Editor's note: The author's commentary below is based on a longer article published by the Investigative Project. To read the full article click here.
America’s top spy needs to be a steely-eyed realist, sensitive to emerging threats and keen about our foes’ intent to deceive us.
Unfortunately, President Obama’s nominee to head the CIA, Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan, has shown a tendency to fall for the bait from radical Islamists. Globally, he repeatedly expressed a hope that “moderates” within Iran and its terror proxy Hezbollah would steer their respective constituencies away from terrorism.
Domestically, he claims that radical Islam does not pose its own, unique threat to American security. He has helped strip language about “radical Islam” and similar terms from government vernacular, choosing instead to refer to “violent extremism.” When it comes to jihad, he stubbornly maintains the word does not belong in conversations about terror, no matter what the terrorists themselves say.
In a 2008 paper, Brennan called on U.S. officials to “cease public Iran-bashing,” and recommended that the U.S. “tolerate, and even … encourage, greater assimilation of Hezbollah into Lebanon’s political system, a process that is subject to Iranian influence.”
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It isn’t working.
Four years of tempered rhetoric and invitations for negotiation have done nothing to slow Iran’s march toward the bomb. Hezbollah is working with Iran to assist Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s bloody fight for survival. Just this week, Bulgarian authorities implicated Hezbollah in last year’s bus-bombing that targeted Israeli tourists. And a new report finds the dynamic duo of terrorism is responsible for a wave of terrorist plots throughout the world.
On top of this, Brennan’s White House tenure shows a disturbing tendency to engage with Islamist groups which often are hostile to American anti-terrorism policies at home and abroad. Those meetings confer legitimacy upon the groups as representatives of all Muslim Americans, despite research indicating that the community is far too diverse to have any one group represent its concerns.
A Feb. 13, 2010 speech Brennan gave at the New York University School of Law serves as an example.
It was organized by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), a group founded by Muslim Brotherhood members in the United States, some of whom remain active with the organization. And, although it denied any Brotherhood connection in 2007, exhibits in evidence in a Hamas-support trial show ISNA's "intimate relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood."
The talk became an outlet for Brennan’s argument that terrorists benefit from being identified by religious terms, including “jihadist.”
“They are not jihadists,” Brennan insisted, “for jihad is a holy struggle, an effort to purify for a legitimate purpose, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing holy or pure or legitimate or Islamic about murdering innocent men, women and children. We're trying to be very careful and precise in our use of language, because I think the language we use and the images we project really do have resonance. It's the reason why I don't use the term jihadist to refer to terrorists. It gives them the religious legitimacy they so desperately seek, but I ain't gonna give it to them.”
While the politically correct rhetoric may have pleased his hosts, this is just sticking America’s head in the sand when it comes to understanding what drives Islamist terrorists.
When Army Pvt. Naser Jason Abdo’s mother asked her son what would drive him to plot a 2011 bombing and shooting attack on a restaurant that serves personnel at Fort Hood, Tex., his answer was succinct.
"The reason is religion, Mom," he said.
Similarly, would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad justified his attack as part of a war, a jihad that could not fail.
"This time it's the war against people who believe in the book of Allah and follow the commandments, so this is a war against Allah," Shahzad said at his October 2010 sentencing for trying to detonate a car-bomb in Times Square. "So let's see how you can defeat your Creator, which you can never do. Therefore, the defeat of U.S. is imminent and will happen in the near future, inshallah [God willing], which will only give rise to much awaited Muslim caliphate, which is the only true world order."
John Brennan’s recipe for fighting terror seems to cast these motivations aside. That’s the mindset poised to direct American intelligence gathering for the next four years.
Steven Emerson is executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism and the executive producer of a new documentary about the Muslim Brotherhood in America "Jihad in America: the Grand Deception."