Center for Strategic Communication

by Steven R. Corman

Jeffrey Imm over at CT Blog did a post yesterday admiring Rep. Hoekstra’s attempt to amend H.R. 5959 to deny DHS and NCTC the ability to expend any funds in their efforts to discourage use of words like “jihad” in U.S. strategic communication. The amendment was defeated, but passed and 249 members of the House (and 6 of 8 members of the Arizona delegation, including my own Congressman) voted for it.

Question (from Rep. Hoekstra, in speaking for the amendment):

Al Qaeda itself uses these terms to describe its fight against America, our allies, and moderate Muslims around the world. Why then would we prohibit our intelligence professionals from using the same words to accurately describe al Qaeda’s stated goals?

Answer: Because using these words helps label the extremists as holy warriors who are doing their deeds on behalf of God.  This supports a communication strategy of al Qaeda to legitimize themselves in the eyes of important audiences in the Muslim world by excusing themselves for doing things like killing thousands of innocent civilians in the World Trade Center.  Since they are working on behalf of God, their twisted logic goes, then ipso facto God must have willed those innocent civilians to die, meaning they haven’t done anything wrong.

The argument that we should use language like “jihadi” because that’s what the Bad Guys call themselves is laughable. To a thinking person, the very fact that “Al Qaeda itself uses these terms to describe its fight against America” should be reason enough to avoid them.  We didn’t go around describing Germans as the “master race” in World War II, did we?  Or do Rep. Hoekstra, Mr. Imm, the 249 Representatives who voted for the amendment, and the 900 people who signed a petition against its defeat have so much respect for Osama bin Laden that they want to let him define the terms in the War of Ideas?

Of course not.  As everyone knows, he who defines the terms wins the debate.  This makes me wonder just what debate these people are trying to win.  Is there some hidden religio-political agenda at work here, where the objective is to tar all Muslims with the actions of the violent extremists?  It is hard to think of another plausible motive for supporting al Qaeda’s communication strategy.  If there is one, I wish someone would explain it to me.