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McCaul: Islamist Terrorism ‘Not a Passing Phenomenon’

In the years since Al Qaeda attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, the easy transmission of extremist propaganda has allowed the threat of global jihad to metastasize. In confronting the threat ofIslamist extremism, however, failure to recognize the ideological underpinnings of Islamist extremism has made it difficult for the United States to blunt the progress of Islamist terrorist groups.

In order to ensure the long-term security of the United States and its allies, the House Committee on Homeland Security convened a hearing Tuesday to review the scope of the threat and examine ways to combat Islamist extremism at home and abroad.

“The rise of violent Islamist extremism we are witnessing around the globe is not a passing phenomenon,” said committee chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas). “Today’s armies of Islamist terrorists are radicalizing new generations and the networks they are forming threaten the security of the West – including the United States. The War against Islamist terror will be the great struggle of this century, and we cannot allow these barbarians to hold any safe havens where they can train and plot against us.”

The Islamic State (ISIS) has drawn over 20,000 foreign fighters, including 180 Americans and 3,000-5,000 other Westerners, to join extremists in Iraq and Syria. Given that these radicalized individuals are only a plane fly away, the threat of Islamic terrorism is not relegated to the Middle East alone.

Editor’s note: read the exclusive Homeland Security Today report, Migration of Radicalized European Muslims to Syria to Engage in Jihad Widespread Problem, Study Shows.

New America Foundation Senior Fellow Philip Mudd testified that the terror battleground has evolved tremendously since 9/11 due to the virtual geography of terrorist propaganda, radicalization and recruitment. The virtual nature of propaganda efforts has made it difficult to target individuals who are radicalization nodes, since the nodes are difficult to trace, and easily altered, sheltered or movedby the adversary.

Over the course of the past year, ISIL has shown mastery of social media and other online tools as a mechanism for spreading propaganda, recruiting followers and calling for attacks on American soil. McCaul noted that since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, there have been at least 97 homegrown terror plots, with more than three-fourths taking place in the past five years.

As Homeland Security Today reported in December, an entire issue of Inspire magazine—published by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)—was dedicated to inspiring lone wolf jihadists in the US and the West, and especially urged attacks on commercial passenger planes.

Brian Michael Jenkins, senior adviser to the RAND president at The RAND Corporation, testified that both Al Qaeda and ISIS believe communications are as important as the armed struggle. The Internet, and social media in particular, have allowed the jihadist message to be broadcast to a larger audience and to fuel instability in regional conflicts.

“ISIS presents a long-term threat. It has brutally murdered Westerners who fell into its hands,” Jenkins said. “It has urged its supporters in the West to carry out terrorist attacks in their own countries and has applauded them when they have done so. And it continues to attract large numbers of Western recruits.”

US is losing the battle against cultural jihad

In developing a narrative to counter terrorist propaganda, President Obama has failed to address the ideology by behind these extremist organizations. McCaulbelieves the administration’s failure to address this ideology has allowed Islamist terrorist groups to spread like wildfire and will continue to curb efforts to counter global jihadism unless the US begins to identify these attacks for what they are: attacks by Islamist jihadists.

Editor’s note: read the Homeland Security Today report, Past, Present Officials at Odds on Extent, Seriousness, Understanding of Islamism.

“The rise of radicalism we are witnessing today is not just a passing phenomenon,” McCaul said. “The war against Islamist terror will be the great struggle our lifetime, the great struggle of this century, and I believe we have a moral and strategic obligation to fight it with all tools at our disposal. Just as communism and fascism before it, Islamist extremism is a cancer that must be destroyed.”

General Michael Hayden (USAF-Ret.), former director of the CIA and National Security Agency, told the committee that in looking at the current conflict in the Levant, there are actually three wars going on simultaneously.

The first is an intra-Sunni battle, in one case pitting Isis against Al Qaeda, the second is Sunni-Shia, and the third conflict is the challenge of reconciling Islam with what those in the West call modernity. Hayden said the common thread across these three conflicts is Islam.

“This is fundamentally a struggle over ideas, and unfortunately it is a struggle over which we, as largely a Judeo Christian nation, have only limited influence,” Hayden said. “We can try to set the conditions for success, by empowering and protecting moderate voices, for example. We also have to look to our own safety by resorting to force to kill or capture those already committed to doing us violence.”

“But over the long term, the only solution lies within Islam itself,” Hayden stated.

Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, testified there is a two-fold nature to the global war on terror: violent jihad and cultural jihad. In the battle against cultural jihad, the US is losing.

Failure to engage in honest dialogue on the ideology driving radical Islamist jihadists has led to the current administration referring to the Department of Defense describing the jihadi attack at Fort Hood as “workplace violence” and the President’s reference to the recent attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris as “random” killings.

“Cultural Jihad is more insidious and in many ways more dangerous,” Gingrich said. “Cultural Jihad strikes at our very ability to think and to have an honest dialogue about the steps necessary for our survival.”

“Cultural jihad is winning when the administration censors training documents and lecturers according to ‘sensitivity’ so that they cannot describe radical Islamists with any reference to the religious ideology which is the primary bond that unites them,” Gingrich continued. “In the 14 years since the 9/11 attacks, we have gone a long way down the road of intellectually and morally disarming in order to appease the cultural jihadists who are increasingly aggressive in asserting their right to define how the rest of us think and talk.”

Gingrich noted that it’s impossible to defeat an enemy we cannot define. Homeland Security Today previously reported that the White House came under scrutiny from senior counterterrorism and Intelligence Community officials for omitting “Islam” from the title of its “Summit on Countering Violent Extremism” held in the wake of the Paris attacks.

Similarly, US and Western government officials are refusing to call the attacks in Paris “Islamic.” Speaking to a group of Special Forces members, former Defense Intelligence Agency director and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn said, “You cannot defeat an enemy you do not admit exists,” adding that the Obama administration is unwilling to identify an enemy that is “committed to the destruction of freedom and the American way of life.”

Citing Sun Tzu’s Art of War, Gingrich said "all warfare is based on deception.” In this war, by failing to define the enemy, US officials are deceiving themselves. This failure of leadership makes it impossible to devise a strategy for an enemy the US cannot name.

“This is Orwellian double-speak,” Gingrich declared, adding, “The radical Islamists do not need to be de-legitimized. They need to be defeated. We cannot defeat what we cannot name.”

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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