A Lesson for the Media
The Senate Homeland Security Committee report on the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, which killed four people, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, makes for painful reading.
The committee's findings, following a review of thousands of documents, shed new light on the utter confusion that prevailed at the highest levels of the administration in the days following the attack. Although U.S. intelligence almost immediately recognized the incident as a premeditated terrorist attack, administration officials, from President Obama on down, hedged and pretzled their comments to a fare-thee-well.
The committee report, drafted by outgoing Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman, Ind.-Conn., and by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, calls for sweeping security shakeups at the State Department and its foreign consulates and embassies. But it also zeroes in on a pervasive Foggy Bottom culture that tends to use softer semantics and euphemisms lest Muslims be offended.
On this latter point, the report pulls no punches, blasting the "administration's continued refusal to identify violent Islamist extremism as our enemy."
"The enemy is not a vague catchall of violent extremism, but a specific violent Islamist extremism," it asserts.
In blunt language, the report tells our striped-pants diplomats to recognize Islamist terrorism and denounce it as such -- as the first essential step in identifying the enemy "When terrorists attack our country, either at home or abroad, administration officials should speak clearly and consistently about what has happened," it declares. "The fact that a terrorist attack occurred must be commented with clarity."
While the Lieberman-Collins panel focuses on the administration's multiple security lapses and semantic escapism, mainstream media, led by the New York Times and the Washington Post, also should take a leaf from its findings and recommendations.
Why? Because most media are just as reluctant and escapist as the State Department when Islamist terrorism strikes.
At a minimum, a careful reading of the Lieberman-Collins report should prompt editors and reporters to permanently retire "militant" or "fighter" or "guerrilla" when TERRORISTS strike. But sadly, don't count on it. PC has too firm a grip on media newsrooms.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers