It took nearly the entire duration of his presidency, but Barack Obama has finally uttered the words he has dared not utter — radical Islam — but only as means to attempting an explanation for why he will never say them again.
The occasion for this purported exercise in self-examination, according to the Washington Post, was a press avail following a meeting with his national security team that, in the Post’s humble opinion, included the president’s “most forceful rebuttal to [Donald] Trump since the real estate mogul became the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.”
Here is a video of Obama’s comments on “what’s in a name.” A transcript follows.
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) June 14, 2016
For a while now, the main contribution of some of my friends on the other side of the aisle have made [sic] in the fight against ISIL is to criticize the administration and me for not using the phrase “radical Islam.” That’s the key, they tell us. We cannot beat ISIL unless we call them radical Islamists.
What exactly would using this label would accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to try to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this?
The answer is none of the above. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction.
Since before I was president, I have been clear about how extremist groups have perverted Islam to justify terrorism. As president, I have called on our Muslim friends and allies at home and around the world to work with us to reject this twisted interpretation of one of the world’s great religions.
There has not been a moment in my 7.5 years as president where we have not able to pursue a strategy because we didn’t use the label “radical Islam.” Not once has an adviser of mine said, “Man, if we use that phrase, we are going to turn this whole thing around,” not once.
So someone seriously thinks that we don’t know who we are fighting?
If there is anyone out there who thinks we are confused about who our enemies are — that would come as a surprise to the thousands of terrorists who we have taken off the battlefield.
Let’s turn the president question around and ask, “What would be the harm in using the label radical Islam?” For that he would have an answer. The harm, he would tell you, is that the term insults peaceful followers of Islam, who might then become radicalized.
Think about that for a minute. Peaceful, law-abiding people would pick up arms and join a group of bloodthirsty terrorists because they were insulted? I have been called a kike in my life, but I haven’t felt even remotely provoked into committing violence — deadly or otherwise — against those who leveled that ugly slur.
Presumably it was a flash mob of easily excitable but otherwise peaceful Muslims that firebombed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, killing four Americans, after learning about a video that disparaged their religion. At least that was the narrative Obama’s administration peddled initially to prove the attacks were not acts of terrorism. But if burning down a building complex and killing the innocent occupants isn’t terrorism, then what is?
A question that also might be posed to the president based on his remarks today concerns his preference for another label that sets him apart from nearly every other politician and media outlet in the nation. That’s his stubborn insistence on using the acronym ISIL, when everyone else uses ISIS. One possible explanation for this was the subject a post that ran on this site in 2014. It quoted retired U.S. Army Captain Terry Michael Hestilow, who wondered if this wasn’t Obama’s way of “positioning America as the enemy of Israel.”
As for Obama’s claim that using radical Islam “wouldn’t accomplish anything,” you have to concede: He’s an expert on not accomplishing anything.