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Yes, Obama, The Killers Were Muslim

President Obama has been playing some delicate word games regarding recent atrocities committed by Muslims in the name of Islam. In a recent interview with Vox, he described the slaughtering of Jews in a Paris kosher supermarket as an act of “random” violence. Which was a flat-out lie, and a lie he told for political reasons. David Frum [1] says journalists who refer to the president’s word choice as a “gaffe” are missing something important:

I think all this is very wrong. President Obama’s choice of words in his Vox interview in no way constituted a gaffe. He spoke about the Charlie Hebdo attack in a way consistent with the way he has spoken in the past—and for reasons integral to his administration’s distinctive approach to terrorism. President Obama described the Paris attack as random not in order to conceal the Jewishness of the victims. He described the attack as random because, for deeply considered reasons, he did not wish to acknowledge the anti-Jewish ideology of the assailants.

The Obama people, not being idiots, understand very well that international terrorism possesses an overwhelmingly [2] Muslim character. In Europe, where attention is so focused now, the great majority [3] of the most lethal terrorist incidents of the past 15 years have been carried out by people professing to act from Islamist motives. The huge effort made to deny this truth is its most ironic confirmation.

In dealing with this threat, the Obama administration has confronted a pair of difficult questions: What exactly is the nature of the threat? What are we trying to contain? This is a surprisingly difficult and contentious issue, and governments across the Western world have wrangled over it since 9/11.

The 9/11 Commission Report — the one that the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration are continuing to redact 28 pages from — said clearly that in order to fight the threat, we have to be willing to name it, to call it by its religious content, which is Islamic. That is not to demean all Muslims as terrorists. But it is to point out what is plainly the truth: that almost all terrorists in the world today are Muslims.

Take a closer look for example at another much-discussed recent statement by President Obama about terrorism, his remarks [4] at the National Prayer Breakfast. The president’s claim that “people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ” ignited a major ruckus. The fuss obscured something more remarkable in the speech, which is that there was no bookend reference to “terrible deeds in the name of Islam.” Instead, in every place where the word “Islam” might have been expected, the word “religion” was substituted. Thus, “we see a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe, so often perpetrated in the name of religion.” Thus, “we are summoned to push back against those who try to distort our religion—any religion—for their own nihilistic ends.” Thus, most strikingly, the group that calls itself the Islamic State, referred to only by the acronym ISIL, is condemned as a “a brutal, vicious death cult” that “carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism,” and does so “in the name of religion.”

When mention of the Islamic inspirations of terrorists becomes truly inescapable, administration spokespersons will emphatically insist that their actions do not represent the true Islam. At times, the president has baldly claimed [5] that “ISIL is not Islamic.” That locution soon collapsed of its own ludicrousness.

Here’s how the president described the mass execution of 21 Egyptian Christians, which ISIS said they killed because the men were Christian. From CBS: [6]

change_me

The White House is being criticized for its statement over the beheadings of nearly two dozen Egyptian Coptic Christians at the hands of an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-affiliated group in Libya.

The line that critics are pointing to is referring to the Christians as only Egyptian citizens.

“The United States condemns the despicable and cowardly murder of twenty-one Egyptian citizens in Libya by ISIL-affiliated terrorists,” the statement reads [7]. “We offer our condolences to the families of the victims and our support to the Egyptian government and people as they grieve for their fellow citizens.”

Fox News contributors George Will and Charles Krauthammer criticized the White House for not referring to the Egyptians as Christians.

“Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall in the room where the White House semanticists meet every morning and figure out how they could probably make this announcement without offending those who did it. I think the phrase they should come up with is non-Islamic randomness,” Will said on Fox News Monday. “That would explain just about everything that they have to deal with, but it does – at this point, it is beyond burlesque, its pathological, it’s clinical their inability and unwillingness to say – to accurately describe things.”

It is pathological. It is disgusting. It is a lie. This administration and its State Department are more interested in appeasing Muslims than they are in calling the nature of this particular evil what it is. The ISIS goons say explicitly that in the name of Islam, they killed these Jews because they were Jews, and that they killed these Christians because they were Christians.

Our president finally got around to acknowledging today [8] yesterday that the murdered Egyptians were Christians. Hey, it’s a start.

