Brian Birdnow

The most important handicap that we face in this phase of the War on Terror is a problem that we have created by ourselves. This is the deadly scourge of political correctness, which seemingly compels many otherwise sensible Americans to deny, distort, and excuse the reality of Islamic terror. The placement of the aforementioned stories in the daily papers shows the level of importance these newspapers ascribe to the Islamic threat. These two stories ran on page A-19 of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, on Friday, June 24th, one page ahead of the local obituaries. Placing stories of terrorist plots on the back pages of the newspapers is a way of denying that these plots exist. In the case of the Post-Dispatch this is one more example of a long history of questioning terrorist attacks, and the plotting thereof. Most other major metropolitan daily papers follow the same predictable pattern.

It would be a mistake, however, to simply blame politically correct myopia on the media. Our national leaders sing from the same hymnbook. During the diplomatic maneuvering preceding the 1990-91 Persian Gulf conflict, President George H.W. Bush bent over backwards to assure the world that this would not be a clash pitting America against Islam. The President’s tiptoeing around this problem actually showed sound strategic thinking, in the sense that it brought Muslim nations like Egypt and Syria into the anti-Iraq coalition. Political correctness was not the goal here, but it was not far behind, either.

When President Bill Clinton came into office in 1993 the political correctness festival really took flight. The Clinton Administration ignored the fact that Islamic terrorists bombed the World Trade Center in 1993, bombed the Khobar Towers military housing complex in 1996, blew up two embassies in 1998, and nearly sank an American warship in 2000. One really cannot have expected anything better from an Administration beholden to affirmative action hires. The Clintonites admitted that the President selected his Attorney General and his second Secretary of State based on no discernible qualifications for those positions, save for the fact that the nominees were women. President Clinton could not have been counted on to address the ugly truth about Muslim terrorism.

After the tragic events of September 11, 2001 President George W. Bush rallied the country for what he called, “…a long slog” but W. could not help but follow the script that had by this time become commonplace. He prayed with Muslim clerics, he repeated his mantra that Islam was a religion of peace, he seemed to lump Islamic terrorism into a motley crew of unappetizing types like Neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen, and Irish Republican Army leftovers. In defense of Bush, he seemed to realize by 2007 that his good intentions were not enough, and that stern measures were needed. Belatedly he decided to increase the number of troops into Iraq, and we have won that particular battle.

Now, we have Islamic terrorism in the Age of Obama. As during the Clinton years, did we really expect a return to reality? Obama made a number of reckless campaign promises to help him win the election. He has since backed off of many of them, but he show no better grasp of the problem than many in his Party. The Obama Homeland Security Director has dropped the very term “Terrorism” from the manuals and now refers to such incidents as “Man Caused Disasters.” Granted, the Obama Administration got Osama Bin Laden. More power to them and to the splendid Navy men who accomplished the mission! Still, as the news stories quoted here show, the politically correct efforts to whitewash Islamic terrorism continue unabated.

The rush to absolve militant Islam and to downplay, if not to deny the theological role in worldwide terrorism has led many Americans to violate a cardinal rule of warfare. Strategic thinkers from Thucydides forward have argued that it is imperative to Know Your Enemy. It is impossible to win a conflict in which one side blunders about misunderstanding the enemies’ intent, because of a fundamental misunderstanding of the enemy. Political correctness blinds us to the reality of our terrorist enemy. We will not fully win the War on Terror until we come to grips with this crucial problem.

Brian Birdnow

Brian E. Birdnow is a historian and teaches at a university in the St. Louis area.