Date: 4/2/2004







The USIP Responds to My Critique. I wrote an article last week in protest of the U.S. Institute of Peace's "co-hosting an event with a group closely associated with radical Islam," that being the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy. In addition, Kenneth Timmerman wrote a critique of this event, based in part on information from me.

Today the USIP has sent out a form letter in reply, signed by Kay King, its director of Congressional and Public Affairs. She writes that "The public criticism of CSID and the speakers was found to be based on quotes taken out of context, guilt by association, errors of fact, and innuendo."

This withering repudiation prompted me to reread my New York Sun article, and though I may be biased, I don't quite see how Ms King's statement stands up to scrutiny. Here are my replies to her:

Quotes taken out of context: There are no quotes at all in my article, much less any taken out of context. Guilt by association: If Kamran Bokhari has been a leader of Al-Muhajiroun, an organization that everyone agrees is wildly beyond the pale, and he is also an integral part of the CSID, surely this casts important light on CSID and cannot be so lightly dismissed.

Errors of fact: Ms King's paragraph on Bokhari does not in any way contradict my own.

Innuendo: A vague term that I cannot respond to.

More broadly, I regret that the USIP leadership remains in denial of its mistake on March 19 and even feels compelled to lash out against a board member interested in protecting both its reputation and the country at large from the scourge of militant Islam. (March 31, 2004) Permalink


Richard Clarke's Appeasement. I am against the blame game about 9/11 but there is one topic where Richard Clarke's fulminations prompts a reaction from this quarter; his claim that the Iraq war undermined the war on terrorism.

This morning, on NBC's "Meet the Press," Clarke gave three reasons for this argument, one having to do with vulnerabilities and one with resources, but it is the third that gets my goat. Here is Clarke in his own words (with some added links, mostly to my already-written responses to Clarke's assertions):

Who are we fighting in the war on terrorism? We're fighting Islamic radicals and they are drawing people from the youth of the Islamic world into hating us. Now, after September 11, people in the Islamic world said, "Wait a minute. Maybe we've gone too far here. Maybe this Islamic movement, this radical movement, has to be suppressed," and we had a moment, we had a window of opportunity, where we could change the ideology in the Islamic world. Instead, we've inflamed the ideology. We've played right into the hands of al-Qaeda and others. We've done what Osama bin Laden said we would do.

Clarke has it diametrically wrong here: as the links above suggest, Muslims responded to 9/11 with delight and enthusiasm. It was only the coalition victory over the Taliban that tamped down the exhilaration.

Ninety percent of the Islamic people in Morocco, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, allied countries to the United States--90 percent in polls taken last month hate the United States. It's very hard when that's the game where 90 percent of the Arab people hate us. It's very hard for us to win the battle of ideas. We can arrest them. We can kill them. But as Don Rumsfeld said in the memo that leaked from the Pentagon, I'm afraid that they're generating more ideological radicals against us than we are arresting them and killing them. They're producing more faster than we are. Odd, is it not, that Clarke implies that if Muslims see Americans negatively, it is the Americans' fault? I wonder if he would have thought the same about Germans in 1943, upset about the invasion of Italy that year.

The president of Egypt said, "If you invade Iraq, you will create a hundred bin Ladens." He lives in the Arab world. He knows. It's turned out to be true. It is now much more difficult for us to win the battle of ideas as well as arresting and killing them, and we're going to face a second generation of al-Qaeda. We're going to catch bin Laden. I have no doubt about that. In the next few months, he'll be found dead or alive. But it's two years too late because during those two years, al-Qaeda has morphed into a hydra-headed organization, independent cells like the organization that did the attack in Madrid.

Boiled down, Clarke is saying that the war on terror has gone sour because Muslims are angry about U.S.-led forces deposing and capturing Saddam Hussein.

A counterterrorist specialist like Clarke, someone who worries about hardening railroad beds and getting law enforcement agencies to speak to each other, might miss the larger point, which is this:

Americans and Muslims see the world very differently. It's not just a matter of such hot-button issues as Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict but also larger questions of economics, politics, religion, sexuality, and child-rearing. Put in the simplest terms, Americans are mostly modern and Muslims are mostly not. There are exceptions to this general rule but it holds often enough and is so consequential that it now drives world politics. Further, this was the situation no less before 9/11 than it is today; it just was not so evident.

