A truck plowed into pedestrians during Bastille Day celebrations in the popular French seaside city of Nice Thursday, leaving at least 80 people dead in what the nation's president called "obviously a terrorist attack."Donald Trump politicized the attack almost immediately:
Another horrific attack, this time in Nice, France. Many dead and injured. When will we learn? It is only getting worse.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2016
"When will we learn" what? That terrorism exists?
Oh, I think I know what he means: We're supposed to learn that we can't successfully fight terrorism by being "politically correct." We need to say the right words.
Retired general Mike Flynn, who was on Trump's running-mate short list (and who, for all we know, might be on the list again), published an op-ed in the New York Post last week titled "The Military Fired Me for Calling Our Enemies Radical Jihadis." In it, he wrote:
It infuriates me when our president bans criticism of our enemies, and I am certain that we cannot win this war unless we are free to call our enemies by their proper names: radical jihadis, failed tyrants, and so forth.Rudy Giuliani, a frequent Trump defender, regularly makes the same point. Here he was last month:
"I am very disturbed by the president's failure to use the word Islamic terrorism. I've been disturbed about it for years," Giuliani told CNN's Chris Cuomo....But do you know who does use phrases like this? The French government. And it doesn't seem to be preventing terrorist attacks.
The 2008 presidential candidate argued that Obama "is creating a feeling, particularly among more liberal members of society, that you can't say 'Islamic terrorism.'"
In January 2015, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack, French prime minister Manuel Valls used the magic words:
Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared Saturday that France was at war with radical Islam....Right-wingers cheered. At FrontPage Mag, Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch wrote this:
“It is a war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam, against everything that is aimed at breaking fraternity, freedom, solidarity,” Mr. Valls said during a speech in Évry, south of Paris.
It was an extraordinary breaking of ranks. For years now, since 9/11 and before, Western leaders from all points of the political spectrum have unanimously maintained that Islam was a Religion of Peace and that Islamic jihad terrorists were a tiny minority of extremists who were twisting and hijacking the peaceful teachings of their religion. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls ... has come closer than any other Western leader to telling the truth about the threat....Spencer pointedly noted that then-attorney general Eric Holder refused to use the magic words in a subsequent appearance on ABC's This Week.
Despite Valls's use of an all-powerful phrase, Paris suffered another major terrorist attack in November 2015, which killed 130 people. A few months later, in March, French president Francois Hollande came to the White House and said, among other things, that "the roots of terrorism, Islamist terrorism, is in Syria and in Iraq." The phrase couldn't be heard in an early audio post on the White House website, an omission that led to howls of "censorship" from the right, even though the omission was quickly rectified. (The White House said there'd been a technical error.)
But Hollande's use of the phrase "Islamist terrorism" didn't prevent the Nice attacks, any more than Valls's use of the phrase "radical Islam" prevented the Paris attacks in November. Gosh, maybe these aren't magic words after all.