Think Terrorist Sympathizers Are Harmless? Think Again.
Last week, Mir Aimal Kasi was executed for the murder of two CIA employees in 1993 a brutal act of terrorism.
But in the years since Kasi stepped out of his pickup truck near the entrance to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., shouldered his AK-47 and began firing at waiting motorists, law-enforcement officials have been unable to find evidence that Kasi was linked to any terrorist organization. Rather, it appears, he acted out of sympathy with the goals of militant Islamic terrorist organizations.
This instance of what might be called "sympathizer" terrorism is not unique it applies also to the Egyptian immigrant who shot up the El Al ticket counter at LAX on July 4, it applies also to the Oklahoma City bombers, and possibly to the D.C. snipers as well.
And it is a phenomenon that we are likely to face more often in the future. If you listen carefully to Osama bin Laden's latest tape it's clear that he's encouraging the "zealous sons of Islam" to plan and execute freelance acts of terrorism.
U.S. officials responsible for fighting terrorism appear to be confused by all this. Kasi, a Pakistani national, described his actions as "retaliation against the U.S. government" for policies which, he believed, were hurting Muslims worldwide. To Kasi, killing motorists at random as a protest "had nothing to do with terrorism." Peculiar as that may sound, the FBI evidently agreed, calling him not a terrorist but merely a murderer based on the lack of a connection to any established terrorist group. But the State Department last week referred to Mr. Karsi as a "convicted terrorist," and warned that his execution might trigger retaliatory terrorist attacks against Americans, especially in Pakistan.
A similar debate surrounded the case of Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, the Egyptian who opened fire at the El Al counter at LAX on July 4 of this year, killing two people. He was driven by a hatred of Jews whom he blamed for the woes of the Arab world. The media and the FBI initially classified his act as a "hate crime," rather than as terrorism.
Finally, most of the establishment media has dismissed the possibility that John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo, the D.C. snipers, might be terrorists, claiming, again, that there is no evidence of a connection between them and a terrorist organization, or suggesting that they are psychologically troubled as though a neurotic or psychotic terrorist could not be imagined.
In fact, of course, many terrorists have acted alone and/or exhibited mental problems. The worst terrorist attack in the United States before September 11 was the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, in which 168 people were killed. The perpetrators, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, were angry and frustrated men and they, too, had no formal links to any terrorist group. In the following year, the FBI thwarted plots to blow up seven federal office buildings in Phoenix and the FBI computer center in West Virginia, and failed to stop the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics. None of these attacks was coordinated by a centralized terrorist organization. The perpetrators acted on their own, but they had adopted the murderous agenda of "Christian Identity" white-supremacist movements.
Initially, attacks by white-supremacist-militia terrorists were viewed as isolated hate crimes but does any one now reject the notion that the Oklahoma City bombing was an act of terrorism? What we eventually recognized was that the Christian white-supremacist-militia movement specifically aimed to recruit a loose army of sympathizers to join the "battle" against their enemies the federal government, blacks, Jews, and gays. Indeed, as Aryan Nations/KKK leader Louis Beam explained, "utilizing the Leaderless Resistance concept, all individuals and groups operate independently of each other, and never report to a central headquarters or single leader for direction or instruction."
Like the Oklahoma City bombers, Kasi and Hadayet clearly can be classified as "sympathizer" terrorists. So, too, can Osman Petmezci and his American fiancιe, arrested in Germany last September for plotting to attack a U.S. military base on the September 11 anniversary. They had no known ties with a terrorist network but Petmezci was described by the police as "a follower of Osama bin Laden who is deeply religious and harbors a hatred for Americans and Jews." German police found 130kg of bomb-making chemicals, five pipe bombs ready to be filled with explosives, a book about bomb-making, and a picture of Osama bin Laden in the couple's apartment.
The D.C. sniper suspects also may be sympathizer terrorists. They are known to have spoken sympathetically about the perpetrators of September 11, and they were associated with the anti-Semitic and supremacist Nation of Islam. The Council on American-Islamic Relations warned the press not to bring up the D.C. snipers' beliefs it could, they claimed, constitute "stereotyping or prejudice" against Islam. But identifying the Christian white-supremacist ideologies of Timothy McVeigh did not incriminate Christianity as a whole; surely we should be able to explore the possible role of radical Islam in the D.C. sniper shootings without incriminating all Muslims.
Terrorism evolves. We should not be bound by our past perceptions and definitions. The perpetrator of an act that has all the hallmarks of terrorism deliberately targeting civilians, intent to send a message, in support of a broader cause or ideology is a terrorist, whether or not he, or she, is formally affiliated with a terrorist organization.
All this has important implications for how we fight terrorism. We need to pay close attention to how radical Islamic ideas, such as jihad against infidels, are promoted in our country. We should keep a watch on Islamic hate groups, just as we keep a watch on Christian white-supremacist hate groups. And we should be on the lookout for hate-driven, sympathizer terrorism, a phenomenon that is real, that is happening, and which must be recognized if we are to have any chance to defeat it.
add a comment on this article
add a comment on this article