Opinion

Jihad Is War — Not “Narrative”

REUTERS/Ali Hashisho

Abraham H. Miller Emeritus Professor, University of Cincinnati

“La rentrée” is what the French call back to school. This year something is conspicuously different about the festive occasion. Children as young as three are being taught to remain silent during a terrorist attack.

That’s not all that is different this season in France. Many French Jews will be staying away from synagogue during the high holidays beginning next week because of the threats posed by militant Muslims.

France has changed. Radical Islam has changed it.

Tear up your tickets to Turkey and find paradise beneath your feet, an ISIS recruiter tells his fellow Islamists through the encrypted web. Turkey of course is the gateway to the fighting in Syria, and “paradise beneath your feet” is encouragement to wage jihad in the West.

The ISIS recruiter, Abu Suleyman al-Firansi, who spouts this propaganda, is himself French.

These homegrown jihadis are not committing crimes. They are committing acts of war. They are agents of a foreign power intent on our destruction.

Ahmad Rahami’s bombing attack on New York City was not a criminal act but an act of war by an enemy combatant. By treating him as a common criminal, he has been given access to the rights of the system he sought to destroy. And he has lawyered up.

There is ample legal precedent for treating the homegrown jihadis as enemy combatants that should not have access to the civilian judicial system. In the case of American citizens during World War II who were brought back from Germany to conduct sabotage operations on American soil, the United States Supreme Court, in Ex parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1 (1942), ruled that trial by military tribunal was legal in the case of any unlawful enemy combatants against the United States.

It would appear that one of the ways to keep our citizens safe would be to employ the legal tools granted us in Ex parte Quirin. If so, Rahami would not be able to avail himself of the Constitutional rights he sought to destroy but would be tried by the military.

Instead, our political leaders have chosen to view the homegrown problem as a problem in narration – a “public relations” conflict between ISIS and us. The idea is to counter ISIS’ propaganda. As White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in the wake of terrorist attacks in New York, New Jersey and Minnesota, we are in a “narrative” war with ISIS.

To win the narrative war and prevent would-be jihadis from falling into ISIS’ hands, Hillary Clinton is calling for the absorption of more Syrian refugees. Barack Obama is fighting ISIS’ narrative while basking in the glory of raising the number of refugees to be absorbed as if he were some modern-day Moses leading the downtrodden of Egypt into the Promised Land

And to further counter ISIS’ propaganda, Obama is releasing hardened terrorists from Gitmo, who will soon join their brethren in waging jihad and recruiting Western jihadis.

The administration’s mantra is that without Gitmo and with a more liberal policy of refugee acceptance, there might not be a worldwide jihad.

As a consequence of such thinking, our children will face the increasing probability of another Beslan-type massacre. In 2004, on the opening day of school in Beslan, jihadi terrorists seized the school and brutalized the children over a three-day period before killing them. The death toll numbered nearly 400, and the situation required a military assault to be brought to denouement.

Unlikely to happen here? Not according to Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, U.S. Army (Ret.) who has studied the Beslan massacre in depth and lectures to law enforcement about the appeal to terrorists of a large-scale slaughter at a school. Grossman and others see Beslan as a dry run for potential operations here.

The Islamists who have slaughtered our fellow citizens were the progeny of parents who came here seeking a better life. And these children repaid us as the Europeans have been repaid, with violence.

Claiming these are a minority of the Muslims coming into our country is a digression. How many people have to be slaughtered before we see this as a real problem? Not a problem in criminal justice but a problem of importing actual and potential enemy combatants whose hatred for us is so great they would rather die trying to kill us and our children than find a decent life among us.

This is not a fight about narratives. It is actual warfare. It should be treated as such. We have no desire to become like France.

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a distinguished fellow with the Haym Salomon Center, a news and public policy group. @salomoncenter