Glenn Beck made a series of false claims regarding language the Obama administration uses to describe terrorism, painting it as weak in fighting terrorists by suggesting that the administration avoids using terms like “terrorism” and “war on terror.”
Beck reels off long list of falsehoods about administration's language on terrorism
Beck distorts terms Obama administration uses to describe terrorism. Beck rehashed numerous distortions of the Obama administration's approach to describing terrorism, falsely claiming that the administration insists that terrorism be called “man-caused disasters”; that the administration removed the label “enemy combatant” so that such people could not be held in jail; that the war on terror must be referred to as the “overseas contingency operation.” Beck also distorted Obama counterterrorism adviser John Brennan's remarks on jihad.
From the July 19 edition of Fox News Glenn Beck:
BECK: Let's refresh our memories on what this administration said it believed. And I'm -- I have to tell you something. I'm looking for people who actually believed this president. January 15, 2009: “There is no terrorism. It's man-caused disasters.” Really? March 13, 2009, the administration said there's no such thing as an enemy combatant. Why? Because enemy combatants -- well, we'd be able to put them in jail, now wouldn't we? March 13: “The war on terror doesn't exist. It's the overseas contingency operation.” Yeah. Yeah. Then May 26, Brennan proclaims: “Jihadists are not the enemy.”
Obama frequently uses the words “terrorist” and “terrorism”
Obama has used the words “terrorist” and “terrorism” throughout his presidency. Contrary to Beck's suggestion that the administration has declared that “there is no terrorism,” President Obama has used the words “terrorism” and “terrorist” numerous times in speeches, press conferences, and other statements throughout his presidency. For example:
- When announcing trade sanctions on Iran, Obama stated: "[T]he Iranian government has violated its commitments, defied United Nations Security Council resolutions, and forged ahead with its nuclear program -- all while supporting terrorist groups and suppressing the aspirations of the Iranian people." Obama later said that sanctions would make “it harder for the Revolutionary Guards and banks that support Iran's nuclear programs and terrorism to engage in international finance.”
- In January 2 radio remarks addressing the attempted Christmas Day bombing, Obama said: “It has now been more than a week since the attempted act of terrorism aboard that flight to Detroit on Christmas Day.”
- When answering questions regarding terrorism at a G-20 press conference, Obama stated: "[A]ll of us have an interest not in occupying Afghanistan, but an interest in making sure Afghanistan is stable, can stand on its own two feet when it comes to security issues, and is not a base for terrorist activities launched against the United States of America."
- When addressing military personnel, Obama said: “We will disrupt and dismantle and ultimately defeat al Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates.”
In dropping “enemy combatant” term, Obama admin did not relinquish right to detain
Wash. Post: Dropping “enemy combatant” “may not change much about the nation's detention policy.” Contrary to Beck's suggestion that the administration dropped the term “enemy combatant” because in retaining it, “we'd be able to put them in jail,” The Washington Post reported that legal scholars have said that it “may not change much about the nation's detention policy.” From a March 14, 2009, Post article:
The Obama administration yesterday jettisoned the Bush-era term “enemy combatant” but maintained a broad right to detain those who provide “substantial” assistance to al-Qaeda and its associates around the globe.
The disclosure came in a court filing by the Justice Department in response to orders by federal judges, who sought clarity on the government's legal justification for holding about 241 detainees at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Though dropping the term “enemy combatant” was a symbolic break from the Bush administration, the practical effects of yesterday's action will not be known for months.
The filing also revealed that the Obama administration sees the president's detention power as global and not limited to a battlefield in Afghanistan, as some human rights groups have advocated.
“Individuals who provide substantial support to al-Qaida forces in other parts of the world may properly be deemed part of al-Qaida itself,” the court papers said. “Such activities may also constitute the type of substantial support that ... is sufficient to justify detention.”
In a statement, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said, "[I]t is essential that we operate in a manner that strengthens our national security, is consistent with our values and is governed by law."
“The change we've made today meets each of those standards and will make our nation stronger,” he added.
Legal scholars and those representing detainees said that dropping the term “enemy combatant” was important but that the rest of the legal arguments may not change much about the nation's detention policy.
Obama has not replaced his use of “war” with “overseas contingency operation”
Obama has repeatedly used the word “war.” Obama used the word “war” at least seven times during his January 27 State of the Union speech. Moreover, following his January 7 remarks on the attempted Christmas Day bombing -- remarks during which Obama stated, “We are at war. We are at war with al Qaeda” -- numerous conservative media figures falsely suggested that prior to that speech, Obama had not characterized the fight against terrorists as a war. In fact, in his inaugural address, Obama stated that "[o]ur nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred," and he has repeatedly discussed terrorism as the rationale for U.S. military action abroad.
