July 12, 2010

There is no question that the Obama Administration's disregard for Islamic terrorism is a major policy issue. So much so, one may question if the Administration has a policy at all on dealing with the threat of terrorism.

The Administration's recent move to drop rhetorical references to Islamic radicalism is drawing fire in a new report warning the decision ignores the role religion can play in motivating terrorists.

Several prominent counterterror experts are challenging the administration's shift in its recently unveiled National Security Strategy, saying the terror threat should be defined in order to fight it.

The question of how to frame the conflict against al-Qaida and other terrorists poses a knotty problem. The U.S. is trying to mend fences with Muslim communities while toughening its strikes against militant groups.

In the report, scheduled to be released this week, counterterrorism experts from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy argue that the U.S. could clearly articulate the threat from radical Islamic extremists "without denigrating the Islamic religion in any way."

President Obama has argued that words matter, and administration officials have said that the use of inflammatory descriptions linking Islam to the terror threat feed the enemy's propaganda and may alienate moderate Muslims in the U.S. Perhaps this is his policy regarding Islamic extremism: to wit, don't mention it!

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the soon-to-be-released report Sunday Evening and it noted that the analysts warn that U.S. diplomacy must sharpen the distinction between the Muslim faith and violent Islamist extremism, identify radicalizers within Islamic communities and empower voices that can contest the radical teachings.

Militant Islamic propaganda has reportedly been a factor in a spate of recent terror attacks and foiled attempts within the U.S. Maj. Nidal Hasan, the suspect in the Fort Hood, Texas, mass shootings last year, is believed to have been inspired by the Internet postings of violent Islamic extremists, as was Faisal Shahzad, who pleaded guilty to terrorism and weapons charges in the May 1 attempted car bombing in New York's Times Square.

The report acknowledges that the Obama administration has beefed up efforts to work with the Muslim community in the U.S. and abroad and has also expanded counterterrorism operations and tried to erode and divide al-Qaida and its affiliated groups.

As it unveiled its new National Security Strategy last May, administration officials said the shift in emphasis was critical in undercutting al-Qaida's efforts to portray its attacks on the U.S. and the west as a justified holy war.

John Brennan, who is Obama's top counterterror deputy, said that "terror leaders 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."  In a speech he delivered on May 24th, he tried to explain the Administration's shift. He went on to say that "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."

Now this explains why, back on May 13th, Attorney General Eric Holder was came across like he was having a root canal when, appearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Lamar Smitth ((R-TX) asked him if he thought the common denominator between the Ft. Hood shooter, the Christmas Day bomber and the Times Square bomber was that they had ties to “Radical Islam.”  Holder acted as though he had never heard the term before, then did remarkable, though awkward, verbal calisthenics to avoid using the term– or even agreeing with someone who did.

Yet the administration's two-pronged approach of stepping up counterterror operations while tamping down its rhetoric, the critics argue, needs to also include an ideological counteratteck with policies and programs that empower moderate Islamic voices and contest extremist narratives.

Matt Levitt, one of the authors of the study on countering violent extremism said that there is an ideology that is driving al-Qaida and its affiliates." He went on to note that the administration has to separate discussion of Islam as a religion from the radical Islamic ideology that is producing and fueling global insurgencies.

We should get our first look at this study by the first of next week. But the Associated Press is saying that Levitt, a former FBI and Treasury official, and co-author J. Scott Carpenter, were to preview it today.

The report follows the public disclosure of an exchange earlier this year between Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Brennan over the effort to scale back the Bush administration's portrayal of Islamic extremism as a root cause of terrorism.

Lieberman raised the issue in a letter to the White House, saying that "the failure to identify our enemy for what it is - violent Islamist extremism - is offensive and contradicts thousands of years of accepted military and intelligence doctrine to 'know your enemy.'"

In a response to Lieberman, Brennan said the administration hasn't specifically issued any directive barring the use of specific words or phrases. But he said it is important to accurately define the enemy and assess the threat.

It appears that if the Administration could turn off all rhetoric that terrorists, extremists, or any form of radicalism exsists within Islam, they will do it. Dumbing down our defenses will be coupled with dumbing down American on the fact that extremists do exists within the ranks of Islam and they won't stop until Obama finally surrenders the U.S. to their worldview.

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