UPDATE: Reader St. Louisan remarks:

It’s always beneficial to interpret others’ actions as charitably, extending the benefit of the doubt when evaluating motives (perhaps today more than most days). If I understand the Frum piece right, he’s identifying three reasons Pres Obama and his staff are using such vague terms:

1. A desire to avoid distinguishing “American/civilized” from “Islamic,” in deference to the Muslims who loyally serve or support the United States;
2. A desire to avoid implicitly agreeing with ISIS’ self-conception as the only true manifestation of Islam and rightful sovereign of all Muslims;
3. A desire to avoid language that might prevent forming ad hoc alliances with Muslim groups almost as extreme as ISIS but either less violent or more bribeable, who may be useful in isolating ISIS.

One might disagree with the prudence of any of these reasons of course, or argue that respect for the victims demands the casting aside of stratagems like Reasons 2 & 3. But to say “This administration and its State Department are more interested in appeasing Muslims than they are in calling the nature of this particular evil what it is” seems rather callous and unfair. I mean, is that really the only interpretation of the motives at play here? If someone you knew personally as a generally good, upright person worked at the White House and had sway in these decisions, would you not allow more room for charity in assessing their actions?

You may be right.

UPDATE.2: A related thing I worry about is that the government, in denying the explicitly religious aspect of the conflict, completely misreads the nature of the threat. You will have seen, maybe, the State Dept spokesman who said [9] the other day that Libya needs a jobs program to fix the ISIS problem. These WEIRDoes [10] simply cannot imagine that people would be motivated by something other than purely material concerns. ISIS is not lopping the heads off of Christians and blowing Jews away because they lack a 9-to-5 job and good health care. Most of the world lacks these things, but most of the world (including most Muslims) do not go around committing mass murder against others in the name of their religion or ideology.

UPDATE.3: More news on this front today. The White House is changing its tune somewhat: [11]

[White House press secretary Josh] Earnest also addressed the flak that he and Obama have taken for not specifically mentioning the religion of the 21 Egyptian Christians who were beheaded over the weekend.

Asked whether the religion of the victims is relevant, he answered: “It sure is.”

“The ISIL extremists that carried out this attack indicated that the reason they were killing them wasn’t just because they were Egyptian, but because they were Christian,” he said, using an alternate acronym for ISIS.

“There’s a responsibility of people of all faiths to stand up and reach out when individuals try to use faith and distort space to try to justify an act of violence.”

Earnest also sparred with a reporter over why he didn’t mention the Egyptians’ religion in the first White House statement on the killings, while Obama’s statement on the recent murder of three North Carolina students, who were Muslim, mentions theirs. Earnest said that the North Carolina murders are still under investigation, but that the president felt it was important to “articulate a very clear principle” that people should not be targeted because of their religion.


But the President wavers not: [12]

President Obama offered an extended defense of his approach to countering violent extremism on Wednesday, saying those who have criticized his administration’s reluctance to single out the threat specifically posed by Muslim extremists are in danger of offering extremists the kind of legitimacy they crave.

“Al Qaeda, ISIL, and groups like it, are desperate for legitimacy,” he said. “We must never accept the premise that they put forward, because it is a lie. Nor should we grand these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek. They are not religious leaders, they are terrorists.

“We are not at war with Islam,” he added. “We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

Well, no, we are not at war with Islam, and to be fair to the president, I’m not exactly sure what there is to be gained by telling the truth that we are at war with a strain of Islam, instead of these weasel words “violent extremists.” Still, the phony euphemisms grate. The grated when Bush used them (“war on terrorism”), and they grate when Obama uses them.

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81 Comments To "Yes, Obama, The Killers Were Muslim"

#1 Comment By anon On February 18, 2015 @ 7:32 pm

We (I) need some analogies.

It would be really helpful if experts on Islam used as reference points religious disputes, distinctions and subtleties we’re already familiar with. When people say that ISIS isn’t real Islam, do they mean they’re like the Mormons of Islam, or do they mean something different? Not taking a shot at Mormons, just using that as an example of how I need this issue analogized/contextualized for it to make sense.

#2 Comment By Don Guarnieri On February 18, 2015 @ 7:34 pm

It seems this post and the previous post both could be combined. Who gets to decide what someone is or isn’t. You have Baptists claim the Coptic victims aren’t really Christians and seem to agree that there has to be some criteria for the claim. Doesn’t the same also hold true in determining if ISIS are Islamic. There are muslim scholars who have argued that ISIS is not truly Islamic yet people with very little knowledge seem sure based only the self identified members of the group. It doesn’t change the fact that ISIS is targeting Christians as well as other religious groups including Shia Muslims, But that doesn’t mean ISIS is representing Islam as most practicing muslims would see it.