Brennan's comments are uncontroversial and in line with Bush-era policies
Brennan: U.S. doesn't “describe our enemy as jihadists or Islamists because jihad is holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam meaning to purify oneself of one's community.” In a May 26 speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Brennan said that the United States doesn't “describe our enemy as jihadists or Islamists because jihad is holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam meaning to purify oneself of one's community” and that "[i]t 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." Brennan also said that "[o]ur enemy is al-Qaida and its terrorist affiliates," adding that “it was al-Qaida who attacked us so viciously on 9/11 and whose desire to attack the United States, our allies and our partners remains undiminished.”
From Brennan's speech:
BRENNAN: The president's strategy is absolutely clear about the threat we face. Our enemy is not terrorism because terrorism is but a tactic. Our enemy is not terror because terror is a state of mind and, as Americans, we refuse to live in fear. Nor do we describe our enemy as jihadists or Islamists because jihad is holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam meaning to purify oneself of one's community.
And there is nothing holy or legitimate or Islamic about murdering innocent men, women and children. 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-Qaida and violent extremism. And frankly, their condemnations often do not get the recognition they deserve, including from the media.
Moreover, describing our enemy in religious terms would lend credence to the lie propagated by al-Qaida and its affiliates to justify terrorism, that the United States is somehow at war against Islam. The reality, of course, is that we have never been and will never be at war with Islam. After all, Islam, like so many faiths, is part of America.
Instead, the president's strategy is clear and precise. Our enemy is al-Qaida and its terrorist affiliates. For it was al-Qaida who attacked us so viciously on 9/11 and whose desire to attack the United States, our allies and our partners remains undiminished. And it is its affiliates who have take up al-Qaida's call to arms against the United States and other parts of the world.
The president's strategy is unequivocal with regard to our posture. The United States of America is at war. We are at war against al-Qaida and its terrorist affiliates. That is why the president is responsibly ending the war in Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11 and why he has refocused our efforts on Afghanistan, where al-Qaida continues to plot from the tribal regions along the border with Pakistan and inside of Pakistan.
Brennan: “Violent extremism” is “a more encompassing term.” In a question-and-answer session after his speech, Brennan said: “We have tried to expand the framework when we talk about terrorism and counterterrorism efforts, to include the concern we have about violent extremism, which is a more encompassing term, in many respects.” From the question-and-answer session:
Q: Sima Imaud with the Open Society Institute. Mr. Brennan, I'm really heartened by the government's change, in terms of the language usage of “jihadist” and “Islamist” and was similarly heartened by your talk at NYU in February. I wonder if there's been any thought about rethinking, frankly, the usage of the words “terrorism” and “terrorist,” which, at present, seem to be defined by the government and the media as acts of violence exclusively perpetuated by Muslims.
MR. BRENNAN: We have tried to expand the framework when we talk about terrorism and counterterrorism efforts, to include the concern we have about violent extremism, which is a more encompassing term, in many respects. Unfortunately, a number of these terms have become just part of our lexicon in the United States. What we can't do, though, is just to leave it at that one, single term.
Bush: "[E]xtremists distort the idea of jihad." In a November 11, 2005, speech, then-President 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." From the speech:
BUSH: All these separate images of destruction and suffering that we see on the news can seem like random, isolated acts of madness -- innocent men and women and children who have died simply because they boarded the wrong train, or worked in the wrong building, or checked into the wrong hotel. Yet, while the killers choose their victims indiscriminately, their attacks serve a clear and focused ideology -- a set of beliefs and goals that are evil, but not insane.
Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; and still others, Islamo-fascism. Whatever it's called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam. This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision: the establishment, by terrorism, subversion and insurgency, of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom. These 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: "[E]xtremists distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against anyone who does not share their radical vision." In an October 17, 2005, speech, Bush also said that "[t]hese extremists distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against anyone who does not share their radical vision, including Muslims from other traditions, who they regard as heretics." From the speech:
BUSH: As we work together to defeat the terrorists, we must be very clear about the enemies we face. The killers who take the lives of innocent men, women, and children are followers of a violent ideology very different from the religion of Islam. These extremists distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against anyone who does not share their radical vision, including Muslims from other traditions, who they regard as heretics.
Their strategy will fail. Many Muslim scholars have already publicly condemned terrorism, often citing chapter 5, verse 32 of the Koran, which states that killing an innocent human being is like killing all of humanity, and saving the life of one person is like saving all of humanity. I appreciate those of you here who have joined these scholars in rejecting violent extremists. And I believe the time has come for all responsible Islamic leaders to denounce an ideology that exploits Islam for political ends, and defiles your noble faith.
2006 National Strategy for Combating Terrorism: “Terrorists distort the idea of jihad into a call for violence and murder against those they regard as apostates or unbelievers.” 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.”