Monday, January 10, 2011

What constitutes 'terrorism'?

Peter Beinart:

The commentators most worried about jihadist terrorism sometimes say that doesn’t matter; even if al Qaeda can’t kill many Americans anymore, it can sow panic that costs the U.S. economy billions. But it can sow that panic, in large measure, because of the way those commentators respond. The extent to which Americans fear terrorism has a lot to do with the way the media discusses terrorism, and that discussion differs radically depending on the ethnicity and religion of the terrorist. Perhaps the next time al Qaeda tries something in the U.S., we should all stop, take a deep breath, and pretend it’s Jared Lee Loughner.

Read the whole thing. Put a different way, why is it that we're not hearing shrill calls that Loughner must be tried in a military tribunal, waterboarded, or detained indefinitely without trial? Could it have anything to do with the fact that his name is "Jared Loughner" and not "Abdul Muhammed"? I'm far from the first person to say this, but when a person has a Muslim name, our commentators blame all Muslims. When it's a white guy, he's just a lone crazy guy. There's something wrong with this picture.

1 comment:

  1. Matt,

    Loughner is a US citizen, so he could not be prosecuted in a military tribunal unless President Obama were to issue a *new* executive order that extended those tribunals to US citizens. (President Bush's order limited tribunals to aliens.)

    As for waterboarding, I'm not going to justify its past use, but it was used as an interrogation method in an attempt to extract actionable information from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah. I could be wrong, but I'm not aware of anyone suggesting that Loughner might have information of any kind that needs to be extracted.

    Finally, as for detaining him indefinitely, such detention would generally have to be pursuant to something like the congressional Authorization to Use Military Force (enacted Sept. 18, 2001). But the AUMF defines the enemy as (basically) al Qaeda, which would definitely not apply to Loughner as far as we know.

    I'll grant that the rhetoric about Loughner versus, say, Major Hasan (the Fort Hood shooter) exposes a degree of inconsistency among some conservatives, but to be honest, I think the same is true of some liberal commentators, such as Paul Krugman, among others.

    But more broadly, if your ultimate point is that people are responsible for their own actions, then I agree with you. Loughner and Hasan are bad guys, and neither right-wing (or left-wing/anarchist) ideology nor Islam are responsible for their reprehensible actions. They are.

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