Someone forgot to tell the Islamists we’re not at war with their religion/political ideology.

Via TIME’s Battleground blog:

Check out this surrealistic exchange from Wednesday’s hearing, between Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., and Paul Stockton, Assistant Defense Secretary for Homeland Defense:

REPRESENTATIVE DANIEL LUNGREN (R-CA): Secretary Stockton, are we at war with violent Islamist extremism?

MR. STOCKTON: No, sir. We are at war with al-Qaida, its affiliates —

REP. LUNGREN: OK, I understand that. My question is, is violent Islamist extremism at war with us?

MR. STOCKTON: No, sir. We are being attacked by al-Qaida and its allies.

REP. LUNGREN: Is al-Qaida — can it be described as being an exponent of violent Islamist extremism?

MR. STOCKTON: They — al-Qaida are murderers with an ideological agenda –

REP. LUNGREN: No, I — that’s not my question. That wasn’t my question. My question was, is al-Qaida acting out violent Islamist extremism?

MR. STOCKTON: Al-Qaida is a violent organization dedicated to overthrowing the values that we intend to advance —

REP. LUNGREN: So is it yes or no?

MR. STOCKTON: Can I hear the question again? I’ll make it as clear as I can. We are not at war with Islam. And it is not —

REP. LUNGREN: I didn’t ask that — I did not ask that, sir. I asked whether we’re at war with violent Islamist extremism. That’s my question.

MR. STOCKTON: No, we’re at war with al-Qaida and its affiliates.

REP. LUNGREN: Well, al-Qaida — how does al-Qaida define itself? Are they dedicated to violent Islamist extremism?

MR. STOCKTON: Al-Qaida would love to convince Muslims around the world that the United States is at war with Islam.

REP. LUNGREN: I didn’t say that.

MR. STOCKTON: That’s a prime propaganda tool.

REP. LUNGREN: Sir —

MR. STOCKTON: And I’m not going to aid and abet that effort to advance their propaganda goal.

REP. LUNGREN: No, no, my question is, is there a difference between Islam and violent Islamist extremism?

MR. STOCKTON: Sir, with great respect, I don’t believe it’s helpful to frame our adversary as Islamic with any set of qualifiers that we might add, because we are not at war with Islam.

REP. LUNGREN: I understand that. I never said we were at war with Islam. One of the questions we’re trying to deal with is the radicalization of Islam, is the radicalization of Islamic youth. And if we can’t distinguish between violent Islamist extremism and Islam, then all this stuff about behavioral indicators doesn’t mean anything.

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