John Kerry is trying to show he’s "tough on
But with delegates like Ismael Ahmed, it’s a tough sell.
Ahmed, a Michigan delegate to this week’s Democratic
National Convention, is a long-time Democratic activist and a repeat delegate.
But the Democrats aren’t touting him to the media. In
fact, the only place you’ll read about Ahmed’s delegate credentials is on
In this first Presidential nominating convention since
9/11, Ahmed’s presence at the convention and his views are more disturbing
Ahmed is the founder and executive director of ACCESS –
the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, based in Dearborn,
Under Ahmed’s leadership, ACCESS paid for commercial
driving lessons and attempts at hazardous material hauling certificates for two
men convicted as part of the Detroit Al-Qaeda sleeper cell. Testimony at their
trial revealed that the men planned to bomb the MGM Grand Casino and a host of
other prominent US sites.
More chilling is that since ACCESS’ multi-million dollar
budget is largely tax-funded, tax dollars likely paid for these men to get their
"job training" organized by ACCESS.
When confronted with this, Ahmed made no apologies. On the
contrary, he was defiant in defending his organization’s aid to the Qaeda
sleepers, comparing their membership in the terrorist group to mere
"political credential," such as Democrat or Republican.
In 2002, ACCESS sponsored and funded the Second Annual
Palestinian Students Divestment Conference at the University of Michigan. The
conference’s keynote speaker was Sami Al-Arian, the now-indicted, alleged
leader of the Islamic Jihad terrorist group.
His activities were well-known at the time, including
letters stating that "the merger with the brothers in Hamas" was
almost complete and bragging of a successful bus-bombing in Israel. Other
conference speakers included assorted anti-Semites and anti-Westerners who had
previously exhorted violence against and murder of Jews.
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When confronted on ACCESS’ sponsorship of this
conference, Ahmed – whose agency provides tax-funded "sensitivity
training"-- told a reporter that it was a cultural activity for Arabic
students in the area.
Ahmed apparently thinks that donating to terrorist groups
is also a "cultural activity." He opposed the Clinton
Counter-terrorism package of 1996, because it prohibited donations to terrorist
groups, including Hezbollah and Hamas. Ahmed told a Detroit paper of the
difficulty finding Arab-Americans who did not give to these groups.
Give Ahmed credit for his honesty – for once. He has been
less than truthful about his own background. For example, he has bragged in
writings and to reporters of his "tours" and "hitches" in
Vietnam and claimed that he is a "Vietnam Veteran."
But, while Ahmed did serve in the U.S. Army, any time he
spent in Vietnam was as a tourist – unlike his party’s likely Presidential
nominee. While Ahmed was briefly in Korea, military records show that most of
his military career was spent stateside at Fort Knox. "Records do not
indicate veteran served in Vietnam," wrote Scott Levins, Assistant Director
for Military Records at the National Personnel Records Center.
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Then there is Ahmed’s reason for founding ACCESS. The
organization claims it exists to help Americans of all sorts get social service
help. But in an old newspaper interview, Ahmed admits he founded ACCESS "as
an advocacy group" while campaigning to persuade auto unions to divest
their Israeli bond portfolios.
Since then, Ahmed has used ACCESS to shake down
corporations and government, much the same way Jesse Jackson has for Operation
PUSH and the Rainbow Coalition. And what a coincidence: Ismael Ahmed ran one of
Jackson’s successful wins of the Michigan Democratic Primary in the 1980s.
Ahmed continues to shower Jackson with accolades, including keynote speeches at
ACCESS’ annual banquet. "Unfortunately," he recently wrote,
"Americans had not listened to Jessie [sic] Jackson’s election warning to
‘Stay out of the Bushes.’ "
But, despite the dig, Democrats are not alone in pandering
to Ismael Ahmed and ACCESS. In fall 2002, President Bush went out of his way to
recognize ACCESS, citing it and an Americorps volunteer who worked for the
agency, in a speech at a Detroit area public school. Thereafter, Bush sent then-Americorps
chief, Leslie Lenkowsky, to shower ACCESS with a multi-million dollar Arab
While Americorps volunteers typically help build Habitat
for Humanity homes for the poor and help underprivileged kids learn to read,
Ismael Ahmed’s Americorps program is political. He sends volunteers to work
for the Arab-American Institute, a Saudi-funded lobbying group headed by
Democratic advisor James Zogby – all at taxpayer expense.
After 9/11, ACCESS campaigned against universities
cooperating with federal agents to find foreign students linked to terrorism. In
2002, ACCESS was raided by federal agents in a Medicaid fraud investigation. A
television report and several newspaper articles said ACCESS was involved in
helping foreign Arabic women fraudulently obtain Medicaid to have their babies
here in the United States.
With delegates like Ismael Ahmed, John Kerry will have a
tough time showing us he’s the best guy to fight terror.
Debbie Schlussel is a political commentator and attorney. Join her fan club or discussion group.
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