Conservatives Lash Out At Administration Guidelines On Terrorism Language: It’s ‘McCarthyism In Reverse’

UPI’s Shaun Waterman reports today that congressional conservatives are riled up over new government guidelines shunning the use of terms like “jihadist” and “Islamo-fascism” to describe terrorists. On Friday, every Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence voted for a failed amendment to ban “the use of federal cash to produce documents like the terminology guidelines.”

Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), who authored the amendment, attacked the guidelines as “McCarthyism in reverse”:

Mr. Hoekstra called it “sad that as we approach the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we are still debating how to define our enemy.”

His amendment aimed to end what he called “McCarthyism in reverse” and “speech codes that encumber accurately describing the radical jihadist terrorists that attacked America.”

Hoekstra is missing the point when he lashes out at the guidelines as part of a debate over “how to define our enemy.” Even if terms like “jihad” are used accurately, the report concludes that “it may not be strategic because it glamorizes terrorism, imbues terrorists with religious authority they do not have and damages relations with Muslims around the world.”


“A senior administration official” who spoke to UPI disagreed with the House GOP’s position, claiming “that President Bush had been ‘absolutely at the forefront’ of promoting and using the kind of language the guidelines recommend.” In order to support this claim, Waterman cited research by Duke University’s David Schanzer:

A search of the president’s speeches and other public comments on the White House Web site conducted by David Schanzer, director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University in North Carolina, found that Mr. Bush — who has repeatedly spoken about America’s enemies — has used the term “Islamic terrorist” only once since the beginning of 2007.

Though President Bush appears to have made some effort, “Islamic terrorist” is not the only term whose use the guidelines caution against. As ThinkProgress has noted, President Bush referred to terrorists as “jihadists,” which is also seen as problematic by his administration, as recently as April 29.