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Benjamin S.
Republican NE

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  • Being Honest With the American People

    by Senator Ben Sasse

    Posted on 2015-12-10

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    SASSE. Mr. President, earlier today it was reported that the President's Deputy National Security Adviser was asked about my call that the President and the administration speak clearly about the nature of the enemy we face--about my call that we be honest with the American people and with ourselves about the fact that we are at war with militant Islam, we are at war with jihadi Islam, and we are at war with violent Islam.

    In response, the White House was quoted in the World-Herald this morning as saying this: Our strong belief is to not treat these ISIL terrorists as leaders of some religious movement. Even if you have a derogatory adjective attached to it--radical Islam or Islamic extremism--essentially you are saying they are the leaders of a religious movement. And that is what they want. They want to be seen not as terrorists and killers and thugs, as the president said, but as leaders who speak on behalf of religion. And that is why we have not identified them as the enemy in this effort.

    This is lunacy. First, while the White House is insisting that no one use the word ``Islamic'' or note any connection between the war that we are facing and some subset of Islam--even as the White House insists that no one use the word, their own preferred adjective, ``ISIL'' or ``ISIS,'' begins with an ``I.'' Every fourth grader in America can deduce without any assistance from Vanna White what the rest of the word that begins with an ``I'' is. Yet the White House insists that no one should use the word.

    They are dealing with a world they wish were so, as opposed to the world with which we are called to struggle. The world in which we live is a world where we are going to be facing a decades-long battle with militant Islam, with jihadi Islam, with violent Islam. We are obviously not at war with all Muslims, but we are at war with those who believe they would kill in the name of religion, and the White House insists that we muzzle ourselves and not tell the truth.

    Second, the White House's logic for why we shouldn't tell the truth to the American people or to ourselves is because the leaders of ISIL supposedly want to be identified with a religious movement. The leaders of the ISIL movement and the broader jihadi movement that is trying to kill Americans and all those who believe in freedom and in open society--the leaders of this movement also want to be martyred. Isn't the President's position that we should not kill them because they desire to be martyred? This is lunacy.

    We have to speak the truth not because it alone will somehow diminish ISIS or ISIL, but because speaking the truth is actually the only way we can begin to develop policies that will not lead to more failed States in the Middle East, which are producing the terror training camps of next year.

    Despite the fact that we are actually and obviously at war with militant Islam, there is a terrible leadership vacuum in this country. The American people know this, and, frankly, those of us who are getting our classified briefings and having to engage the leadership of our national security and intelligence communities know this leadership vacuum exists. Those who are trying to keep Americans safe--there are many wonderful, freedom-loving civil servants fighting to protect our kids, and they know and experience this vacuum of leadership every day.

    This vacuum is felt outside the beltway and everywhere in America, as is obvious in many of our towns. But even more dishearteningly and more dangerously, it is increasingly obvious to the professionals working in our intelligence community and in our national security structure that this vacuum is harming our national security and our intelligence community as they try to fight for our freedom.

    Here is why this matters. This vacuum prevents them from doing their jobs. They have no strategy to deploy, they have no rational policy to implement, and they have been asked to defeat an enemy that their Commander in Chief refuses to name. This is lunacy, it is absurd, and it is unacceptable.

    Mr. President: Please lead.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Ohio.

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