A RHETORICAL SHIFT ON TERRORISM…. If recent history is any indication, there will be a fair amount of conservative complaining today about this development.
President Barack Obama’s advisers plan to remove terms such as “Islamic radicalism” from a document outlining national security strategy and will use the new version to emphasize that the U.S. does not view Muslim nations through the lens of terrorism, counterterrorism officials say. […]
[National Security Council staffer Pradeep Ramamurthy] runs the administration’s Global Engagement Directorate, a four-person National Security Council team that Obama launched last May with little fanfare and a vague mission to use diplomacy and outreach “in pursuit of a host of national security objectives.” Since then, the division has not only helped change the vocabulary of fighting terrorism, but also has shaped the way the country invests in Muslim businesses, studies global warming, supports scientific research and combats polio.
We can probably guess what’ll happen next — the Cheneys, Giuliani, and assorted media personalities will no doubt tell us the administration can’t be taken seriously on counter-terrorism unless it uses the word “Islamic” all the time.
There’s probably no point in taking this on as part of a substantive debate, but it’s nevertheless worth noting that just two years ago this month, the Bush/Cheney administration launched a new effort to change the way U.S. officials communicated on this issue. In fact, Bush/Cheney issued guidelines, entitled “Words that Work and Words that Don’t: A Guide for Counterterrorism Communication,” urging officials to stop describing extremists as “jihadists” or “mujahedeen,” and to drop “Islamo-fascism” altogether. “It’s not what you say but what they hear,” the memo said in bold italic lettering.
The memo was distributed widely by federal agencies, including the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counter Terrorism Center, explaining to U.S. officials at every level that the rhetoric preferred by far-right activists actually undermines our foreign policy and national security interests.
Even Karen Hughes recently conceded, “We ought to avoid the language of religion. Whenever they hear ‘Islamic extremism, Islamic jihad, Islamic fundamentalism,’ they perceive it as a sort of an attack on their faith. That’s the world view Osama bin Laden wants them to have.”
So, when Republicans and their allies throw a fit today, be sure to check to see if they had a similar reaction when Bush/Cheney took similar steps two years ago.