Speeches — even or especially when they are intended to obscure the truth — reveal something of the convictions of the speech giver and clarify his opinions about the character of his audience. So it was with President Obama’s special address to the nation from the White House on Sept. 10, announcing military operations to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the savage jihadists seeking to reestablish a caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
At the very moment he was summoning the nation’s support for the most recent battle in the long war Islamism has waged against the United States and her allies, the president insulted the people’s intelligence and demonstrated disdain for our capacity for self-government.
Presuming to understand Islam better than those who are undertaking jihad in its name, Obama declared that “ISIL is not ‘Islamic.’” The reason he gave for this remarkable assertion is that “No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim.”
The president’s reasoning is either tautological or false. It is tautological if the president means no religion condones the killing of individuals — whether of the same or another religion — it regards as innocent. It is false if the president meant that no religion condones killing individuals whom our morality — the morality that underlies liberal democracy — regards as innocent.