WASHINGTON — President Obama lashed out at those criticizing him for not using the term “radical Islam,” particularly “politicians who tweet,” as “yapping” but doing nothing to solve the problem of terrorism.
Obama met with his National Security Council in the Diplomatic Room at the Treasury Department this morning, including Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, and FBI Director James Comey.
The president told reporters after the meeting that Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people and wounded 53 in the 2:30 a.m. Sunday shooting rampage at the Pulse nightclub, “appears to have been an angry, disturbed, unstable young man who became radicalized.”
“As we know all too well, terrorist groups like ISIL have called on people around the world and here in the United States to attack innocent civilians. Their propaganda, their videos, their postings are pervasive and more easily accessible than we want,” he said. “This individual appears to have absorbed some of that and during his killing spree, the shooter in Orlando pledged allegiance to ISIL.”
“As I’ve said before, these lone actors or small cells of terrorists are very hard to detect and very hard to prevent. But across our government at every level, federal, state and local, military and civilian, we are doing everything in our power to stop these kinds of attacks.”
Obama gave an update on the military campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria our stressing that the “coalition continues to be on offense” and as the group “continues to lose territory, it also continues to lose the money that it is — that is its lifeblood.” He also renewed his call for gun-control measures like the assault weapons ban.
“For a while now, the main contribution of some of my friends on the other side of the aisle have made in the fight against ISIL is to criticize the administration and me for not using the phrase ‘radical Islam.’ That’s the key, they tell us. We cannot beat ISIL unless we call them radical Islamists,” he continued.
“What exactly would using this label would accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to try to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this? The answer is none of the above. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction.”
Hours after the shooting, Donald Trump tweeted: “Is President Obama going to finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism? If he doesn’t he should immediately resign in disgrace!”
In a speech Monday in New Hampshire, Trump said “we cannot continue to allow thousands upon thousands of people to pour into our country many of whom have the same thought process as this savage killer.”
“Many of the principles of radical Islam are incompatible with Western values and institutions. Remember this, radical Islam is anti-woman, anti-gay and anti- American,” Trump said. “…This is not just a national security issue. It’s a quality of life issue. If we want to protect the quality of life for all Americans — women and children, gay and straight, Jews and Christians and all people then we need to tell the truth about radical Islam and we need to do it now. We need to tell the truth also about how radical Islam is coming to our shores. And it’s coming with these people, folks, it’s coming.”
Obama did not mention Trump by name, but said “there has not been a moment in my 7.5 years as president where we have not able to pursue a strategy because we didn’t use the label ‘radical Islam.'”
“Not once has an adviser of mine said, ‘Man, if we use that phrase, we are going to turn this whole thing around,’ not once,” he said. “So someone seriously thinks that we don’t know who we are fighting?”
He added that “if there is anyone out there who thinks we are confused about who our enemies are that would come as a surprise to the thousands of terrorists who we have taken off the battlefield” and the “thousands of people around the country and around world who are working to defeat ISIL.”
“They know full well who the enemy is. So do the intelligence and law enforcement officers who spend countless hours disrupting plots and protecting all Americans — including politicians who tweet and appears on cable news shows.”
Obama emphasized “there is no magic to the phrase ‘radical Islam.’ It is a political talking point. It is not a strategy.”
The reason he doesn’t use the term, the president said, “has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with actually defeating extremism.”
“If we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims as a broad brush, and imply that we are at war with the entire religion, then we are doing the terrorists’ work for them,” he said. “Now, up until this point, this argument of labels has mostly just been partisan rhetoric, and sadly, we have all become accustomed to that kind of partisanship, even when it involves the fight against these extremist groups.”
“That kind of yapping has not prevented folks across the government from doing their jobs, from sacrificing and working really hard to protect the American people. But we are now seeing how dangerous this kind of mind set and this kind of thinking can be. We are starting to see where this kind of rhetoric and loose talk and sloppiness about who exactly we are fighting, where this can lead us.”
Obama mentioned the proposal from “the presumptive Republican nominee” to ban Muslim immigration and “language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complacent in violence.”
“Where does this stop? The Orlando killer, one of the San Bernardino killers, the Fort Hood killer — they were all U.S. citizens. Are we going to start treating all Muslim-Americans differently? Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminate them, because of their faith?” he continued. “We heard these suggestions during the course of this campaign. Do Republican officials actually agree with this?”
“Because that’s not the America we want. It does not reflect our Democratic ideals. It won’t make us more safe, it will make us less safe, fueling ISIL’s notion that the West hates Muslims, making Muslims in this country and around the world feel like, no matter what they do, they’re going to be under suspicion and under attack. It makes Muslim-Americans feel like their government is betraying them. It betrays the very values America stands for.”
The president added that “we have gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear, and we came to regret it. We have seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens, and it has been a shameful part of our history.”
“…We don’t have religious tests here. Our founders, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, are clear about that. And if we ever abandon those values, we would not only make it a lot easier to radicalize people here and around the world, but we would have betrayed the very things we are trying to protect.”