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by Susanne M. Reyto


"Overseas contingency operation."
"Man caused disaster."
"Anti-Islamic activity."

These are the currently required terms by our government, for "Global War on Terror," "Terrorism," and "Islamic terrorism." I am not only baffled by these new phrases but have great difficulty remembering them, since the words don't convey the facts.

The directive for using the "proper" terminology in official announcements was not a casual request but part of an official memo from no less than Janet Napolitano, our Secretary of Homeland Security. This deliberate obscurantism is frightening.

Many of her contradictory pronouncements invite comparisons to the manipulations of language in George Orwell's 1984. According to her recent comments on CNN, "Illegal immigration is not a crime." Of course, anything "illegal" is a crime by definition.

Secretary Napolitano now also avoids using the term "terrorism, dropping the terms "terror" and "vulnerability" from her prepared remarks delivered to the House Homeland Security Committee. On another occasion when the Secretary was asked why she does not talk about terror specifically, she said terrorism fits into what she calls "action directives" issued by her office. These appear to be internal memos, apparently preventing the public from being properly informed. (The new lexicon could also include current interpretation for serial killers and serial rapists as man-caused afflictions.)

An official memo from the National Counterterrorism Communication Center directs the replacement of terrorists with vague words like "extremists or totalitarians." Officials are to "refrain from using so-called harsh words or Arabic words with Islamic consequence." Instead they are to use generic terms without specific emphasis. "Jihad" is used by the radicals themselves; why can't we use it? Going one step further, the government has drafted official guidelines in the publication. "Terminology to Define the Terrorists: Recommendations from American Muslims, a guide for U.S. Government Officials." In their infinite wisdom, the government asked Muslims — many of whom may well adhere to the political ideology of submission under Islam and Shari'a Law — to assist with the publication.

Language is critical. It shapes our thinking and determines our action. The enemy's perilous intensions cannot be blurred. If we do not name them, we cannot confront them. If we do not properly describe them we cannot defeat them. These new expressions mislead the public and confuse our law enforcement officers. The government's revised phrases minimize the reality they are intended to convey. Under the "Global War on Terror," terrorists can be held indefinitely. But, if we refuse to actually call it "war" and call our enemies "detainees," they will be treated as regular criminals benefiting from our legal system. To make matters worse, under the new "global justice" initiative, President Obama through the Justice Department has ordered FBI agents to read Miranda rights to high value detainees captured and held in U.S. detention facilities in Afghanistan. It seems that "sensitivity" to our enemy takes precedence over our security.

President Obama stated in his Cairo speech June 4, 2009, "Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims." The president also characterized the terrorist attacks as a "cycle of suspicion and discord," rather than hatred and genocide. "Small" is also a relative concept. Even if the percentage of radicals is small — 10 percent of 1.5 billion Muslims — the impact of 150 million hard core Islamists is significant. Minimizing jihad against the West and particularly in America is a grave mistake.

A vast majority of imams preach Islam's goal: world domination. While we must not call all Muslims terrorists, violence is inherent in Islam, and the radicals cite the Qur'an as the foundation for their actions. Prominent imams preach that there will be no peace until everybody converts and Islam rules. Sheik Ibrahim Mudeiris declared in a sermon on PA TV on May 13, 2005, "We have ruled the world before, and by Allah, the day will come when we will rule the entire world again." What part of this do we and our government not understand? Evidently all of it, since the administration is requesting Congress change U.S. law to permit aid to Hamas in the event that it becomes part of a unified Palestinian government, although Hamas has a past, present and likely future as a terrorist organization.

Murderous intentions are hardly confined to "Palestine." Kuwaiti professor, Abdullah Al-Nafisi on Al Jazeera TV declared on February 2 of this year, "Four pounds of anthrax...carried by a fighter through tunnels from Mexico into the US, are guaranteed to kill 330,000 Americans within a single hour...9/11 will be a small change in comparison."

In fact, such hatred is not uncommon among Muslims within our own borders. Dr. Salla Sultan,[1] an Egyptian cleric living in the United States stated on Al-Nas TV on December 28, 2008, "America, which gave Israel everything it needed in these [Gaza] battles, will suffer economic stagnation, ruin, destruction and crime, which will surpass what is happening in Gaza." He then vowed, "the U.S. will suffer more deaths than all those killed in this third Gaza holocaust. This will happen soon." These words were spoken in America by a man who is trying[2] to become a citizen. Does this not horrify the public and our leaders? Is this the so-called religion of peace that we are trying to appease?

Peace, according to Webster's Dictionary, means a state of calm and quiet or freedom from disturbing thoughts or emotions. For Muslims this means cessation of resistance to Islam. Qur'an 8:38-40 says, "O believer. Fight them until there is no more oppression and until the whole Deen (Way of Life) is for Allah alone." According to this interpretation, Peace exists when Islam rules politically and religiously and its principles are the laws of the land. But, this Shari'a (Islamic) law is not compatible with our Constitution.

Words matter. The distorted use of language is a great danger within America, and well beyond. Author Joe Queenan has joked[2] that, following Obama's move:

[T]he Taliban announced that it will no longer refer to its favorite method of murder as "beheadings," but will replace it with "cephalic attrition." "Flayings" a barbarously exotic style of execution will now be described as "unsolicited epidermal reconfigurations." Similarly, cutting off captives's arms will now be referred to as "appendage furloughing."

Jokes notwithstanding, the actions remain just as brutal, whether practiced by jihadists abroad or terrorists at home. Linguistic mixed signals are naïve and reckless in international relations where strength of character and decisiveness are essential. We must retain our moral integrity, our precious language, and not compromise our freedom and liberty. Ronald Reagan in 1984 stated, "We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free."  





The Homeland Security Department (HSD) issued a file of classes of potential domestic terrorists and extremists on their watch list -- Islamic terrorists are specifically excluded. It lists definitions for key terms and phrases used by the HSD. It has been withdrawn, HSD stating it was released without authorization. You can download by clicking here. It provides interesting insight into HSD thinking. Its emphasis is on right-wind extremists, and suggests returning veterans are potential terrorists.


Susanne M. Reyto is a speaker and award winning author of Pursuit of Freedom: A True Story of the Enduring Power of Hope and Dreams. Her horrific personal experiences of surviving Communism in Hungary energize her mission. Her website is She may be reached at

This article appeared June 19, 2009 on Front Page Magazine


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