response of some to the capture of the Maryland sniper, John
Allen Williams, a.k.a .John Allen Muhammad, illustrates an
idea that has been preoccupying me of late: the relationship
(if any) between ideology and truth. Ideology of any sort
inevitably distorts the mental processes, and a writer that
is, a serious writer, and especially one who has certain vivid
opinions must be constantly on guard against this insidious
deterioration. Since 9/11, and our forced march to war in
the Middle East, what has struck me most has been a rapid
degeneration of the public dialogue, including news coverage
as well as published commentary.
prime example of this sad decline is the reaction, in some
quarters, to the news that Williams-Muhammad and his seventeen-year-old
accomplice are unconnected to any group, foreign or domestic.
As I wrote in
a previous column, those who see an "Islamo-fascist"
under every bed have been quick to point to the sniper attacks
as evidence of of Al Qaeda's omnipresence. That this premise
has now been disproved hasn't stopped the journalistic division
of the War Party from, somehow, feeling vindicated. Such is
the blinding power of ideology. Writing in the National
Review Online group-blog, James S. Robbins, who decided
on the Islamic terror option long
before the capture of the deadly duo, avers:
may be more preaching to the choir, but remember
Hesham Mohammed Ali Hadayet, the Egyptian shooter
at the El Al ticket counter at LAX last July 4? The media
was very reluctant to conclude the obvious, namely that he
was motivated by radical Islamic beliefs and hatreds. As I
pointed out in my piece on the sniper a week ago Islamic terrorism
should have been the default assumption, in that case and
this one. I think the people who a year ago were complaining
about the intelligence agencies failing to connect the dots
should examine their own critical analytical failures."
about Robbins' own "critical analytical failures"?
These led him to posit, a
few days prior to the arrests, that the timing and location
of the attacks indicated a new phase of Al Qaeda's offensive:
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."
of facts, evidence, and all the other old-fashioned, pre-9/11
paraphernalia of public discourse, Robbins and his fellow
warriors of the laptop are waging a war on reason. What motivated
a murderous rampage on this scale aside from sheer
insanity? Wiliams-Muhammad's conversion to Islam ten years
ago is seized on by Robbins as if it verifies his theory of
"Islamofascism" as the root of all evil, but it
does nothing of the kind. Nothing is known, at this
point, of the murderer's motivation.
a portrait of Williams-Muhammad as a typical serial killer
emerges enraged loser, loner, and drifter the utter wrongness
of the "it's Bin Laden" school of thought is readily
apparent. But never do these people acknowledge error: ideologues,
like madmen, are so married to their own delusional systems
that they can explain away any discrepancy. In this
blithering about how it was an example of "leaderless
resistance," as Instawarmonger
arrested the two guys wanted in the sniper case, after witnesses
spotted them sleeping in a car at a rest stop. Other accounts
suggest that they were "sympathetic" to Al Qaeda.
story reports: 'Several federal sources said Muhammad
and Malvo may have been motivated by anti-American sentiments
in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Both were known
to speak sympathetically about the men who attacked the United
States, the sources said.'"
of the pair's "anti-Americanism" are anonymously
cited in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer story linked
to by Reynolds: their accuser is apparently a Mr. Singh, as
identified by CNN. But this
MSNBC story cites Felix Strozier, Williams-Muhammad's
former business partner, as saying "he was a man with
strong opinions who took his Muslim faith seriously. However,
he wasn't aware of any anti-American sentiment."
the War Party blames the sniper attacks on Noam Chomsky, and
names Susan Sontag and Gore Vidal as unindicted co-conspirators,
they should take a deep breath and examine the facts. Muhammad
spent ten years in the U.S. military and even
signed up for the Louisiana National Guard. How many of our
chickenhawks can boast of a similar record? If this guy hates
his country instead of just people in general he sure
had a funny way of showing it.
facts make little difference to those who have an agenda.
Our war-birds were singing the same song before the case broke,
and the effective debunking of their pet theory has hardly
caused them to miss a beat. Reynolds even cites a story linking
Muhammad to an alleged "terrorist training camp"
in Alabama. But the
police chief there denies it. As a local television station
reported in July:
officials say an investigation uncovered no evidence that
a camp near Marion was used as a terrorist training camp.
Wednesday night, ABC News said the camp could have possible
ties to Osama bin Laden's terror network.
Chief Tony Buford said he was misquoted. Buford said the camp
is used by police officers from Alabama and Louisiana for
training that includes target practice."
