Sixteen years after 9/11, Washington is still afraid to name the enemy.
It continues to be painfully difficult for our leaders to utter the words “radical Islam” or any substitute meant to connote that there is a religious element to the global jihad being waged upon us. As with Voldemort in the Harry Potter series, presidents since 9/11 have chosen not to name the enemy, instead referring to our jihadi adversaries as “extremists” or “terrorists” and countless other boilerplate terms determined by our representatives in government as politically appropriate.
The whitewashing of the very Islamic nature of jihadi terror not only misleads the public, but makes it impossible for government and military officials to focus on what is motivating our enemies and how to stop them from continuing to threaten us. What is it that connects the ISIS leader in Raqqa to the hate-preaching U.S.-born Imam in California to the Uighur militants in western China? To our 21st century leadership, it’s not radical Islamic doctrine, but some kind of widespread mental disorder without a name.
From Presidents Bush 43 to Obama and now President Trump, the leader of the free world since 9/11 has pointedly refused to name the enemy that seeks our demise.
And although Osama bin Laden justified the killings of Americans in the name of Islam (through religious declarations known as fatwas), discussion about the radical Islamic component of 9/11 were immediately quashed. We were told there are no issues with Islam whatsoever, even as millions and millions took up arms against the West, citing Islam’s call for war against infidels.
Everyone had their excuses for failing to define the enemy.
To Presidents Bush and Obama, groups like al-Qaeda and other jihadist entities were merely a bunch of deranged, bloodthirsty maniacs who were not linked by any particular doctrine.
President Bush took pains to ignore the dangerous components of Islam and define it wholly as a “religion of peace.”
Just six days after the attacks, Bush remarked at the Islamic Center of Washington: “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and war.”
Bush 43’s gross abdication of responsibility in defining our enemies continued into the Obama era.
President Obama became famously known for making sure to censor language that could possibly be interpreted as connecting our Islamic enemies (such as the terror state in Iran and the Islamic State terror group) to the Muslim faith.
“ISIL is not Islamic … ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple, and it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way, ” President Obama said in a 2014 speech.
To both Obama and Bush, jihadist groups killed for the sake of killing, and nothing more, at least according to their public messaging.
"There is no doubt, and I've said repeatedly, where we see terrorist organizations like al Qaeda or ISIL — They have perverted and distorted and tried to claim the mantle of Islam for an excuse for basically barbarism and death," Obama said in a 2016 town hall.
And then came President Trump.
On the campaign trail, Trump ran as a candidate who had no issue with defining our enemy as “radical Islamic terrorists.” But since becoming president, he has fallen prey to the D.C. Swamp’s way of thinking on the issue.
Comparable to his predecessors, Trump has largely refrained from addressing the ideology that motivated the 9/11 hijackers. In his most recent speech on Afghanistan, Trump did not once discuss radical Islam, but only the “evil ideology” of our enemies. Like Bush and Obama, Trump has taken to understanding global jihadists as just a bunch of random lowlives.
“Terrorists who slaughter innocent people will find no glory in this life or the next. They are nothing but thugs and criminals and predators and — that’s right — losers,” Trump said in his Afghanistan speech.
We must never forget that the 9/11 hijackers were not poor, delusional individuals, as previous administrations tried to frame them. They were motivated by a specific doctrine. It wasn’t a coincidence that they used the Islamic war cry “Allahu Akbar” as they carried out by far the deadliest terror attack in American history.
But you can’t begin to defeat an enemy when you refuse to identify what it stands for. Even our Arab Muslim partners have come to determine and point out that there is a branch of Islamic doctrine that is growing at an exponential rate. Now is the time for our leaders to stand with them and take on this ideological enemy.
Sixteen years after 9/11, our leaders continue to pretend that there is no interconnectedness to the global threat of radical Islamic terror. If the politically correct policies of shielding Islam from the implications of terror continue, America’s long war will become its forever war.