Behind the Headlines
by Justin Raimondo

July 10, 2002

In the case of the July 4 LAX gunman, ideology trumps reality

The controversy over the fourth of July gunman at LAX, Hashem Mohamed Hadayet, known as "Ali," is typical of any issue involving Israel. Since it advances Israel's interests to maintain that Hadayet was part of a larger terrorist operation, a footsoldier in a worldwide Islamofascist network, then it must be true. Which is why Israeli government officials jumped the gun, as I pointed out in a July 4 piece, and characterized it as an act of organized terrorism before Hadayet had even been identified.

James Taranto admits there is no evidence of any organized terrorist plot, but avers that hate crimes are "arguably a form of terrorism." Well, then, perhaps we ought to take this Los Angeles Times headline "Deluge of Hate Crimes After 9/11 Pours Through System" a bit more seriously. According to Times staff writer Richard Serrano,

" Officials have opened three times as many investigations into hate crimes with Arab victims since Sept. 11 as in the same period the previous year. They include 350 federal cases and 70 by state and local authorities."

The Egyptians, meanwhile, having interrogated Hadayet's family, are telling us that the murders stemmed from a "personal grudge," as Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher put it. An Agence France Presse dispatch reports:

"Egyptian security services told Hadayet's father Friday that the shooting incident 'was due to financial problems with El Al,' his cousin, Emad al-Omda, told AFP Saturday. Omda said the Israeli airline had been late in paying for two limousines it had rented from Hadayet's service."

I don't know whether I believe that, anymore than I believe Israeli officials who confidently pin Hadayet's act on Al Qaeda. But it's interesting how this has developed into an increasingly acrimonious conflict between US law enforcement officials and the Israeli government, summed up in a [UK] Times headline: "Airport killer's motive provokes US-Israeli split."

Seen through the prism of extreme Israelophilia, Hadayet's rampage was a mini-9/11 yet more proof that Israel's fight is our fight. As suicide bombers rip through Israel's cities, so the same wave of murderous fanaticism is blooming in the US, soon to move out from the airports and into the streets of the American metropolis.

Or so the story goes. Matters of fact become matters of ideology; and when the former is sparse, the latter takes over never more readily than in wartime. Thus we have Rod Dreher writing in National Review:

"Authorities are hesitant to label the LAX attack 'terrorism.' Let's see: the murderer was an Egyptian-born Muslim who turned up at the counter of the Israeli national airline, heavily armed, and starts shooting. Excuse me, but why is this not terrorism? I wonder if the eight children left behind by one of the Islamofascist shooter's victims have any trouble discerning whether or not this is terrorism. By this standard, all the anti-Semitic violence of late in France, which has been carried out by Arab Muslims, is not terrorism either, but random criminal acts. Come to think of it, isn't that what the French authorities have been saying?"

Based on zero evidence, a man who may have been driven by a personal grudge is cast by Dreher as an agent of the International Islamofascist Conspiracy. Excuse me, but it's entirely possible Hadayet's motive was non-ideological. The explanation coming from the Egyptians that Hadayet's rage was rooted in his failing finances at least has some basis in known fact. We know his limousine business was failing: what El Al had to do with this, if anything, remains to be seen. As a Los Angeles Times profile of Hadayet relates:

"By last summer, however, Hadayet's luck appeared to have turned sour. He notified the state that he had stopped operating one car, then the other. State records show his required insurance coverage was canceled. In November, after a series of warnings, the Public Utilities Commission revoked his limousine permit."

The FBI isn't absolutely ruling out the possibility that this was indeed an organized terrorist attack, the fulfillment of law enforcement's earlier warning that Jewish targets on American soil were being targeted. There is as yet no evidence that his mad act was part of a concerted effort, apart from Hadayet's nationality and religion but that is quite enough for Dreher.

The triumph of ideology over reality has come to the point where everyone has a "line" on matters such as who's behind the anthrax murders. The War Party can't be bothered with mere facts. That only a few laboratories within the United States are even capable of producing such high-grade stuff as came out of those envelopes, and that the pool of specialists with knowledge of the procedures involved is very small, and limited to the US doesn't phase them in the least. The Wall Street Journal regularly runs editorials naming Iraq as the source of the anthrax attacks, a theory as firmly rooted in reality as Dreher's dubious methods of crime detection. As in the July 4 incident, the Sherlock Holmes Brigade of the War Party finds itself up against law enforcement professionals whose focus on the facts has led them to the opposite conclusion.

The FBI believes the origins of the anthrax are domestic, and has acted accordingly, if more than a little slowly. They have searched the premises of Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, and he seems to be the suspect of choice as far as the liberals over at The American Prospect are concerned. The narrative here is that an evil and no doubt quite mad scientist, in an effort to scare the government into funding bioterror research and prevention, unleashed a biological horror on a few ostensibly to save the many. It also doesn't hurt that Hatfill reportedly served in the Rhodesian military and bragged of having been a double agent in apartheid era South Africa.

