LIEBERMAN, COLLINS CHANNEL GIULIANI’S TALKING POINTS…. The quality of the debate over terrorism-related rhetoric hasn’t progressed much in recent years.
What message should we take away from the Fort Hood massacre, where 13 people were allegedly murdered by radicalized Muslim army psychiatrist Nadal Hasan? According to Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME), the takeaway is that the U.S. should to stop beating around the bush and call America’s enemies what they supposedly are: “Islamic extremists.”
Lieberman convened the hearing ostensibly to discuss the recently-released report that criticized the federal government for failing to prevent the massacre by not taking appropriate action to remove Hasan from the military. But it quickly turned into a denunciation of the language the Administration supposedly uses to discuss violent acts.
Senate Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-Maine) complained that the Obama administration “is refusing to acknowledge that violent Islamic extremism is the ideology that fuels attacks.” Committee Chairman Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) went to criticize “some people in the executive branch of government,” for not using the phrase “Islamic extremists.”
Great. The talking points from Rudy Giuliani’s foolish presidential campaign continue to resonate with the leaders of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
As part of the same hearing, Philip Mudd, the former deputy director of the Office of Terrorism Analysis at the CIA, told the committee this rhetorical push is off-base. “As somebody who wants to kill the ideology,” Mudd said, “I think we ought to call them what they hate to be called. They like to be called ‘terrorists.’ They like to be called ‘Islamic radicals.’ They hate to be called ‘murderers,’ and that is what they are…. Call them ‘murderers.’”
Lieberman responded, “I’m unconvinced.”
What a surprise.
It’s probably worth noting that just a few years ago, 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.
Karen Hughes later 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.”
Susan Collins and Joe Lieberman apparently don’t care.