Tuesday, April 29, 2008

State Department Goodthink

The Associated Press on April 24, under the headline, "'Jihadist' booted from government lexicon," announced that,

"The Bush administration has launched a new front in the war on terrorism, this time targeting language.

"Federal agencies, including the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counter Terrorism Center, are telling their people not to describe Islamic extremists as 'jihadists' or 'mujahedeen,' according to documents obtained by [or "leaked" to] The Associated Press. Lingo like 'Islamofascism' is out, too."
So, here is another damning legacy being bequeathed to us by President Bush. He has claimed from the beginning that Islamic terrorism is perpetrated by people who have "hijacked" a "great religion." But he himself has now hijacked and sabotaged language.

The "new front" is in reality a craven retreat from the old one, which is a costly, futile hit-or-miss campaign to capture or kill individuals responsible for terrorism, and not a campaign against states that sponsor terrorism. In this new development, the State Department, certainly with the sanction of the Bush Administration, will allow the Islamists or Islamofascists to advance and take more ground in their campaign to subjugate the West, and in particular, America.

The AP article claims that one document, "originally prepared in March by the Extremist Messaging Branch of the National Counter Terrorism Center [called "Words that Work and Words that Don't: A Guide for Counterterrorism Communication"], was approved for diplomatic use this week by the State Department, which plans to distribute a version to all U.S. embassies, officials said."

What is the rationale for adopting a policy of surrender by expunging "offensive" terms from the nuance-sensitive pragmatist's Newspeak lexicon? According to Matthew Lee, author of the AP article,

"Such words may actually boost support for radicals among Arab and Muslim audiences by giving them a veneer of religious credibility or by causing offense to moderates.

"For example, while Americans may understand 'jihad' to mean 'holy war,' it is in fact a broader concept of the struggle to do good, says the guidance prepared for diplomats and other officials tasked with explaining the war on terror to the public. Similarly, 'mujahedeen,' which means those engaged in jihad, must be seen in its broader context.'"
A Homeland Security report, called "Terminology to Define the Terrorists: Recommendations from American Muslims," claims that

"U.S. officials may be 'unintentionally portraying terrorists, who lack moral and religious legitimacy, as brave fighters, legitimate soldiers or spokesmen for ordinary Muslims.'"


Let us parse some of these statements in the memo and examine the terms they employ. I cannot determine from Matthew Lee's report whether or not he is sympathetic to the report, so any criticisms here are meant for the report's language and not his account of it.

"Such words may actually boost support for radicals among Arab and Muslim audiences by giving them a veneer of religious credibility or by causing offense to moderates."
Islam is radical. It means submission, specifically, to Allah's will. It is a 24/7, 365-days-a-year creed, with no allowance for slackers or sabbaticals from it. Every Muslim is either a passive, rank-and-file adherent, or an active one engaged in applying Islam's tenets in one of two ways: in Arab societies or in insinuating Sharia in Western or non-Muslim societies - or by bomb. The radical activists already have a veneer of moral and religious credibility, which is based on the religion itself. They possess such credibility in the eyes and minds of all Muslims.

There are no moderates in Islam. One accepts the creed in toto, or one abandons or rejects it; there is no halfway agreement or technical dissension within Islam. Its clerics and scholars do not allow it, nor does the Koran condone it. Anyone who attempts to "reform" Islam risks being chopped by its most consistent practitioners.

Conclusion: One federal agency and one cabinet-level bureaucracy propose to "protect" the U.S. by blanking out reality and not identifying our enemies.

"It's not what you say," the AP article quotes from the memorandum, "but what they hear." In other words, reality is what is in other people's minds, not in what you might inadvertently be referring to out there in reality. A "jihadist" is merely someone who is "struggling" to "do good" and to "be good" in Allah's eyes, and not an "extremist" who really isn't practicing his beliefs, but who is "hijacking" a religion and giving it bad name.

The memo urges officials not to "take the bait" by actually saying, "A is A" when Osama bin Laden or al-Qada "affiliates" speak. Never mind that half the world's 1.4 billion Muslims cheered when the Twin Towers were destroyed on 9/11 and bin Laden took credit for it, while the other half silently approved.

"We should offer only minimal, if any, response to their messages. When we respond loudly, we raise their prestige in the Muslim world."
Which means that instead of expressing moral condemnation of terrorists and their murderous acts, we should whimper quietly in a corner, perhaps in the company of a grief counselor. The enhanced "prestige" of the jihadists and Islamofascists is guaranteed if that is to be our "response" to terrorist acts.

The Associated Press goes on to note that Homeland Security's Orwellian Newspeak report treats definitions and meanings as irrelevant.

"Regarding 'jihad,' even if it is accurate to reference the term, it may not be strategic because it glamorizes terrorism, imbues terrorists with religious authority they do not have and damages relations with Muslims around the world."


Which means that accuracy is optional but basically undesirable and potentially embarrassing. Feelings might be hurt. The most astounding imputation is that using the terms "jihad" and "jihadist" (or any other possibly "offensive" defining term) glamorizes terrorism. The author (or authors, the report is very likely the product of a committee) of that document is someone who believes that "glamorizing" Bonnie and Clyde or Al Capone or Adolf Hitler or Yasir Arafat is wrong, not because these killers were evil and undeserving of any suggestion of good, but because it is impractical. After all, we want other bank robbers, gang leaders, dictators and terrorists to like us, or at least not hate us, and calling these killers killers would damage our relations with all the fools who admire them and who would emulate them if they could. What has morality to do with it?