There are only two choices. Either militant Islam wins or America does. Clarke's advice amounts to appeasement and the route to defeat. (March 28, 2004)

March 30, 2004 update: Brian Levite, a reader, points out that Clarke (in the above quote) misrepresents Rumsfeld's memo. Here is how Clarke paraphrased the memo:

But as Don Rumsfeld said in the memo that leaked from the Pentagon, I'm afraid that they're generating more ideological radicals against us than we are arresting them and killing them. They're producing more faster than we are. And here is what Rumsfeld actually wrote:

Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us? Does the U.S. need to fashion a broad, integrated plan to stop the next generation of terrorists?

Rumsfeld is merely raising questions; Clarke has him saying that the United States is losing. That's a big difference. It appears that, in his effort to discredit the Bush administration, Clarke does not mind making things up. Permalink


Who's to Blame for 9/11. I have little patience for the current partisan bickering over who's to blame for letting the 9/11 atrocities occur, a debate right now at fever pitch.

My view, which I expressed in a bitter piece on Sept. 11, 2001 itself (and which appeared in the Wall Street Journal the next day as well as in the National Review Online on the very afternoon of 9/11) was that

The tactical blame falls on the U.S. government, which has grievously failed in its topmost duty to protect American citizens from harm. Specialists on terrorism have been aware for years of this dereliction of duty; now the whole world knows it. Despite a steady beat of major, organized terrorist incidents over 18 years (since the car bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut in 1983), Washington has not taken the issue seriously. I purposefully used these neutral formulations ("U.S. government," "Washington") rather than blame Democrats or Republicans because I felt then and do now that the blame was bipartisan. Further, it had much to do with the permanent bureaucracy. Beyond that, it resulted from a societal negligence. Here is how I put it a few weeks later, noting the many deaths that took place at the hands of the jihad against America:

The sad fact is, 22 years and 600 dead did not get the country's attention. Americans blithely ignored those specialists on militant Islam and terrorism who pleaded for vigilance and warned of horrors to come. This national obliviousness explains how Americans found themselves so embarrassingly unprepared for the events of September 11.

(I now count not 600 but 800 dead.) And here is how I put it in April 2002, reviewing the 22 prior years:

although Americans were repeatedly attacked, they barely responded. One can hardly blame the militant Islamic groups and governments for concluding that the United States was weak, demoralized and ripe for attack. The population was feckless, distracted and complacent, the government incompetent.

The country as a whole was unprepared before 9/11 and it serves no good purpose to score partisan points. Far more constructive than these stale and dishonest debates would be seriously to address the U.S. government and people's overly euphemistic and timid, sometimes myopic and inconsistent responses to the internal threats they face, even now. (For a personal account of one such experience, see my article, "The U.S. Institute of Peace Stumbles.") (March 26, 2004) Permalink


Saudi Hostility to the U.S. Government. As in other quasi-totalitarian dictatorships, the press in Saudi Arabia must express views approved by the government. Additionally, items appearing in English media generally are vetted to make sure they portray the kingdom in a positive light.

All of which makes an article in today's Arab News, "Assassination of Yassin: Who Is to Blame?" by Muhammad Salahuddin a real eyebrow raiser. Select excerpts:

The people who are slaughtering the Palestinians on a daily basis are not Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister and his Zionist aides. The actual killers are the government of President George Bush who still insists that the Zionist terror and the war of genocide waged by Sharon is an act of legitimate self-defense while the Palestinian resistance to the occupation is terrorism. …

The assassination of Sheikh Yassin, for all his status, history, personal qualities and the high place he occupies among the people inside and outside Palestine, is no bigger an outrage than the murder of tens of Palestinians who are being knocked down day and night by American bullets and rockets, …

Salahuddin ends by calling for the complete destruction of Israel, stating that

the Muslim Ummah will never find the burden of steadfastness and jihad unbearable. It is capable of, with the help of the Almighty Allah, facing the challenge and prevailing over the enemy, and it will never give up even one inch of Palestine land, whatever may be the brutality of the occupiers and their supporters. I wonder how apologists for the U.S.-Saudi "friendship" are going to explain how this particular state-sanctioned bit of opining. (March 25, 2004) Permalink


Two Thoughts on the Execution of Ahmad Yassin. At a time when coalition forces are tracking down Osama bin Laden in Pakistan with the intent of capturing or killing him, the elimination of Yassin strikes me as a very useful Israeli contribution to the global war on terror.

