University of Colorado—Boulder law Professor Paul Campos wrote another interesting and provocative opinion piece a few days ago. He begins by pointing out the creepy obsession that many right-wingers still have with the attacks of 11 Sept 2001:
When Stu Bykofsky, a columnist for The Philadelphia Daily News, wrote a column last week in which he openly hoped that America suffers “another 9/11,” he merely had the poor judgment to say what many a right-wing politician and pundit is thinking.
Evidence for this is everywhere: in the fact that Bykofsky was invited to appear on the GOP’s unofficial network, Fox News, to “explain” his comments; in the keen disappointment that ripples throughout the right-wing blogosphere every time the collapse of a bridge or a steam pipe explosion turns out not to have been the work of Scary Brown People Who Hate Our Freedoms; and in predictions such as that made by former Sen. Rick Santorum, that the GOP’s electoral fortunes will improve as soon as there’s another terrorist attack.
Indeed, at this point one can practically see these people wringing their hands in frustration at the apparent inability of “the terrorists” to kill a few Americans somewhere (preferably in a solidly red state, although New York or California would do in a pinch), so as to once again give war a chance.
On a local scale, we saw this same right-wing virtual adrenaline rush with salivation a little over a year ago when an American of Pakistani descent, Naveed Afzal Haq, forced his way into the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and killed one woman and wounded five others.
Matt Rosenberg was quick to label the act one of “terrorism.” He suggested this might be the outcome of…
growing advocacy of “individual terrorism” by jihadist opinion leaders….
Whether he drew inspiration from online jihadist preachers is of interest, but not necessarily crucial to the definition of individual terrorism.
This definition of “individual terrorism” is a right-wing substitute for the left-wing term “hate crime.” But right-wingers feel they get more political mileage out of it by including the term “terrorism.” Why? Because it brings back fond memories of an immediate post-9-11 period when Americans came together and didn’t ask critical questions of their political leaders. George Bush’s approval took a 35% point jump upward to 85%. Congress handed Bush almost everything he wanted, and Americans, in their collective post-9-11 foggy daze, offered no dissent.
The Haq incident initially offered right-wingers an opportunity to sell “give war a chance,” re-establish a fear of brown-skin peoples who practice that funny religion, and renew their offer to protect Americans in exchange for political power (and a few civil rights here and there).
The truth about Haq was a little more complex. The day after the shooting, it was revealed that Haq had recently converted to Christianity, going so far as to being baptized. Furthermore, Haq’s serious mental illness problems were revealed. (I couldn’t resist rewriting the hyperbolic “Islamic terrorist” script into an equally outrageous “Christian terrorist” satire.)
As an aside, the Haq incident resurfaced in the news this week, when Patrick Syring, a 20-year career Foreign Service officer was indicted for harassing and threatening employees of the Arab American Institute with phone messages and emails. Page 4 of the indictment attributes this email to Syring:
Sent: Saturday, July 29, 2006, 12:13 AM
To: James Zogby Helen Samhan, Nidal Ibrahim, Valerie Smith, Rebecca Abou-Chedid
Subject: AAI murders in Seattle on July 28
I condemn James Zogby and the AAI for perpetuating the murder and shootings at the Jewish Federation in Seattle on Friday July 28 (as well as the killings in Israel).
You wicked evil Hezbollah-supporting Arabs should burn in the fires of hell for eternity and beyond. The United States would be safer without you.
God Bless the State of Israel
God Bless America,
Patrick in Arlington, VA.
Of course, the Arab American Institute had nothing whatsoever to do with the shooting. Haq isn’t an Arab. In fact, his family isn’t even from the Middle East. And Haq had renounced Islam in his conversion to Christianity. But I digress.
Campos ends his piece with the controversial point that…
[9-11] didn’t “change everything,” and it didn’t (and doesn’t) justify the Iraq war, indiscriminate spying on Americans, extrajudicial renditions, torture, or any of the other immoral actions that continue to be done in its name.
It’s high time to stop wallowing in our obsession with what is becoming the most overblown and shamelessly exploited event in American history.
I am afraid it will be a long time before the political right can relinquish the “promise of terrorism” for achieving their political aims. But while we’re waiting, can we at least get over this nonsensical fear of carrying liquids onto planes?