#3 Comment By k On February 18, 2015 @ 7:45 pm

So many good updates and comments!

Currently world Muslim population is estimated to be 1.6 billion. A case can be made that Islam is an an ascendant period, and everywhere has been discussed how Christianity in social presence and communal thought continues dropping off and away. I think there are some Americans isolated enough both geographically and socially from Muslims, that they have not yet had to think about what these things really mean.

#4 Comment By The Other Sands On February 18, 2015 @ 8:00 pm

“In regards to this, we should also remember that the Bush administration came up with the euphemism “War on Terror” to avoid any implication that we were leading a War on Islam.”

How was that a euphemism? It is a war against terrorists. Or do you believe that it is a War on Islam?

#5 Comment By Myron Hudson On February 18, 2015 @ 8:33 pm

Another tempest in a chamber pot. It is in this case the President’s mission to interact with other foreign powers in such a way as to secure their cooperation.

Especially, cooperation from some so-called allies who have been funding these lunatics and now need to clean up what is in fact their own mess.

And, his mission is to hopefully not play into an enemy’s game plan by Americanizing or Christianizing the conflict, and allowing radical Muslims to say to their brethren “See, they’re after ALL of us”. Kiss aforementioned cooperation goodbye.

Mostly this faux outrage is driven by the Hannitys and the Krauthammers and others who thrive on and profit by outrage, and whose track record on foreign policy is unquestionably bad.

Of course, any of us can beat our breasts and tear our hair because a President (or anyone for that matter) has not Said What We Would Say at any given time. There’s a lot of that going on.

#6 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On February 18, 2015 @ 8:37 pm

@Mohammad, that was an epic rant, and you sound like some members of the Evil Atheist Conspiracy! Seriously, the conservative Christians support for the hawkish aspects of US foreign policy, torture, and Gitmo is one of our beefs with US Christianity.

I mean the Evil Atheist Conspiracy is supposed to be evil, and they’re moving in on our turf. It just isn’t kosher.

#7 Comment By William Dalton On February 18, 2015 @ 9:03 pm

“ISIS is not lopping the heads off of Christians and blowing Jews away because they lack a 9-to-5 job and good health care.”

No, but they are doing these things because for over seventy years Christians and Jews, represented by the United States, Israel, their Western Allies and Muslim lackeys, have subjugated, dispossessed and waged war upon the people of the Muslim world, from Algeria to Pakistan. A series of secular movements, notably in Egypt, Iraq and Syria, allied with the Soviet Union, failed to put an end to these outrages, so Muslims have turned to other movements, led by religious fanatics, to be their champions. This is what the President does not want to acknowledge, because doing so will cause Westerners to question the very premises of the West’s war. Muslim terrorism is a growing threat in Europe, young Muslims in Europe and America are becoming radicalized, not by religious dogma, but by what they see as a West indifferent to the suffering of their fellow Muslims and ruthless in the war they wage against them.

#8 Comment By Jesse Ewiak On February 18, 2015 @ 9:27 pm

“No, but they are doing these things because for over seventy years Christians and Jews, represented by the United States, Israel, their Western Allies and Muslim lackeys, have subjugated, dispossessed and waged war upon the people of the Muslim world, from Algeria to Pakistan. A series of secular movements, notably in Egypt, Iraq and Syria, allied with the Soviet Union, failed to put an end to these outrages, so Muslims have turned to other movements, led by religious fanatics, to be their champions. This is what the President does not want to acknowledge, because doing so will cause Westerners to question the very premises of the West’s war. Muslim terrorism is a growing threat in Europe, young Muslims in Europe and America are becoming radicalized, not by religious dogma, but by what they see as a West indifferent to the suffering of their fellow Muslims and ruthless in the war they wage against them.”

Hey, it’s something that William & I largely agree on!

#9 Comment By Andrew E. On February 18, 2015 @ 9:29 pm

Lots and lots of the responses above warm my cynical heart, mostly because I see a great number of conservatives (or stealth liberals) practicing actual common sense when it comes to the options this or any other president has in rhetorically dealing with ISIS, terrorism, and Islam in general.

