Sunday following President Barack Obama’s address to the nation about the threat of terrorism, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) offered his response in video posted to YouTube.
Sasse explained that we were not at war with “terrorism,” which he said was a tactic, or that we were at war with “extremism,” which he called an “empty sociological label.” Instead he said the country was at war with definitive types of Islam, but not all Muslims.
Transcript as follows:
I’m Ben Sasse and I’m in San Bernardino, CA, standing outside the site were 35 of our neighbors bled this week, 14 of them died in this massacre. This neighborhood should not be a part of a war zone, this neighborhood should not be a battleground. So why is it? Because we’re an open society, we’re a free society, and our enemies hate freedom and we owe it to those who died this week to tell the truth about the nature of this conflict. We owe it to these 14. We owe it to their families. We owe it to the service men and women in uniform who are abroad right now fighting for our freedom, some of whom will come home in caskets and frankly we owe it to the families of those who are still yet to die in the future.
All adults know that the jihadi attacks we face on our homeland are not over. These will not be the last people to bleed and die because we are a free society. And so we should tell the truth about the enemy we face, we should tell the truth about them, but we should also be honest about who we are and we should reaffirm our core values.
We are not at war with terrorism, which is just a tactic. We are not at war with some empty sociological label called extremism. We are not even just at war with ISIS — though we’re obviously at war with ISIS — but there will be other enemies that will lift the black flag of death in the future even after ISIS has been routed in Syria and Iraq. This is not about workplace violence. This is not about global warming or gun shows. This is not about income inequality. This is not about kids from broken homes, as tragic as that is. This is not about anything that we have done wrong. This is about who we are. This is about the nature of freedom.
So who are we? We’re people who unite around the Constitution, we’re people who come together around a First Amendment and we together, three hundred and twenty million of us, believe in the freedom of religion, in the freedom of speech, and the freedom of assembly, and the freedom of the press.
I am not a Muslim but as an American I stand and defend the rights of American Muslims to freely worship even though we differ about important theological matters. In America we are free to believe different things and to argue about those beliefs. It matters what you think about the nature of God and whether he’s revealed himself, what you think about salvation matters, heaven and hell matters, but these things are so important that we don’t try to solve them by violence. And we come together as a community, a community of Americans who believe in the constitutional creed, to unite around those core American values like freedom of religion.
We are most certainly though at war with militant Islam. We are at war with the violent Islam. We are at war with jihadi Islam. We are not at war with all Muslims. We’re not at war with Muslim families in Dearborn, MI who want the American dream for their kids. But we are at war with those who believe that they will kill in the name of religion.
President Obama said tonight he’s worried about a backlash against American Muslims. I am too. And you know what the best way to combat that is? With the truth by being clear about who we are and what we stand for and by being clear about those who would try to kill us because we believe in freedom. We are at war with militant or jihadi in Islam but we are not at war with people who believe in the American creed which includes the right of everybody of every religion too freely worship and to freely speak and to freely assemble and argue.
We will win this battle but we will not win it without reaffirming our core values. We will win it because of who we are and because of the ways we continue to fight for a free society for all Americans.
Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor