Lieberman: "Administration Refuses to Call Our Enemy in This War By Its Proper Name’

By Matt Cover | September 1, 2011 | 3:27 PM EDT

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

( - Senate Homeland Security Chairman Joe Lieberman (I.-Conn.) said today that the Obama administration is refusing to call America's enemy in the war on terror by its proper name: "violent Islamist extremism.”

Speaking at a University of Maryland-sponsored event on counter-terrorism on Thursday, Lieberman said that one of the “significant weaknesses” of the Obama administration’s approach to homegrown terrorism was not calling Islamic extremists by name.

“The administration’s plan for dealing with that reality [homegrown terrorism] I think suffers from several significant weaknesses,” said Lieberman. “The first is that the administration still refuses to call our enemy in this war by its proper name: violent Islamist extremism.”

Lieberman said that the administration’s preferred nomenclature – violent extremism – obscured the fact that while there are many types of violent extremism in America, the country is only at war with one type: violent Islamist extremism.

“You can find names that are comparable to that, but not the ones that the administration continues to use, which are 'violent extremism,'” he said. “It is not just violent [extremism].”

Lieberman noted that there are many types of violent extremism in America and around the world, arguing though that only violent Islamist extremists are at war with America.

“There are many forms of violent extremism,” he said. “There’s white racist extremism, there’s been some eco-extremism, there’s been animal rights extremism, you can go on and on. There’s skinhead extremism. But we’re not in a global war with those. We’re in a global war that affects our homeland security with Islamist extremists.”

Lieberman charged that to put all types of violent extremism in the same category as Islamist extremism confused the issue and made the term meaningless.

“To call our enemy violent extremism is so general and vague that it ultimately has no meaning,” said the senator.

Lieberman added that the other term the administration uses – al Qaeda and its allies – was still too vague because it took the focus off of the violent ideology he said America is battling.

“The other term used sometimes is ‘al Qaeda and its allies,’” said Lieberman. “Now that’s better but it still is too narrow and focuses us on groups as opposed to what I would call an ideology, which is what we’re really fighting.”