"terrorist training camp" turns out to be a kind
of theme park for the age of terrorism called "Ground
Zero USA" run by some British guy apparently trying,
in his own small way, to cash in on the terrorist scare. But
nothing scares off an ideologue looking for factoids to support
his preconceptions (or, in Reynolds' and Robbins' cases, their
fondest hopes. Because then, you see, it would show that they
were right all along, and that the rest of us should just
shut up and follow orders). As Reynolds writes:
TV people are still playing this as 'a new kind of serial
killer' but it's not. It's terrorism. It may be terrorism
of the 'leaderless resistance' variety or not but unless this
is a huge screwup by the authorities it's pretty obviously
Islamic terrorism, and neither the authorities nor the media
commentators are enhancing their credibility by pretending
of living in a pretend world of illusion, doesn't anybody
find it odd that a 42-year-old Islamic jihadist would go on
a murderous spree with
his 17-year-old "play son"? Here is someone
who has been through two broken marriages, and a bitter custody
battle in which he was accused of kidnapping his children
from their mother. Now he has gone on a rampage, all the while
pretending to be this kid's "father." Whatever ideational
delusions caused Mr. Williams-Muhammad to go on a killing
spree, they seem more psycho-sexual than religious or ideological.
that tentative conclusion is based on the available evidence,
which is something today's war-ideologues don't bother with.
Because, you see, "everything's
changed" and we
don't need logic anymore.
John Allen Williams-Muhammad an Islamic warrior on a jihad
against American infidels? I don't think so, although subsequent
revelations may well prove me wrong. Instead, I tend to believe
the scenario I sketched out in my
recent speech to the St. Louis College Libertarians was
all too dead-on accurate:
Rome, they fed people to the lions, and staged extravaganzas
of sadistic cruelty as popular entertainment: today, the same
sadistic streak is the leitmotif of our culture, as violence
for its own sake preoccupies the American imagination not
only on television, but in real life. Last month, within an
eight week period at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, five murders
were committed by Special Operations soldiers returning from
Afghanistan they killed their wives, brutally beating, strangling,
and mangling them, as if possessed by some demonic force.
An investigation into the 'causes' of this phenomenon is now
underway, but permit me to advance my own theory: that the
violence unleashed in America's foreign wars is rebounding
back here, in our own country."
you read it here first
I am sitting here listening to the horrifically
boring Connie Chung ask a cousin of Muhammad what the
suspect thought of the prospect of going to war with Iraq.
Answer: he didn't have much of an opinion "one way or
the other." Sorry, warmongers better luck next
I can't resist pointing to the most egregiously ignorant of
all the responses to the sniper arrest,
which comes, naturally, from David Horowitz, who seems
to have descended from fairly ordinary neoconservatism into
the outright Ku Klux Klan-style racism of his
allies over at American
course everybody in the country had the sniper(s) profiled.
They were white militia men, crackers. White males are the
only group it is acceptable to racially profile. Well, guess
what. Not. They are anti-American, anti-white, Muslim, blacks."
all the reasons stated above, the idea that "anti-Americanism"
drove Williams-Muhammad to mass murder is purely a product
of the Horowitzian imagination. As for the snipers being "anti-white"
since five of the victims were persons of color, among
them Kenneth H. Bridges, the founder of a
national black self-help group and
a noted advocate of black reparations this contention
makes little sense. Muhammad was apparently guided by the
spirit of "diversity" in choosing his victims, who
were Hispanic, Asian, black, and white, young and old, women
and men. Horowitz is simply projecting his own race-hate on
others and it's not a pretty sight.
of Horowitz, I note, in passing, his latest screed, weirdly
Raimondo Has His Say," in which he informs his readers
that I am driven by "envy and resentment" of his
greatness, and am "jealous of the fact that I am better
known than he is." But so is John Williams-Muhammad better
known than my humble self. Being well-known is not, in itself,
a good thing, for the question arises: what is Horowitz well-known
denials that he was ever a Commie are pathetically disingenuous:
"I was a New Left Marxist," he claims, differentiating
the new breed from the old-line Stalinists. But as a supporter
and admirer of Isaac
Deutscher, Trotsky's biographer and "critical"
supporter of the Soviet system, the Horowitzian stance,
back in those days, was commie in the lower-case sense. In
any case, the New Left Marxists claimed that theirs was
the real communism, while the Kremlin had "betrayed"
the Revolution, and Horowitz's claim is a clumsy evasion.
I have never supported sending anyone to jail for advocacy,"
he writes, "let alone for 'disagreeing' with me."