Laura Rozen's piece nowhere contains a single iota of solid evidence: sure, Hatfill has the knowledge, but his motive is barely sketched out beyond some vague megalomania mixed with right-wing malevolence. Rozen points out that Hatfill had appeared in several news stories as warning of the dangers of bioterrorism as if this underscores his possible guilt. But if Hatfill is the culprit, why would he want to draw so much attention to himself, even going so far as to publicly speculate on how a bioterror attack might take place?

As my regular readers know, I have my own candidate for the role of Dr. Anthrax. A theory, I might add, based on facts, and not ideological wish-fulfillment fantasies. I also believe that it was not just the work of a lone mad scientist , but of a group based at the Ft. Detrick biowar research facility a clique known as the "camel club" because of their outspoken hatred for Arab-Americans working at the same facility.

A few days before the anthrax letters became known, the authorities received an anonymous letter accusing Dr. Ayaad Assaad, a native of Egypt and a former scientist at Ft. Detrick, of planning bio-terrorism, and naming his two sons as accomplices. The letter gave specific details of Assaad's life and career, and claimed to be from a former Ft. Detrick colleague. On October 3, Assaad was questioned and completely cleared. The next day, the anthrax scare began. Is it really rocket science that whomever tried to frame Assaad also sent the anthrax letters? Remember, those letters contained crude messages suggesting that this was coming from fanatical Muslims. Interviewed by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a biological arms-control expert with the Federation of American Scientists, who has developed a profile of Dr. Anthrax, weighs in on the meaning of the poison pen letter:

"'The superficial purpose was to cast suspicion on Assaad,' drawing attention away from a 'whole group of people' at the Fort Detrick lab. 'I think it could well be whoever sent the [hoax] letter,' Rosenberg said."

The key clue to the anthrax mystery is in Assaad's decade-long battle against a clique of colleagues who harassed him mercilessly, and at one point sent him obscene poems mocking his ethnicity in the most vulgar terms imaginable. The Ft. Detrick laboratory was apparently a maelstrom of ethnic conflict, pitting "the camel club" against scientists of Middle Eastern origin. Was Hatfill, who left his job at Ft. Detrick in 1999, a member of the "camel club"? Others in the clique departed in 1997.

It is, in any case, extremely odd that none of this essential background material is so much as mentioned in all the speculation surrounding the anthrax mystery. The Wall Street Journal ignores it, content to conjure a nonexistent Iraqi connection as does The American Prospect, content to conjure its own preferred bogeyman, a mad scientist with white supremacist tendencies. The same is true in the case of the LAX gunman only this time the paucity of facts gives the fantasists a much wider berth. The always reliable Debka [sarcasm off] has already pinned Hadayet as a longtime cadre of an Egyptian terrorist faction, while Ariel Sharon and his ministers are less specific but no less certain of his role as the instrument of a conspiracy.

The problem, in the case of Hadayet, is not only the paucity of facts, but wildly differing versions. A story in the Sydney Morning Herald reports that Hadayet was on an FBI watchlist, while FBI agent Richard Garcia told a news conference on July 6 that "he was not on any FBI or FAA watch list." Taranto, citing an Associated Press report carried on Fox News, goes into a whole spiel about how Hadayet was supposedly offended by his neighbor’s display of the American flag, and pontificates about the Egyptian’s "apparent hate for America": but the Orange County Register tells a different, more ambiguous story:

"Conflicting views on Hadayet were bumping into each other all over the neighborhood. For example, some said Hadayet was mad about a large American flag that his upstairs neighbor had draped over the landing above Hadayet's front door -- but others said he wasn't. And some said the Egyptian-born Hadayet was angry at America in general, that he felt discriminated against, and that he had covered up the ‘Read the Koran’ sticker on his front door because he was afraid of being attacked - but others said he was a normal but quiet family man who liked to hang out at the apartment complex Jacuzzi."

At this stage of the game, when what little is known is ambiguous or contradictory, for Israel's partisans to try to capitalize on the July 4 shootings as part of a vast conspiracy is not only absurd but unseemly.

The great tragedy of this horrific attack, aside from the heartbreaking loss of the dead and the injured, is that we have imported the intractable conflicts wracking t
he Middle East to our own shores. Because we have intervened where we have no business meddling befriending and subsidizing the one, while alienating and persecuting the another America has been turned into a battleground for the ancient blood feuds of implacable enemies. It's the price of Empire – but are the American people willing to pay it? The answer, I suspect – and hope – is no.

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