Flashback: Brennan on Jihad as Legitimate Holy Struggle

Chuck Hagel has his share of controversy heading into Senate confirmation hearings for the secretary of Defense role.

What would the arguments against John Brennan for CIA director include? Probably they’d start with the 2010 speech Obama’s counterterrorism adviser made to the Center for International Strategic Studies:


The President’s strategy is absolutely clear about the threat we face.  Our enemy is not “terrorism” because terrorism is but a tactic.  Our enemy is not “terror” because terror is a state of mind and as Americans we refuse to live in fear.  Nor do we describe our enemy as “jihadists” or “Islamists” because jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenant of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one’s community, and there is nothing holy or legitimate or Islamic about murdering innocent men, women and children.

Indeed, characterizing our adversaries this way would actually be counterproductive.  It would play into the false perception that they are religious leaders defending a holy cause, when in fact they are nothing more than murderers, including the murder of thousands upon thousands of Muslims.  This is why Muslim leaders around the world have spoken out—forcefully, and often at great risk to their own lives—to reject al Qaeda and violent extremism.  And frankly, their condemnations often do not get the recognition they deserve, including from the media.

Moreover, describing our enemy in religious terms would lend credence to the lie—propagated by al Qaeda and its affiliates to justify terrorism—that the United States is somehow at war against Islam.  The reality, of course, is that we never have been and will never be at war with Islam.  After all, Islam, like so many faiths, is part of America.


Brennan’s role in Benghazi — the reason why Susan Rice’s potential nomination for secretary of State was derailed — is also still largely unclear. Brennan met with Libyan leaders after the attack to discuss “the continuing investigation into the Benghazi attacks, including specific additional steps Libya can take to better assist the U.S. in ensuring that the perpetrators are brought to justice.”


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