I am struck that anyone can think that Yassin's death could be anything but a boon for Israel in its war with the Palestinians. Has anyone ever heard of a case when killing an enemy leader does not help its war cause? (March 24, 2004) Permalink


King Abdullah Discusses Militant Islam's Goals. In a revealing interview to Italy's Corriere della Sera titled "I terroristi odiano l'Islam moderato" ("the terrorists hate moderate Islam"), Jordan's King Abdullah explained that the Islamists assaulting Europe are ultimately trying not to take over in the West but to eradicate moderate Islam and take power in the majority-Muslim countries. Here is the key passage, as translated by Reuters:

No one is safe. Jordan is not and neither is Spain, which was so sorely hit. This is a threat to the security of Europe. [The Islamists'] objective is not the destruction of the West but the destruction of moderate Islam in order to take power. Europe is a secondary object. By weakening it [Europe], they want to influence the future role of the Muslim world in the international community.

The king admonished the West to take the threat of terror attacks more seriously and said that attacks such as the one in Madrid on March 11, 2004 are "only part of a much broader picture, linked to a struggle within Islam, with extremists who are seeking to create conflict between East and West and [inciting] inter-religious wars."

Comment: Once again, a Muslim is franker and bolder than his Western counterparts about defining the menace of militant Islam and explaining its goals. (For another example, this one Saudi, see "Saudi Interior Minister: Look at Terrorists' Convictions.")(March 23, 2004) Permalink


The Baghdad Mosquito. That's the name of a intelligence document published daily by the U.S. military in Iraq with the goal of chronicling "the latest street talk in the Iraqi capital, however ill founded, bizarre or malevolent." As described in today's New York Times by Thom Shanker,

The Mosquito began last fall after American military leaders realized that rumors themselves had become a security problem, and decided to fight back. It is distributed via e-mail to an elite group of military officers and policy planners and is posted on the military's classified Web server. …

Seven days a week, a staff of Iraqis and Americans compile and analyze local press and satellite television reports. And once a week, in what has become required reading for senior American officials in Baghdad and a devoted readership in Washington, The Mosquito produces an exclusive collection of rumor, gossip and chatter called, "What's the Word on the Streets of Baghdad?"

The Baghdad Mosquito is an organized and quite brilliant effort to monitor and understand conspiracy theories in order to master and exploit them.

The Mosquito's buzz has already helped refine the information campaigns being run by the military and occupation authorities here, said a senior officer. "These people, after living 35 years under a very brutal regime, allow us to better understand what really are the concerns of the citizens on the streets of Baghdad," said Brig. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, assistant commander of the First Armored Division, which is responsible for the security of Baghdad and central Iraq.

General Hertling said The Mosquito's reports helped the division fine-tune advertisements, posters and billboards that focus on new Iraqi security forces. "The feedback we received from The Mosquito was especially helpful in our design of a campaign countering the belief that all Iraqi police officers are corrupt and work contrary to the service of the citizens," he said.

This fulfills advice I gave in a long 1992 article about dealing with Middle East conspiracy theories, which I summed up this way: "As a rule, do not play games; but be aware of vulnerabilities created by the conspiracy mentality and, on special occasions, exploit these to the maximum." (March 23, 2004) Permalink


Who Is the Enemy in the War on Terror? Here's a snippet from the 9/11 Commission hearing today:

JAMIE S. GORELICK, commission member: And would you agree that our principal adversary right now is Islamic extremists and jihadists?

COLIN L. POWELL, U.S. secretary of state: I would say that they are the source of most of the terrorist threats that we are facing.

