Last week a 53-year-old software engineer, Joseph Stack, became enraged about his business failures, and tax problems he had had all during the 1980s and 1990s, and, in particular, with a provision in the Code called “Treatment of Certain Technical Personnel.” In his suicide-note-and-farewell, Stack ranted about “pompous political thugs” and about a tax system that he felt was weighted against him, Joe Stack. The note was not that of the Tea Party variety, that is, not against Big Government, but against one very specific provision in the Tax Code, and then against, apparently, not measures to increase government intervention in health care but, rather, against the failure of the government to increase its intervention. He ranted against, as a Wall Street Journal article noted, political “thugs and plunderers,” “the joke that we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies,” “the vulgar, corrupt Catholic church,” and “the recent presidential puppet GW Bush and his cronies.” As James Taranto of the WStJ put it dryly: “left-wing bogeymen all.” The closing couplet, according to Taranto, was this:
The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.
Taranto’s main point was that someone who despised Corporate America, and its handmaidens, and denounced “the recent presidential puppet GW Bush and his cronies” and “the vulgar, corrupt Catholic church” and “the joke that we call the American medical system” could not be called, as he knew so many in the press would want to call Joe Stack, a right-winger, a Palin supporter, an enthusiastic guest at one of the Tea Parties.
But Taranto dealt only glancingly with the question of whether or not Joe Stack’s deed, in flying his plane into the IRS building, was an act of “terrorism.” Art Acedado, police chief of Austin, Texas, according to Fox News, had “labeled the incident a single act by a lone individual and refused to classify it as terrorism.”
But there was one party that was insistent that this act be called “terrorism.” That was the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which issued a press release:
[CAIR] called the apparent airborne suicide attack on an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) office in Austin, Texas, an act of “terror.”
Before taking off in the light plane that he allegedly used to attack the IRS office, Joseph A. Stack reportedly set fire to his own home and posted an anti-government screed on the Internet that was signed “Joe Stack (1956-2010).” . . .
“Whenever an individual or group attacks civilians in order to make a political statement, that is an act of terror,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “Terrorism is terrorism, regardless of the faith, race or ethnicity of the perpetrator or the victims. We pray for the speedy recovery of those injured in the attack.” . . .
Awad noted that if a Muslim had carried out the IRS attack, it would have surely been labeled an act of terrorism.
Here is how Taranto dealt with that claim by CAIR:
That’s odd. Why would CAIR think a Muslim would do something like this? The question is facetious, of course: CAIR is understandably defensive about the stereotyping of Muslims as terrorists, or terrorists as Muslims. Such stereotyping is also understandable, since the last time terrorists flew planes into buildings, they were Muslims who claimed a religious motive. One can hardly fault CAIR for pointing out that the Stack attack runs counter to the stereotype, although expressly citing the stereotype in the process undercuts the message.
And Taranto was far too accommodating – and wrong, too – to agree that the incident could be called terrorism even if not “organized terrorism”:
In any case, CAIR is right that the incident meets the definition of terrorism: a politically motivated attack on civilians. When people say it wasn’t terrorism, what they probably mean to say is that it wasn’t an act of organized terrorism or war. Had the attacker been Muslim and left a screed against “infidels,” it would have been reasonable to suspect that he was part of al Qaeda or some other enemy group, or at least that he was influenced by its ideology. That he was apparently a lone nut instead is a great relief not only to CAIR but to anyone who worries about attacks by America’s enemies.
So let’s see if it is enough to say, in effect, yes, it was “terrorism,” but not “organized terrorism.” What does “organized terrorism” mean? Do you have to have more than one person involved? Do you need others who have helped plan the mission? What exactly constitutes being “organized”? And if a single Muslim, possibly without any contact with any other Muslim now alive, enters a church or a synagogue and sprays that church or synagogue with gunfire, can that be an act of “terrorism,” even if it is not “organized”?
