JERUSALEM – Terrorism is not a belief but instead is a response to despair and a lack of hope, argued Chuck Hagel in unreported remarks during a 2007 Senate hearing.
“But when people have no hope, when there’s despair, little else matters,” said Hagel.
He continued: “And this is not about terrorists don’t like freedom. Tell that to the Palestinian people who have been chained down for many, many years. Terrorism is not a strategy, it’s a tactic. Terrorism is not a plan. It’s not a belief like democracy or monarchy. It’s a tactic.”
Hagel was speaking at a Jan. 24, 2007, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on Iraq.
Hagel’s views on terrorism are not abnormal for the Obama administration.
John Brennan, President Obama’s counter-terrorism adviser, once defined the term jihad as to “purify oneself or to wage a holy struggle for a moral goal.”
Brennan is now Obama’s pick to head the CIA.
Also in largely unreported remarks, Obama himself claimed the 9/11 attacks were carried out because of a lack of “empathy” for the suffering of others, contending al-Qaida’s terrorist ideology “grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.”
Obama went on to imply the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were in part a result of U.S. policy, lecturing the American military to minimize civilian casualties in the Middle East and urging action opposing “bigotry or discrimination directed against neighbors and friends of Middle-Eastern descent.”
“Even as I hope for some measure of peace and comfort to the bereaved families, I must also hope that we, as a nation, draw some measure of wisdom from this tragedy,” Obama wrote in a piece about 9/11 published Sept. 19, 2001, in Chicago’s Hyde Park Herald.
The future president continued: “Certain immediate lessons are clear, and we must act upon those lessons decisively. We need to step up security at our airports. We must re-examine the effectiveness of our intelligence networks and we must be resolute in identifying the perpetrators of these heinous acts and dismantling their organizations of destruction.
“We must also engage, however, in the more difficult task of understanding the sources of such madness. The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity or suffering of others. Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence, it may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics.
“Most often, though, it grows out a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.
“We will have to make sure, despite our rage, that any U.S. military action takes into account the lives of innocent civilians abroad. We will have to be unwavering in opposing bigotry or discrimination directed against neighbors and friends of Middle-Eastern descent. Finally, we will have to devote far more attention to the monumental task of raising the hopes and prospects of embittered children across the globe – children not just in the Middle East, but also in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and within our own shores.”
Obama’s piece gained little notice outside the Hyde Park Herald, which covered Obama’s district as a Chicago state senator. The Hyde Park area is heavily influenced by the Nation of Islam.
With additional research by Joshua Klein