is the chief characteristic of most madmen, and so it is with
those who are clamoring for war. By monomania I mean a fixation,
or obsession, that colors perceptions and makes normal interaction
with the world difficult, if not well nigh impossible. Your
typical monomaniac might be, say, an anti-Semite, who interprets
virtually all events as the doings of a Jewish cabal, that,
naturally, is all-powerful and omnipresent. Or the monomaniac
might be a sex addict, who has eroticized everyday reality
(or tried to) and sees the world through the prism of a disorienting
hyper-sexuality. In both cases, reality, if it is perceived
at all, hardly penetrates the monomaniacal consciousness.
This form of mental illness is rife, today, as a direct result
of 9/11. The psychological trauma has knocked many Americans
for a loop, and is even beginning to penetrate the political
discourse in this country, as witness the loopy monomania
of the War Party over the matter of the Washington sniper.
James S.Robbins of National Review around, we don't
really need the FBI, and could probably dispense with it altogether
– because he
has already solved the case. "I think the sniper
is either an active member of al Qaeda, a bin Laden sympathizer,
or someone motivated
by the same type of hatred," Robbins announces. His reasons
are textbook examples of the monomanical mentality.
admitting that his thesis is at variance with everything law
enforcement and the experts have been telling us, Robbins
airily dismisses their accumulated experience and inside information
by declaring that the classic profile of the "lone nut"
doesn't apply here: "This profile makes sense if you
look only at historical patterns of recent domestic terrorism."
But Robbins knows better:
working assumption from day one was that these attacks were
a new domestic front of the war against civilization by the
Islamicist terrorists, hence part of a larger framework conditioned
by critical strategic factors. In other words, these are not
the actions of a criminal psychopath, but a jihadist warrior."
course, we all have "working assumptions" and couldn't
function without them. But these assumptions are usually the
result of experience, i.e. based on concrete evidence, and
ought not to be easily made. The monomaniac, however, starts
out with more than mere assumptions: he knows what it's all
about before he even sees it. Thus his perceptions are completely
off-base, and untrustworthy. What evidence does Robbins have
that the Washington sniper is an Al-Qaeda agent? According
to him, it's all in the timing:
the sniper attacks are taking place during an al Qaeda offensive.
The latest statements purportedly from Ayman Al-Zawahiri,
Mullah Omar, and, of course, several from Osama bin Laden,
indicated that a new phase was underway. The recent attacks
in Yemen, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Chechnya, the Philippines,
and most devastatingly in Indonesia, are parts of this offensive.
So, why not attack the U.S. homeland? Clearly, they have been
looking for ways to strike back at us since the failure of
their follow on attacks after September 11. This may be it.
Remember that we are at war. Seems a salient fact when systematic
shooting erupts on the home front."
the sniper attacks are taking place during a period of heightened
Al Qaeda activity abroad. But so have many other violent events:
the city of Oakland, in California, is experiencing a
wave of shootings.
Could it be Al-Qaeda? By the Robbins standard of evidence,
the answer is yes. What about the five
murders of military spouses at Ft. Bragg, Georgia, inside
of five weeks? These, after all, were Special Operations officers,
just recently returned from Afghanistan: could they have converted
to Al Qaeda-ism while over there, and decided to wage jihad
on their return? If we take Robbins seriously – I know it's
hard, but try – then this possibility cannot be entirely
ruled out. After all, wouldn't it make sense for the terrorists
to strike a military target?
the monomaniac, there are no coincidences: everything
is part of a pattern. And there are signs and portents everywhere.
If you start out with certain "working assumptions"
that have hardened into wishful thinking, then everything
begins to fall nicely into place….
the attacks are taking place in the nation's capital region.
If the bad guys were going to target any particular U.S. city,
Washington D.C. would be the place. It is the seat of American
power, and the symbol of everything they hate. A sniper on
the loose in Washington, killing Americans and not being caught,
raises the morale of terrorists everywhere, and emboldens
them to greater efforts. If they can hit us here, they can
hit us anywhere, and if one of them is succeeding they will
all keep trying."
Washington not only the seat of the federal government, but
also the murder
capital of the country, one can only wonder what Robbins
has to say about that particular statistic. If D.C. is the
symbol of everything the terrorists hate, that city also looms
large in the demonology of the American far-right. Given the
mystic significance of place posited by Robbins, another
Timothy McVeigh seems just as likely to be the culprit.
for the recent murders being a morale-booster for the terorists:
what more do they need than the memory of 9/11 to remind themselves
that "they can hit us anywhere"? Many recent events
gladden the terrorist heart, but can we really blame them
for such disasters as the recent stock market slide, the California
forest fires, and the new Madonna movie?
undeterred by either logic or common sense, is off to the
the attacks are against innocents. Al Qaeda has threatened
retribution for civilians killed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and
the Palestinian Authority. They have specifically stated that
they would take revenge for the killing of women and children,
who are among the victims in the recent spate of attacks in
this country, including the latest."
most of the victims of urban violence everywhere are
Children are killed or injured in drive-by shootings in our
inner cities with stunning frequency, and some studies show
that this condition has developed into a
form of guerrilla warfare. All urban dwellers, to some
degree, live with a certain level of terror, due to the ubiquity
of crime in the cities. But what has any of this to do with
Al Qaeda? The answer is absolutely nothing….
the tactics are terroristic in nature," writes Robbins.
