Ben Rhodes is Proud Administration Never ‘Used Language That Suggests That America is at War With Islam’

By Patrick Goodenough | May 12, 2016 | 3:48am EDT
Deputy national security advisor for strategic communications Ben Rhodes addresses the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) gala in Washington on Wednesday. May 11, 2016. (Photo: Twitter)

( – Deputy national security advisor for strategic communications Ben Rhodes told a Muslim audience Wednesday night that one of the things he was most proud of was the fact that under the Obama administration “people never have used language that suggests that America is at war with Islam.”

“One of the things that I’ll leave this job proudest of, is that for eight years people never have used language that suggests that America is at war with Islam,” Rhodes told a Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) gala in Washington.

“When people ask me why we can’t say we’re at war with ‘radical Islam’ or this adjective referring to Islam, I think that the answer can be seen in the policy proposals that emanate from that type of rhetoric, that are on display today,” he said, in a possible reference to Donald Trump’s call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S.

“Because if you give in to that type of narrative, if you use types of language that alienate entire populations, that’s the path where that leads.”

Rhodes has been under fire this week over a New York Times Magazine profile in which he boasted at having “created an echo chamber” to sell the Iran nuclear deal to the American people.

“I’ve had some tough days in my job. The last few have not been great,” he told the MPAC audience to laughter.

“But you know that’s nothing compared to what I’ve heard from some of you. When I have to sit and listen to people who tell me that their kids are afraid to go to school, because they might be bullied for who they are, kids who’ve grown up not sure if they have a place in the United States of America because they are Muslim,” he said.

“That’s tough. And it’s not acceptable.”


Rhodes was one of seven Americans honored by the advocacy group with one of its “Empowering Voices” awards, given to “those who courageously stand up for and support the rights of all Americans.”

Rhodes in his “at war with Islam” comments did not directly contrast the Obama administration to its predecessor, but the implication was there.

In fact President George W. Bush and senior members of his administration took pains to make the same point, especially in the months following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Some of those comments follow:

--Bush at the Islamic Center in Washington, Sept. 17, 2001:  “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.”

--Bush, speaking to then-Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, Sept. 19, 2001: “I’ve made it clear, Madam President, that the war against terrorism is not a war against Muslims, nor is it a war against Arabs. It’s a war against evil people who conduct crimes against innocent people.”

President Bush addresses leaders at the Islamic Center of Washington on September 17, 2001, six days after 9/11. (AP Photo/Doug Mills, File)

--Bush, in an address to a joint session of Congress, Sept. 20, 2001: “The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them.”

--Bush, speaking at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Sept. 27, 2001: “Americans understand we fight not a religion; ours is not a campaign against the Muslim faith. Ours is a campaign against evil.”

--Bush, alongside Jordan’s King Abdullah, Sept. 28, 2001: “I have assured His Majesty that our war is against evil, not against Islam. There are thousands of Muslims who proudly call themselves Americans, and they know what I know: that the Muslim faith is based upon peace and love and compassion – the exact opposite of the teachings of the al Qaeda organization, which is based upon evil and hate and destruction.”

--Bush, at the Warsaw Conference on Combating Terrorism, Nov. 6, 2001: “All of us here today understand this: We do not fight Islam, we fight against evil.”

--Bush, speaking in Ontario, California, Jan. 5, 2002: “[T]his great nation of many religions understands, our war is not against Islam, or against faith practiced by the Muslim people. Our war is a war against evil.”

--Bush, in Prague, Czech Republic, Nov. 20, 2002:  “Ours is a war not against a religion, not against the Muslim faith. But ours is a war against individuals who absolutely hate what America stands for …”

--Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, addressing Islamic ambassadors in Washington, Mar. 10, 2008: “The notion that the United States is at war with Islam, as we sometimes hear, is simply propagated by violent extremists who seek to divide Muslim communities against themselves, to judge who is and who is not a pious Muslim and to commit any atrocity, even against their fellow Muslims, to impose an intolerant ideology on their societies.”

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