It’s been said much better by others but I feel it necessary to repeat: it is neither in Obama’s nor the country’s best interest to imply we are in a war with all of Islam. Besides somehow pacifying the braying of hysterical (mostly) conservatives, it gains us nothing. Believe it or not we have to work with lots of Muslims in the Middle East in order to try to get a handle on any of this and, gee whiz, potentially offending them to their core is awfully counter-productive.

Also, Obama is the bread and circuses, the military and intelligence people behind the scenes are the hammers and I think they’re more than aware of who they’re fighting and what religion they practice. Sorry, Rod, that these people aren’t allowed on Fox News or Limbaugh’s show to get everyone atwitter over the idea of a Red Dawn-type takeover by ISIS and beheadings in Omaha (the conservative pundits are all doing that just fine). The ones that count are busy doing the dirty work while it’s up to Obama to face the torches an pitchforks of the mob and tell them to chill the hell out.

#10 Comment By heartright On February 18, 2015 @ 9:36 pm

EngineerScotty says:
February 18, 2015 at 6:23 pm

Someone whose job includes diplomacy, is being flamed for speaking diplomatically.

Old news.
Because one of his other jobs is Coach.

#11 Comment By TTT On February 18, 2015 @ 9:37 pm

for over seventy years Christians and Jews, represented by the United States, Israel, their Western Allies and Muslim lackeys, have subjugated, dispossessed and waged war upon the people of the Muslim world

With that line of reasoning, perhaps Israel and America should continue invading Muslim countries as revenge for the Hadassah Hospital convoy massacre of 1947, the Farhud pogrom in Baghdad in 1941, the Barbary pirate depredations, and the Ottoman siege of Vienna.

No? That’s not even plausible? How interesting.

Israel was on proper diplomatic terms with Germany and Poland by 1953. Americans love going to Vietnam today as tourists and are welcomed by a friendly populace.

Muslims really, really have to learn how to get over things.

#12 Comment By Anne On February 18, 2015 @ 10:13 pm

In the absence of an edit function, I’m just going to repeat my first comment in what may be better form:

I don’t understand why it seems so important for Obama to use the word “Muslim” when referring to any particular terrorist act. Has he demanded the identities or motivation of any terrorists be kept secret? Has he denied that the Islamist terrorists are, in fact, Islamist terrorists? He calls ISIS by name. He has always called Al Qaeda by name. He has, in fact, used the word Muslim in referring to such groups, just not as often or as habitually as some apparently prefer. There simply isn’t one, unified enemy called The Muslims he can fairly blame.

Anyway, I think we all know why Obama, like Bush before him, uses the word with caution, and is quick to make the point that the terrorists themselves, not their victims, insult Islam. That’s the most direct verbal attack anyone can make against them, denying their exalted image of themselves as the last and best defenders of Islam. It also denies validation to those who would use such acts to stir up hatred of all Muslims, including America’s own Muslim citizens, many of whom serve in the US military and intelligence services. That has been recognized as an important consideration since Sept. 11, 2001.

#13 Comment By M_Young On February 18, 2015 @ 10:21 pm

“_Young,

I am not asking for an explanation. I am asking, if you were a hypothetic speech writer for a hypothetic President who wanted to make clear the Islamic nature of these terrorists but did not want to encourage the view that we are at war with Islam in general, what would you say?”

Today, fellow Americans, we are confronted with a challenge. Some followers of the Prophet (pbuh) have, contrary to the views of the vast majority of contemporary schools, seized on a few aspects of the religion to wage violent war against those that they consider infidels. There is no doubt they are inspired by Islam, yet they are don’t represent anything but a fringe minority of adherents of that religion, and many of their victims — perhaps the majority — are.

#14 Comment By Aaron Gross On February 18, 2015 @ 10:48 pm

@grumpy realist, I recommend that you read the article by David Frum rather than the summary here. Frum’s argument is that the White House is doing this as a conscious strategy to delegitimate and isolate violent Muslim extremists by making friends with non-violent Muslim extremists.

#15 Comment By Aaron Gross On February 18, 2015 @ 11:01 pm

I second St. Louisan’s remarks in the update. The summary of Frum’s article here is uncharitable and inaccurate. To St. Louisan’s remark about charity, I’ll add that charitable interpretation is good not just because charity is good, but also because it helps you understand things accurately.