This may seem like a bland recognition of reality but it is a major improvement for Powell, who initially responded by denying that reality. For example, on Sept. 12, 2001, he insisting that the previous day's events "should not be seen as something done by Arabs or Islamics; it is something that was done by terrorists."

I see Powell's evolution as symptomatic of a wider coming to terms with facts as they are, as is American officialdom's increasing readiness, noted in this weblog, to recognize that it's a war of ideas as much as it is one of violence. (March 23, 2004) Permalink


Predictions about the U.S. Presidential Election. I expect the U.S. presidential election in 2004 will be a Bush blow-out victory, reminiscent of Reagan's in 1984.

I say that in part because on the key issue of the day – should the U.S. government prosecute a war or a police action against militant Islam – a healthy majority of Americans favor the president's view; and in part because I see John Kerry as a poor candidate, the weakest in my lifetime, someone whose main asset is looking and sounding presidential. As the electorate becomes more familiar with his views, his personality, his wife, his Vietnam record, and his Senate service, it will distance itself from him.

Incidentally, I see Howard Dean as a much stronger candidate than Kerry, a real person with real views who would have had plenty of time to reposition himself in the center. (March 23, 2004) Permalink


Further on the "October Surprise" Conspiracy Theory. (1) I wrote the entry on the "October Surprise" theory for the recently-published, two-volume Conspiracy Theories in American History: An Encyclopedia and in it I asserted that the Lyndon LaRouche-Gary Sick claim about a Reagan-Khomeini deal "endured for over a decade, from 1980-93, but has since disappeared."

Well, not so fast. A sharp-eyed reader, Ronald Wieck, points out in a comment on my encyclopedia entry that the conspiracy theory does in fact live on in one authoritative source.

The sixth revised edition of Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy Since 1938 (Penguin Books, 1991), by Stephen E. Ambrose, contains the following description of the closing days of Jimmy Carter's administration:

On November 4, [1980,] Ronald Reagan defeated Carter in the presidential election, thereby putting additional pressure on Khomeini, who could hardly expect the incoming Reagan administration to offer as favorable a deal as the outgoing Carter administration. (Reagan was denouncing the Iranians as "barbarians" and "common criminals" and hinting that he would take strong and direct military action against them.) Therefore, Iran, on December 21, demanded a specific ransom for the captives—$24 billion—deposited in Algeria.

The eighth revised edition (1997) removes the parentheses and adds the phrase, "In public," before "Reagan." Three additional sentences materialize right before the one about the ransom demand:

Actually, Reagan had made a private deal with Khomeini. If the Iranians would hold the hostages until after the election, the new Reagan administration would pay ransom for them in the form of arms for Iran. Khomeini badly needed the weapons for his war with Iraq, so the deal was struck.

Douglas G. Brinkley's name appears on the cover as co-author, suggesting some sort of ransom deal as the amount of new material over the previous seven editions is minimal. Here then is a book written for students and lay readers presenting a discredited conspiracy theory as historical fact.

Have any reviewers noted the ideological tendentiousness supplied to a well-respected textbook by the current chronicler of John Kerry's exploits in Vietnam? Did Brinkley discuss the change with Ambrose? If a conservative co-author, allowed to rampage through a standard text on American history, inserted a passage averring that Bill Clinton sold military secrets to the Chinese in order to swell his campaign coffers, would the reviewers notice? You think?

Mr. Wieck has shown me the pages in question and they are precisely as he describes them.

It is a scandal that a prominent historian like Brinkley would purvey such trash and that a major publisher like Penguin would consent to pollute a leading textbook in such a manner.

Penguin does not make it easy to comment on its publications, but contacting Dan Lundy, its vice president and director for Academic Marketing & Sales at Dan.Lundy@us.penguingroup.com would be a good place to make known what you think of this outrage.

