The Obama administration needs to square with the American people about the real threats posed by the Islamic State (ISIS), including calling the group's members radical Islamists, former National Security Agency Director and retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden said Tuesday during an appearance on Newsmax TV
’s "America’s Forum."
"These folks aren't 10-feet tall, but they're not the JV team either," he said. "So we need to be wise and calculating in our response, not giving them more credit than credit's due, but certainly recognizing them for what they are and, at a minimum, we've been late in doing that from my point of view."
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He compared the administration to a beat cop telling the crowd "move along folks, there's nothing interesting to see here, where there's an awful lot of interesting things to see."
The disintegration of Iraq and Syria and the rise of ISIS, which threatens all governments in the region, is a "nightmare scenario," according to Hayden, who said the Obama administration has "trapped itself" in refusing to identify the terrorists as radical Islamists.
"Now it's going to be a massive news story when they start talking about radical Islam, and unfortunately they've trapped themselves into this approach that day by day is getting less useful and more confusing for our own efforts," he said, adding that "it's not about all of Islam and it's certainly not about all Muslims, but it is fundamentally about Islam."
Obama has drawn across-the-board criticism for a series of faux pas regarding acts of terror in Paris and Libya.
Obama characterized the victims, all Jewish, in last month’s terror attack at a Paris kosher deli as "random," and when discussing this weekend’s video of ISIS militants beheading 21 Coptic Christians in Libya, Press Secretary Josh Earnest referred to the victims
as "Egyptian citizens" and never mentioned their faith.
Lawyer and author Alan Dershowitz said
on Newsmax TV last week that Obama "did a terrible disservice" to European Jews by calling the Paris deli murders a random offshoot of the al-Qaida-inspired Charlie Hebdo massacre. And Earnest compounded the error by insisting the president was right.
"The big mistake was doubling down," Dershowitz told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner.
Dershowitz joined other prominent public figures, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, in urging the president to apologize for diminishing the threat to Jews at a time of Islamist terror and rising global anti-Semitism.
Last month, Earnest defended the Obama administration's refusal
to use the term "radical Islam" for the people carrying out terrorist attacks, saying it was not accurate and would only serve to legitimize their claim to be part of the religion.
Talk show host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday
questioned why President Barack Obama was "vague" when talking about the threat posed by ISIS, and wondered why he wouldn't use the words "radical Islamists" to describe the militant group.
"Why is he being vague? I'm not saying this as a Republican. I'm not saying this as a conservative. Why won't he call this what it is when Europeans are? And, by the way, Arabs in the Middle East call this radical Islam," Scarborough asked the MSNBC "Morning Joe" panel on Tuesday. "Why is he trying to put a smoke screen over the truth? What is he afraid of?"
While an authorization for use of military force
is technically not needed for the president to go to war with ISIS, Hayden said that relying on one authorized in 2001-2002 is "getting to be very, very thin legal thread."
"Let's get both political branches signing up, we're going to go make war on ISIS," he said.
Material from Newsmax writers Wanda Carruthers, Greg Richter and Sean Piccoli was used in this report.
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