St. Louisan concisely summarized a main point in Frum’s article: that the White House acts out of a “desire to avoid language that might prevent forming ad hoc alliances with Muslim groups almost as extreme as ISIS but either less violent or more bribeable, who may be useful in isolating ISIS.”

If Frum is correct, then this is a sophisticated strategy, whether or not it’s a good one. Frum is right that it’s an important question that should be discussed, but the strategy (which the government follows self-consciously) isn’t even seen by those in the media.

Regarding Rod’s summary, it’s puzzling how he can first quote Frum as writing, “The Obama people, not being idiots, understand very well that international terrorism possesses an overwhelmingly Muslim character”; and then himself write, “A related thing I worry about is that the government, in denying the explicitly religious aspect of the conflict, completely misreads the nature of the threat.”

I don’t see the point of citing Frum’s article if you’re not going to engage it. Frum says that the government is not misreading, they’re miswriting as part of a conscious strategy to fight violent radical Islam. If you thing that Frum’s wrong about that, maybe explain why?

#16 Comment By Darth Thulhu On February 18, 2015 @ 11:35 pm

anon wrote:

We (I) need some analogies.

ZimSalahBim! In this: Your wish is our command!

It would be really helpful if experts on Islam

In this: no. Stop deferring to “experts”. You cannot outsource your moral responsibility to do the work yourself. Krauthammer and O’Reilly, after all, fancy themselves “experts” fit to guide you.

You can ask for analogies, and you can weigh and measure and test which ones seem to fit the Truth, but you cannot succeed if you give the game away by blindly defering to “experts”, credentialed or otherwise.

When people say that ISIS isn’t real Islam, do they mean they’re like the Mormons of Islam, or do they mean something different?

More “the Catholic Westborough Baptists of Islam”, if the Westborough Baptists were Catholic rather than Protestant, with huge influence in Rome, Constantinople, and Jerusalem; and if the Westborough Baptists had also made huge inroads with the families of multiple oil billionaires and a few megachurches.

The big thing, though, is that any analogy is inexact. “The Catholic Westborough Baptists of Islam”, without further qualifications, confuses far more than it illumines. And once all the extra analogies get heaped on, there is a real risk of the analogy being too complicated to easily follow while still being highly inexact.

As an example: the closest Muslim-to-Christian group analogies I would make (hideously inexact as they are) would be:

“The Catholics of Islam”: The “contiguous with the Holy Land” Sunni (substituting a military Caliph for an apostolic Pope). Presently well into their “Reformation and Counter-Reformation Period” since the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, with all the bloody religious warfare that entails. Includes most Arabs, Turks, Tatars, and Kurds.

“The Protestants of Islam”: The physical breakaway Sunnis far east from Arabia, beyond the Hindus of India. Sunnis of Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. (Note: *not* defined by big theological disagreemets as much as “part of different physical religious hierarchies”.)

“The East Orthodox of Islam”: The Shi’a (refusing to grant ultimate religious primacy to a Caliph/Pope). Unlike actual Orthodoxy, not splintered in dozens of ethnic Churches. The “Supreme Leader” of Iran is like if all the Orthodox Patriarchs decided on a hierarchy with a “First Among Equals” backed by a Church Militant calling the shots for the secular government of Russia.

“The Quakers/Gnostics/Albigensians/Santéria of Islam”: Any of dozens of small mini-Faiths. Some entirely splintered off from the main body of Islam, some ethnic mini-religions, some just a more mystical take on Muslim theology. The Yazidis, Sufis, Druze, Sikhs, and so on.

“The Mormons of Islam”: the Bahá’ís, except outgrown from the “East Orthodox” Shi’a branch rather than the “Reformation” Sunni branch. Like the Mormons, Bahá’ís believe they received a new Revelation for the present Age in the 19th Century. Unlike Mormons, they do not try to bundle themselves in with their parent religion and have never tried to geographically cluster into their own religious state.

Not taking a shot at Mormons, just using that as an example of how I need this issue analogized/contextualized for it to make sense.

