President Obama Utters the T-word

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.

That would offend their Islamic supremacist friends, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood and its soul-mate organizations in the U.S. – e.g., the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of North America. Those organizations posit the canard that to notice the connection between their Islamic-supremacist ideology and anti-American terrorism is to put America "at war with Islam." The Obama administration has internalized this canard. This leads the administration to the absurd conclusions that (a) al Qaeda is not an ideological movement but, rather, a bunch of "violent extremists" who kill for no real reason, and (b) a mass-murder attack committed by Muslims, no matter how obviously it is terrorism, should not be acknowledged as terrorism unless it has been committed by either a member of al Qaeda or a group that can be portrayed as "inspired" by al Qaeda (meaning, inspired by "violent extremism," not by Islam).

By contrast, if a mass-murder attack were to be committed by a non-Muslim group or actor, this most political of administrations would not only be quick to pronounce it as terrorism but also would use the fact that a non-Muslim committed a terrorist act as somehow exculpatory of Islam.

Perhaps sensitive to negative commentary about his reluctance to use the T-word in his initial statement about the bombing last evening, or perhaps prodded by senior White House staffers, President Obama was emphatic this morning in describing the bombing as “an act of terror.” His newly announced theory on the matter is that “any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror.” That certainly is an improvement. But if you want to prevent terrorist attacks from happening rather than dither over how they should be labeled after they happen, the use of bombs is less significant than the ideological catalyst for the use of bombs.

It is not known at the moment, at least publicly, what ideology drove yesterday’s terrorist bombings. It could have been Islamic supremacism, it could have been something else. Still, suspicion that it could have been Islamic supremacism ought to be considered a rational investigative theory, not a reason to deny reality and smear the non-deniers as racists.


Related at PJ Tatler from Zombie: "Pressure-Cooker Bombs Used in Boston Attacks Point to Possible Islamic Connection"