Former Vice President Dick Cheney was castigated widely when he declared two weeks ago that Barack Obama was “dithering” with respect to Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s urgent request for the dispatch of additional troops to Afghanistan.
President Obama’s astonishing response to the murderous attack at Fort Hood suggests the commander in chief is not merely a ditherer, but someone who reflexively subordinates national security to political considerations.
I appeared Thursday night on Lars Larson's terrific nationally syndicated talk radio program. He pointed out something probably missed by those who did not catch in real-time the president’s first public comments on the Fort Hood attack in which 13 members of the armed forces were killed and more than 30 others wounded. Mr. Obama delivered them during a previously scheduled appearance at the White House “Tribal Nations Conference.”
Lars remarked that, as the Nation and the world waited to hear the President’s response to this horrific incident — what light he could shed on who did it and the motive, as well, of course, as an expression on behalf of all Americans of sympathy and solidarity with the victims and their loved ones — the commander in chief’s focus was elsewhere.
From the outset and for fully two minutes, Mr. Obama did what he does best: He pandered to a special interest of political value to him and his agenda. In this case, the panderees were Native Americans. Following is what the president felt compelled to say before he got around to addressing the act of home-grown terror at one of America’s most important military installations, according to the White House transcript,.
“Let me first of all just thank [Interior Secretary] Ken [Salazar] and the entire Department of the Interior staff for organizing just an extraordinary conference. I want to thank my Cabinet members and senior administration officials who participated today. I hear that Dr. Joe Medicine Crow was around, so I wanted to give a shout-out to that Congressional Medal of Honor [actually, Dr. Crow received the Presidential Medal of Freedom] winner. It’s good to see you. (Applause.)
“My understanding is that you had an extremely productive conference. I want to thank all of you for coming and for your efforts, and I want to give you my solemn guarantee that this is not the end of a process but a beginning of a process, and that we are going to follow up. (Applause.) We are going to follow up. Every single member of my team understands that this is a top priority for us. I want you to know that, as I said this morning, this is not something that we just give lip service to. And we are going to keep on working with you to make sure that the first Americans get the best possible chances in life in a way that's consistent with your extraordinary traditions and culture and values.
“Now, I have to say, though, that beyond that, I plan to make some broader remarks about the challenges that lay ahead for Native Americans, as well as collaboration with our administration, but. . . ”
It was only at that point, roughly half-way into his remarks, that Mr. Obama finally turned to what he called “a tragic shooting at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas.” He then proceeded to take about the same amount of time to note that the details were not fully known but that “a number of American soldiers have been killed, and even more have been wounded in a horrific outburst of violence.” He sympathized and promised to keep those lost and harmed and their loved ones in “our thoughts and prayers.”
(When Lars Larson pointed out this extraordinary sequence of presidential comments, my immediate reaction was to hearken back to the relatively few seconds it took George W. Bush on Sept. 11, 2001, to internalize and respond to the first news that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.
(Michael Moore's virulently anti-Bush film “Fahrenheit 911” damningly transformed that brief moment in a Florida classroom into an agonizingly protracted period of indecision and cynical calculation. I mused on air whether Moore and his ilk would now find similar fault with The One, whose initial public reaction to the Fort Hood attack made W’s to 9/11 seem a model of swift decisiveness, even though the former had had several hours to take aboard reports of the attack and to decide how to address it. Fat chance.)
Then, with a final pandering promise — “I am confident that this [conference] is going to be resulting in terrific work between this government and your governments in the weeks, the months, and years to come” — the commander in chief was off to his next pressing engagement.
Perhaps the president publicly handled this attack as he did because he was unsettled by the fact that the alleged shooter is a devout Muslim, Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who evidently adheres to the theo-political-legal program authoritative Islam calls “Shariah.”
Now, Shariah requires its adherents to engage in jihad — the imposition of Islam, by force wherever possible. This reality was characteristically obscured by Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, a Muslim Brotherhood front and unindicted co-conspirator in a terrorism financing conspiracy.
During a news conference, he preposterously declared: “No political or religious ideology could ever justify or excuse such wanton and indiscriminate violence.”
Actually, Shariah not only justifies such violence but also demands it.
To cite but one example of the requirement for individual Muslims to wage jihad, Shariah expert Andrew Bostom observes that the influential Ottoman cleric, Sheikh Shawish, wrote in 1915:
“To whoever kills even one single infidel of those who rule over Islamic lands, either secretly or openly, there is a reward like a reward from all the living ones of the Islamic world. And let every individual of the Muslims in whatever place they may be, take upon him an oath to kill at least three of four of the ruling infidels, enemies of Allah, and enemies of the religion. He must take upon him this oath before Allah Most High, expecting his reward from Allah alone, and let the Muslim be confident, if there be to him no other good deed than this, nevertheless he will prosper in the day of judgment and we ask the Most High to extend the People of the Faith by the favor of their Lord.”
In short, the Fort Hood “outburst of violence” (to use the president’s formulation), looks like the first successful incident of jihadist mass murder in America since 9/11. This could not be a message happily conveyed by a chief executive committed to “outreach to the Muslim world” and so deprecating of his predecessor, who had managed for seven years to prevent such incidents here in America.
Whatever Mr. Obama’s motivation for his conduct Thursday, it provides an important insight into the inadequacies of his wartime leadership. However much he tries to cloak his administration’s protracted dithering over Afghanistan with a laudable determination to “get the decision right,” however much he denies the toxic reality of Shariah and both the violent and stealthy jihad it requires, this president’s preoccupation with politics — and, in particular, with currying favor with his base — seems an integral part of his genetic code.
Unfortunately, to the extent such a hard-wiring interferes with, or at least takes precedence over, his responsibilities as commander in chief, the lives of more Americans — probably civilian, as well as military — are likely to be lost unnecessarily, at home and abroad.
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and host of the nationally syndicated program, “Secure Freedom Radio.”
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