Ugly as it is, the best alternate Earth scenario is:

“As Catholicism stews in the middle of a crisis of Faith because of the loss of the Vatican for 100 years, with Italy and other Western European nations all being corrupt dictatorships and monarchies toadying up to a distant Muslim superpower, a few wannabe-Popes suddenly adopt hyperfundamentalist Reformation theology and use oil tycoon money to fund mercenary armies to “retake the Holy City” and violently purge Europe of Jews and Muslims and Protestants and Orthodox. Having presently conquered and cleansed some traditionally Catholic terrain in the Balkans, with rebel bands roving in Austria and Spain, they now plan to expand toward Rome, overthrow the Italian monarchy, retake the Holy City, and cement one of themselves as the New Pope for a New Age.”

#17 Comment By Army On February 19, 2015 @ 12:03 am

Do we call the Lord’s Resistance Army “Christian”? They say they’re Christian. They say their motivation is the creation of a biblical state in Uganda and Sudan. Their tactics are not unlike those of ISIS.

For some reason, we don’t regard their claims as sincere. We call them terrorists and criminals. How and why is ISIS any different?

#18 Comment By p c On February 19, 2015 @ 1:00 am

When one is in a hole, stop digging. No more refugees or migrants from the muslim world until they suffer their own 30 Years War. We don’t need their problems over here until they solve their own problems over there.

#19 Comment By Anne On February 19, 2015 @ 1:16 am

So what angers some is that it appears as if the President is afraid of offending a bully? In other words, Islam? Or, Muslims. Well, of course, Obama and Bush and whoever is President next would be the first to admit they do not want to offend Muslims. Why should they? Why should they offend a third of the world, including many nations that are important allies and strategic partners in combatting this very problem? ISIS and other Middle Eastern groups are a problem to fellow Muslims in the region first, non-Muslims in the region second, and Westerners down the line. Muslims, both in America and abroad, are literally in this with us. Why shouldn’t a president be wary of offending them when discussing terrorist atrocities? He’d be insulting a lot of good Americans and valuable foreign allies, allies with strategic connections we need. (And that’s not counting oil, which is a whole other consideration.) There’s just no getting around the complicated fact that the real enemy is not Islam or Muslims as a unified whole, but certain groups of Muslims who are raging against their own co-religionists as well as at the rest of the modern world. To acknowledge the extremist or outlier nature of these terrorist groups is not engaging in “phony euphemisms,” but dealing fairly and sensitively with reality as serious statesmen are expected to do.

#20 Comment By jamie On February 19, 2015 @ 2:40 am

Trying to square this with the following post. Religions are not essentially violent, but that fact that ISIS is as Muslim religious identity movement means something. What exactly it’s supposed to mean is left unstated, and anybody that denies it means something is engaging in “weasel words,” despite the obvious fact that “Muslim” is a lot more ambiguous and prone to connotation than “violent extremist.”

Muslim terrorism is a growing threat in Europe, young Muslims in Europe and America are becoming radicalized, not by religious dogma, but by what they see as a West indifferent to the suffering of their fellow Muslims and ruthless in the war they wage against them.

Are we measuring terrorism by body count or perpetrator? Anders Breivik killed about 6 times as many people as were killed in the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

Also, when Antonescou killed half a million Jews in progroms, was that terrorism or act of state? Are ISIL executions terrorism or acts of state? If I call 1940s Romania a “fascist regime,” are those weasel words? Should I actually be pedantically calling it a “Christian terror state”?

It’s not the same, I know. But if you say ISIL or Daesh or whatever is “Islamic,” what does that actually mean? Iran is Islamic; as is Saudi Arabia; as is the day care 6 blocks down the road from my work.

#21 Comment By Scott in PA On February 19, 2015 @ 8:09 am

Obama: “We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

The jihadis are not perverting Islam. They’ve been acting on the central core of Islam for thirteen hundred years. Sharia has majority support in most Muslim countries, and majorities of so-called “educated” Muslims in many western countries support sharia. The jihadis are only trying to give Muslims what they want: sharia.

#22 Comment By arrScott On February 19, 2015 @ 9:16 am

till, the phony euphemisms grate. The grated when Bush used them (“war on terrorism”), and they grate when Obama uses them.

Rod in other words: Responsible, limited government is annoyingly unsatisfying to my darkest emotions.

Terrorism, as a practice, can in fact be more or less erased from the world. English-speaking peoples have done this before, with piracy, slavery, and the slave trade. “You can’t wage war on a tactic,” a lot of people complained circa 2002, to which the only possible response was, “We can, we have, and we won, so maybe try reading something, anything, about human history prior to 1980.” You think eliminating terrorism is hard? Try shutting down the slave trade, which had been a fact of life for the entire history of human civilization prior to 1800. Terrorism, as we know it today, is less than 150 years old. It would be a cinch, if we actually made its elimination a primary purpose of national strategy.

