Today, USA President Barack Obama gave a speech on terrorism. He spoke of the senseless killings in Florida, and the USA’s participation in the fight agaist ISIL, aka ISIS. But beyond that, he spoke, and quite eloquently, about the fight at home. Rather than try to highlight all of the points he made, I am including the latter half of his speech as it relates directly to us here in the USA. His points about doing the work of the terrorists by using the phrase “radical Islam” and lumping the un-Islamic murdering terrorists in with all Muslims is well taken, I think. That is exactly what Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaeda, said that he hoped to do on September 11, 2001 by funding and coordinating four terrorist attacks on US soil!
President Barack Obama said we should not ban all people from Muslim countries from entering the USA, but we should certainly ban suspected terrorists, who are already banned from flying, from purchasing assault weapons. That would be the smart thing to do, but I fear the USA will not do the smart thing. Between the gun-manufacturing lobbyist NRA, and dangerous fearmongers like the Republican presumptive nominee for President, it’s possible we will fall right into the trap that bin Laden set for us: to war against an entire people because of their faith, thereby ensuring a fatwah against the USA in response. That would be stupidity of the highest order, and treason to the ideals of our republic.
OBAMA: Lastly, here at home, if we really want to help law enforcement protect Americans from home-grown extremists, the kind of tragedies that occurred at San Bernardino and that now have occurred in Orlando, there is a meaningful way to do that. We have to make it harder for people who want to kill Americans to get their hands on weapons of war that let them kill dozens of innocents.
It is absolutely true, we cannot prevent every tragedy. But we know that consistent with the Second Amendment, there are common sense steps that could reduce gun violence and could reduce the lethality of somebody who intends to do other people harm. We should give ATF the resources they need to enforce the gun laws that we already have.
People with possible ties to terrorism, who are not allowed on a plane should not be allowed to buy a gun. Enough talking about being tough on terrorism. Actually be tough on terrorism and stop making it easy as possible for terrorists to buy assault weapons.
Reinstate the assault weapons ban, make it harder for terrorists to use these weapons to kill us. Otherwise, despite extraordinary efforts across our government, by local law enforcement, by our intelligence agencies, by our military — despite all the sacrifices that folks make, these kinds of events are going to keep on happening. And the weapons are only going to get more powerful.
And let me make a final point. For a while now, the main contribution of some of my friends on the other side of the aisle have made in the fight against ISIL is to criticize the administration and me for not using the phrase “radical Islam.” That’s the key, they tell us. “We cannot beat ISIL unless we call them radical Islamists.”
What exactly would using this label would accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to try to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this?
The answer is none of the above. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction.
Since before I was president, I have been clear about how extremist groups have perverted Islam to justify terrorism. As president, I have called on our Muslim friends and allies at home and around the world to work with us to reject this twisted interpretation of one of the world’s great religions.
There has not been a moment in my 7.5 years as president where we have not been able to pursue a strategy because we didn’t use the label “radical Islam.” Not once has an adviser of mine said, “Man, if we use that phrase, we are going to turn this whole thing around,” not once.
So someone seriously thinks that we don’t know who we are fighting?
If there is anyone out there who thinks we are confused about who our enemies are — that would come as a surprise to the thousands of terrorists who we have taken off the battlefield.
If the implication is that those of us up here and the thousands of people around the country and around world who are working to defeat ISIL aren’t taking the fight seriously? That would come as a surprise to those who spent these last 7.5 years dismantling Al Qaida in the FATA, for example — including the men and women in uniform who put their lives at risk, and the special forces that I ordered to get bin Laden and are now on the ground in Iraq and in Syria.
They know full well who the enemy is. So do the intelligence and law enforcement officers who spend countless hours disrupting plots and protecting all Americans — including politicians who tweet and appear on cable news shows.
They know who the nature of the enemy is. So, there is no magic to the phrase “radical Islam.” It is a political talking point. It is not a strategy.
And the reason I am careful about how I describe this threat has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with actually defeating extremism.
Groups like ISIL and Al Qaida want to make this war a war between Islam and America, or between Islam and the West. They want to claim that they are the true leaders of over a billion Muslims around the world who reject their crazy notions.
They want us to validate them by implying that they speak for those billion-plus people, that they speak for Islam. That’s their propaganda, that’s how they recruit. And if we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims as a broad brush, and imply that we are at war with the entire religion, then we are doing the terrorists’ work for them.
Now, up until this point, this argument of labels has mostly just been partisan rhetoric, and sadly, we have all become accustomed to that kind of partisanship, even when it involves the fight against these extremist groups.
That kind of yapping has not prevented folks across the government from doing their jobs, from sacrificing and working really hard to protect the American people.
But we are now seeing how dangerous this kind of mind set and this kind of thinking can be. We are starting to see where this kind of rhetoric and loose talk and sloppiness about who exactly we are fighting, where this can lead us.
We now have proposals from the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States to bar all Muslims from immigrating into America. And you hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complacent in violence.
Where does this stop? The Orlando killer, one of the San Bernardino killers, the Fort Hood killer — they were all U.S. citizens. Are we going to start treating all Muslim-Americans differently? Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminate them, because of their faith?
We heard these suggestions during the course of this campaign. Do Republican officials actually agree with this?
Because that’s not the America we want. It does not reflect our Democratic ideals. It won’t make us more safe, it will make us less safe, fueling ISIL’s notion that the West hates Muslims, making Muslims in this country and around the world feel like, no matter what they do, they’re going to be under suspicion and under attack.
It makes Muslim-Americans feel like their government is betraying them. It betrays the very values America stands for.
We have gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear, and we came to regret it. We have seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens, and it has been a shameful part of our history.
This is a country founded on basic freedoms, including freedom of religion. We don’t have religious tests here. Our founders, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, are clear about that.
And if we ever abandon those values, we would not only make it a lot easier to radicalize people here and around the world, but we would have betrayed the very things we are trying to protect.
The pluralism and the openness, our rule of law, our civil liberties, the very things that make this country great. The very things that make us exceptional. And then the terrorists would have won and we cannot let that happen. I will not let that happen.
You know, two weeks ago I was at the commencement ceremony of the Air Force Academy and it could not have been more inspiring to see these young people stepping up dedicated to serve and protect this country.
And part of what was inspiring was the incredible diversities of these cadets. We saw cadets who are straight applauding classmates who were openly gay.
We saw cadets born here in America applauding classmates who are immigrants and love this country so much they decided they wanted to be part of our armed forces.
We saw cadets and families of all religions applaud cadets who are proud, patriotic Muslim-Americans serving their country in uniform ready to lay their lives on the line to protect you and to protect me.
We saw male cadets applauding for female classmates who can now serve in combat positions. That’s the American military. That’s America. One team. One nation.
Those are the values that ISIL is trying to destroy and we should not help them do it. Our diversity and our respect for one another, our drawing on the talents of everybody in this country, our making sure that we are treating everybody fairly, that we are not judging people on the basis of what faith they are or what race they are or what ethnicity they are or what their sexual orientation is.
That’s what makes this country great. That’s the spirit we see in Orlando. That’s the unity and resolve that will allow us to defeat ISIL. That’s what will preserve our values and our ideals that define us as Americans. That’s how we are going to defend this nation and that’s how we are going to defend our way of life. Thank you very much.