Zumwalt: Obama’s Legacy: America’s Perception of Terrorism

One of Barack Obama’s first actions as president was ensuring the American public understood what terrorism does not involve.

Obama’s Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, quickly sought to dumb down the public’s perception on terrorism. While most Americans recognized terrorism as involving the use of violence and intimidation to pursue one’s political goals, Napolitano sought to impart a “kinder, gentler” perspective on it.

When asked, after addressing Congress for the first time in 2009, why she never mentioned the word terrorism, Napolitano responded it was preferable to call such acts “man-caused” disasters. She suggested doing so “is perhaps only a nuance, but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur.”

Of course, in the aftermath of years of terrorist attacks against American targets – such as the 1983 bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa, the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen and the 9/11 attacks, all performed by Islamic extremists – we thought we already had a pretty good handle as to what terrorism was and who, primarily, was responsible for it. Apparently, we did not.

Napolitano’s logic in such reasoning was lost on many and, fortunately, the words “man-caused disaster” never caught on. Contributing perhaps to this failure was listings of top disasters caused by man failing to recognize intentional violence. The common factor in all was that they were accidents. None involving malicious intent.

One wonders if Napolitano regretted using such a nondescript definition when, in April 2010, the infamous Gulf of Mexico oil spill (also a man-made disaster) began making headlines.

But Napolitano’s attempt to minimize the dark side of terrorism (as if a lighter side exists) marked the beginning of an eight-year effort of Obama double-speak to hide Islamic terrorism’s sinister intentions and to mold the public’s perception of it.

Such double-speak quickly came into play later that year when self-admitted Islamist Major Hasan Nidal went on a shooting rampage, killing thirteen and wounding more than 30 unarmed victims at Fort Hood in Texas.

Two words unmentioned following the attack were “terrorism” and “Islam.” To avoid suggesting the former’s linkage, Obama dubbed it an act of “workplace violence.” The dead and wounded were unable to qualify for various benefits that combat victims normally did, until action by Congress worked around Obama’s double-speak.

President Obama continued to use similar language for obvious Islamist terror acts during his term.

After a Muslim declaring his loyalty to ISIS shot and killed dozens at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, earlier this year, Obama finally used the word “terror,” but only in the context “we” were the ones responsible for it. How so? We refused to change our attitudes about the gay community or to demonstrate a willingness to address gun control.

Thus, a primary motivator for the Muslim killer’s rampage, Islam’s mandate to kill gays, was hidden behind Obama’s double-speak about homophobia and gun control.

Even when a mother who had lost a son in the fight against Islamism pressed Obama as to why he refuses to link terrorism and Islam, the president suggested the question was a “sort of manufactured” issue. He then explained that, while groups like al Qaeda and ISIL have “perverted and distorted” Islam using it as a vehicle for “barbarism and death,” he refused to lump such murderers into the billions of peaceful Muslims around the world.

Obama appears to firmly believe that if you lie long enough to Americans, they will start to believe what you tell them. Unfortunately, it has worked, as evidenced by university campuses today turning the terrorist spotlight not upon Islam but upon America.

A humanities course taught at the University of Colorado does not equate terrorism to the acts of Islamic extremists but, rather, to our Founding Fathers! That is because, they argue, the Revolutionary War was not about freedom but establishing an economic system founded upon slavery and racism. And, after almost two and a half centuries of freedom, apparently America fares no better as an Orange Coast psychology professor teaches. The election results were “an act of terrorism,” she claims, as the electoral college process allows a population’s minority to assault the majority.

Obama’s legacy has promoted our Founding Fathers as terrorists and Islamic terrorists as not. Welcome to the world of bizarro!

Lt. Colonel James G. Zumwalt, USMC (Ret.), is a retired Marine infantry officer who served in the Vietnam war, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf war. He is the author of “Bare Feet, Iron Will–Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam’s Battlefields,” “Living the Juche Lie: North Korea’s Kim Dynasty” and “Doomsday: Iran–The Clock is Ticking.” He frequently writes on foreign policy and defense issues.


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