Denial of reality is common in the Western World. Now the French are trying their best to deny the Mohammed Merah situation. Merah was a French-born citizen of Algerian extraction. He was radicalized in France, travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan for terrorist training, then returned to France.
Merah then murdered three French paratroopers from a regiment recently returned from Afghanistan, and capped his career by murdering a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school.
After being surrounded, he wounded three police and finally was shot to death as he jumped from a window, reportedly still firing his gun and yelling, “Alahu akhbar.” Here soldiers are congratulating the police SWAT team that took him out.
At first, French media claimed he was a right-wing extremist. One source went so far as to claim he was a neo-Nazi French soldier. When this proved false, Le Figaro, the oldest newspaper in France and center-right in orientation, claimed he was reacting to “Islamophobia,” adding, “No doubt.” When people say, “No doubt,” often they mean there is grave doubt. And when they say, “As is well known,” often they mean it’s highly speculative.
Left-wing politicians regretted that the murderer had been killed and that a “dialogue” had not been established. One would think that rational people would understand that a “dialogue” with a man firing a gun is established by firing back. One would be wrong.
Meanwhile, a French schoolteacher asked her students to observe a moment of silence for the terrorist, whom she called a “victim.” One would think that after suffering five years of Nazi occupation during World War II, the French could distinguish criminals from victims. Again, one would be wrong.
But we are in no position to criticize the French. Our government officials and media go so far out of their way not to blame terrorism that often they announce the result when the investigation has barely begun.
● The first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 was treated as a domestic crime. Little effort was made to get to the root of the problem. So like cancer, it recurred in a more deadly form on 9/11.
● EgyptAir Flight 990 went down in 1999 when its copilot crashed it into the Atlantic. But the Egyptian government rejected the possibility of suicide. Our government, not wishing to offend the Egyptians, refused to link the crash with terrorism.
● An Egyptian national had lived in America for 10 years. He objected when a neighbor displayed an American flag after 9/11. He felt that Americans in America should adapt to him.
On July 4, 2002 he went to El Al Israel Airlines at Los Angeles International, armed with two handguns and a knife. He murdered two people before a security officer killed him. The Los Angeles Times headline read, “FBI Looks for Motive in LAX Attack.” But what could his motive have been? Celebrating Independence Day by firing his guns? The FBI questioned whether the murderer had family or financial problems. Who doesn’t?
● In October 2002 John Allen Muhammad and an associate terrorized the Washington area as the “beltway snipers,” murdering 10. The media speculated on the “gun culture” and “right-wing extremists.” When his Muslim background was uncovered, it was mentioned briefly, then vanished down the memory hole.
● In 2004 a man was found in critical condition in a Las Vegas hotel, and six others were hospitalized after exposure to ricin, a lethal toxin. The CDC stated, “It would take a deliberate act to make ricin and use it to poison people. Accidental exposure to ricin is highly unlikely.”
But the FBI claimed that the incident did not appear related to terrorism, despite the fact that in the man’s room there were guns and a book with the part on ricin marked. An official declared that people could have “any number of reasons” for wanting to make ricin. Like what? Adding flavor to the food at the casino buffet? Note that this man was not Muslim. Denial of terrorism involves denial of any terrorism, not just terrorism by extremist Muslims.
● In 2006 a man entered the Seattle Jewish Federation and opened fire, murdering one and wounding five – all women, one pregnant. Survivors heard him say he wanted to kill Jews. He was captured by police.
The Los Angeles Times reported, “An FBI official said the gunman, who was identified only as a U.S. citizen and a Muslim, apparently acted alone. We believe at this point that it is just a lone individual acting out of some sort of antagonism toward this particular organization.” If the FBI wants us to respect its conclusions, it should announce them after the investigation, not before.
The following day, the Times reported, “Jewish Center Shooter’s Motive Is a Mystery.” The man could have attacked the Seattle Catholic Charities or the Salvation Army. Instead, he just happened to have “some sort of antagonism toward this particular organization.” Really?
● Later in 2006, a man of Afghan origin mowed down 15 people with his car, two (one a child) in front of the San Francisco Jewish Community Center. Luckily only one died. The mayor said, “This was so senseless and inexplicable.” The words “terrorism” or “hate crime” were not used.
● In 2007 Sulejmen Talovic walked into a mall in Salt Lake City armed with a handgun, a shotgun, and extra ammunition. He shot as many people as he could, before an off-duty police officer from another city stopped him. He was five when his family fled the war in Bosnia and came to America. This was the way he expressed his gratitude.
The mosque where he worshipped was rarely mentioned. The murderer’s father said, “Somebody got (the guns)…and maybe (they were) training him and tell(ing) him (to) go shoot somebody.” This remark was not widely reported. Of course, the fact that the attack was stopped by an armed citizen was not discussed.
● In 2009 Major Nidal Malik Hasan, MD, MPH shot up Fort Hood, Texas, murdering 14 fellow soldiers and civilians. The toll is usually listed as 13, but one was pregnant. Hasan was born in Arlington, Virginia, location of our most honored National Cemetery, and was educated at Army expense. But he was radicalized at a local mosque, where he met the notorious imam, the late Al-Awlaki.
One network stated that sometimes Hasan wore “traditional” clothing. What? A Scottish kilt? A Mexican sombrero? Oh, he wore a Muslim robe. Why didn’t you say so? The government described the attack as “workplace violence,” and refused to award the dead and wounded Purple Heart Medals, or to decorate the rescuers for heroism under fire.
The media described Hasan as a psychiatrist. What difference would it make if he were a proctologist? The key question was not which end of the body he treated, but what was the source of his homicidal hate. Again, the media claimed his motive was a “mystery.”
There are two kinds of mysteries: things we don’t know, and things we don’t want to know.
We can’t respond to a problem if we don’t understand what is happening. We are told that these are “isolated incidents” and not terrorism. What if only one plane had been hijacked on 9/11, and only one of the Twin Towers had been knocked down? It would have been an “isolated incident,” but it would still have been terrorism.
This is hardly a complete list, but you get the idea. If these attacks were “isolated incidents,” what would constitute a pattern of international terrorism? The pattern of terrorism may not be clear to some people, but the pattern of our reaction to it is all too clear:
1. Report the incident giving as few details as possible. Omit the suspect’s name and cultural background for as long as possible.
2. Blame “right-wing extremists” and “gun nuts” for as long as possible.
3. Declare that there is no connection to terrorism before the investigation has begun.
4. Cause the incident to disappear from the news as soon as possible.
5. Insist that no matter how many attacks have gone before or how many come after, each one is an “isolated incident.”
Are we being fed sanitized news so as not to be “politically incorrect?” Are we being intentionally misinformed to avoid embarrassing those who dropped the ball? Or are we being unintentionally misinformed by people who can’t recognize reality, even when it hits them in the face? They may have spent too much time in bureaucracies, where “not making waves” is more important than doing the job.
Clearly, we do not need to know facts that would alert our enemies. In these cases, simply say, “The investigation is ongoing.” But apart from that, tell us the truth. And if you don’t have people in government or the media who can tell the truth, or even recognize the truth, then get some who can before it’s too late.
If multiple “isolated incidents” don’t add up to a pattern of international terrorism, what does? In order to “connect the dots,” we must recognize that they are dots. We owe it to the past victims, and especially to potential future victims.
Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.