I heard President George W. Bush speak at a private event in the spring of 2014. A comment he made took me by surprise. He said as assuredly as saying the sky is blue that, “A global caliphate is trying to be established.” That comment in itself did not surprise me.
What surprised me was the comment he attached to it. He immediately went on to say, “But it has nothing to do with Islam.”
Noticing the crowd’s negative reaction, he said, “I know that’s hard to hear.” Yes, it was hard to hear because it was so illogical and untrue.
I shouldn’t have been surprised by his comment, though. After all, Bush as a politician, along with many other politicians, has been pushing the narrative to disassociate Islam from terrorism for a long time.
In case you don’t remember, six days after 9/11, speaking from the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., Bush said, “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.” He would continue to push that narrative throughout his presidency.
But even knowing his past comments about Islam, the absurdity of Bush trying to disassociate a caliphate from Islam surprised me. The very essence of a caliphate is Islamic. It would be as inane as saying that the Pope has nothing to do with Catholicism, or as Obama has started saying, that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam.
Never mind that ISIS has declared, “We are soldiers of Islam and took on our responsibility to bring back the glory of the Islamic Caliphate." As David Weigel at Bloomberg Politics said, “The terror group is practically begging the West to identify it and identify Islamic terrorism.”
Which believe it or not, at one point Bush did accurately identify the Islamic caliphate connection. In 2006, speaking to the Military Officers Association of America he said, “We know what the terrorists intend to do because they've told us. And we need to take their words seriously . . . they hope to establish a violent political utopia which they call caliphate, where all would be ruled according to their hateful ideology. Osama bin Laden called the 9/11 attacks, ‘a great step towards the unity of Muslims and establishing the righteous caliphate.’ This caliphate would be a totalitarian Islamic empire.”
Yet, fast-forward a few years and Bush tells a crowd that a caliphate has nothing to do with Islam. And of course, his successor President Obama and his administration have tried even harder to push the narrative of Islam not being associated with terrorism or a caliphate.
When John Brennan, current CIA director, was head of Homeland Security and Counterrorism in 2011, he shrugged off the establishment of a caliphate, saying, “That vision is absurd, and we are not going to organize our counter-terrorism policies against a feckless delusion that is never going to happen. We are not going to elevate these thugs and their murderous aspirations into something larger than they are.”
After Brennan at least recognized that there was something, after all, to the rise of ISIS and their “feckless delusion” he still tried to separate them from any religious ties. In March of 2015, he tried to explain on Fox news that although ISIS terrorists are Islamic terrorists, they represent an “ideology of violence,” not a religious ideology.
In 2009, Obama clearly stated what he considered one of his main responsibilities as president to be. While in Cairo he said, "I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear." Even to the point, it seems, of claiming that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam.
The most egregious changes made to push a narrative and protect Islam from negative stereotypes were made in the Department of Justice. In 2011, Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole said, “I recently directed all components of the Department of Justice to re-evaluate their training efforts in a range of areas, from community outreach to national security.” This “reevaluation” included the removal of all references to Islam in connection with any investigation of jihadist terror activity perpetrated by adherents to Islam.
Dwight C. Holton, former assistant U.S. Attorney in Oregon, met with then Attorney General Eric Holder after the 2010 “Christmas-tree bomber” incident involving Mohamed Mohamud (who believed he was going to maim and kill thousands by detonating a bomb in Oregon). Holton stated that Holder was “firmly committed” to purging everything politically incorrect from FBI training materials, saying, “I want to be perfectly clear about this: training materials that portray Islam as a religion of violence or with a tendency towards violence are wrong, they are offensive, and they are contrary to everything that this president, this attorney general and Department of Justice stands for. They will not be tolerated.”
Holton went on to say, “Before this effort, a lot of us didn’t understand that when we make an arrest in a high-profile terrorism case that involves someone who claims they follow Islam, it creates a mini-backlash against people in communities.”
Regarding the “Christmas-tree bomber” case, Holton proudly stated that, “In the 37-page complaint that laid out allegations against Mohamed Mohamud, he is never once identified as a Muslim. We were very careful about that. It’s not relevant from our perspective, what’s relevant is the violence.”
Sound familiar to the modus operandi in the San Bernardino shooting? The government did everything possible to keep from having to identify the terrorists as Muslim.
Even more recently, a Muslim dressed in traditional Muslim clothing shot 13 times at a Philadelphia policeman. When arrested, he said that he tried to kill the policeman in the name of Islam and as a show of allegiance to ISIS. Yet, the Mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney, quickly corrected the shooter’s own confession and said that the shooting “had nothing to do with Islam or the teaching of Islam.”
Protecting Muslim communities from a so-called backlash and protecting the reputation of Islam has become more important to politicians than correctly identifying and admitting why Muslims murder American citizens.
Back in what seems like another lifetime, the rise of terror being associated with the religious tenants of Islam was spoken about plainly and truthfully, at least behind closed doors. In 2002, the Senate held a hearing called The Intelligence Community's Response to Past Terrorist Attacks Against the United States from February 1993 to September 2001.
Notes from that hearing included phrases such as: a “new form of terrorism motivated by religious fanaticism,” “terrorist who favored an Islamic agenda,” and “an increasing prevalence of religious terrorist, in which violence first and foremost is a sacramental act or a divine duty.”
In another 2002 Senate hearing, Dale Watson, from the Counterterrorism Division of the FBI said, “The single common element among these individuals is their commitment to the radical international jihad movement, which includes a radicalized ideology and agenda promoting the use of violence against the ‘enemies of Islam’ in order to overthrow all governments which are not ruled by Sharia law.”
That is simply a spade being called a spade. It’s been a long time. American leaders haven’t just slipped hard and fast down the slippery slope of political correctness. They’ve free fallen so far that one has to wonder if there is any leader who has the fortitude to end the age of narratives and instead identify terrorists without regards to who it offends.
After all, the terrorists themselves keep saying exactly who they are and why they are terrorizing people. When Army Pvt. Naser Jason Abdo, who was arrested and sentenced for plans to kill Ft. Hood soldiers, was asked by his incredulous mother why he was going to kill them he succinctly said, “The reason is religion Mom, there is no other reason.” And of course, the religion he was referring to was Islam.