The War Of The Words
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Politics and Activism

The War Of The Words

Why the Name Calling?

The War Of The Words

Recently, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) discovered a video posted on the internet of three Islamic State fighters standing behind a captured and kneeling Kurdish fighter. The center fighter, dressed in black and clenching a fist high in the air, issued warnings and threats before ultimately stating, “Know, oh Obama, that we will reach America. Know also that we will cut off your head in the White House, and transform America into a Muslim Province.”

These warnings are not new. They are not specific to the group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. They are challenges that are spawned by aggression and ideology that face every free and democratic nation today and have faced the United States since the scourge of the Barbary Pirates in 1801. In fact, our earliest founders were familiar with the terrorist ways of radical Islamists.

Thomas Jefferson, who was serving as the ambassador to France, and John Adams, the Ambassador to Britain, met in London with Ambassador Abdrahaman, the Dey of Tripoli’s ambassador to Britain, in an attempt to negotiate a peace treaty. Peace would come at a price. If America wanted “temporary peace,” a one-year guarantee, it would cost $66,000 plus a 10% commission. “Everlasting peace” was a bargain at $160,000. This only applied to Tripoli and the amount came to $1.3 million with no assurance that the treaties would be honored. Jefferson and Adams asked why Tripoli was at war with the fledgling United States and in a letter to John Jay, Jefferson wrote the following:

“The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman [Muslim] who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.”

The threat from radical Islam has been a part of our political and socioeconomic system for over two centuries. But it has not been the only threat that we have faced during that time. To clearly delineate the threats, and to explain our responses towards them, it is imperative that we first define terrorism.

And here lies the point of this article. How do we define ISIS? Republicans have loudly and repeatedly called for President Obama to call the most recent threat facing us as “radical Islam," and not without reason. Throughout the 20th century, American presidents have generally been known for using clear and bold terms to describe the enemies of the United States. FDR talked about the Japanese with harsh terms, and that rhetoric turned into action when under Executive Order he relocated thousands of Japanese citizens to internment camps in the Midwest.

Did rhetoric fan his action, or did his fear-based reactions spawn rhetoric?

It would serve the Republicans of today well to remember the words of President George W. Bush when he said: "Islam is a vibrant faith. Millions of our fellow citizens are Muslim. We respect the faith. We honor its traditions. Our enemy does not. Our enemy doesn't follow the great traditions of Islam. They've hijacked a great religion."

So why the debate? Polifact reported that President Obama recently chastised GOP frontrunner Donald Trump for creating a "political distraction" by fixating on words.

"There has not been a moment in my seven and a half 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," Obama said June 14. "So, there is no magic to the phrase ‘radical Islam.’ It is a political talking point. It is not a strategy."

Using the term, Obama argued, would actually bolster into the narrative ISIS and al-Qaeda are pitching: a war between Islam and the West led by them.

In fact, it would seem he has a point. The struggle that the United States and other coalition nations have faced in Iraq and Afghanistan has been increased by the influx of foreign fighters convinced by Muslim clerics that they are engaged in a "Holy War" against the infidels bent on overthrowing Islam and the Muslim State.

Here we see the struggle of the administration. How do we condemn acts of terror committed in the name of religion, without the appearance of waging war on the religion as a whole?

In this case, name calling is a distraction. The threat we face is terror. Terror is not something that is specific to one religion, race, ethnic group, country, or social class. It is a result of extremism and often conducted without regard for innocent civilians, or even against civilians themselves in order to accomplish an ideological or religious agenda.

Recently, has that religious agenda been Islam? Yes. It most certainly has. But if we go back a few hundred years, the largest sponsor of terror in the world would have been the Catholic church.

I recently read a expose by a CIA station chief whose comments seemed quite relevant to this topic, and I quote "Our foreign policy today is not helping us. The key to success against fundamentalist Muslim terrorism is to minimize our enemies and maximize our friends. We need to soften the appeal of Muslim fundamentalism. To do that, we have to diminish the level of moderate Muslim indifference to that phenomenon. There are nearly 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. It takes only a tiny percentage of them to make major problems for us. The key to keeping those numbers down lies in the attitudes of moderate Islam."

Name calling will keep us from doing that.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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