(2) In its March 15, 2004 issue, Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily published an analysis by the pseudonymous "Alan Peters" under the title "Role of US Former Pres. Carter Emerging in Illegal Financial Demands on Shah of Iran" which – to my amazement – reverses the "October Surprise" thesis and claims that Jimmy Carter was in collusion with Ayatollah Khomeini. In brief: Carter made various demands on Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (kickbacks to a favored contractor, a guaranteed cheap price for Iranian oil over fifty years) which the shah turned down, infuriating Carter and causing him to help Ayatollah Khomeini come to power. These two buddies then jointly planned the November 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

The mostly rent-a-crowd group of students organized to climb the US Embassy walls was spearheaded by a mullah on top of a Volkswagen van, who with a two-way radio in one hand and a bullhorn in the other, controlled the speed of the march on the Embassy according to instructions he received over the radio. He would slow it down, hurry it up and slow it down again in spurts and starts, triggering the curiosity of an educated pro-Khomeini vigilante, who later told the story to a friend in London.

When asked by the vigilante for the reason of this irregular movement, the stressed cleric replied that he had instructions to provide the US Embassy staff with enough time to destroy their most sensitive documents and to give the three most senior US diplomats adequate opportunity to then take refuge at the Islamic Republic Foreign Ministry rather than be taken with the other hostages. Someone at the Embassy was informing the Foreign Ministry as to progress over the telephone and the cleric was being told what to do over his radio.

The vigilante then asked why the Islamic Government would bother to be so accommodating to the Great Satan and was told that the whole operation was planned in advance by Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan's revolutionary Government with Pres. Carter in return for Carter having helped depose the Shah and that this was being done to ensure Carter got re-elected. He helped us, now we help him was the matter-of-fact comment from the cleric.

One difference between Democrats and Republicans: too many of the former hyped their Khomeini-collusion conspiracy theory, whereas the latter will not touch the above nonsense with a ten-foot pole. (March 22, 2004) Permalink


Israel out of Gaza? In discussing Ariel Sharon's December 2003 about-face on the question of pulling all Israelis out of the Gaza Strip, I expressed skepticism that he "actually means what he says," and explained: "I don't pretend to know what is on the prime minister's mind — he does not confide in me — but I do suspect that … Mr. Sharon, a shrewd politician who knows when he must bend, has outlined a plan that I believe he has little wish to fulfill."

Today's Washington Post provides evidence to confirm that skepticism. Titled "Clashes in Gaza Feed Doubt About Pullout," an article by John Ward Anderson and Molly Moore tells how Israeli forces demolished three houses belonging to a Palestinian terrorist in Gaza. To which a Palestinian commented about Sharon's plan to withdraw Israelis from Gaza: "It's all lies, all words. He will never withdraw." More interestingly, an Israeli living in Gaza concurred as she noted the extensive IDF efforts in her area: "Why would the Israeli government put so much money into a project if they are going to leave Gaza?" The Post authors go on:

Three months after Sharon announced his intentions to withdraw settlers and soldiers from Gaza, Palestinians and Israelis alike are debating how far he will pursue that goal. Against a backdrop of increasing violence here and rising opposition within Sharon's cabinet, and with a presidential election looming in the United States, many question when—or whether—Israel could leave this impoverished strip of land. Then there is the fact that

In the 13 weeks since broaching the idea of withdrawal, Sharon has faced 23 no-confidence votes in Israel's parliament. Cabinet ministers from two elements of Sharon's governing coalition, the pro-settlement National Religious Party and the ultra-nationalist National Union, have threatened to resign and bring down the government if Sharon tries to quit Gaza. The prime minister's public approval rating has plummeted to 33 percent, according to a survey last week.

In other words, not only does Sharon seem to have little wish to fulfill his plan but neither do other Israelis want him to. (March 20, 2004) Permalink


Reflections on the Bombing in Madrid. Most American analysts concur that the Spanish electorate's response to the train station bombings on March 11 amounted to a major setback in the global war on terror. It saw the violence resulting from the presence of 1,300 Spanish troops deployed in Iraq and voted to pull them out.

I agree that this is a setback, but I am inclined to see it as relatively minor. Here's why:

Spain's role in Iraq is basically symbolic. Its 1,300 troops are certainly welcome but no one can claim that they have a decisive role, or even a major one, in controlling Iraq.

In contrast, Spain does have a key role in the war on terror. (Unlike the U.S. government, by the way, I see the war on terror – which I prefer to call the war on militant Islam – as distinct from the war to dislodge Saddam Hussein.) The killing of 200 people in Madrid awoke not only Spaniards to the reality of the Islamist threat but also many others in Europe. As such, following my "education by murder" paradigm, the blasts are likely to lead to significantly better European security measures to prevent Islamist violence.

