Straining to paint President Obama as "alien" and out of touch with the rest of America on terrorism, the Wall Street Journal's Dorothy Rabinowitz misrepresented remarks made by Obama officials -- going so far as to fabricate a quote she attributed to John Brennan. Rabinowitz also attacked the administration's descriptions of terrorism when in fact, similar language was used by the Bush administration.
WSJ falsely claims Brennan said "violent extremists are victims of political, economic and social forces"
From Rabinowitz's June 9 Wall Street Journal column, "The Alien in the White House": [emphasis added]
In a May 26 speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mr. Brennan held forth fervently, if not quite comprehensibly, on who our enemy was not: "Our enemy is not terrorism because terrorism is just a tactic. Our enemy is not terror because terror is a state of mind, and as Americans we refuse to live in fear."
He went on to announce, sternly, that we do not refer to our enemies as Islamists or jihadists because jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam. How then might we be permitted to describe our enemies? One hint comes from another of Mr. Brennan's pronouncements in that speech: That "violent extremists are victims of political, economic and social forces."
Yes, that would work. Consider the news bulletins we could have read: "Police have arrested Faisal Shahzad, victim of political, economic and social forces living in Connecticut, for efforts to set off a car bomb explosion in Times Square."
In fact, Brennan did not say that "violent extremists are victims of political, economic and social forces," but rather he referenced such factors as potentially "put[ting] individuals on the path toward militancy." During his May 26 speech, Brennan referenced the two challenges of "destroying al-Qaida and its extremist affiliates, and second, the longer-term challenge of confronting violent extremism generally, including the political, economic and social forces that can sometimes put individuals on the path toward militancy." After stating that "[o]ur enemy is al Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates" and that "the United States will disrupt, dismantle, and ensure a lasting defeat of al Qaeda and violent extremist affiliates," Brennan said later in the speech:
The president's national security strategy also outlines how we will strengthen other tools of American power which will help us meet many challenges. This includes addressing the political, economic and social forces that can make some people fall victim to the cancer of violent extremism. Through a renewed commitment to diplomacy and in contrast to terrorists who offer the false hope of change through violence, we seek to show that legitimate grievances can be resolved peacefully through democratic institutions and dialogue, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan or between Israelis and Palestinians, where the continuing conflict undermines moderates and strengthens extremists across the region
At no point during the speech did Brennan state that "violent extremists are victims of political, economic and social forces," as Rabinowitz claimed.
Moreover, like Brennan, Bush discussed political, economic, and social factors "that give rise to extremism and terror"
Bush cited "poverty" as a factor contributing to "conditions that terrorists and seize and try to turn to their advantage." In a 2002 speech, Bush stated, "We will challenge the poverty and hopelessness and lack of education and failed governments that too often allow conditions that terrorists can seize and try to turn to their advantage." In a September 2005 speech, Bush stated that "we know that this war will not be won by force of arms alone," adding:
We must change the conditions that allow terrorists to flourish and recruit by spreading the hope of freedom to millions who've never known it. We must help raise up the failing states and stagnant societies that provide fertile ground for the terrorists. We must defend and extend a vision of human dignity and opportunity and prosperity, a vision far stronger than the dark appeal of resentment and murder.
To spread the vision of hope the United States is determined to help nations that are struggling with poverty.
Bush discussed "political modernization" and "full participation of women" as goals in long-term fight against terrorism. During a March 2005 speech on terrorism, Bush stated, "Our strategy to keep the peace in the longer term is to help change the conditions that give rise to extremism and terror, especially in the broader Middle East." Bush added, "It should be clear that economic progress requires political modernization, including honest representative government and the rule of law. And it should be clear that no society can advance with only half of its talent and energy. And that demands the full participation of women."
WSJ attacks Obama for using anti-terror rhetoric that Bush admin recommended
From Rabinowitz's June 9 Wall Street Journal column:
[Brennan] went on to announce, sternly, that we do not refer to our enemies as Islamists or jihadists because jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam. How then might we be permitted to describe our enemies? One hint comes from another of Mr. Brennan's pronouncements in that speech: That "violent extremists are victims of political, economic and social forces." Yes, that would work. Consider the news bulletins we could have read: "Police have arrested Faisal Shahzad, victim of political, economic and social forces living in Connecticut, for efforts to set off a car bomb explosion in Times Square." Plotters in Afghanistan and Yemen, preparing for their next attempt at mass murder in America, could only have listened in wonderment. They must have marvelled in particular on learning that this was the chief counterterrorism adviser to the president of the United States.
Brennan: Describing terrorists in religious terms is "counterproductive." During the May 26 speech cited by Rabinowitz, Brennan stated that the Obama administration does not "describe our enemy as 'jihadists' or 'Islamists' because jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenant of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one's community, and there is nothing holy or legitimate or Islamic about murdering innocent men, women and children." He added:
Indeed, characterizing our adversaries this way would actually be counterproductive. It would play into the false perception that they are religious leaders defending a holy cause, when in fact they are nothing more than murderers, including the murder of thousands upon thousands of Muslims. This is why Muslim leaders around the world have spoken out--forcefully, and often at great risk to their own lives--to reject al Qaeda and violent extremism. And frankly, their condemnations often do not get the recognition they deserve, including from the media.
