News accounts are spotty; emotions run high; reliable information is rare; rumor abounds. Nevertheless, what are we to make of Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan’s horrific rampage at Ft. Hood, Texas, where in cold-blooded fashion he murdered 12, and wounded at least 31?
I think on the one hand we will see the familiar therapeutic exegesis, in which we hear of traumatic stress syndrome, justified and principled opposition to the Iraq and Afghan wars, generic mental illness, anger at being deployed overseas, or maltreatment from fellow soldiers due to his Muslim faith and various other efforts to “contextualize” the violence. (I am watching Major Hasan’s cousin on the news right now [I think], on spec, explain that the otherwise normal killer was a victim of bias and was ill at ease with firearms (after shooting over 40 victims and surviving the carnage). I cannot imagine the trauma of family members of the dead hearing such sentiments aired, or knowing that the killer apparently had voiced prior extremist sympathies.
On the other hand, one could instead see Hasan in a long line of killers and would-be murderers of the last decade that in some loose way express an Islamic anger at either American culture or the United States government or both, as a way of elevating their own sense of failure into some sort of legitimate cosmic jihad.
Prior to 2009, there have been at least 20 terrorist plots broken up after September 11, 2001—aimed at subways, malls, military bases, airports, bridges, and synagogues. Those foiled cabals are in addition to more common scattered murdering by freelancing angry killers, who in some very general way either evoked radical Islam, their own faith, the Palestinian cause, al-Qaedistic Islamism, or solidarity with worldwide Islam (from the Beltway sniper to the UNC and the San Francisco car murderers), and a number of lethal attacks on Jewish centers and temples resulting in numerous deaths (from the LAX attacks to the San Francisco and Seattle shootings).
In 2002, long ago, I wrote an article in which I called this al Qaedism and updated it with more recent examples in 2007.
In this year alone, aside from the recent mass murdering at Ft. Hood, there have been four more terrorist plots uncovered. Colorado resident Najibullah Zazi was recently indicted for conspiring to use explosives in the U.S., apparently as part of a plot to let off a bomb in New York on the anniversary of 9/11. In addition, North Carolina residents Daniel Patrick Boyd and Hysen Sherifi were arrested and charged with conspiring to murder U.S. military personnel at Quantico, Virginia. In Texas, Hosam Maher Husein Smadi—a 19-year-old Jordanian citizen who was in the U.S. illegally—was arrested and charged after he placed a would-be bomb near Fountain Place, a 60-story office tower in downtown Dallas.
Most recently in Boston, a Massachusetts man was arrested in connection with terrorist plots that included attacks on U.S. shopping malls and on two White House officials. Tarek Mehanna, 27, of Sudbury, Mass, was charged with plotting with other terrorists from 2001 to May 2008 to carry out overseas and domestic terrorist attacks— including killing shoppers and first responders at malls.
While there is sometimes talk of backlash and anti-Muslim hysteria since 9/11, I don’t think the number of Muslims attacked or killed is comparable to the number of non-Muslims killed by Muslims who evoked Islam in some way as a catalyst for their angers. Nor do we see comparable serial Christian, Hindu, or Jewish-inspired attacks either against mosques and Muslims or the policies of the United States government, either by single actors or more active and organized plotters. I do not quite then understand our official government statements that “the attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has (sic) led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. This has bred more fear and mistrust.” In theory this sounds magnanimous and serious. In fact, I would like to see examples of “some” and serial incidents where very many Americans out of unwarranted furor have helped breed “fear and mistrust”.
Perhaps worrying about such violence or trying to explain it constitutes “fear” and “mistrust”. Here is an example of what I wrote in 2002 after the sniping and random acts of Islamic violence :
When, as an individual or collectively, he constructs someone or something culpable for his own — or his people’s — sense of failure, then a primordial urge to lash out follows. His mind returns to the seventh-century never-never land of scimitars and sharia law mixed in with rote chanting of “Allah Akbar!” while his body and material appetites are stranded in our cosmos of Baywatch reruns and professors on the BBC and CNN whining on about the dangers of Islamaphobia. What, then, are the catalysts for the al Qaedist that turn him from hothouse anti-Americanism to deadly violence?
After the 2007 Fort Dix plot, I wrote nearly three years ago the following chilling prognosis:
So, in the end, what are we to make of Fort Dix — yet another post-9/11 straw on an increasingly tired camel’s back?
We know that CAIR will neither seriously admonish Muslims charged with terrorist crimes nor introspectively examine the larger Islamic culture that seems to so incite the jihadist.
Such organizations will not do so as long as they can far more easily play on the self-doubt and guilt of the affluent and leisured citizen, who is supposed to believe that the dangers of radical Islam, both at the state and individual level, are mostly fictions inspired by our own prejudices. The sermonizing here in the United States by an Ayatollah Khatami, readily received by complaint listeners, and the satellite-beamed sophistry of Tariq Ramadan prove that well enough.
Most Americans will not remember Fort Dix in a week — just as they have forgotten Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle, Lodi, Portland, and all the rest; just as they want out of Fallujah now and probably Kandahar tomorrow.
Yet, at some point, the jihadists will go too far. Many of us, erroneously as it turned out, thought that, after twenty years of serial provocations, radical Islam had done precisely that on 9/11.
Apparently not. But such forbearance, even at this late hour in the post-West, is still not limitless.
The more a Palestinian imam promises us our death, the more the Iranian president promises a world without America, the more these al Qaedists, like the most recent keystone clowns at Fort Dix, do their small part in trying to reify such mad rhetoric, and the more the sophisticated apologists assure us that we, not they, are the real threat, the more likely the sofa-sitting, channel-surfing American will some day very soon blow up, rather than be blown up.
And I added this tonight on NRO’s corner:
We know little so far of the terrible carnage at Fort Hood, though the news media have been airing all sorts of explanations and much of their information has already proven erroneous.
Yet I think it is fair to say that the Fort Hood mass murder could be seen in two larger contexts:
1) a disturbing pattern of attacking American soldiers on bases or offices inside the United States (e.g., the 2005 plot to shoot down military aircraft leaving the National Guard base in Newburgh, New York; the 2007 mass murder plot at Fort Dix; the shooting at the Little Rock, Arkansas recruiting station, etc.),
2) what I once in two NRO essays called al Qaedism, or the spontaneous rage of disaffected Muslims, who connect their own failures in some sense to generic radical Islamist sentiments, and act out that anger by running over the innocent (San Francisco or North Carolina), shooting Jews (the LAX or Seattle attacks), or shooting up malls or sniping. These are of course different from but in addition to the 24 organized plots that have been broken up since 9/11, four of them this year alone.
Far more rarely, do they ever suggest that the Islamist notion abroad that America is to blame for mostly self-induced pathologies in the Islamic world mostly goes unquestioned here at home— and as a result filters down to the lone angry and violent here that there is some sort of cosmic justification that can amplify their own outrage at a sense of personal failure or setback.
If it is shown that the present killer openly in the past expressed sympathies for or tolerance of Islamist violence abroad, one would have expected, in the current climate of fear of being seen as illiberal or judgmental, little repercussions or formal preemptory action to preclude the possibility of future violence.
In other words, the narrative after 9/11 largely remains that Americans have given into illegitimate “fear and mistrust” of Muslims in general, rather than there is a small minority of Muslims who channels generic Islamist fantasies, so that we can assume that either formal terrorist plots or individual acts of murder will more or less occur here every 3-6 months.