White House: War Against ISIS Is ‘Not A Religious War’

White House press secretary Josh Earnest answers questions about the upcoming budget proposal from President Barack Obama, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked again today why the Obama administration refuses to refer to the fight against ISIS as a struggle against radical Islamic terrorism.

“They would love nothing more then for the United States to engage or the West to engage in a religious war with them,” Earnest explained to CNN’s Jim Acosta during the briefing.

“But the fact of the matter is, that is not what this is, this is not a religious war, this is not a war on Islam, and those individuals do not represent Islam, the leaders of Islam say as much.”

Earnest cited a “treasure trove” of letters recovered from the mission to kill Osama bin Laden as a defense of the White House strategy, pointing to “clear evidence” that the leader was upset with the how the fight was perceived.

“Osama bin Laden was frustrated, that Al-Qaeda was being recognized and acknowledged and fought, not as a religious organization, but as a terrorist group,” Earnest said, pointing out that bin Laden actually considered changing the name to identify it more closely with Islam.

Earnest explained that part of the White House strategy was to be “crystal clear” about what exactly the United States was fighting in the Middle East – and that he was willing to take “some flack” from the press for refusing to identify the enemy as radical Islamists.

“It’s worth it, if that’s what we need to do to make sure that we’re going to continue to succeed in countering this radical ideology,” he said.