by Greg Campbell
Yesterday, President Obama nominated former Senator Chuck Hagel for the Secretary of Defense position. In addition to the controversies his appointment will inevitably bring, Obama will likely have to answer tough questions regarding his nomination for the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan.
Brennan has served as Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, though Brennan has received criticism for a decidedly softer stance on the “War on Terror.”
In May of 2010, Brennan raised eyebrows for Republicans and Democrats alike when he called jihad a “legitimate tenet of Islam.”
“The president’s top counterterrorism adviser on Wednesday called jihad a ‘legitimate tenet of Islam,’ arguing that the term ‘jihadists’ should not be used to describe America’s enemies.
During a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, John Brennan described violent extremists as victims of ‘political, economic and social forces,’ but said that those plotting attacks on the United States should not be described in “religious terms.”
He repeated the administration argument that the enemy is not ‘terrorism,’ because terrorism is a ‘tactic,’ and not terror, because terror is a ‘state of mind’ — though Brennan’s title, deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism and homeland security, includes the word ‘terrorism’ in it. But then Brennan said that the word ‘jihad’ should not be applied either.
‘Nor do we describe our enemy as “jihadists” or “Islamists” because jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one’s community, and there is nothing holy or legitimate or Islamic about murdering innocent men, women and children,’ Brennan said…
But Brennan argued that it would be ‘counterproductive’ for the United States to use the term, as it would ‘play into the false perception’ that the ‘murderers’ leading war against the West are doing so in the name of a ‘holy cause.’
‘Moreover, describing our enemy in religious terms would lend credence to the lie propagated by Al Qaeda and its affiliates to justify terrorism — that the United States is somehow at war against Islam,’ he said.”
At a time when America was still at war in Afghanistan and Iraq, Brennan’s remarks about the legitimacy of jihad, quite predictably, rubbed many the wrong way. After taking issue with an opinion piece by The Washington Post, Brennan sat down for an interview and when asked for an example of a jihad in history, claimed, “I’m not going to go into this sort of history discussion here.” When the interviewer reiterated the claims by leading Islamic spiritual leaders who call for jihad that jihads are violent in nature, Brennan stormed out and said, “I think we’ve finished. I have to get going.”
While it may be impossible to find a politician or political figure that has remained untouched by controversy, the nomination of Brennan and Hagel appear to be business as usual for an administration that has made it increasingly clear that scandals are not grounds for disqualification for consideration of top positions.