An irritated-sounding President Obama on Tuesday lashed out at his Republican critics, like Donald Trump, who question why he doesn’t use the label “radical Islam” when talking about terrorist attacks, including the recent massacre in Orlando committed by a Muslim who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
“For a while now,” Obama said after meeting with his National Security Council, “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 this administration and me for not using the phrase ‘radical Islam.’”
The president countered: “Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction.”
In his statement after a terrorist attack killed nearly 50 people in Orlando over the weekend, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump said: “President Obama disgracefully refused to even say the words ‘Radical Islam’. For that reason alone, he should step down.”
Responding to that attack, Obama said: “What exactly would using this label 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.”
Explaining his refusal to use the phrase to describe terrorists of the Muslim faith, Obama said: “The reason I am careful about how I describe this threat has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with actually defeating extremism.”
“Groups like ISIL and Al-Qaeda want to make this war a war between Islam and America or between Islam and the West,” he said. “They want to claim that they are the true leaders of over a billion Muslims around the world who reject their crazy notions. They want us to validate them by applying that they speak for those billion plus people that they speak for Islam.”
“That’s their propaganda and that’s how they recruit,” he said. “If we fall into the trap painting all Muslims as a broad brush and implying that we are at war with the entire religion then we are doing the terrorist work for them.”
Obama argued that since before he was elected president, he has “been clear about how extremist groups have perverted Islam to justify terrorism.”
“As president, I have repeatedly called on our Muslim friends and allies at home and around the world to work with us to reject this twisted interpretation of one of the world’s great religions,” he said.
Going on, Obama said: “There has not been a moment in my seven and a half 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 advisor of mine said, ‘man, if we really use that phrase, we are going to turn this whole thing around.’ Not once.”
“So someone seriously thinks that we don’t know who we are fighting? if there is anyone out there who thinks we are confused about who our enemies are — that would come to a surprise of the thousands of terrorists we have taken on our battlefield,” the president added.
In his speech on terrorism Tuesday, Trump said: “The Obama Administration, with the support of Hillary Clinton and others, has also damaged our security by restraining our intelligence-gathering and failing to support law enforcement. They have put political correctness above common sense, above your safety, and above all else.”