The key here is that a Muslim who calls himself a Muslim thereby signals to us that he believes certain things, in the Total Belief-System of Islam, or at least that those things which Islam inculcates do not so thoroughly dismay or disgust him that he has decided to no longer call himself a Muslim. One can understand why, in a Muslim-dominated land, those who are disaffected from Islam might not wish to draw attention to this, for they know that they can be killed, or their interests severely harmed, and their lives ruined, if they openly declare that they are no longer Muslims. But what about Muslims living in the West, in conditions of far greater safety? If they continue to call themselves Muslims, then it is not unfair to attribute to them agreement with, or not deep disagreement with, what is contained in the Qur’an and the Hadith and the Sira.
And so we come to the hundred-odd jihad verses in the Qur’an, a book instinct with violence and aggression and hostility toward non-Muslims, and we find passages such as 9.29 and 9.5, and in 8.60 the need to “strike terror” in the hearts of Unbelievers. What shall we make of this? That it is meant metaphorically? But the words of Allah are to be taken literally, and the Qur’an is an uncreated and immutable text, not to be tampered with, and not – now that for more than a thousand years the Gates of Ijtihad have been shut – subject to any renewed interpretation. Its meaning is fixed.
If a lone Muslim, not in contact with any other living Muslim, suddenly attacks Hindus or Sikhs, Buddhists or Christians or Jews, with whom he has no personal connection (that is, he did not know his victims, but knew only that they were Hindus or Sikhs, or Buddhists or Christians or Jews), has he committed an act of terrorism? James Taranto seems to be implying that this would not constitute an act of “organized” terrorism, which is, he has written, what we mean when we talk about “terrorism.” But every Muslim has his guide to right conduct, his guide as to What Is Commanded and What Is Prohibited. Every Muslim knows that Muhammad is the Model of Conduct, uswa hasana, the Perfect Man, al-insan al-kamil.
Every Muslim knows what the Qur’an’s “jihad verses” (as the composers of the Calcutta Qur’an Petition call them) contain. Even in the case of the handful who may not, who may somehow have avoided noting the murderous hostility toward non-Muslims that is everywhere in Islam, such knowledge must, and with reason, for the purposes of Infidel self-defense, be attributed to them. We cannot allow any Muslim to simply claim “I had no idea what was in the Qur’an” or “in the Hadith” or “I really didn’t know that Muhammad had consummated his marriage with little Aisha when she was nine, I didn’t know about the raid on the Khaybar Oasis, I’ve never heard of Asma bint Marwan, I didn’t realize that he had had 600-900 bound prisoners of the Banu Qurayza decapitated, I had no idea that there was this concept of Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb.” We just can’t. We are perfectly justified, at this point in the world’s history, to assume that those who, in the Western world, now call themselves Muslims are adequately informed about the contents of Qur’an, Hadith, and Sira, and that we then can judge whether or not we can trust them, now or at any time, on the basis of that real, or attributed, knowledge on their part.
Which brings us back to Joe Stack, who was not out to strike terror into the stony hearts of the IRS, but merely to strike back at it for what, he believed, it had done to him. And it served – something had to serve – as a symbol for a host of offenders. It’s not even clear that Stack was against taxation and Big Gummint, but rather, that he had a very specific objection to a tax code provision. His other stated objects of fury suggest that he wanted bigger government, and hence more taxes, and was alarmed more by those who defended, as he saw it, the privileged – “George Bush and his presidential cronies” – or who were too feckless or dilatory, in his view, to do what needed to be done, in his view, to do something about “the joke that we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies.”
The important thing is not that he was alone, but that his ideas were his own ideas, and not part of an ideology that could be transmitted, as Islam is transmitted, through early reading, and constant re-reading or re-memorizing, or re-hearing, of a book called the Qur’an, and another book (or variant versions of that book) which contain the most “authentic” Hadith, and another book which contains the Life of Muhammad.
