(by Patrick Goodenough, Oct. 7, 2005, CNSNews.com) – President George W. Bush clearly identified the enemy for the first time in a speech he delivered on Thursday.
So say a number of conservative commentators reacting online to the president’s speech, in which he spoke of the ideology behind Islamist terror and attempts to create a “radical Islamic empire.”
More than four years after 9/11, and after the “global war on terror” phrase was briefly sidelined by some administration officials in favor of the “global struggle against violent extremism,” Bush on Thursday chose a new and more specific emphasis.
“Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; still others, Islamo-fascism,” he said in a speech at the National Endowment for Democracy.
Bush, in fact, used the phrase “Islamic radicalism” another half dozen times during the speech.
He likened Islamic radicalism to earlier failed ideologies, primarily communism, and accused Iran and Syria of collaborating with terrorists, warning that the U.S. “makes no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those who support and harbor them.”
He also referred, without using the term, to Islamists’ vision of setting up a “caliphate” under Islamic law.
“The militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses, enabling them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region, and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia,” he said.
Many commentators in recent years, both supporters and opponents of the Bush administration, have criticized the notion of fighting a war against something as abstract as “terrorism,” calling the phrase meaningless, vague, or a politically-correct euphemism designed not to avoid offending Muslims.
The term “Islamic radicalism” was welcomed by some Thursday as a clearer and more specific definition of the enemy.
“Finally, four years after the bloodiest Jihadi attack on the Western Hemisphere, and perhaps worldwide, the President of the United States named the enemy,” said Walid Phares, a terrorism expert and professor of Middle East studies. “He used the ‘ism’ word.”
Phares, who was born and raised in Lebanon, recalled urging Bush in a letter last year to “name the ideology behind the terrorists.”
“Americans are not fighting nor being targeted by an abstract called terrorism, but a growing body of ideological concepts,” Phares said at the time. “They need to know what is it they are up against.”
“At long last, Bush has identified the enemy,” wrote Marc Shulman in a post on the weblog Israpundit, adding that “this speech represents progress for those of us who have become sick and tired of having the politically-correct word ‘terrorists’ used to describe our enemy.”
Glenn Reynolds on Instapundit said of the speech: “Notable features – besides its overall clarity – are the naming of Iran and Syria, and his willingness to talk about a war against Islamic terror, not just generic ‘terror.’ “
“There was still quite a bit of political eggshell-walking, but this marks the first time that Bush has identified and described the real goals of radical Islam – to re-establish the mythical caliphate and the global dominance of Islam,” commented Charles Johnson on Little Green Footballs.
“For the first time that I know of, the President has spoken openly about the jihadists’ dream of establishing the caliphate,” wrote Islamic specialist and author Robert Spencer on his weblog, Jihad Watch. “He still spent a lot of time in his speech talking about peaceful Islam, but this is nevertheless a step forward toward reality.”
Liberal commentators were as quick to criticize Bush’s speech, which Marc Cooper, a contributing editor to The Nation, thought “went over like a Mars bar in the diabetes ward.”
“Tired and over-used themes,” was the verdict of the Comments from Left Field blog.
“The guy just can’t let some themes go,” it said. “He yet again evokes the memories of 9/11, throws a little terror politik in there with some WMDs.”
Writing in Village Voice, liberal journalist Laura Rozen described Bush’s speech as “Churchillian mimicry” and said it remained to be seen whether it could “staunch the growing grumbling of his base.”
Reprinted here with permission from CNSNews.com. Visit the website at www.cnsnews.com.
(Read the full speech here.)
1. What phrase did President Bush use in his speech yesterday to describe the enemy?
2. What two countries did the President accuse of “collaborating with terrorists”?
3. President Bush warned that the U.S. makes no distinction between what two groups?
4. What did President Bush say is the goal of the Islamic militants? Are you surprised by this information? Explain your answer.
5. What two goals of radical Islam did President Bush identify, according to Charles Johnson? What “step forward toward reality” did Bush make, according to Robert Spencer?
6. How did the liberal commentators view of the President’s speech (para. 18-21) differ from that of the conservatives? With which view do you agree? Why?