Top US security official: Our enemy isn't terrorism, jihad

John Brennan says al-Qaida and its affiliates are the threat.

May 27, 2010 02:10
1 minute read.
 John Brennan, Assistant to the President and Depu

John Brennan, terrorism adviser. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)


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WASHINGTON – A top US official on Wednesday narrowly defined America’s enemy as al-Qaida and its affiliates, rejecting terms such as jihadists or Islamists, ahead of the unveiling of the country’s national security strategy.

White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan, speaking before Thursday’s roll out, pushed back against terminology frequently used by the second Bush administration as he previewed the revised US National Security Strategy.

“Our enemy is not terrorism, because terrorism is but a tactic. Our enemy is not terror because terror is a state of mind, and as Americans we refuse to live in fear,” he told the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“Nor do we define our enemy as jihadists or Islamists, because jihad is holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam that means to purify oneself or one’s community.”

He explained, “There is nothing holy or legitimate or Islamic about murdering innocent men and women and children.”

Brennan argued that using such terminology would be “counter-productive” because it would “play into the false perception that they are religious leaders defending a holy cause when in fact they are nothing more than murderers.”

That is why, he added, “Muslim leaders around the world have spoken out, forcefully, and often at great risk to their own lives, to reject al-Qaida and violent extremism.”

He criticized the media in particular for not giving their condemnations the attention they deserve.

He said that using terms connected to religion would “lend credence to the lie, propagated by al-Qaida and it affiliates to justify terrorism, that the United States is somehow at war against Islam.”

But Brennan stressed that the United States was, indeed, at war.

“We are at war against al-Qaida and its terrorist affiliates. That is why the president is responsibly ending the war in Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11.”

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