Monday, December 28, 2015

The Accidental Terrorist

Men are not a new sensation
I've done pretty well, I think
But this half-pint imitation
Put me on the blink 
--Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, 
Lornz and Hart 

[You're ugly] and you're boring,
and you're totally ordinary 
--American Beauty (1999) 

 Leaders proclaim a government
To last forever,
Then walls collapse and refugees
Come pouring over
--Farmer Sowing,
 Adam Kirsch

Killings like the recent one in San Bernadino are often called “senseless”, “horrendous” and always, “terrorism” -- but is it so?

Even assuming that it was those things, was it “spectacular”? The San Bernadino attack feels like any of the other tawdry mass shootings conducted by criminally-insane, marginalized shooters. Sad to say, but as the character Ricky Fitts says in the film American Beauty, it was "totally ordinary," in the state of our new normal.

Regardless of what we call the event, it was a cold and calculated murder executed within the social circle of the shooters. It is possible it was an act of revenge by Syed Rizwan Farook against co-workers who criticized his Muslim religion. It was a terror-filled event, but Terrorism and terror are distinct terms. And since all terrorism is criminal activity, does it matter that these killers pledged allegiance to the Islamic State? If so, In what purview does it matter? Most assuredly, the killings were not an act of war.

There is a sense that this couple camouflaged their personal animosities and called it a “jihad”. This can be inferred because of the location they chose: instead of entering a federal building or a military compound, they attacked Farouk's co-workers at a Christmas party.

Contrast this action to the recent Paris attacks which were clear acts of terrorism as they affected an audience beyond the killing (i.e., the French government). Paris gained the Islamic State diplomatic recognition as an army, based on the reactions of the French government.

In comparison, there is no discernible evidence that the U.S. shooters were trained in soldierly skills or that they possessed any tradecraft or experience in the world of “sleeper agents”. Their bombs could not bomb (said in our best Inspector Clouseau.) Only unsophisticated bombers use pipe bombs, anyway. Only idiots would use metal, screw-on pipes.

Their home-made hand grenades were as bad as those of bombers manqué Reid and Abdulmutallab (the shoe and underwear bombers [not], respectively.) If they were tied in to the World Terror Network, their behavior violates the rule that Terror groups learn, cross-fertilize and don’t repeat the same stupid mistakes.

They used semi-auto rifles with 30-round magazines, with back-up pistols. When they entered the crime scene they had 60 rounds locked and loaded, yet achieved only 14 kills (my sympathy to those and their families) because they did not seal the avenues of approach. A professional would not have overlooked this fact.

Further, why did the shooters use M16 clones, versus AK47 semi automatics available in any gun shop in the United States? The AK47 is the terrorist weapon of choice in close quarters fighting, so the AK's absence would indicate that these two were not educated in a terrorist training camp.

Their escape route was not effective, either (echoing the mistake made by the Boston bombers.) During the final shootout they were reported to have had a large supply of rifle ammunition, but in the news photos, the ammo appeared in stripper clips, and not loaded into magazines. This is amateur behavior, as a trained fighter would have all ammo loaded into magazines, ready for the fight. (A soldier’s basic load is 140 rounds, in magazines.)

San Bernadino was another grotesque mass murder, of no consequence, committed by two bumbling idiots, two disturbed, vacuous and soulless individuals.

If this is the best that Islamic State can array against us, then they are of little consequence to the U.S. This is not a “bring it on” moment; this is a fact.

[cross-posted @ RangerAgainstWar.]


  1. I think these events can be characterized by a probability curve which distributes across multiple factors like motivation, training, socialization and experience. That does not excuse them, but, like traffic collisions, they are not accidents.

  2. "...they are of little consequence to the U.S. This is not a “bring it on” moment; this is a fact."

    Until the Islamic State Navy commissions its first carrier strike group or completes launch-testing of its first ICBM silo and nuclear missile submarine, jim, it will continue to be of "little consequence to the U.S.". Any bets on when that's gonna happen?

    Frankly, the goddamn cable news organizations should be slapped upside the head with dimension lumber. Between this idiotic crap and missing white girls it's a wonder they have anything else to discuss.

    The United States is sliding into a New Gilded Age and all these morons want to do is run around screaming "TERROR! FEAR! BOOM! DEATH!" at the top of their lungs.

    The damage that renewed oligarchy combined with climatic change is going to do to this country is going to tower over all of this silliness like Babe Ruth in a Babe Ruth League, but We the People will never hear that from our supposed "news" organizations because, well, those stories are "boring" and "hard to tell".

  3. "If this is the best that Islamic State can array against us, then they are of little consequence to the U.S."

    That statement is absolutely right on, Ranger. Unfortunately for us 'fear' seems to work in politics. And it also sells well in the media. So I expect to hear a lot more of the cowards and faint-hearted screaming about the danger.

    And long after the last Islamic State jihadi comes out of his tunnel like Onoda and Nakamura came out of the jungle, there will be some other boogeyman out there that politicians and journalists will tell us to be fearful of.