July 13, 2002
New L.A. Daily News Column ...
New L.A. Daily News Column From Me: It's on the LAX fiasco. I argue that we should be very worried whenever the FBI bends over backward to avoid using the word "terrorism" in connection with cases involving Egyptian or Saudi nationals.
Posted by at July 13, 2002 10:50 PM
Secession is affecting the way I see everything. I know this to be true when I'm wondering (no offense, really) whether the Daily News accepted your article more to see Hahn slammed than anything else. Just like the LA Times would be happy to accept articles defending Hahn.
Nah, can't be true.
Amit -- I've written for the Daily News in the past (see "Daily News" link on the left), never for the Times. That's about it, really.
Yeah, I didn't believe myself, either.
It all depends on your definition of terrorist... sorry :)
What the mayor, et al., should have said was there were no indications that it was an act of organized terrorism.
Of course we're never that precise. If Joe Blow knocks over the Seven Eleven and has no ties to organized crime is he a mobster? No, he's just a crook.
Right, in your example Joe isn't an orginised criminal, he's a criminal. Using your analogy what they are doing here is comperable to Joe Blow knocking over a 7-11 and them saying "there is no indication of criminal activity". (since criminal:organised criminal :: terrorist:organised terrorist). We would never stand for that kind of report from the police on a robbery. Matt's point about us worring when the govt. goes out of its way to defend egyptian nationals is still valid (if not stronger) as a result of the Joe analogy. They're still 'bending over backwards' to protect him from nasty words.
Also, just because we are used to cells as structured terrorism, doesn't mean it will always be this way. For instance I could easily print a 'manifesto' of my terrorist organisation (which would have no structure to speak of) that simply lists potential ways to blow shit up, and my own personal guidlines for what is the holy way to kill some jews. It would be part communist manifesto, part anarchist's cookbook, and it might very well be effective, if some well know terrorist personality published it, considering the fact that suicide bomber training camps are really sort of pointless (what skills are they going to impart to you?), and that these attacks would be unpredictable and hard to stop (how would you 'dismantle' this organisation?). since this type of terrorism is a viable option, don't you think the govt. is getting off on the wrong foot by just ignoring isolated instances of terrorism?
If someone commits an act of violence consistent with purple beliefs (consistent being judged by purple's political opponents), but there doesn't seem to be any actual connection with the supposed purple hierarchy, we hear that the purple fellow-travellers are using a leaderless strategy. Occasionally the purple hierarchy is then sued and gets to pay damages for actions committed by someone who they never had contact with.
But, when someone commits a crime consistent with mauve beliefs, it's just random violence.
And, that's the way it is.
Again, I think it depends on the definition of terrorism. It seems to me the government is now using the term to refer solely to organized terrorism. Not just in regards to this incident, but consistently. When the government says terrorism, they mean organized acts of terrorism. I make no judgments as to the correctness of their apparant definition.
Your analysis of the analogy is correct, but the context isn't the same. To further the analogy, Joe Blow knocks over the seven eleven on a day specifically identified by the police that would likely see organized criminal activity, after there had already been an organized crime wave. In that context it's not so ridiculous to say it wasn't organized criminal activity. (IMO, of course)
I don't dispute that the powers that be handled the situation poorly, and I suspect it would have been handled differently had it not occurred on the 4th, a day that had been singled out for organized activity. They should not have withheld the nationality of the attacker. If they hadn't, I don't think we'd be talking about this. Matt is correct when he says they treated us like children, but I disagree as to the motivation.
I don't see it as a case of avoiding the word terrorist for the sake of offending Egypt. We call the 15 Saudis who participated in 9/11 terrorists despite our relationship with Saudi Arabia. I think Matt (and other bloggers) are overreacting to what is essentially an issue of semantics. If a white supremacist shoots a black, it's a hate crime, not terrorism. But if an anti-Semitic Arab shoots a Jew it's automatically terrorism?
I disagree with Matt when he implies that early on there was no evidence to support that Hadayet wasn't a member of a terrorist group. If he had been part of one, the attack would have been better planned. We also don't know everything that the government knows. It could be that he'd already been investigated due to the fact he sent his wife and kid back to Egypt and he was found not to have any connections.
