Sen. Joe Lieberman, the independent Connecticut chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said Thursday that the Obama administration has refused to use the term “violent Islamist extremism,” arguing that the White House’s overly cautious word parsing constitutes a refusal to “speak honestly.”
Sen. Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, also said this makes the global fight against Islamic terrorism “harder” for the United States.
Lieberman focused his criticism on a recent report issued by the administration, titled “Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States,” saying that it “suffers from several significant weaknesses.”
“The administration still refuses to call our enemy in this war by its proper name — violent Islamist extremism. You could find names that are comparable to that but not the ones that the administration continues to use, which are ‘violent extremism,'” Lieberman explained in a speech at the National Press Club sponsored by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.
“It is not just violent — there are many forms of violent extremism, there’s white racist extremism, there’s been some environment–eco extremism, there’s been animal rights extremism. You could go on and on. There’s skinhead extremism. But we’re not in a global war with those. We’re in a global war that affects our homeland security with Islamist extremists.”
Lieberman then charged the administration with refusing to “speak honestly” about the threat of terrorism. (RELATED: Terrorist credits Hollywood for his recruitment)
“To call our enemy ‘violent extremism’ is so general and vague that it ultimately has no meaning. The other term used sometimes is ‘Al-Qaida and its allies.’ Now, that’s better but it still is too narrow, and focuses us on groups as opposed to what I would call an ideology, which is what we’re really fighting,” he said.
“I assume this refusal of the administration to speak honestly about the enemy is based on its desire not to do anything that might feed into Al-Qaida’s propaganda that we’re engaged in a — quote — ‘war against Islam,’ but that’s so self-evidently a lie that we can and have repudiated it, and I think we’ve done so effectively.”
“A reluctance, therefore, to identify our enemy as ‘violent Islamist extremism,’” Lieberman concluded, “makes it harder, I think, to mobilize effectively to fight this war of ideas.”