NEW YORK — On the sixteenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorist attacks, President Donald Trump did not once mention the terms “radical Islam” or “Islamic terrorism” during a commemoration ceremony at the Pentagon.
Those phrases were also not mentioned in speeches today by other Trump administration senior officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Instead of naming the enemy, Trump seemingly went out of his way to use other descriptors in his speech, including “terrorists who attacked us,” “barbaric forces of evil and destruction,” “horrible, horrible enemies,” “enemies of all civilized people,” and “enemies like we’ve never seen before.”
Similarly, Pence, speaking at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, referred to the scourge as “evil terrorists” and “global terrorism.” Pence did mention “the barbarians known as ISIS,” calling the global jihadist group by its acronym instead of the Islamic State.
Mattis, addressing the same Pentagon memorial as Trump, outwardly minimized the Islamic motivations of the terrorists by calling them “maniacs disguised in false religious garb.” He referred to “attackers perpetrating murder” on that fateful day, not even using the words “terrorist” or “terrorism.”
Sessions perhaps came closest to prescribing a religious ideology, calling out “extremists” who “seek to impose their speech codes, their religion, their theocracy.”
“For these extremists, it’s more than religion; it’s ideology,” he stated. “We have no choice but to defend against it.”
But Sessions did not mention a specific religion and did not expound upon which ideology the terrorists maintain.
When speaking of common threads among terrorists, Sessions also failed to mention the one major thread of Islam when he stated:
While the threats we face are diverse and evolving, terrorist ideologies have one thing in common: their disregard for the dignity of human life and they share an obsession with forcing everyone into their twisted ideology. And the terrorists know they can’t persuade people using reason, so they use coercion and intimidation. They seek acquiescence and inaction.
Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke released a brief statement that referred to the 9/11 radical Islamic jihadist perpetrators as “terrorists.”
Trump’s reluctance to name the actual enemy contrasts with speeches he gave in the past, including during the 2016 presidential campaign, in which he repeatedly utilized the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.”
“America was under attack,” stated Trump at Monday’s Pentagon memorial, a passive tone that did not specify who the attackers were.
“Today, our entire nation grieves with you and with every family of those 2,977 innocent souls who were murdered by terrorists 16 years ago,” he stated.
“The terrorists who attacked us thought they could incite fear and weaken our spirit. But America cannot be intimidated, and those who try will soon join the long list of vanquished enemies who dared to test our mettle.”
Trump went on to use various other terms to describe the enemy:
In the years after September 11, more than five million young men and women have joined the ranks of our great military to defend our country against barbaric forces of evil and destruction. American forces are relentlessly pursuing and destroying the enemies of all civilized people, ensuring — and these are horrible, horrible enemies, enemies like we’ve never seen before — but we’re ensuring they never again have a safe haven to launch attacks against our country. We are making plain to these savage killers that there is no dark corner beyond our reach, no sanctuary beyond our grasp, and nowhere to hide anywhere on this very large earth.
So here at this memorial, with hearts both sad and determined, we honor every hero who keeps us safe and free, and we pledge to work together, to fight together, and to overcome together every enemy and obstacle that’s ever in our path.
Pence did quote a previous statement from Trump about terrorists’ “radical ideology” but, like the other administration officials speaking, did not say what that ideology was:
But under the leadership of President Donald Trump, as our commander-in-chief, our armed forces have ISIS on the run in Iraq and Syria, and we will not rest or relent until we hunt down and destroy them at their source. Some four weeks ago, President Trump expressed the full commitment of the United States to, in his words, “destroy terrorist organizations and the radical ideology that drives them.
The uniform lack of the mention of radical Islamic terrorism from the administration Monday comes after previous reports that H.R. McMaster, Trump’s embattled national security adviser, has petitioned against using the phrase.
In February, CNN cited a source inside a National Security Council meeting quoting McMaster as saying that use of the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” is unhelpful in working with allies to fight terrorism.
In May, McMaster spoke on ABC’s This Week about whether Trump would use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” in a speech that the president was about to give in Saudi Arabia. “The president will call it whatever he wants to call it,” McMaster said. “But I think it’s important that, whatever we call it, we recognize that [extremists] are not religious people. And, in fact, these enemies of all civilizations, what they want to do is to cloak their criminal behavior under this false idea of some kind of religious war.”
This reporter previously exposed numerous instances of McMaster’s minimizing the Islamic motivations of radical Muslim terrorists.
Breitbart News unearthed a 2014 speech on the Middle East in which McMaster claimed that Islamic terrorist organizations are “really un-Islamic” and are “really irreligious organizations” who cloak themselves in the “false legitimacy of Islam.”
Delivering the keynote address at last April’s Norwich University ROTC Centennial Symposium, McMaster criticized “modern day barbarians like Daesh and al-Qaeda who cynically use a perverted interpretation of religion to perpetuate ignorance, incite hatred, and commit the most heinous crimes against innocents.”
Breitbart News also reported that McMaster endorsed and touted a book that frames jihad as a largely peaceful “means to struggle or exert effort,” such as waking up early in the morning to recite prayers. It argues that groups like al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations have hijacked the concept of jihad to wage warfare using such tactics as suicide bombings.
That same book calls Hamas an “Islamist political group” while failing to categorize the deadly organization as a terrorist group and refers to al-Qaeda attacks and anti-Israel terrorism as “resistance.”
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, Aaron Klein Investigative Radio. Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.