I also disagree with Matt's assertion that it's inherently bad to avoid offending the Egyptians or Saudis on the basis that it hasn't helped us with investigations in the past. There are other reasons to avoid offending. We _are_ in a war, and so we do have to play annoying diplomatic games. I don't think that's the case in this instance, but even if it was, the last thing we'd need at this point is to complicate the situation with an uprising in Egypt or Saudi Arabia. These games annoy the hell out of me as well, but there are good reasons to play them.
Also, the government isn't ignoring this event by not calling it terrorism, they've just classified it as a hate crime. That doesn't mean nothing will be done about it. And I would argue that suicide bombers are not isolated, but part of an organization. As far as I've read they've mostly (if not all) been recruited by organizations. While it's certainly possible, even likely, that individuals will turn themselves into human bombs without the benefit of a terrorist organization, there's nothing to do after that point. The individual is gone.
your point that we called the 15 saudi's terrorists isn't really applicable. Noone was going to stand for Bush doing any less after 9/11. The question is whether the administration is taking every OPORTUNITY to lay off with the dirty names on our egyptian and suadi 'friends'. The fact is that Matt's point about making nice with egyptian nationals holds even if you don't consider the attack 'terrorism'. The point is that at the time of the attack there certainly WAS indication that there was terrorism present. If an egyptian national has killed at an El-Al ticket counter you immediately have at least some indication (enough indication that the FBI assumed people would jump to the conclusion that it was terrorism and put out their paniced 'there's no terrorism here' statements) that it is terrorism. When Matt points out that on July 6th's evening we knew all about his 'read the koran' sticker and comments made to his employees against Isreal STILL the FBI stated a day LATER that it still wasn't know whether or not he harbored anti-Isreal feelings, he is pointing out that the government is going out of its way, days later to rule out any suspicion that the man was anything but a crazy, utterly unrelated to anything going on now or ever in international politics. They weren't 'handling it poorly', they were lying. People generally lie for a reason, and I don't think that downplaying what was obvious to everyone, that the man disliked Isreal, days after July 4th fits with your premise of them making certain everyone knew organised terrorists had not struck. The only way that lie fits for me is if the administration feels it has a vested interest in preventing popular anti-Egypt feeling.
Now, Chad Orzel is fowarding an oppinion on the comments of my brother's blog (Yglesias.blogspot.com) on Matt's article, that they are doing this not for foriegn policy reasons, but to protect innocent Egyptians (and Arabs) in the US from backlash. This is an opinion that doesn't quite sit well with me considering the relatively few post sept. 11th incidents there were, and on how much of a smaller scale this was. The only conclusion I draw from this is that the Admin. would rather people didn't start pressuring them on why exactly Egypt (and eventually Saudi Arabia) is our ally based on some random attack.
Now you have three options as to what to think of that: 1) good for them, Americans are reactionary now and we need Egypt as a friend. 2) Shit, Americans aren't that reactionary, why weren't they just honest about this, we would have recognised Egypt is a good friend and not condemned them based on some nut job. and 3) The bastards are so ashamed (rightfully) about their piss poor, oil based, filthy, alliance system in the Middle East, that they think any attention directed against our 'allies' (no matter how misdirected, or how slight) will cause their house of lies to crumble. Anyway you look at it they are treating us like babies, but if you share my sceptical view of Bush and our 'allies' then you probably picked #3, and if they are doing that, then we certainly ought to raise a stink about it.
Definitions are lame. Now they tell us that terrorism has to be associated with a group. O.K? Mr. Hadeyat may have acted alone but he was still participating in Jihad. Islamist web sites, chatrooms and group exhort members to act against American and Isreali targets anyway they can. It's called being a "lonewolf", a technique long used by Christian Identity groups and Neo-nazis (see Timoth Mcveigh for definition). Just because a Jihadist isn't communicating with a group doesn't mean the group isn't communicating with him. This is what it means to have a decentralized assymetrical "War" fought mostly with information and to use Media as a force multiplier.