There is a right way to diminish recruitment of terrorists, and there is a wrong way.
The wrong way is to compromise our security by closing down the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.
The wrong way is to release CIA interrogation memos that fuel recruitment of terrorists and undermine the morale of the CIA officers and FBI agents who are trying to protect us.
The right way is for the president to give an honest and thoughtful speech such as Barack Obama did in Cairo.
Obama is not the first president to make the point that Islam is a largely peaceful religion. A week after 9/11, President Bush visited the Islamic Center of Washington, where he said that the acts of violence against innocents at the World Trade Center violate the tenets of the Islamic faith.
Quoting from the Quran, Bush said, “In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil.”
But given Obama’s Muslim background on his father’s side, the fact that he gave the speech in Cairo, and the way he candidly zeroed in on sensitive points of contention, the president’s speech sent a powerful message.
As Obama said, “No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust.” And actions should speak louder than words. After all, Bush liberated 50 million Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan. But, as Michael Morell, the CIA's director for intelligence, has told me, “The war [on terror] in part is about winning hearts and minds. The war is about stopping the production of terrorists. And that’s how you ultimately win this war, and that takes a whole government. We’re headed in the right direction on that, I think. But that is not going to be easy.”
According to a CIA official I interviewed for my book “The Terrorist Watch: Inside the Desperate Race to Stop the Next Attack,” terrorists “buy into certain beliefs: that the West is trying to undermine Islam everywhere, and so it is the responsibility of Muslims everywhere to attack the West. And a belief in a utopian idea of a single caliphate, a single Islamic ruler running the Muslim world.”
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One way to attack these beliefs is by “demonstrating the contradictions that exist in their arguments and by getting the message out in the media,” the CIA official observed. For example, he said, the fact that al-Qaida attacks actually kill more Muslims than non-Muslims.
That is one of the points Obama made in his speech. At the same time, Obama generally avoided the apologetic tone of his European tour. Instead, he firmly confronted the al-Qaida attack of 9/11 and condemned it.
While America is not at war with Islam, “We will . . . relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security,” Obama said. “Because we reject the same thing that all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as president to protect the American people.”
With that, Obama sounded like an American president who we want to succeed.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via
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