Unlike a “lone Muslim,” Joe Stack was not inculcated from a young age with hatred of the IRS, or the government. He was not out to right wrongs, to terrorize the IRS. He was simply at the end of his tether, and that tether snapped, and he snapped, and he decided, in this publicity-maddened age, to go out with a bang. It wasn’t so much “Striking Terror Into the Hearts Of (the IRS, the government, the drug companies),” but, rather, simply Going Out With A Bang.
But the “lone Muslim” can reasonably be described as a “terrorist” if his act of terrorism has been inspired by an ideology shared by a billion people, and taken seriously by a great many of them, and if he thinks, if it is reasonable to think he thinks, that in smiting this particular Infidel or Infidels, he is “striking terror” into the hearts of other Infidels, and thus landing a blow for Islam.
This is not what Nihad Awad wishes you to hear. But there are all kinds of things Nihad Awad wishes you not to hear. He wishes you not to hear about Chris Graubatz, and the documents he discovered, and the conversations he was privy to, while working at CAIR. He wishes you not to hear about all the members of CAIR who have been arrested and charged with connections to terrorism. He wishes you not to remember what he said about Nidal Malik Hasan, the deeply devout Muslim who believed he had a religious obligation to “strike terror” into the hearts of the Infidels, his fellow soldiers in the American Army (which had previously paid for Nidal Hasan’s entire medical education, and was paying him some $90,000 a year) on the Chris Matthews show: “We have to find out how he thinks and what he did, but I will never come to the conclusion that religion is the motive, religion is the reason for that. I am a Muslim.”
And there is so much more that Nihad Awad would prefer that you not hear, including what his CAIR confounder Omar Ahmad said some years ago at a Muslims-only gathering (save for one intrepid reporter) in California: “Islam is not in America to be equal but to become dominant. The Qur’an, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America and Islam the only accepted religion on earth.”
And there is an Unshakeable Ally that Nihad Awad can count on. That ally is Stupidity. It is one of the strongest forces on earth. It can’t be dealt with, the way evil can. It just keeps coming back. And one form of the Stupidity is that which refuses to make distinctions. But at the heart of the exercise of intelligence is the ability to make distinctions. We are capable, or should be, of distinguishing Shakespeare from Rod McKuen, Mozart from Eminem, and the kind of terror that consists of inserting a small glass rod into the urethra of a prisoner, as the Hungarian Secret Police were said to do, and then once it was inserted, smashing the prisoner’s penis with a hammer, and the kind of “terror” that consists, as in the case of one Binyam Mohamed about whom such a fuss is being made in Great Britain right now, of “sleep deprivation” and acts of psychological “torture” that apparently involve denigration or verbal humiliation. If you can’t see the difference, then you are a fool.
But a blogger by the name of Andrew Sullivan proved equal to the task, when in discussing the case of Joe Stack, he readily described it as “terrorism” and then went to what was intended to be, apparently, a series of self-evident tautologies that everyone would agree with, because the rhetorical force would carry one along and sweep away any application of reason. Here is what Sullivan wrote:
“Terrorism is terrorism whoever does it. Torture is torture whoever does it. Murder is murder whoever does it. Just as I oppose affirmative action and hate crime laws, which make specious distinction on the basis of race and other characteristics, so I oppose making any distinction on those grounds when describing terrorism.”
That’s it. No “distinctions” are to be made. But the Intellect’s main activity is that of Making Distinctions. For Sullivan the phrase “terrorism is terrorism,” with no investigation as to what act can legitimately be said to be “terrorism,” and what things – such as what prompts it, and what effect it is intended to have, and what the act itself consists in – all this is too much for Andrew Sullivan. He’s just too busy to bother. He knows.
He thinks he can simply abdicate his responsibility to make distinctions, even fine distinctions. No. He can’t. And the mere rhetorical raising of the voice does not convince, nor the assumption that Andrew Sullivan makes, and wants his readers to make, that he, Andrew Sullivan, is always on the side of the angels. He’s stupid, not evil. Certainly not as bad as the nihad-awads of this world. But he is their aider. Their abettor.