Flying Blind in the War on Terror

Imagine that following the bombing of Peal Harbor in December 1941, that FDR had prohibiting the use of the terms "Nazi" or "Japanese Imperialism" due to pressure brought to bear by German and Japanese-American lobbying groups. Or at the height of the Cold War that the US government had determined to ban the use of "Soviet" or "communism" for fear of offending the sensibilities of Russian-Americans or European socialists.

Yet that is precisely what has happened following the revelation last week by the Associated Press that the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security has issued guidelines banning the use of "jihad", "mujahedeen" and other Islamic terminology with reference to Islamic terrorism. This move lays bare the ideological prison house of political correctness in which our top policymaker's reside. The strictures are so ridiculous that even President Bush can't help himself in violating the guidelines.

No one can claim in defense of this move that it has been rooted in years of serious study and assessment of the issue at the highest levels of government. If so, where might these studies and assessments be found? What series of government publications outlines the strategic threat doctrine of our enemy in the War on Terror, similar to that prepared on Soviet doctrine in the early years of the Cold War? What comprehensive doctrinal assessment may our military and political leaders consult to inform themselves on the tactics and strategy of our enemy? Such does not exist, and the adoption of the government's new "lexicon" is an admission that such a strategic threat assessment of our enemy will not be done. This new effort means that in essence we have chosen to fly blind in the Global War on Terror (GWOT).

The categorical failure of our political leadership nearly seven years after 9/11 to engage in even the slightest effort to assess exactly who the enemy is and how they propose to attack and defeat us borders on treason. What could possibly represent the complete abdication of responsibility by our political leaders than deliberately avoiding addressing this pressing, and for our men and women in uniform a life-and-death, issue?

So on what basis have our public officials made this recent decision? This new effort is being driven by politics, not public safety, as demonstrated by the fact that such pandering measures adopted by the British government which the State Department guidelines appear modeled after have completely failed to abate the terrorist threat there. And it reveals that our national security policy is being determined more by public affairs officials driven by political correctness than sober reflection by our nation's intelligence, military and law enforcement personnel.

It has already been observed that the Islamic organizations identified by the Justice Department as being directly tied to terrorism (Council on American-Islamic Relations, Islamic Society of North American, Muslim American Society, the Institute for International Islamic Thought, et al.) are the same ones who have been openly promoting the adoption of this new "lexicon". I would note that last September I provided a critical analysis of this "Truespeak" lexicon here at The American Thinker, observing that the sources of Islamic law relied upon do not match how the new policy's advocates have represented them.

The government does not have a very good track record in identifying Islamic extremists in its outreach efforts since the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Just one example is the relationship that the government forged with supposed "moderate" Abdurahman Alamoudi, as noted last week by columnist Diana West, who the Pentagon tasked to establish the military's Islamic chaplains corps. Today, Alamoudi sits in a federal prison serving a 23 year sentence following his conviction on terror-related charges and for conspiring with Libyan intelligence to assassinate the Saudi Crown Prince.

Another example would be the series of White House meetings Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami Al-Arian held with Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush before heading to prison on terrorism support charges. Al-Arian also hobnobbed with Hillary Clinton, Al Gore and Karl Rove.

There are any number of similar embarrassing incidents that could be cited here, but suffice it to say that the US government cannot point to a single success when it comes to identifying Islamic extremists in the past quarter-century.

To fully understand the gravity of the problem posed by the government's new "lexicon", consider that nearly 30 years after the Islamic revolution in Iran that religion might play a role in the rise of Islamic terrorism is itself a controversial proposition in government circles. Noting such a connection between elements of Islam and Islamic terrorism cost Pentagon J2 analyst Stephen Coughlin his job earlier this year. And yet Coughlin's groundbreaking study, "To Our Great Detriment: Ignoring What Extremists Say About Jihad", which poses a direct challenge to those who would exclude religious considerations in discussing Islamic terrorism, has not been addressed or critiqued by any of those promoting the government's guidelines.

There are two false assumptions that seem to underlie this new effort. One is narrowly limiting the enemy in the GWOT to Al-Qaeda alone. But this excludes many terrorist organizations, some of whom have openly allied with Al-Qaeda, that have already committed terrorist acts against Western targets and non-compliant Muslims in Asia, the Middle East, Northern Africa and Europe. It also fails to account for the radicalization process that is essential for the growth of Islamic terrorism, as noted in a study last summer by the New York Policy Department's intelligence unit, "Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat".

Another misguided assumption is the belief that through engagement and appeasement, we can make Islamic radicals "our extremists". One might think that this policy -- tried and found wanting in our efforts to leverage the "Arab Afghans" that became Al-Qaeda in order to tie up the Soviet Union in Afghanistan -- would be thoroughly discounted. But in fact, following my recent exposure of the American Muslims for Constructive Engagement strategic partnership between a prominent government-funded defense and intelligence think tank and several extremist organizations, one of the top officials involved in the effort defended the alliance on claiming that such engagement would affect the moderation of Islamic extremists (my rejoinder can be found here).

So what is to be done?

At this point it must be admitted that in the absence of any assessment of the strategic threat posed by Islamic terrorism and identification of exactly who and what the threat is, any Islamic outreach efforts are not only premature but potentially damaging to our national security. While some claim that such outreach is necessary, virtually no consideration has been given to what exactly Islamic extremists might be able to gain through such efforts. And in light of the appalling past record of the US government in this regard, no action is infinitely preferable to flawed action. But if such outreach is conducted, it should occur with the full knowledge and approval of counterterrorism officials -- something that has not been done in the past.

We also must utilize existing tools to address existing terrorist support organizations already operating inside the US. Trial exhibits offered by the Justice Department in the Holy Land Foundation trial revealed the intent of Muslim Brotherhood affiliated groups to wage a "civilizational-jihadist process", intending to wage a campaign of cultural warfare against the US from within:

The Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions.

As noted by my friend and colleague Army LTC Joseph Myers here at American Thinker following these revelations, he concluded that existing Defense Department regulations and guidelines, these groups should be listed as hostile foreign agents and threat organizations:

In its own documents, the Ikhwan in America has defined itself as a hostile threat to the American constitutional order. It has identified itself as a "foreign agent" of the greater global jihad, and exists as part of the transnational "Ikhwan Movement." The Holy Land Foundation trial has established evidence of material support to terrorism by Brotherhood entities and ties to international terrorism, namely Hamas and likely other jihad terrorist organizations in the Middle East. Therefore, the Muslim Brotherhood in America meets all three criteria of DoD Directive 5240.1-R.

The irony of this situation is, of course, that any discussion of the Muslim Brotherhood's "grand jihad" is prohibited by the government's new guidelines.

Additionally, congressional leadership on these issues is sorely needed. While Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) recently unveiled her 10-point plan to begin addressing the domestic terrorist threat entitled, "Wake Up America", these tactical efforts do not mention the larger strategic issues of assessing and identifying the doctrinal foundations of Islamic terrorism and the process of radicalization that it relies upon. Her plan, however, is a welcome alternative to the current policy of congressional negligence with reference to the domestic terror threat. A proactive Congress asking administration officials hard questions will be requisite to turn back the ill-considered State Department and Homeland Security's new policy.

But the key component needed for any future government policies regarding terrorism must be the long overdue assessment of our enemy's strategy and ideology. The present guidelines effectively prohibit any such analysis. Until such a comprehensive study by our intelligence, military and law enforcement communities is complete, we are left flying blind in the war on terror. As we should have learned on 9/11 at the cost of lives of three thousand innocent civilians, the enemy's vision is not likewise obscured.

Patrick Poole is an occasional contributor to American Thinker, and is a consultant to the military and law enforcement on anti-terrorism issues and an expert in the operations and ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West.
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