Steven Emerson, commenting on the Homeland Security report on his Investigative Project on Terrorism site on April 25, noted that

"Apparently the report does not say which American Muslims offered the recommendations. But it is virtually identical to a long campaign by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other Islamist groups....So the U.S. government is taking its cues from a group that emanated from a secret Muslim Brotherhood operation in America, one with a stated goal of being '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.'"
"'Don't compromise our credibility,'" quotes the AP article from the Counter Terrorism Center memo, "by using words and phrases that may ascribe benign motives to terrorists."

Given the gelatin principles and marshmallow ethics that govern the fantasy world of the White House, State Department and our foreign policy, what credibility is left to compromise? And who on earth ever ascribed benign motives to al-Qada, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban, or Ahmadinejad's Iran? These are not branches of Rotary International.

The Counter Terrorism Center memo, reports the AP, contains these pointers:

"Never use the terms 'jihadist' or 'mujahedeen' in conversation to describe the terrorists...Calling our enemies 'jihadis' and their movement a global 'jihad' unintentionally legitimizes their actions....Use the terms 'violent extremist' or 'terrorist.' Both are widely understood terms that define our enemies appropriately and simultaneously deny them any level of legitimacy." [Note that the term 'violent extremist" implicitly concedes that Islamic terrorists are acting in the name of Islam, in its most "extreme" interpretation. Apparently the term is widely understood by everyone but the State Department and Homeland Security.]


So, our concern is not with defeating our enemies, but with denying them any "legitimacy" in the eyes of their passive co-religionists, not with destroying those who would destroy us, but with mentally segregating them from Islam. No such thing as a global jihad exists; it's just a lot of bad guys with guns and bombs who claim they are obeying the will of Allah, but we don't need to believe that. Not to worry.

One consequence of adopting this evasive anti-language policy is that it will enable our policymakers to dodge the issue of state-sponsored terrorism. It will permit them to negotiate with Islamic regimes that call for our destruction, not eradicate them. What it will not do is change reality.

One unsung hero who summed up the cause and consequence of that policy is Major Steven Coughlin, U.S. Army Reserve, Military Intelligence, author of a paper, "To Our Great Detriment: Ignoring What Extremists Say About Jihad," submitted in July 2007 to the National Defense Intelligence College. In it, he establishes the crucial links:

"Accepting assurances from moderate Muslims that Islam had nothing to do with the events of 11 September 2001, President Bush made policy statements holding Islam harmless for the actions done by 'extremists.'...As it turns out, the jihadis are able to find a doctrinal basis for their notions of jihad in Islamic law....This legal definition of jihad remains consistent through the 1,400 year span that incorporates the contributions of the authorities relied on in the thesis....Because of our inability to understand the enemy stems from a decision not to know him, this thesis recommends the return to a threat analysis process as the methodology to analyze the enemy's stated doctrine...." [Italics mine, to underscore the epistemological corruption of our policymakers]
One thing that will be learned if that doctrine is ever analyzed is that Islam is a pernicious, evil ideology that cannot be "reformed" without rendering it something other than Islam. Another thing that will be learned is that it must be defeated root and branch, militarily with retaliatory force, and philosophically, through reason.

4 comments:

Burgess Laughlin said...

Ed, thank you for your extensive, and much needed, analysis of the Bushites' latest tactic in their War for Islamic Democracy, which is War of Sacrifice III.

I would like to bring up one point for consideration. I may be misinterpreting it, but this partial statement seems to open a dead-end road: "The 'new front' is in reality a craven retreat ..."

Usually, "craven" means "cowardly." Cowardice is a vice, a personal failing. I do not think Bushites in general are cowards. To the contrary, the Bushites are acting courageously according to their Christian-pragmatist principles (to the extent that pragmatists have principles). A man who acts according to principle, in the face of opposition, is not a coward.

My fear is that labeling our enemies as cowards is generally false and even where individually true it takes attention away from the need to deal with the principles underlying their behavior.

The principles of Christianity, democracy, egalitarianism, and multiculturalism are evil. They cause mass destruction. But individual followers of those creeds may be brave--or at least not cowards--in promulgating and applying their principles.

Again, thank you for your analysis. It is an ammo depot for intellectual activists.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Ed. Beautifully written and well judged.
And, Burgess, 'craven' is exactly the right word to use - 'a man who acts according to principle, in the face of opposition,' *is* a coward if those principles are evil. It is the mystic's craven a fear of independence that led them to renounce reason and reality in the first place.

Burgess Laughlin said...

1. Anonymous, are you saying that everyone who adopts an evil principle is a mystic--even if the adoption is temporary or mistaken or based on the testimony of those he wrongly trusts or is beyond his intellectual ability?

2. Are you saying that, at any intellectual level or in any form, an early Andrei Taganov or Stephan Timoshenko is impossible in real life?

3. I would urge caution in any attempt to deduce the particulars of reality (here, the pscyhology of particular individuals) from philosophical insights (the nature of mysticism and its role in the creation or original justification of evil worldviews).

P. S. -- Here are additional nouns and adjectives I would add to the list of terms that are distracting personal attacks when dealing with philosophically fueled movements: idiots, morons, nutbars, nutjobs, goat herders, ragheads, scum, stupid, nuts, crazy, loony, insane, delusional, and childish.

I see such terms used most often by conservatives, who have nothing else to offer. Occasionally from others I see personal attacks combined with identification of the underlying principles that cause behavior. Rarely, in the world at large, are there defenses of proper principles and attacks on improper ones--free of personal distractions.

The primary cause of history is philosophy not psychology. However, there are times to focus on the moral failure of individuals: As a narrow tactic in specific situations--or when all the principles have been accounted for. We are a long way from the latter.

I doubt I have anything further to add at this point. Thanks for the stimulating conversation. As always, such discussion is helpful in making explicit what was only implicit before.

Anonymous said...

No Burgess, I am saying that the use of the word 'craven' in the context of Ed's article is entirely appropriate.