Since Horowitz regularly excoriates opponents of war in the
Middle East as "traitors," "fifth columnists,"
"terrorist supporters," etc., ad nauseum,
one can only conclude that Horowitz doesn't have the courage
of his convictions. But if we truly are traitors, fifth columnists
intent on helping a terrorist conspiracy to destroy America,
as he constantly charges, then why not bring actual charges?
For surely this is treason, and clearly illegal and also
the clear implication of what Horowitz is saying.
he avers, "I am not a 'neo-conservative,' whatever that
means, other than Jew." What Horowitz descries in Jesse
Jackson and Al Sharpton the divisive tactics of ethnic victimology
are okay when he employs them. Except what are we
to make of Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Bill Bennett, Rich Lowry, Andrew
Sullivan, Michael Novak, Father John Neuhaus, Francis Fukuyama,
not to mention the comment by David Brooks that "we're
all neoconservatives now"? The idea that "neoconservative"
means "Jew" is just as false as the equation of
Israel with the interests of Jews worldwide: what the War
Party wants to establish is that to criticize either Israel
or its American amen corner is an "anti-Semitic"
whines Horowitz, "not only have I never said that my
parents should have been fired from their jobs during the
McCarthy era, I wrote exactly the opposite as any casual reader
of my autobiography Radical
Son knows." Every reader of Radical Son
every close reader, no skimmers allowed! should also be
familiar with the following passage appearing on page 69 of
the book. In describing his father's persecution, Horowitz
denies Carl Bernstein's charge that the anti-Communist witch-hunt
of the 1950's amounted to a "reign of terror":
actually happened to my father and American Communists in
general bears little resemblance to these lurid images. They
were neither executed nor tortured, and spent hardly any time
My father was not a Party leader, and merely
lost his job."
was, we are told, only "a temporary setback," as
the Party soon helped him get employment, but one gets the
definite impression that Dad losing his job was not altogether
a bad thing, and certainly justifiable. Explaining that "less
than two hundred" Communists were jailed at that time,
he avers that his was "not a small or an insignificant
price to pay" but "considering the Party's organizational
ties to an enemy power armed with nuclear weapons poised to
attack America, it was not a large one, either."
this standard, it was okay for his father to be fired
from his position as a "mere" teacher, lose his
pension, and "share his lot with the working class,"
as Horowitz rather unsympathetically puts it. In noting that
"the scent of inquisition hung over the political air"
his parents breathed, he asks, on page 44: "And yet,
what else could they have expected?"
other words: they deserved it. So much for conservative
and certainly least Horowitz makes the ridiculous claim
that "Raimondo has long been obsessed with me in the
manner of a political stalker. A search of his site turns
up more than 200 negative articles and references about me,
most of which are authored by Raimondo himself."
bad Horowitz can't use a simple computer. A Google search
of our site turns
up 115 matches to his name, more than half of which are
brief mentions, and a good third of these are not by me at
himself has contributed an article to Antiwar.com, as
part of a dialogue-debate with Ran HaCohen, our Israeli columnist.
typically Horowitzian. First he complains that I'm "jealous"
of his great fame, and then he bitches when his name appears
in print. Some people are just so hard to please
YOU, COLLEGE LIBERTARIANS!
stupidly failed to thank Mike Ewens, Antiwar.com's campus
coordinator along with his numerous comrades of the Washington
University College Libertarians for making my recent visit
to Wash U a great success. I counted at least 150 people at
the forum where I spoke. The College Libertarians at Wash
U are an active, informed, and certainly very energetic group
of young people, whose existence bodes well for the future
of our movement. After the talk, we all went out to a fabulous
meal in the charming Italian district, where I told Murray
Rothbard stories late into the night. When it came time to
leave the luxurious campus digs they put me up in, a pang
of real regret swept over me: Oh, well, I thought, back to
mundane reality! But not so fast
it was on to the University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign,
where I was also scheduled to speak before the College Libertarian
group. It was a great audience, very attentive, with
lots of questions and a platoon of my friends in the area
showed up to supplement the crowd. I want to thank Shariq,
the local organizer, who was kind enough to invite me, and
whose whole demeanor exuded a quiet integrity: the talk was
a great success, and afterward we all went out and had a few
beers. On the way in to a bar, we saw the local leftie leader
who heads up the campus peace coalition. "Hey, dude,
what happened to you guys?" said one of the College Libertarians,
"we didn't see you at the forum."
course, people were studying for mid-terms, so that was a
little harsh. Maybe he'll show up, next time.
any case, I'm continuing my campus tour, in November, with
an appearance at Berkeley on the 20th, along with
Harry Browne, and there are others in the pipeline. If your
campus group is interested in having me speak on your campus,
email Mike Ewens,
and we'll make arrangements.
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