Erick Stakelbeck is a sought after authority on terrorism and national security issues with extensive experience in television, radio, and print media. Stakelbeck is a correspondent and terrorism analyst for CBN News. He covers the global war on terror, U.S. national security, the Middle East and the growth of radical Islam at home and abroad for the network’s Washington, D.C. bureau.
it's the first rule of war: know your enemy. Yet the U.S. government refuses to use terms like "jihadists" or "radical Islamists" to describe the terrorists who attack us.
According to some in the media, the war against Islamic jihadists doesn't even exist.
When agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Amine El Khalifi recently for plotting to blow up the U.S. Capitol, most media reports identified him as simply a "Moroccan man."
Entire news reports about El Khalifi's case made no mention of the fact that he was Muslim. Neither did a top U.S. Justice Department official who labeled the al Qaeda admirer as merely "homegrown violent extremist."
Again, no mention of Islam, even though El Khalifi had prayed at a Washington-area mosque just moments before driving a van he thought was packed with explosives to the Capitol.
"He was obviously affiliated with the Islamic jihad," Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., said. "And what's very clear is that had he succeeded, the coverage would have been different."
"But wouldn't it be better if we had media coverage that talked about the potential of what could happen so we could prevent it?" she asked.
Bachmann told CBN News that political correctness takes over in mainstream reporting on Islamic terrorism.
"The world is being turned upside down because of radical Islam and our media is refusing to tell the story," Bachmann said.
"They come from a decidedly leftist world view and a secular--almost anti-secular, in a way, because they've embraced such a radical world view -- and they impose that filter through every subject they touch," she continued. "Unfortunately, this subject concerns our very survivability as a people."
Depending on who and what you read, the war against Islamic jihadists is already history.
The day after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden, CNN Terrorism Analyst Peter Bergen declared that the war on terror was over.
His CNN colleague, Fareed Zakaria, went further, writing that bin Laden's death meant radical Islam's "existential threat to the Western world" was now "gone."
"Terror is primarily a battle for the mind, and unfortunately, our best and our brightest have become our worst and dimmest," author Michael Widlanski said.
In his new book, Battle for our Minds, Widlanski argues that the American people are being misled about the Islamic terror threat.
"I'm talking about our public intellectuals, the people who are the gate keepers to our mind: our media, our academics and our government intelligence people," Widlanski said.
He said these groups have created a climate where legitimate criticism of Islamist ideology is branded as "bigoted."
"Our problem isn't Islamophobia, it's not a phobia, it's not an unreasoning fear," Widlanski explained.
"It's Islamophilia: an unreasoning love of Islam and protection of Islam," he said. "And even worse, Islam-myopia: a near-sighted, willful ignorance when it comes to things Islamic."
The problem existed through the Clinton and Bush administrations, but has reached new heights under President Obama, Widlanski continued.
The Department of Homeland Security has replaced phrases like "radical Islam" and "Islamic terrorism" with vague terms like "violent extremism "and "man-made disasters."
After a Muslim terrorist shouting "Allahu Akhbar" gunned down 13 U.S. soldiers at the Texas Fort Hood military base in 2009, a Pentagon report described the massacre as "workplace violence."
Then there is the president's top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan. Brennan has referred to Jerusalem by its Arabic name, "al Quds" and has called jihad a spiritual struggle and "legitimate tenet of Islam."
"The basic meaning of jihad in Arabic, from the Arabic root, is 'war' - a physical war," Widlanski said.
Roots of Islamic Spin
So how did the politically correct slant on Islamic jihad take root among our leaders and opinion shapers? According to Widlanski, much of it can be traced back to Edward Said, a Palestinian professor whose reach extended far beyond the classroom.
Said was an adviser to former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
During a trip to southern Lebanon, Said was photographed throwing stones at Israeli soldiers stationed on the border.
Yet these radical activities didn't stop him from becoming a celebrity professor at Columbia University, thanks to his book, Orientalism.
"In 1978, Orientalism was produced, and Said's basic idea was that the West had raped the Islamic East," Widlanski explained.
"He wanted the West to get dumb, and he succeeded," Widlanski said. "The next two generations of American students, diplomats, and agents with the Central Intelligence Agency know little to no Arabic, and they know little or no Islamic culture."
Widlanski said Said's portrayal of the West as aggressor and the Muslim world as victim had huge influence on college campuses and the mainstream media.
It also became popular at the U.S. State Department and in the intelligence community.
President Obama, who was then a state senator, even shared a table with Said at a 1998 Arab community event in Chicago.
"You can see and feel the Said message in many of the things that Obama says," Widlanski said.
Widlanski added that the Said view has done great damage to American interests, but that it's not irreversible.
"The average American understands in his gut, in her gut, what's going on. They pick up the hints," Widlanski told CBN News.
"Let's start educating our law enforcement, our security officials, the next generation of American students, to understand the Middle East, to understand terrorism, to study the languages, to study the cultures," he said. "Not with the hand-picked successors of Edward Said."