How Could Obama Ignore Radical Islam in 9/11 Speech?
President Barack Obama recently delivered an address inaugurating the new 9/11 Museum. To the surprise of many, he did not name the perpetrators, identify their ideology, or reiterate a determination to defeat them. The words ‘Al-Qaeda,’ ‘Islamism,’ or ‘jihadists’ never passed his lips. His silence on global Islamist terrorism was deafening, not least because 9/11 has profoundly affected the lives of all Americans – long lines and frisking entering government buildings, office buildings, sports arenas, football games; taking off shoes, belts and jackets; creating long delays in airports, and so on.
It will be said that the dedication of a 9/11 museum was a purely commemorative event to honor the victims as well as the heroes, living and dead, not an occasion for rallying cries or policy pronouncements. We beg to differ: the first requirement in truly seeking to honor the victims and heroes is working to ensure that their deaths and sacrifice were not in vain. We can’t do that if we don’t name the perpetrators, identify their ideology, and reiterate our determination to defeat them so that such massacres of innocent Americans doesn’t recur.
Can one imagine a commemoration of D-Day where an American president would not refer to the scourge of Nazism in the cause of whose defeat these servicemen died? Indeed, when President Obama spoke in Normandy in 2009 on the 65th anniversary of D-Day, he referredto Hitler, Nazis, Germans and “the clarity of purpose with which this war was waged.” He went even further, ” It was a competing vision of humanity. Nazi ideology sought to subjugate and humiliate and exterminate. It perpetrated murder on a massive scale … It was evil.”
The questions this poses are obvious: is Islamist totalitarianism not a “competing vision of humanity”? Do Islamists not seek to “humiliate and exterminate,” to perpetrate “murder on a massive scale,” from the genocide in the Sudan, the kidnapping and torture of non-Muslim women in Nigeria, the slaughter of tens of thousands in Syria – and the slaughter out of a clear blue sky of 2,977 men, women, and children on 9/11? This was surely evil. How does all this pass unmentioned at dedication to memorialize its victims and heroes?
Worryingly, this failure to name the terrorists and the ideology that animates them forms part of a long-standing, deliberate pattern. In Obama’s view, every Islamist organization other than al-Qaeda is a potential American ally, even if they have a long and impeccable record of anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism, and terrorism directed somewhere other than directly at the U.S.
Administration officials have spent years speaking of particular terrorists at home and abroad as isolated “extremists,” even when Islamist terrorist connections (for example, between Fort Hood murderer Nidal Hassan and the American-born Al Qaeda-in-Yemen leader, Anwar al-Awlaki, who advised him) were readily traceable
Indeed, any reference as such to Muslim extremism or Islamist terrorism have been expunged from government manuals like Homeland Security’s Domestic Extremism Lexicon and the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review Report.
In May 2009, John O. Brennan, Obama’s then-Chief National Security Adviser for Counterterrorism, now head of the CIA, insisted that the Administration did not “describe our enemy as jihadists or Islamists because jihad is holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam meaning to purify oneself or one’s community.” It’s as if the Obama Administration believes that ignoring the ideology animating the terrorists somehow renders America at peace with those jihadists who regard themselves at war with the U.S.
All this has had a direct impact on policy. When Obama delivered his June 2009 Cairo address, he invited members of the Muslim Brotherhood parliamentary bloc to attend over the displeasure and opposition of then Egyptian president and U.S. ally, Hosni Mubarak – though the Administration later falsely claimed it hadn’t invited them.
When Iranians rioted over the 2009 rigged presidential elections that confirmed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election, Obama chose not to back the protesters or condemn the vicious crack-down. To do so would have involved explaining was wrong with an Islamist, terror-supporting regime. In contrast, when anti-government riots overtook Cairo in 2011, Obama quickly abandoned Mubarak, insisted that his regime give way “now” and his spokesman called for new elections involving “non-secular actors” – the Islamists, like the Muslim Brotherhood.
At the 9/11 museum, it would have been important to hear the President say that America was determined to put an end to the Islamist threat to America, to speak of the danger Islamist groups pose to America and its allies, to note – and condemn – the recent alliance of Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) with Hamas, an Islamist movement that calls in its Charter for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews. Instead, we got silence.
“Those we lost live on in us,” President Obama affirmed at the Museum – but unless we identify their murderers, the radical Islam that animated them and commit ourselves to their defeat, their sacrifice is truly in vain and the fight against radical Islam, the greatest scourge facing the world since the Nazis, may well be lost.
Morton A. Klein is National President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). Dr. Daniel Mandel is Director of the ZOA’s Center for Middle East Policy and author of H.V. Evatt & the Establishment of Israel (London, 2004).