"The attacks, in their targeting, their frequency, and
their location, are intended to spread fear and disrupt the
normal flow of life." It's interesting how the monomaniacal
mentality seems to imbue its victims with special powers:
Robbins is here reading the sniper's mind, although how he
has managed this feat when the police have yet to find the
killer is a phenomenon that defies explanation. But not to
the monomaniac. He knows his mania gives him special
insight into the inner workings of the world, a preternatural
vision that penetrates right to the heart of any matter, like
Superman's x-ray vision.
reality is that we can't know anything about the inner mental
world of the sniper, and won't know until he's caught, and
not even Robbins pretends otherwise. He admits that he's engaging
in sheer speculation – "but that is what analysts do,"
he assures us. But that is not what responsible analysts,
otherwise known as journalists, do. It is, however, what progandists
do. A major theme of war propaganda is to project the possibilities
of the terror that might be unleashed if we don't act
now. How long before they think to tie the phantom
sniper to Saddam Hussein? It may be only a matter of hours….
prime piece of evidence so far, the
tarot card left by the killer at a crime scene, is a "a
wild card," avers Robbins – this is said about
the only concrete physical clue so far! As if such an un-Islamic
calling card could possibly be connected with the devoutly
religious fanatics of Al Qaeda, and as if tarot
cards and Satanic
imagery have never been associated with any murders in
the U.S.! The willful blindness of the ideologue is virtually
impenetrable, and certainly in the case of our neoconservative
warhawks this capacity for evasion seems truly Orwellian,
a form of double-think.
in any case, is excited by the news that the police are looking
for an "olive-skinned" man, although what he has
against Sicilians he doesn't say. Elsewhere in National
Ledeen is channeling the spirit of James Jesus Angleton
for evidence that it's all a plot by Al Qaeda, and here we
get auditory and visual hallucinations in addition to the
familiar symptoms. The former professional bridge player who
toured with Omar Sharif even manages to work in a plug for
his new book, and his analysis of the sniper murders is an
echo of its thesis:
could be anything from a lone nut always Americans'
favorite hypothesis when something terrible happens
to an organized terrorist cell. Americans don't like to face
the possibility of an active conspiracy, even though there
are lots of them at work in the country…"
is so right – there are indeed lots of conspiracies
at work in this country, but every time I
point one out I get called a "crank" by James
Tarantoad and Jonah
Goldberg. Speaking of whom, with his well-known
NRO Online editor
Goldberg also weighs in:
with Jim in thinking this is part of the Fall offensive, along
with the attacks in Kuwait and off the coast of Yemen. Obviously,
we won't know for sure. But what I find most persuasive is
the possibility that this is a two man team. That just strikes
me as way too professional."
the sniper has morphed into two, and the plot – based
on pure supposition gets more complex. Soon the landscape
of suburban Washington will be teeming with olive-skinned
gun-toting Abdullahs, scooting around the countryside in their
white vans – at least, in Goldberg's imagination. Ah, and
here is the real breakthrough in the case, the clincher, as
far as I'm concerned:
the syntax on the 'Dear Mr. Policeman' note was weird (though
sacriligious). [sic] Also, and this, I think, might be a bit
of a stretch, but the fact that so many victims are people
pumping gas sounds like it might be symbolic. All of these
al Quaeda [sic] types make such a big deal about our foreign
policy being a product of our thirst for oil to feed our cars.
Maybe that means something. Or maybe, it's just that gas purchasers
make easier targets. Anyway, it's getting pretty bad around
sure is – and "a bit of a stretch" is putting it
mildly. It isn't always possible to tell when Goldberg is
trying to be serious. The knowledge that he missed his true
calling, and should be up there on stage, a Seinfeld
of the Right, has taken its toll on his column. It is often
impossible to know if he's trying to make a statement or just
telling a bad (and very long) joke. In the case of the piercing
insight cited above, I leave it to my readers to decide. What
strikes me is that now we have one of the leading lights of
the neocon Right saying "it's all about oil!"
As if to underscore the point that all monomaniacs, whether
of the Right or the Left, are brothers under the skin….
is certainly possible that what we are witnessing is a terror
attack by Al Qaeda. As it stands now, there is not a single
shred of solid evidence pointing in that direction. My point,
however, is that monomaniacs jump to conclusions far too easily,
and that's usually because they have their own agendas.
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