In all, I predict that the minor loss of Spanish troops in Iraq will be more than made up for by the heightened urgency of Spanish and Europe defenses versus militant Islam. Those two hundred lives, I hope and believe, will not have been lost for nothing.

Comment: For the un-pretty face of appeasement, here is one picture:

(March 18, 2004) Permalink


Teresa Heinz and CAIR. The wife of the Democratic candidate for president of the United States, John Kerry, appears to be giving money to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an organization I have for two years characterized as standing "on the wrong side in the war on terrorism." Here's the connection:

The Capital Research Center, an agency that tracks non-profits and charities, indicates that the Howard Heinz Endowment (which Teresa F. Heinz chairs) gave some $4 million to the Tides Center during the period 1998-2001, or about $1 million a year. In addition, the Vira I. Heinz Endowment (where Teresa sits on the board) gave $75,000 to the Tides Foundation in 1998.

(Heinz Endowment funds going to Tides have come under intense media scrutiny of late, prompting Tides to post a press release on the topic on March 11, 2004; but CAIR has not been part of the discussion until now.)

The Tides Center and the Tides Foundation both make up part of what are called the "Tides Family of Organizations" (leave it to the far left to use the word family in this way), as is Groundspring.org.

CAIR is among the organizations Tides has announced it is "privileged" to support.

So here is the unfortunate linkage: John Kerry—Teresa Heinz—Heinz Endowments—Tides Family of Organizations—CAIR. (March 17, 2004)

March 18, 2004 update: David Simon points out at LittleGreenFootballs.com that the Tides Foundation's tax Form 990 for 2002 shows a donation of $5,000 to CAIR. A little Internet searching confirms this; Guidestar ("the national database of non-profit organizations") posts the Tides Foundations's IRS form; the contribution to CAIR appears on p. 11 of Statement 3. Permalink


Muslim Scholars Who Acknowledge Muslim Antisemitism. How deep runs Muslim antisemitism today? Listen to the loud voices of militant Islam and you will here it disparaged as a non-issue. But at least two informed insiders are saying otherwise.

Khaleel Mohammed, assistant professor of religion at San Diego State University, addressed a conference on anti-Semitism taking place in Montreal, according to a report in today's Montreal Gazette:

Anti-Semitism has become an entrenched tenet of Muslim theology, taught to 95 per cent of the religion's adherents in the Islamic world, a U.S. scholar said yesterday at an international conference in Montreal. …

In an interview after his talk, Mohammed, a Muslim who is assistant professor of religion at San Diego State University, said anti-Semitic sentiments have become endemic in Muslim religious teachings. "It has become part of Islamic theology, so the average Muslim learns anti-Semitism in probably a subtler form, not overt anti-Semitism, but learns it as part of his theology," he said.

Although the Muslim holy book, the Koran, preaches respect for Judaism, the Hadith, a collection of the prophet Mohammed's oral proclamations, contains anti-Semitic passages widely quoted by Muslim clerics, Mohammed said. "In Hadith literature ... which Muslims have made to be part and parcel of Islamic teaching, you cannot respect the Jew, the Jew is God's enemy until the end of time. And that's ingrained."

Irfan Khawaja, an adjunct professor of philosophy at The College of New Jersey, wrote a remarkable article in Pakistan Today; just over a year ago, on "The Problem of Muslim Anti-Semitism."

Contempt for Jews was a ubiquitous and inescapable phenomenon in the Arab/Muslim community in which I grew up in New Jersey in the 1970s and 1980s; the bigotry there was such that my brother jokingly referred to the community as "The Fourth Reich." And such attitudes remain in place today.

In the interesting discussion that follows, Khawaja considers several sources of antisemitism in Islamic tradition and muses on the his own experiences.

Once again, I hold that "militant Islam is the problem and moderate is the solution." If Muslim antisemitism is to be addressed, it will have to be done by Muslims. At least we can see the first wisps of a solution in this area. (March 16, 2004) Permalink


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