iranium,” on February 1. The event will include an appearance and comments by none other than arch-neoconservative Richard Perle. Perle, whose nickname is “The Prince of Darkness,” is widely seen as playing an important role in shaping post-9/11 Bush administration foreign policy from his perch at the Defense Policy Board.

Perle’s institutional affiliations are a useful guide for anyone seeking to understand the intellectual underpinnings of the Bush administration’s (first term) foreign policy or diagram the web of neoconservative institutions in Washington, D.C. Perle is currently a fellow at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute; a letter signatory for the Project for the New American Century; a member of the National Security Advisory Council at Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy; a member of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq and Committee on the Present Danger; and a board member of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, and the Hudson Institute.

Perle’s role in the Clarion Fund’s film screening would indicate that the organization is deeply embedded in the neoconservative movement. Given Perle’s track record for pushing the U.S. into aggressive wars of choice, this affiliation should be looked at closely as the Fund rolls out its latest documentary, which claims to document the “threat to international stability” presented by Iran’s nuclear program.

When not teaming up with one of the chief boosters of the Iraq war, Clarion has been adding Center for Security Policy founder Frank Gaffney to its board. Gaffney was recently deemed too hot to touch by the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Sarah Posner spoke with Suhail Khan, a Muslim member of the American Conservative Union Board, the group which sponsors CPAC. Khan told Posner:

“Frank has been frozen out of CPAC by his own hand, because of his antics. We need people who are credible on national security . . . but because of Frank’s just completely irresponsible assertions over the years, the organizers have decided to keep him out.” That, Khan added, is similar reaction to current and former members of Congress, including Bobby Jindal, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), and the late Henry Hyde, who distanced themselves from Gaffney.

The conservative shunning of Gaffney, said Khan, is not “because of any pressure from Muslim activists but because they didn’t want to be associated with a crazy bigot.”

CPAC is a major event for Republicans—a veritable Woodstock, of sorts, for conservatives, and, as I wrote last year, an event with no shortage of Islamophobic rhetoric. Gaffney being “frozen out” is a major blow for his credentials within the conservative movement.

But for Clarion, linking up with the arch-neoconservative Richard Perle, and a counter-Jihadi so extreme that his Islamophobia was too much for CPAC, shows that the organization and its films are well outside of the mainstream. In the past, Clarion has succeeded in getting its projects promoted in mainstream media venues such as CNN and Fox News. It will interesting to watch and see if an organization that has now publicly acknowledged its extreme neoconservative and Islamophobic leanings can get the same type of traction with “Iranium.”

While Clarion remains a fairly small organization (despite its $18 million distribution of “Obsession” DVDs before the 2008 presidential election), the links between ultra-orthodox Aish HaTorah, neoconservative extraordinaire Richard Perle and Islamophobe Frank Gaffney should raise questions. Perhaps most importantly, are these new connections for neoconservatives like Richard Perle? Or is this simply a rare public acknowledgment of the relationship between ultra-orthodox Israelis, Islamophobes, and neoconservatives?

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.