Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Terrorism or Hypocrisy?

A follow-up to a previous rant. Now that Maurice Clemmons has shot and killed four police officers outside Seattle, I'm eagerly awaiting Ron Smith's column on the topic. After all, Smith concluded that "political correctness" was responsible for the Ft Hood killings. Surely Smith will reach the equally valid conclusion that the Fox News Party (aka the GOP) is responsible for these killings. It was Fox News Party Governor Mike Huckabee who let free Clemmons in 2000, even though Clemmons was sentenced to 108 years for armed robbery and other offenses. I won't hold my breath waiting for Smith, though.

It was clear in Smith's column that his target was Islam as well as perceived liberal orthodoxy that allowed Nidal Hasan to be free to commit his crimes. Nevermind that Hasan had never actually committed a crime prior to his shooting rampage. He was a devoutly religious Muslim who had expressed misgivings about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hasan had contacted a radical imam in Yemen, which raised red flags and was investigated, the Army concluding that it was part of a legitimate research project Hasan was conducting. He should have been locked up, obviously. Not like a convicted armed robber. He should have been on the street.

I expect little from Smith, so I'll move on to a broader question. A number of talking heads, particulary of the Fox News ilk, have declared that Hasan's attack was terrorism. The definition, courtesy of, is "the act of terrorizing; use of force or threats to demoralize, intimidate, and subjugate, esp. such use as a political weapon or policy". Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that Hasan's attack was terrorism. Was the Clemmons attack also terrorism?

Clemmons used force, and he certainly demoralized police and citizens in the Seattle area, as well as intimidating them. On its face, then, Clemmons appears to have committed a terrorist act, for though the use of force as a political weapon or policy is frequently an element, the fact that "especially" precedes it in the definition means it's not essential to the definition. However, even if the political element is included, Clemmons arguably fits the definition of a terrorist. He had railed against police for years, and in the months prior to the shooting had grown more agitated against police. In the days before he went so far as to say outright that he was going to shoot police. Sounds like a political agenda of sorts.

Is a plan to kill police a political act? Is a religious element required, as the purveyors of bugaboos about Islam, imply (a bit of irony in that, as these same purveyors used to require atheism when they were going after communists)? Clemmons believed he was Jesus and that the world was on the edge of apocalypse.

One thing that Clemmons had that Hasan did not was accomplices, though that's nowhere in the definition. Clemmons had a fellow ex-con as a driver in his getaway. Clemmons had an apparently extensive network of family and friends who hid him, made false and misleading tip calls to the police, and attempted to doctor his wound. Hasan was totally alone in his attack.

If the talking heads of Fox News are really concerned about terrorism in the US, where is their hue and cry about the dangers presented by Clemmons, an evidently delusional "Christian" and his network of associates. Certainly he must be a far greater danger than Hasan, who couldn't even get out of the site of his shooting, let alone have the assistance of numerous people.

The reality is, neither are terrorist attacks, at least when viewed in the context of the 9/11, Atlanta Olympics bombing, Bali hotel attacks, or Oklahoma City. Neither of these men had any coherent political agenda that their shooting was designed to further. Hasan was desperate not to be sent to Iraq. Clemmons had recently been arrested and charged with the rape of a child. He had previously been evaluated psychologically and been deemed a dangerous person but not so dangerous that he should be incarcerated. Both of them had deep psychological problems that were not addressed. Perhaps the area of concern should be the standard by which persons with psychological problems are judged to be a danger, but determining that is always easy in hindsight, not so much so as a precognitive decision.

As always, the hypocrisy of the Fox News Party is what bothers me the most. It's not tragic enough that people were killed in each instance. The Fox News Party feels it incumbent to take the tragedy and turn it into a political cudgel against people who should be allies in keeping the US safe. When a similar tragedy occurs that doesn't include someone who can be shoe horned into their enemies list, they're strangely silent. When the similar tragedy involves a possible error in judgment by one of their own, the silence is deafening. Hypocrisy at its finest.

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