The problem with Bush the Lesser’s use of the phrase is not that he used the word “terrorism” as a euphemism, it’s that he never actually tried to eliminate it. Bush chose to lose the war in Afghanistan, and with it any chance of following in Britain’s footsteps in destroying terrorism itself, in order to start a new war with Iraq, a war that has now produced the near-extinction of Judaism and Christianity in Iraq, the rise of Iran as a dominant regional power, and the genesis and spread of the Islamic State. Good job, Rod and everyone else who cheered Bush’s decision to give up on terrorism and invade Iraq instead.

But while a “war on terrorism” could in theory be won, a war on any flavor of religious expression cannot be. The United States government is not equipped for such an enterprise; ours is a secular national government with a religiously diverse people not generally prone to experiencing or thus understanding really intense religious feelings like those that motivate many converts to the Islamic State and its Sunni and Shiite near-peers. Rod complains that Americans don’t understand or take seriously the religious convictions of ISIS fighters. True! And that’s exactly why it would be an act of suicidally idiotic self-sabotage to try to combat them on those terms. What Rod sees as weasel-words and “pathological lies” may be rather the most effective terms on which we can fight this enemy – terms that we understand, and a fight we are at least theoretically capable of winning. Whereas if we fight on ISIS’s terms, we’ll be unarmed and blind on a field of the enemy’s choosing. The latter may be more intellectually satisfying to Rod as a matter of theological inquiry. But me? I’d rather win the war than the argument.

#23 Comment By panda On February 19, 2015 @ 10:07 am

“Today, fellow Americans, we are confronted with a challenge. Some followers of the Prophet (pbuh) have,”

I’d love to be living in the alternate universe where where Obama proclaims the words the Prophet (pbuh) , just to see your reaction to that one..

#24 Comment By Sean On February 19, 2015 @ 10:57 am

After the updates the article became more reasonable. But no, ISIS still isn’t Muslim. ISIS isn’t Muslim any more than Adolf Hitler or Pope John XII were Christian. Sure, they said they were Christians, but they certainly didn’t act like it.

If all 1.6 billion Muslims supported ISIS, don’t you think ISIS would be in Baghdad by now? Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi is Islam’s Hitler, and he intends to commit just as many if not more atrocities and war crimes than Hitler did. No, I’m not invoking Godwin’s law, this is a perfectly valid comparison considering this guy wants to kill all Shias, Christians, and non-Arabs in the Middle East. Easily as much as if not more than the 11 million that Hitler killed.

Now, if 1.6 billion people supported and were willing to fight for that ideology, I seriously doubt the USA as a nation would continue to exist. If ISIS had that much manpower, they could slaughter every American and have their global caliphate within days. But they don’t. Why? Because they can’t, they’re not Muslim and don’t have the support of the majority of Muslims. Sure, there are countries with scary statistics like France and the UK, but they’re the exception, not the rule. Again, if that were not the case, they would have their global caliphate already, wouldn’t they? It would be the world’s largest army by a factor of 800.

#25 Comment By Sean On February 19, 2015 @ 11:07 am

@arrScott Nope, slavery has not been eliminated, there is a global sex slave and sharecropping trade that easily equals or exceeds the amount of African slaves before 1865. Yes, even in America.

Piracy continues off the coasts of Somalia, Djibouti, and Yemen. In fact, ship hijacking and theft continues all over the world in far greater numbers than reported. Its kind of like murder, the victims are dead and the perpetrator sure won’t report themselves.

And ISIS, Al Quaeda, and whoever else aren’t going to care if an international standard of terrorism gets enacted and enforced. Sure, we can eliminate them, but who’s to say some other group of extremists won’t use the tactic in the future? Criminals don’t care what’s illegal, and suicide bombers don’t care about the wrath of international coalitions.

#26 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 19, 2015 @ 12:33 pm

+10 for M_Young’s presidential speech writing!

If he and I wrote all the speeches the president doesn’t insist on writing himself, people would be clamoring for a third term.

NFR: Oh, Siarlys, you keep on being you. — RD

I read history, and take a long view, not a faddish “post-modern” view. Didn’t Walker Percy do the same? Faulkner certainly did… “its not even past.”

