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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Obama Orders Changes in National Security Vocabulary

It may be yesterday’s news, but some items need a certain amount of reflection and consideration of what their consequences might be, or just how developments might fit into overall trends.

As Noam Amdurski at Matzav.com points out, President Barack Obama has ordered a significant change “in the National Security Strategy, a document that previously outlined the Bush Doctrine of preventative war and currently states: ‘The struggle against militant Islamic radicalism is the great ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century.’” [1]

This conflict, previously considered to be so great, now cannot even be described as what it actually is against, “militant Islamic radicalism.”

This change is supposed to reassure Muslims that America doesn’t view them primarily as terrorist threats. But why is it necessary to change national security documents? To achieve a little positive PR that will not in any way change or ameliorate the actual threat? Well, we don’t want Muslims mad at us, but why would they care about such a document that only factually describes a situation, and should not be seen as offensive to anyone, except maybe actual terrorists.

The President has received criticism about this change. Just one example:

Peter Feaver, a Duke University political scientist and former Bush adviser, is skeptical of Obama’s engagement effort. It “doesn’t appear to have created much in the way of strategic benefit” in the Middle East peace process or in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, he said.
Obama runs the political risk of seeming to adopt politically correct rhetoric abroad while appearing tone deaf on national security issues at home, Feaver said.

The White House dismisses such criticism. In June, Obama will travel to Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, and is expected to revisit many of the themes of his Cairo speech. [2]

Of course, the White House dismisses such criticism, as they dismiss most criticism. But the professor’s point is valid, and his opinion is probably shared by most Americans familiar with the situation.

But some people live to be offended, and if they speak up (certain politically-favored ones, particularly), then everything must stop and be changed to appease them.

It may seem laudable that the President is taking steps to avoid offense, but, in fact, he is taking steps to prevent effective communication. In George Orwell’s 1984, Big Brother saw to it that the Newspeak Dictionary was revised at intervals, and always by the removal of words the regime didn’t like. He knew that words are the building blocks of thoughts, so making certain words unavailable (soon to be forgotten, it was hoped), would stop people from having thoughts offensive to the regime.

Apparently, it is offensive to Obama to refer to militant Islamic radicals in those terms, although that is the most accurate way to refer to them.

Obama’s revision of official vocabulary put FBI Director Robert Mueller in the awkward position of communicating the Islamist terrorist threat without using the prohibited words:

In Senate testimony, Robert Meuller does everything he can to suggest that he is talking about Islamic extremists. He cites Nidal Hasan’s mass murder of American soldiers at Fort Hood. He cites Mumbai attacks planner David Headley. [3]

How long before the government tries to mandate that everyone follow Obama’s example, such as schools receiving government aid, other agencies, etc.?

Front Page Magazine online had the following comments:
On October 1, 2009, the Obama administration in conjunction with the Egyptian government, introduced an anti-free speech measure to the United Nation’s Human Rights Council (HRC). It was adopted the next day without a vote….

The draft resolution, misleadingly titled “Freedom of Opinion and Expression” includes two troubling components. First, it calls on nation states to take “effective measures” to address and combat “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”. It expresses concern and condemnation of “negative stereotyping of religions and racial groups”. It further attempts to construe this as an international human rights law and obligation…. [4]

The article reports that the French ambassador, while prefacing his remarks with kind words for the resolution, pointed out that “human rights laws protect individuals in free speech and freedom of religion and does not protect belief systems.” [5]

With all due respect Mr. President: the attainment of freedom and human rights is not tantamount to winning a popularity contest. And capitulation is not leadership. It is a sad state of affairs when France refutes major portions of a United States initiative because the initiative undermines fundamental freedoms. [6]

Fortunately, the United States voted against the 2010 UN resolution on “defamation of religion,” promoted by the 57-nation OIC (Organisation of the Islamic Conference).
The non-binding resolution did pass 20-17 in the UN Human Rights Commission, with eight nations abstaining.

“Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says that any effort that could lead to the criminalization of the defamation of religion is ‘a false solution, that exchanges one wrong for another….’” [7] An accurate comment.

Atheists were concerned over the resolution, since they want to be free to criticize religion and don’t want government surveillance and control over religious or anti-religious views. [8] Under the resolution, if implemented, any negative comments about a religion could be regarded as offensive.

What seems to be desired by the proponents of this resolution is something like Canada’s ill-named “Human Rights Commission,” which has resulted in taxpayer-funded prosecutions simply on someone’s complaint of being offended. Defendants are given no legal help, and lack the rights of a criminal defendant, yet are subject to heavy fines, lifetime speech bans, etc., and truth is no defense. More information here.


The proponents want to get this resolution added to international law, so that any criticism of Islam can be criminalized. We should not move any further in that direction, but Obama is a little too inclined to follow the lead of Britain and Canada.

The unstated secret is that going to great lengths to avoid associating terrorism with Islam, and further, also making strong efforts to accommodate Muslim demands, is finally based on fear. Some Muslims have shown that they are willing to react violently when they perceive an insult. Everyone is supposed to understand this and agree that it’s justified. But it isn’t. It’s a culture clash of sorts, but freedoms deserves protection and illegal violence deserves punishment.

I certainly advocate respecting, not insulting religions, but that leaves room for criticism, even strong criticism. I advocate protecting the God-given right to free speech, which includes saying or printing things some might find offensive. If ideas have merit, they don’t need the government to protect them from competition, and if not, they don’t need the government to suppress them.

Punish illegal actions, not opinions and words. When words are suppressed, thought is impaired, as Big Brother knew well. The deterioration of language is a significant aspect of the “dumbing down” phenomenon of recent decades. And without free exchange of ideas, we don’t know who thinks what, or how to truly engage in debate or discussion.


[1] Noam Amdurski, “Obama Bans Terms ‘Islam’ and ‘Jihad’ from U.S. Security Document,” 04/07/10, Matzav.com.


[2] Matt Apuzzo, Associated Press, “‘Islamic Radicalism’ Phrase to Be Removed from Obama’s National Security Documents,” 04/07/2010, at CNS News.


[3 ] Alec Rawls, “FBI Director Tries To Warn About Home Grown Islamic Terrorists, Without Mentioning ‘Islam’ [Reader Post],” 04/17/2010, Flopping Aces, republished (found) at InfidelsAreCool.com, which identifies itself as an anti-jihad site.

[4] Deborah Weiss, “Obama’s Resolution to Stifle Free Speech on Islam – by Deborah Weiss,” 10/16/2009, Front Page Magazine, republished (found) at The International Free Press Society.


[5] AND [6] Ibid.

[7] Editorial, reflecting the views of the United States Government, “Defamation of Religion Resolution,” VOANews.com.


[8] American Atheists, “Atheists Concerned over UN Defamation of Religions Resolution,” Opposing Views.

Photo: Dreamstime.com

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