Yes, Of Course It Was Jihad, Ctd

Explosions At 117th Boston Marathon

Greenwald goes another round:

The only evidence [Andrew] can point to shows that the older brother, Tamerlan, embraced a radical version of Islam, something I already noted. But – rather obviously – to prove that someone who commits violence is Muslim is not the same as proving that Islam was the prime motive for the violence (just as the aggressive attack by devout evangelical George Bush on Iraq was not proof of a rejuvenation of the Christian crusades, the attack by Timothy McVeigh was not proof of IRA violence, Israeli aggression is not proof that Judaism is the prime motivator of those wars, and the mass murder spree by homosexual Andrew Cunanan was not evidence that homosexuality motivated the violence).

Islam or some related political ideology may have been the motive driving Tamerlan, as I acknowledge, but it also may not have been. You have to produce evidence showing motive. You can’t just assert it and demand that everyone accept it on faith. Specifically, to claim this is terrorism (in a way that those other incidents of mass murder at Aurora, Sandy Hook, Tucson and Columbine were not), you have to identify the “political or social objective” the violence was intended to promote: what was that political or social objective here? Andrew doesn’t have the slightest idea.

I have much more than the slightest idea. I have massive amounts of evidence, outraged testimonies from the family, a horrifying web history, bombs that follow to the letter instructions from an al Qaeda publication, public, extremist spats with his own mosque, and on and on. And this is slippery language:

[T]o prove that someone who commits violence is Muslim is not the same as proving that Islam was the prime motive for the violence …

But Tamerlan was not just a Muslim. He was an extremist, fanatical Muslim who had quite obviously self-radicalized. I have made that distinction repeatedly. If all we had was evidence that he attended a mosque and called himself a Muslim, I’d agree with Glenn. But we have a mountain of evidence that Tamerlan was far more extremist than 99.9 percent of the entire American Muslim population. Why will Glenn not acknowledge this?

His other point is a much more interesting one:

“[T]errorism” does not have any real meaning other than “a Muslim who commits violence against America and its allies”, so as soon as a Muslim commits violence, there is an automatic decree that it is “terrorism” even though no such assumption arises from similar acts committed by non-Muslims. That is precisely my point.

He means, I think, by “terrorism” how terrorism is viewed by the majority in contemporary America. And there is some truth to this point – unfortunately. But does Glenn ever wonder why? Extremist Islam has developed quite a reputation in the last couple of decades, wouldn’t you think? When an al Qaeda enthusiast and religious fanatic decides to bomb the Boston Marathon, is it really outrageous to infer some connection? If he were a Tim McVeigh type, with a web history of black helicopter paranoia, do you think we’d be hemming and hawing about his motives? These terrorist events are designed for maximal media exposure, and they deploy random civilian mass-murder to publicize a cause. They are rational plots.

So to take Glenn’s other examples, they are all hideous killing sprees by gunmen with grudges and fantasies and mental illness. There seemed to be no deeper motive. Fort Hood is a more interesting case – a gun attack on fellow soldiers, while yelling Allah. That seems to me to be clearly at core a terrorist event – but fused with what we can see were workplace issues. He was a Muslim, but the US government continues to describe the attack as an act of workplace violence – not terrorism. I think the evidence points to a confluence of religious radicalism and “going postal.” He attacked his own base and had previously given out cards calling himself a “soldier of Allah.” We have no such workplace frustration to ascribe to Tamerlan: he picked a classic terror target – a televised public event, symbolizing he unity of all people and all faiths in the simple act of running.

Extreme Islamism is a threat to us all. That does not mean we empower it more with Cheney-esque over-reaction or anti-Muslim bigotry (which can create more self-radicalized mass murderers). We can make the distinction between this kind of violent fundamentalism and mainstream Islam, practiced by 99.9 percent of American Muslims. We can stop invading Muslim countries. We can defuse the drama by trying one of the accused in a civilian court. We can ensure that next year’s Boston Marathon is overwhelmed with participants. We should not torture Tsarnaev the way Bush and Cheney did Padilla – on much flimsier grounds. And we can do all this without slipping into the see-no-evil denial that Glenn has, sadly sunk into.

(Photo: Victims are in shock and being treated at the scene of the first explosion that went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. By John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)