Just over a week ago, the horrific attack at a gay night club in Orlando, Florida demonstrated something many of us sadly already know: our nation is at war. From 9/11 to the Boston Marathon, from Fort Hood to Chattanooga, from San Bernardino to this latest attack in Orlando—the nation’s deadliest terror attack since 9/11—radical Islamic terrorists have been waging a relentless campaign of violent jihad on the American people.
It would seem only reasonable that after this horrendous attack, Congress would unite and find a common ground to go after our enemy. Instead, tonight the Senate will hold four votes, two of which seek to strip away our Second Amendment rights. These votes have nothing to do with fighting radical Islamic terrorists, and everything to do with political grandstanding.
So how did we get here? Over the past week, congressional Democrats, led by President Obama and Hillary Clinton, have predictably resorted to political gamesmanship and prattled on about the supposed need for more gun control, as if restricting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans will somehow prevent a committed terrorist from acquiring weapons or simply building a bomb to carry out his act of terror. This is a reckless dereliction of leadership. What happened in Orlando is not a gun control issue—it is a terrorism issue.
But to defeat the terrorist threat, we must understand it, and that requires acknowledging the nature of the threat. The common denominator tying together the terrorist attacks against America from 9/11 to Orlando is the terrorists’ ideological commitment to an extreme form of Islam that calls for waging a violent holy war to establish Islamic rule.
And yet, President Obama refuses to acknowledge that radical Islamic terrorism is the problem. Instead, just this past week, he mocked the idea that identifying the threat is a critical first step in defeating it. He said that naming the threat “radical Islam” is just a label, not a strategy.
Of course, merely uttering the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” is not some magical incantation that will make terrorism go away. But it is sheer folly to think, as the president apparently does, that a war can be fought and won without identifying and then coming to grips with the nature of the enemy. Speaking openly and honestly about the threat is not a mere label. It is an effort to understand our terrorist enemies and what motivates them so that we can devise a strategy to defeat them.
President Obama’s politically correct reluctance to attribute the terrorist threat we face with radical Islam hobbles our ability to combat it by discouraging counterterrorism agents from taking radical Islam into account when evaluating potential threats. The examples of Fort Hood, Boston, San Bernardino, and Orlando demonstrate the harmful consequences of this administration’s willful blindness.
For example, before the Fort Hood massacre, the Obama administration knew that Nidal Hasan had been in communication with a radical Islamic cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki. The Obama administration knew that Nidal Hasan had asked al-Awlaki about the permissibility of waging jihad against his fellow soldiers. All of that was known beforehand, and yet the administration did nothing. Nidal Hasan went on to murder 14 innocent souls, yelling “Allahu Akbar” as he pulled the trigger. And yet, just to underscore the blindness of this administration, even after the terror attack, the administration insisted on characterizing the attack as “workplace violence.”
With respect to the Boston bombing, Russia had informed the Obama administration that the Tsarnaev brothers were connected with radical Islamic terrorism. The administration knew that. The FBI had even gone and interviewed them. And yet once again, the administration dropped the ball. It stopped monitoring them, so the government wasn’t even aware when the elder Tsarnaev brother posted a public call to jihad on YouTube.
San Bernardino is yet another example of the administration’s abhorrent handling of the threat of radical Islamic terrorism. Once again, the administration had ample information about the individuals in question. The female terrorist had given the administration a fake address in Pakistan, and yet the so-called vetting that this administration tells us it did had failed to discover that it was a fake address. She had made calls for jihad, and yet the administration failed to discover that.
And finally, as far as the events in Orlando last weekend, Omar Mateen was reportedly interviewed not once, not twice, but three times by the FBI in 2013 and 2014. The FBI interviewed him because he was talking at his place of employment, which, ironically, was a contractor to the Department of Homeland Security about his connection to terrorist organizations.
Now, to any rational person, that is a big red flag. And yet, it’s also been reported that his coworkers were afraid to say anything because they didn’t want to be labeled anti-Muslim. We also know that when he was questioned by the FBI in 2014, according to public reports, it was because he was believed to have been connected to Moner Mohammad Abusalha, who traveled to Syria to join the terrorist organization Al-Nusra Front, and who became the first known American suicide bomber in the Syrian conflict.
The events in Fort Hood, Boston, San Bernardino and now Orlando demonstrate that this administration has failed to produce a clear-eyed strategy to defeat Islamic-inspired terrorism. Instead, it has generated such utterly unenlightening and meaningless policies as the “countering violent extremism” initiative that do more harm than good. By willfully blinding itself to the real threat, the Obama administration is fighting blind in the war on terror.
We must not sacrifice the safety and security of the United States at the altar of political correctness. It is time to cast aside those niceties and fight this war with our eyes wide open. Because radical Islamic terrorists are motivated first and foremost by the internal logic of their ideology, no amount of goodwill or negotiation will satisfy them. From their perspective, they have a religious duty to subdue or kill us no matter how we treat them. Not surprisingly, therefore, politically correct efforts to avoid giving offense have not been and will never be reciprocated.
To protect America from this terrorist threat will require defeating the radical Islamist ideology that inspires it. And that, in turn, requires destroying the credibility of the ideology in the eyes of potential adherents, as well as preventing the ideology from taking root anywhere in the United States.
Radical Islamic terrorism thrives on its ability to inspire adherents who are often willing to martyr themselves in service to the ideology. But who would become a martyr for a hopeless cause? If we are to have any chance of success in deterring terrorist attacks at home, we must go abroad to obliterate the sources of inspiration for these attacks—ISIS and al Qaeda. The United States must leverage its economic and financial clout to cut off their sources of funding, including by pressuring governments like Saudi Arabia to prevent payments to these terrorist groups and the radical Islamic clerics who enable them. But above all, the United States must be willing to wield whatever military might is necessary to utterly destroy ISIS and a resurgent al Qaeda. The Obama administration’s half-measures—to put it charitably—have failed.
Another source of inspiration for radical Islam is the Muslim Brotherhood, whose ultimate mission is the spread of Islamic law and governance, by force if need be, to all corners of the earth. The Brotherhood’s influence is far-reaching, stretching all the way to the United States—indeed, straight to the Obama White House. Unsurprisingly, because of its ideological blinders, the Obama administration naively believes that the Muslim Brotherhood is a moderate group that the United States can work with. But nothing could be further from the truth. The Brotherhood is committed to violent jihad as a means of achieving its ends. This is not only reflected in the fact that the Palestinian terrorist organization, Hamas, is affiliated with the Brotherhood, it is also reflected in the Brotherhood’s motto, which includes the exhortation that “[j]ihad is our way” and “[d]ying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” That is why I have introduced legislation that calls on the State Department to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization. The Brotherhood should be marginalized, not legitimized.
Finally, the United States must take all necessary precautions to prevent radical Islamism from implanting itself within the American body politic. To this end, I have introduced two pieces of legislation that would help shield the United States from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.
The first is the Terrorist Refugee Infiltration Prevention Act (TRIPA). This bill is a response to President Obama’s promise to bring 10,000 refugees from Syria to the United States this year, despite his own FBI Director’s testimony to Congress that there is no way to ensure the refugees are not potential terrorists.
TRIPA would temporarily bar any refugee who is from a country that is controlled in substantial part by ISIS, al Qaeda, or any other designated foreign terrorist organization, including specifically Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. Given the existential nature and scope of the threat radical Islamic terrorism poses, the limitations on our ability to screen the flood of refugees, and the obligations of our government to provide for the safety and security of all Americans, we simply cannot accept refugees from countries that have a significant terrorist presence until the terrorist threat has been eliminated.
The second bill is the Expatriate Terrorist Act (ETA). This legislation would allow for American citizens who go overseas and join a terrorist group like ISIS to lose their citizenship. This will help prevent citizens from returning to the United States to wage jihad on America.
To be sure, these proposals are just a small part of the comprehensive anti-terror strategy we must adopt, if we are to reverse the missteps of the current administration. Much more needs to be done, such as improving our counterterrorism capabilities, securing the border and hardening our immigration system—especially the asylum process, to prevent terrorist infiltration—and empowering more Americans to bear arms in defense of themselves and their neighbors. It is unfortunate that the Democrats would rather use a horrific terrorist attack to advance partisan ends like gun control. Until we get serious about defeating radical Islamic terrorism, we will not be prepared to stop future attacks that are sure to come.
Ted Cruz is a Republican senator representing the state of Texas.