Bush's "top diplomat to the Muslim world" advised against using "the language of religion." An April 7 Associated Press article noted that during the Bush administration, Karen Hughes, President Bush's "top diplomat to the Muslim world," urged against the use of phrases such as "Islamic extremists" and "radical jihadists," and that Hughes stated: "Whenever they hear 'Islamic extremism, Islamic jihad, Islamic fundamentalism,' they perceive it as a sort of an attack on their faith. That's the world view Osama bin Laden wants them to have." The AP reported that "Hughes and Juan Zarate, Bush's former deputy national security adviser, said Obama's efforts build on groundwork from Bush's second term, when some of the rhetoric softened."
Bush administration document: "Never use the term 'jihadist,' " which "unintentionally legitimizes their actions." A May 2008 UPI article stated: "U.S. officials are being advised in internal government documents to avoid referring publicly to al-Qaida and other terrorist groups as Islamic or Muslim, and not to use terms like jihad or mujahedin, which 'unintentionally legitimize' terrorism." The document discourages the use of "ill-defined and offensive terminology," such as "'Islamo-fascism,' which are considered offensive by many Muslims." The document from the National Counterterrorism Center goes on to state: "[N]ever use the terms 'jihadist' or 'mujahideen' in conversation to describe the terrorists. A mujahed, a holy warrior, is a positive characterization in the context of a just war. In Arabic, jihad means 'striving in the path of God' and is used in many contexts beyond warfare. Calling our enemies jihadis and their movement a global jihad unintentionally legitimizes their actions."
Bush administration Homeland Security document cautions against "using terms such as, 'jihadist,' 'Islamic terrorist,' 'Islamist,' and 'holy warrior.' " A January 2008 Homeland Security document summarized recommendations made by Muslim leaders and scholars about proper and strategic terminology to use while discussing terrorism and stated that "the experts counseled caution in using terms such as 'jihadist,' 'Islamic terrorist,' 'Islamist,' and 'holy warrior' " in order to "avoid unintentionally portraying terrorists, who lack moral and religious legitimacy, as brave fighters, legitimate soldiers, or spokesmen for ordinary Muslims." The document states:
The consensus is that we must carefully avoid giving bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders the legitimacy they crave, but do not possess, by characterizing them as religious figures, or in terms that may make them seem to be noble in the eyes of some.
Bush National Strategy for Combating Terrorism: Terrorists "distort" the idea of jihad. The September 2006 National Strategy for Combating Terrorism -- authored by the Bush administration's National Security Council -- stated of "Today's Terrorist Enemy": "This enemy movement seeks to create and exploit a division between the Muslim and non-Muslim world and within the Muslim world itself. The terrorists distort the idea of jihad into a call for violence and murder against those they regard as apostates or unbelievers, including all those who disagree with them. Most of the terrorist attacks since September 11 have occurred in Muslim countries - and most of the victims have been Muslims."
Bush: Extremists "distort" the idea of jihad "into a call for terrorist murder." In a November 11, 2005, speech, Bush said that "[t]hese extremists distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against Christians and Hindus and Jews -- and against Muslims, themselves, who do not share their radical vision. Bush made similar statements in an October 17, 2005, speech.
WSJ falsely suggests Holder doesn't think "radical Islam might have played any role at all" in recent terror attempts
From Rabinowitz's June 9 Wall Street Journal column:
Far greater strangeness has since flowed steadily from Washington. The president's appointees, transmitters of policy, go forth with singular passion week after week, delivering the latest inversion of reality. Their work is not easy, focused as it is on a current prime preoccupation of this White House--that is, finding ways to avoid any public mention of the indisputable Islamist identity of the enemy at war with us. No small trick that, but their efforts go forward in public spectacles matchless in their absurdity--unnerving in what they confirm about our current guardians of law and national security.
Consider the hapless Eric Holder, America's attorney general, confronting the question put to him by Rep. Lamar Smith (R., Texas) of the House Judicary Committee on May 13.
Did Mr. Holder think that in the last three terrorist attempts on this soil, one of them successful (Maj. Nidal Hasan's murder of 13 soldiers at Fort Hood, preceded by his shout of "Allahu Akbar!"), that radical Islam might have played any role at all? Mr. Holder seemed puzzled by the question. "People have different reasons" he finally answered--a response he repeated three times. He didn't want "to say anything negative about any religion."
In fact, Holder said religious-based motivations are among the potential reasons for terrorism
Holder: "[P]eople who espouse a radical version of Islam" may influence terrorists. During his May 13 testimony before the Judiciary Committee, Holder told Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) that "I certainly think that it's possible that people who espouse a radical version of Islam have had an ability to have an impact on people like Mr. Shahzad." Holder also commented: "There are a variety of reasons why people do these things. Some of them are potentially religious-based."
Holder specifically cited Anwar al-Awlaki. Holder also stated: "I'm saying that a person like Anwar Awlaki, for instance, who has a version of Islam that is not consistent with the teachings of it and who espouses a radical version" could have an influence on terrorists.