The Obama administration, which generally chokes on the word “terrorism” and fought against applying it to the jihadist atrocities at Fort Hood and Benghazi, is calling yesterday’s Boston Marathon bombing “terrorism.” Its reasoning, coupled with the way the term was rolled out, is intriguing.
Initially, President Obama made a brief statement to the nation last night in which, characteristically, he did not use the word “terrorism.” Moments afterward, however, an unidentified “senior administration official” pronounced that the bombing was a terrorist attack, telling Fox News, “When multiple devices go off, that’s an act of terrorism.”
In point of fact, while bombing is a common tactic of terrorists for obvious reasons, the choice of attack-method is not what makes violence “terrorism.” If, say, the mafia were to use two or three car bombs to rub out several rival gangsters at the same time, that would not be terrorism even though “multiple devices” would be involved. Terrorism is violence directed at political communities — usually, nations and their governments. It is carried out for the specific purpose of intimidating the political community into submitting to the terrorists’ preferred policies, and, significantly, it is almost always ideologically motivated.
That last attribute of terrorism is the cause of the Obama administration’s paralyzing misgivings about the T-word. The president is mulishly determined to cultivate Islamic-supremacist governments and movements like the Muslim Brotherhood. The stubborn problem is that al Qaeda — the only Muslim outfit the administration seems willing to hang the “terrorist” label on — is also Islamic-supremacist. That is, al Qaeda is adherent to the same ideology — based on sharia, Islam’s legal code and societal framework — as the groups the administration considers “allies” and “moderates.”
Organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood have tactical disagreements with al Qaeda about what situations call for the use of violence to advance the supremacist agenda and how quickly sharia should be imposed. At bottom, though, they are in agreement with al Qaeda about the imperatives of imposing sharia, eradicating Israel, destroying the West, and eliminating Western influences from Islamic countries. Islamic supremacism is a mainstream Islamic ideology — held by tens of millions of Muslims, not just a few thousand al Qaeda members and collaborators. Thus, if the administration were to admit that this ideology and agenda catalyze terrorism, they would logically have to admit the problem is much bigger than al Qaeda.