And William Dalton is quite insightful to note that the REASON any given individual would be open to recruitment by ISIS, is quite different from what motivates ISIS to be ISIS, rather than the Provisional Aggressive Renewed Ba’ath Arab National Socialist Party, or whatever. Looking at the individual motives, and underlying economic and cultural conditions, could help us cut off the supply of recruits, without prejudice to the fact that one could find verses in the Qu’ran to lend theological plausibility to what ISIS does.

#27 Comment By Mark Moore On February 19, 2015 @ 1:50 pm

“But it is to point out what is plainly the truth: that almost all terrorists in the world today are Muslims.”

Unless you define terrorists as those who terrorize others.

#28 Comment By JonF On February 20, 2015 @ 4:10 pm

Re: Sharia has majority support in most Muslim countries

Maybe. But Shari’a is not what you think it is. In fact it’s not a unitary thing at all: there are as many Shari’as as there are imams propounding on it. But you have to go very far out into the fever swamps before you find someone who thinks that Shari’a allows indiscriminate murder by the authorities. Maybe you can find a mad caliph or two in the history of Islam who behaved that way, but it’s good bet someone took him out before he could too much damage.

#29 Comment By str On February 21, 2015 @ 3:46 am

I’ve come to expect strange things from the comments section here, but I’m amazed by how many just miss the mark and the point of Rod’s posting:

1) He detected a conscious strategy in White House utterances not to mention the Islamic background of all those terrorists.
2) He also noted that they tried to avoid the fact that the Egyptians murdered were Christians martyred for their faith.

Ad 1, so many commenters insist that Obama is right not to blame all Muslims for the terrorism.

Of course, this is true. But blaming all Muslims and being silent on the Islamic background are not the only alternatives, especially if Obama is as articulate as he is supposed to be.

Some commenters even go so far as to say that ISIS isn’t Islamic at all but only claims it is. No further comment necessary.

Ad 2 hiding the identity of those martyrs cannot be explained at all by any diplomatic intentions of not antagonizing all the Muslims. Either there are more sinister motives or the White House is just acting stupid and thoughtless. My money is on the latter.

#30 Comment By heartright On February 21, 2015 @ 9:13 am

I apoligise if someone has already pointed at the obvious – but!

Do we call the Lord’s Resistance Army “Christian”? They say they’re Christian. They say their motivation is the creation of a biblical state in Uganda and Sudan. Their tactics are not unlike those of ISIS.

For some reason, we don’t regard their claims as sincere. We call them terrorists and criminals. How and why is ISIS any different?

The reason being that we don’t have teenage Christian girls running off to join the soi-disant Christian LRA, whereas yet another 3 teenage muslim girls have gone AWOL to join ISIS.

Obviously, the different communities have no problem spotting the difference.

[13]

#31 Comment By str On February 22, 2015 @ 3:00 am

“After the updates the article became more reasonable. But no, ISIS still isn’t Muslim. ISIS isn’t Muslim any more than Adolf Hitler or Pope John XII were Christian. Sure, they said they were Christians, but they certainly didn’t act like it.”

So do you have any evidence for ISIS not being Muslim? They talk as Muslims would and they act as Muslim extremists have for centuries. The only argument you have is that you don’t like these facts.

Suddenly you mix in the statement “If all 1.6 billion Muslims supported ISIS, don’t you think ISIS would be in Baghdad by now?”

What has that got to do with it? Nobody here or anywhere else made such a claim.

No, not all the Muslims support ISIS, but yes, it is an Islamic group.

As for Hitler; though he sometimes – especially early in his reign – spoke positive of Christianity, his party’s programme only ever spoke of “positive Christianity”, which is alltogether something different. There are ample sources from Hitler’s private talks that neither Hitler nor any of his associates professed a Christian faith of any sort.

As for John XII; he was a very bad pope, neither intelligent nor pious and certainly unfit for that office. He certainly was a wordly boy/man and a bad Christian but to claim that he wasn’t a Christian at all goes way too far. We don’t have enough sources for such claims.

That you jump that quickly without having enough information (as in John’s case) or against all the evidence (as in the case of ISIS), makes it only to clear that you write according to Pippi Longstocking’s motto:

“Three times three is six and three that’s nine – I make my world as I would like it!”

Still the facts under the paint remain the same and some day the fake paint will fall off.