U.S. Kills Jihadists with Stroke of Pen, Creating Violent Extremists as Byproduct
The war against Jihadists and Islamo-Fascists has been won; each and every last one of these vermin has been eradicated courtesy of the United States Government. Unfortunately, the victory is quite literally in name only.
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 The Associated Press. Lingo like “Islamo-fascism” is out, too.
The reason: 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 Islamic 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. U.S. officials may be “unintentionally portraying terrorists, who lack moral and religious legitimacy, as brave fighters, legitimate soldiers or spokesmen for ordinary Muslims,” says a Homeland Security report. It’s entitled “Terminology to Define the Terrorists: Recommendations from American Muslims.” “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,” the report says.
Language is critical in the war on terror, says another document, an internal “official use only” memorandum circulating through Washington entitled “Words that Work and Words that Don’t: A Guide for Counterterrorism Communication.”
The memo, originally prepared in March by the Extremist Messaging Branch at the National Counter Terrorism Center, was approved for diplomatic use this week by the State Department, which plans to distribute a version to all U.S. embassies, officials said. “It’s not what you say but what they hear,” the memo says in bold italic lettering, listing 14 points about how to better present the war on terrorism.
“Don’t take the bait,” it says, urging officials not to react when Osama bin Laden or al-Qaida affiliates speak. “We should offer only minimal, if any, response to their messages. When we respond loudly, we raise their prestige in the Muslim world.”
“Don’t compromise our credibility” by using words and phrases that may ascribe benign motives to terrorists.
Some other specifics:
_ “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.”
_ On the other hand, avoid ill-defined and offensive terminology: “We are communicating with, not confronting, our audiences. Don’t insult or confuse them with pejorative terms such as ‘Islamo-fascism,’ which are considered offensive by many Muslims.”
Michael van der Galien initially thought this was “silly” but came around once he thought about it.
Because I’ve seen this argument unfolding for years, I mostly share the bemusement of Steve Benen, who points out, “it took the Bush administration more than six years to figure this out?” And he’s also right that, “if a President Clinton or President Obama had issued the identical directive to administration officials, what do you want to bet they’d be slammed as politically-correct terrorist coddlers?”
Interestingly, one of the more prominent voices pushing for this policy change was Dave Kilcullen, a key member of David Petraeus’ brain trust, who was touting the need for better language in Small Wars Journal and elsewhere last summer.
Jim Guirard took that message to heart and put out a dictionary of alternative words to use. Some examples:
irhab (eer-HAB) — Arabic for terrorism, thus enabling us to call the al Qaeda-style killers irhabis, irhabists and irhabiyoun rather than the so-called “jihadis” and “jihadists” and “mujahideen” and “shahids” (martyrs) they badly want to be called. (Author’s lament: Here we are, almost six years into a life-and-death War on Terrorism, and most of us do not even know this basic Arabic for terrorism.)
Hirabah (hee-RAH-bah) — Unholy War and forbidden “war against society” or what we would today call crimes against humanity. Among the many al Qaeda-style crimes and sins which constitute this most “unholy war” are such willful, and unrepented transgressions as those enumerated in the next section of this proposed glossary of terms.
mufsiduun (moof-see-DOON) — Islam’s word for evildoers, sinners and corrupters whose criminality and sinfulness, unless ended and sincerely repented, will incur Allah’s ultimate condemnation on Judgment Day; Islam’s optimum antonym for “mujahiddin.”
munafiquun (moon-ah-fee-KOON) — hypocrites to Islam who pretend to be faithful to the Qur’an but who willfully violate many of its basic rules, mandates and prohibitions.
Practically, I don’t see a shift in language this dramatic taking place. And the idea that people who think sawing off the heads of living hostages on video is fine will change their mind because Condi Rice starts calling it irhab and the perpetrators mufsiduun rather than jihadists and butchers strikes me as dubious. If it’s not obvious to you that such conduct is barbaric, I’m not sure that a new lexicon will do the trick.