“Jihadists”? “JIHADISTS”?

Charles Krauthammer has taken to calling CIA critics of Bushism and Bushit “jihadists.” Will others on the right hold still for this disgusting slander, or will they speak out?

I suppose we can start counting the seconds until the GOP flacks start calling Bobby Ray Inman (a career naval officer and former NSA Administrator) a shrill, partisan Democrat. As noted below, Inman has now said flatly in public that the NSA warrantless-wiretapping program “is not authorized” by law.

But “shrill, partisan Democrat” isn’t such a bad thing to be called these days. So the right wing needs a new term of abuse for those who offend against the Beloved Leader, and Charles Krauthammer has come up with it: “jihadist”. (No, Krauthammer’s disgusting and utterly unsupportable charge was not merely a slip of his over-worked tongue; he said the same thing on Hugh Hewitt’s show.)

Of course, when challenged on this, Krauthammer will explain that he didn’t really mean that CIA officers are Islamic terrorists, and that he was merely using “jihad” in its original sense of “struggle,” referring to people who struggled with the President. Or he’ll say that he merely meant to compare the intensity of their dislike of the President with the intensity of those in the Islamic world who preach and practice “jihad” against the west: that “jihadist” as he used it was merely a modernized synonym for “crusader.”

But equally of course, when Krauthammer says either of those things he’ll be lying through his teeth. “Jihadist” (properly “jihadi,” but who’s counting?) means in contemporary English someone who flies airplanes into tall buildings or commits murder/suicide by blowing himself up in a crowded marketplace. Krauthammer said, not once but twice, that dedicated career officers of the CIA, many of whom have risked their lives for their country in ways Krauthammer could never imagine, were effectively the same as our national enemies, the terrorist mass murderers of al-Qaeda. He, and his political allies, should never be allowed to forget it.

(I presume that Brad DeLong was speaking metaphorically rather than literally when DeLong said that Krauthammer was insane. Lithium isn’t a treatment for what’s wrong with Krauthammer, though exorcism might be. Not knowing Krauthammer, I can’t guess whether he’s someone in whom partisan hatred has now grown so strong as to deprive him utterly of both judgment and ordinary decency, or whether he’s merely a cynical careerist on the Morton Downey, Jr./Mike Barnicle/Bill O’Reilly model, spreading poisonous lies he doesn’t himself believe merely for money, status, and the semblance of power. But Krauthammer needs an editor or a spiritual guide, not a psychiatrist.)

From time to time, I’ve criticized people on my side of the aisle when I thought they were being unfair to our common opponents, and defended people on the other side of the aisle (as well as some not on the right of whom I strongly disapprove, such as Cynthia McKinney and Juan Cole) against what I regarded as unfair attack. Against that background, I’d like to call on the sensible people in Right Blogistan &#8212 you know who you are &#8212 to denounce this instance of repeated atrocious slander of people whose service to our country makes it impossible for them to fight back.

(If anyone spots criticism of Krauthammer by a right-of-center blogger, media figure, or politician, please send me the link.)

Update Eugene Volokh, unsurprisingly, puts his name at the head of what I hope will be a long honor roll.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

6 thoughts on ““Jihadists”? “JIHADISTS”?”

  1. I try to avoid the 'right blogistan' because I have a tender stomach and don't want flashbacks to the McCarthy era and the John Birch society days — both of which I was alive for. But I do spend a lot of time on the Egyptian and Moderate Muslim blogistan, some of whom are also part of the right, but who also know what the term means. I will be sure to mention it.
    And speaking of this area, a major Egyptian blogger was arrested and is being held for fifteen days for no other reason than attending a peaceful protest. To send e-mails on this topic, please go to
    and help support freedoms in countries other than here.

  2. Krauthammer has often been called "insane" as a sort of ironic retaliation to Kruthhammer mentioning his psychology doctarate and the proceeding to call one of his enemies crazy.

  3. Mark,
    You may want to note, just so you don't come under attack, that your line, "many of whom have risked their lives for their country in ways Krauthammer could never imagine" has nothing to do with the fact that he is in a wheelchair.
    Obviously you didn't intend this, but that doesn't matter to the Right.

  4. I read Brad's "lithium" line as homage to Krauthammer's recent op-ed remark that it "looks like Al Gore is off the lithium again" (or words to that effect).

  5. Re: Jihadist vs. Jihadi
    As you define the term (contemporary anti-Western Islam-influenced terrorists), Jihadist may be a better word than than Jihadi. I am not a Muslim and have no expertise in the subject but, as I understand it, jihad means something like spiritual struggle and can be used to refer to, among other things, non-violent forms of struggle, violent forms of struggle that you or I might consider some form of just war, personal struggles to achieve a moral life, etc. As an Arab word, jihadi, if I understand things correctly, might appropriately refer to a participant in any of these activities as well as anti-Western terrorists. By contrast, jihadist strikes me as a useful English language coinage to refer to a subset of jihadis (and some people who merely borrow jihadi cachet) who engage in anti-Western terrorism.

  6. "Thanks to Mark Kleiman for alerting me to this; I can't say I'm nearly as incensed by it as he seems to be, but I agree that this really isn't the way people ought to be talking."
    Rather tame. I think someone else is likely to be on the "top" of the list, metaphorically speaking at least.

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