During the November 14 CBS Democratic presidential debate, Hillary Clinton explained that she doesn't “think we are at war with all Muslims,” but rather that “we're at war with jihadists.” She noted that President George W. Bush expressed a similar sentiment following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Right-wing media figures immediately condemned Clinton for not using the phrase “radical Islam,” accusing Clinton of “giving Islam a pass” and likening her comments to the claim that “Hitler wasn't an anti-Semite.”
During CBS Debate, Hillary Clinton States “We're At War With Jihadists,” Cites President Bush's Example On Rhetoric
Hillary Clinton: “I Don't Think We're At War With Islam ... We're At War With Jihadists.” During the November 14 CBS Democratic presidential debate, moderator John Dickerson asked Hillary Clinton if she agreed with Marco Rubio's statement that “the attack in Paris showed that we are at war with radical Islam.” Clinton answered, “I don't think we're at war with Islam. I don't think we are at war with all Muslims. I think we're at war with jihadists”:
JOHN DICKERSON: Secretary Clinton, you mentioned radical jihadists.
HILLARY CLINTON: Yes.
DICKERSON: Marco Rubio, also running for president, said that “this attack showed” -- the attack in Paris “showed that we are at war with radical Islam.” Do you agree with that characterization, radical Islam?
CLINTON: I don't think we're at war with Islam. I don't think we at war with all Muslims. I think we're at war with jihadists who have--
DICKERSON: Just to interrupt, he didn't say all Muslims. He just said radical Islam. Is that a phrase you don't--
CLINTON: I think that you can -- you can talk about Islamists who clearly are also jihadists. But I think -- it's not particularly helpful to make the case that -- Senator Sanders was just making that I agree with, that we've gotta reach out to Muslim countries. We've gotta have them be part of our coalition.
If they hear people running for president who basically shortcut it to say we are somehow against Islam -- that was one of the real contributions, despite all the other problems, that George W. Bush made after 9/11 when he basically said after going to a mosque in Washington, “We are not at war with Islam or Muslims. We are at war with violent extremism. We are at war with people who use their religion for purposes of power and oppression.” And yes, we are at war with those people, but I don't want us to be painting with too broad a brush. [CBS, CBS Democratic Presidential Debate, 11/14/15]
Right-Wing Media Criticize Clinton For Her Characterization Of The Conflict
Fox's Brian Kilmeade: Not Saying “Radical Islam” Is “Like Saying That Hitler Didn't Want To Dominate Europe.” On the November 15 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Sunday, host Brian Kilmeade argued that not using the term “radical islam” is “like saying that Hitler didn't want to dominate Europe.” Co-host Tucker Carlson rephrased Kilmeade's claim, adding, “Well, it's like saying Hitler wasn't an anti-Semite, actually”:
TUCKER CARLSON: Here's why it's important to call something by its correct name, because unless you have the word to describe something, you can't think about it accurately. You can't think through a problem unless you have the terms to do so.
BRIAN KILMEADE: Militarily, how do you strategize against it? If you don't understand the objective, how can you possibly come up with a military strategy to neutralize it? And if you can't admit that there's a Salafist sect to the Sunni religion, that has formed Al Qaeda and has morphed and seems to have merged with ISIS, then you can't stop it. It's like saying that Hitler didn't want to dominate Europe. How you supposed to say that and actually try to stop him?
CARLSON: Well, it's like saying Hitler wasn't an anti-Semite, actually.
CARLSON: It's ignoring the idea behind the terror.
KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE: That's the problem. I mean they're cowering, even over semantics, OK? They're really, they can't even get to step one, they cannot identify the enemy, so how are you supposed to have a clear, focused mission objective if you are unable to do that? [Fox News, Fox & Friends Sunday, 11/15/15]
Breitbart.com's Sebastian Gorka: Imagine If We Stormed Normandy, Told Soldiers “Don't Call Them Nazis, Because You Might Offend Somebody.” On the November 14 edition of Fox News' America's Election HQ, Breitbart.com's national security editor Sebastian Gorka compared Clinton's response to telling American soldiers fighting in Normandy “don't call them Nazis”:
DR. SEBASTIAN GORKA: Imagine if when we stormed the beaches in Normandy during World War II, if before the paratroopers deployed in Britain, we said to our GIs, “listen guys, whatever you do, don't call them Nazis, because you might offend somebody.” You would be court-martialed. Why are we doing that now 14 years into the war? If the enemy calls themselves holy warriors, you're not allowed to censor that, that's called censoring the intelligence cycle.
You have to understand their ideology, their strategy, and when they say they're doing it for Allah, you can't say that it's because they're unemployed. That's a political, ideological distortion of the intelligence cycle. [Fox News, America's Election HQ, 11/14/15]
National Review's Rich Lowry: “None Of The Candidates Would Say 'Radical Islam,' Which Is Verboten Phrase For Democrats Just Like 'All Lives Matter.'” In a November 15 column, National Review editor Rich Lowry criticized Clinton and her Democratic colleagues for their word choice, writing, “None of the candidates would say 'radical Islam,' which is verboten phrase for Democrats just like 'all lives matter.'” [National Review Online, 11/15/15]
Breitbart's Joel Pollack: Clinton “Still Failed To Say 'Radical Islam.'” Breitbart.com editor Joel Pollack claimed that Clinton's remarks indicate that she is not sufficiently “hawkish,” writing in a tweet, “Totally wrong, @TheJuanWilliams - Clinton was only 'more hawkish' in relation to the rest. Still failed to say 'radical Islam' #Demdebate”:
-- Joel Pollak (@joelpollak) November 15, 2015
Fox's Eric Bolling: “She Just Said 'We Are Not At War With Radical Islam'. #parisisburning #WakeUpAmerica.”Fox host Eric Bolling addressed Clinton's “vapid supporters” and wrote that the U.S. needs to "#WakeUpAmerica." He wrote in a tweet, “Just so all you vapid @HillaryClinton supporters know. She just said 'we are not at war with radical Islam'. #parisisburning #WakeUpAmerica”:
-- Eric Bolling (@ericbolling) November 15, 2015
Tammy Bruce: “Stunning. Hillary Says We're Not At War W[ith] Radical Islam.” Conservative radio host and Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce wrote in a tweet that Clinton's word choice was “stunning,” adding the hashtag, "#isislaughs":
Stunning. Hillary says we're not at war w Radical Islam & Sanders says Climate Change is our most serious natl security threat. #isislaughs
-- Tammy Bruce (@HeyTammyBruce) November 15, 2015
Media Research Center's Dan Gainor Claims Hillary Clinton “Is Giving Islam A Pass.” The Media Research Center's Dan Gainor responded to Clinton's remarks by writing in a tweet that she is “giving #Islam a pass. Majority of world's #Muslims support radical, anti-Western ideas”:
-- Dan Gainor (@dangainor) November 15, 2015
Clinton Is Right: Former President Bush Repeatedly Made Clear That Terrorism Does Not Represent The Islamic Faith
Bush: “We Do Not Fight Islam, We Fight Against Evil.” In November 2001 President Bush delivered remarks to the Warsaw Conference on Combating Terrorism during which he stated that, “The head of the 22 nation Arab League rejected the claims of the terrorist leader and said he -- Osama bin Laden -- 'doesn't speak in the name of Arabs and Muslims.'” Bush went on to declare that “All of us here today understand this: We do not fight Islam, we fight against evil.” [White House Archives, 11/6/01]
Bush: “The Face Of Terror Is Not The True Faith Of Islam.”During remarks given at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C in the days following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Bush assured Americans that attacks committed by Al Qaeda were not representative of the Islamic faith:
BUSH: The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace, they represent evil and war. [White House Archives, 9/17/01]
