Kellogg column: To lead, Obama must see radical Islam as more than a bankrupt ideology |

Kellogg column: To lead, Obama must see radical Islam as more than a bankrupt ideology

James Kellogg

The depravity of the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) is shocking. Not content with beheadings, ISIL recently escalated its horrific barbarity to burning a human being alive. In his remarks on the heinous crime, President Obama avoided using the words radical and Islam. He said, “Whatever ideology they are operating off of is bankrupt.” Stop avoiding the obvious, Mr. President.

Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh was a 26-year-old Jordanian fighter pilot, captured when his plane crashed during a bombing mission in Syria on Dec. 24. An ISIL video shows the pilot standing in a cage with a trail of fuel leading to him. He’s wearing an orange jumpsuit, apparently doused in gasoline. The fuel is ignited and al-Kaseasbeh bursts into flames. His screams are audible as he collapses in agonized throes of death.

ISIL propaganda in the video warns that those who resist establishment of a caliphate will suffer grim fates. The caliphate is a single Islamic state based on sharia in Iraq and the region known as the Levant, which includes the area from southern Turkey to Egypt, as well as Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Jordan. Those who object are punished by flogging, stoning, amputation, crucifixion and beheading.

“This is not unique to one group or one religion,” Obama cautioned at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., earlier this month. “Remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.” Never mind that nobody has turned up any videos of Muslims being beheaded or burned by radical Christians.

Public displays of brutality and murder have become synonymous with radical Islam. But President Obama said he doesn’t “quibble with labels.” He describes ISIL as “a particular problem that has roots in Muslim communities.” He said we harm our cause if we fail to recognize that most Muslims “reject this ideology.”

What Americans recognize is the danger of radical Islam. According to a recent poll reported by the Pew Research Center, 76 percent ranked Islamic terrorism as the most serious threat facing the nation. And they don’t believe that withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Iraq has made the world safer. Wisely, Americans aren’t counting on any global coalition for protection.

During his response to the burning, President Obama said, “Lieutenant Al-Kaseasbeh’s dedication and courage stand in opposition to the cowardice and depravity of ISIL, which has been so broadly rejected around the globe.” What about rejecting that cowardice and depravity where ISIL is oppressing and murdering people?

Mr. Obama also predicted that ISIL atrocities will “redouble the vigilance and determination on the part of our global coalition to make sure they are degraded and ultimately defeated.” Does global coalition simply mean Jordan? At least Jordan executed two terrorist captives in response to the murder of their pilot. But a sustained battle against ISIL won’t happen without U.S. leadership.

The fact that the president won’t say “radical Islam” indicates he is unlikely to lead an effective campaign to defeat ISIL, especially if losses begin to mount. Remember the bankrupt ideologies of communism and fascism, which led to the oppression and deaths of tens of millions? They did not fail because they were rejected by a global coalition; they were defeated by American strength, leadership and perseverance.

Until decisively defeated, the group the president once derided as the “JV team” will commit atrocities unabated. In fact, four civilians were publicly beheaded by ISIL in Mosul, Iraq, for speaking out against the grisly murder of Lt. al-Kaseasbeh. And two imams were shot by firing squad in the same city for daring to condemn the burning. Tragically, they are just the most recent victims among thousands murdered under the ISIL reign of radical Islamic terror.

ISIL will stop at nothing to implement a caliphate with zero tolerance for religious minorities, political objectors or sovereign territories. It is alarming that the current administration has a problem defining the ideology of radical Islam, let alone doing something about that ideology. President Obama once promised to double down in the fight against terror. That brings little comfort. As Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said, “If you double down on empty words, you still end up with nothing.”

James D. Kellogg is a water resource engineer and the author of “Radical Action: A Colt Kelley Thriller.” Look for the novel on and visit or email

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