Bush: “The Terrorists Are Traitors To Their Own Faith, Trying, In Effect, To Hijack Islam Itself.”In an address to a joint session of Congress following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Bush again made clear that the terrorists who attacked the United States “practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clerics -- a fringe movement that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam.” Bush spoke directly to the difference between extremist terrorists and Muslims:
BUSH: I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world We respect your faith. It's practiced freely by many millions of Americans, and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah. (Applause.) The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself. The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab friends Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them. [White House Archives, 9/20/01]
Distinguishing Between Terrorism And Islam Is Part Of U.S. Strategy To Rally Allies, Avoid Dignifying Terrorists
Bloomberg View: The Term “Radical Islam” Is Counterproductive To “The Long War Against Radical Islamic Terrorists.” Bloomberg View columnist Eli Lake noted that declining to attribute this type of terror attack to “radical Islam” conforms with “a longstanding U.S. policy, not only for Obama but also his predecessor, George W. Bush.” Lake explained that the Obama administration didn't use “radical Islam” to describe the ideology of the terrorists who attacked the office of the satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo because the United States' war against terror “requires at least the tacit support of many radical Muslims”:
Both [the Bush and Obama] administrations have said repeatedly since Sept. 11, 2001, that radical Islam is not Islamic.
There is a reason for this: The long war against radical Islamic terrorists requires at least the tacit support of many radical Muslims.
It sounds strange. But as Emile Nakhleh, who was one of the CIA's top experts on political Islam between 1993 and 2006, told me, there was a recognition following the 9/11 attacks inside the Bush administration that many supporters of the Wahhabi strain of Islam favored by al-Qaeda and its allies were not plotting attacks on the West. In some cases, such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the purveyors of Wahhabism were longstanding American allies. “There was the two-ton elephant in the room, and that is Saudi Arabia,” Nakhleh said.
So Bush for the most part opted instead to talk about the enemy as “evildoers” or “extremists,” even though on some occasions he went off message. It's why Bush's second secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, condemned as “offensive” the Danish cartoons of Mohammed in 2006 after they sparked riots across the Muslim world. [Bloomberg View, 1/19/15]
Former State Dept. Counterterrorism Official: Trumpeting “Islamic Radicalism” Would Damage Ally Relationships And Do More Harm Than Good. Daniel Benjamin, the State Department's top counterterrorism official from 2009-2012, said that throwing around the phrase “Islamic radicalism” would damage to efforts to combat terror by undermining relationships with allies:
“Our allies against ISIS in the region are out there every day saying, 'This is not Islam,' ” said Mr. Benjamin, now at Dartmouth. “We don't want to undermine them. Any good it would do to trumpet 'Islamic radicalism' would be overwhelmed by the damage it would do to those relationships.” [The New York Times, 2/18/15]
Foreign Policy: Efforts To Address Terrorism By Focusing On Islam Have Backfired. Foreign Policy explained that programs that have attempted to combat terrorism by focusing exclusively on Islamic extremism have failed. Britain launched “an Islamic-centric counter-extremism effort” in 2005 called the “Prevent Program” that, according to Foreign Policy, “backfired by alienating Muslims and making cooperation with law enforcement officials even more difficult.” [Foreign Policy, 2/17/15]
The Week: Describing Terrorism As Islamic Alienates Allies And Dignifies Terrorists. In a February 18 post for The Week, Marc Ambinder wrote, “Calling terrorism Islamic terrorism ... doesn't serve the purposes of a president who has to work with countries that have a studiously complicated relationship with the purveyors of terror,” meaning it could backfire by offending and alienating countries the president needs cooperation from in order to fight terrorism. Ambinder also noted that Obama's strategy behind not using the term “Islamic terrorism” is to avoid “dignify[ing] that movement by calling it what it calls itself.” Ambinder added that “Osama bin Laden himself said that Obama's refusal to join the language fight made it more difficult to generate recruits.” [The Week, 2/18/15]