Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 3, 2015

Je suis qui?

Filed under: Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on December 3, 2015

The deadly attack on the Colorado Springs clinic has prompted a wide-range of analysis.  Will the same range of opinion emerge from the San Bernardino bloodbath?

Writing in Slate, William Saletan notes, that Robert Lewis Dear is only the most recent of several male, white, Christian terrorists from North Carolina.  His argument is often ironic, but earnestly concludes:

This week’s carnage in Colorado brings the death toll from North Carolinian terrorists, including Eric Rudolph, to eight. That’s just one shy of the nine people murdered in Charleston. Throw in the work of a few lesser miscreants, and you’re looking at roughly 20 casualties inflicted by Carolina extremists. That doesn’t make the Christian states of North and South Carolina anywhere near as dangerous as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. But it does make you wonder why, as we close our doors to refugees who have done us no harm, we pay so little attention to our enemies within.

David French writing in The National Review dismisses such comparisons, claiming it merely.

… tempt[s] Americans to take their eyes off the real threat to our security — a rapidly growing mass movement that is wholly and completely dedicated to violence. Our real worry shouldn’t be an alienated teenager with a Confederate flag or an angry hermit who hates the government. It should be the fully mobilized jihadist armies controlling nation-sized chunks of territory, the entire governments dedicated to the spread of jihad and seeking nuclear weapons, and their tens of millions of supporters and sympathizers.

Wednesday’s Washington Post featured an apparently uncoordinated presentation of alternative views by columnists Ruth Marcus and Kathleen Parker.

Marcus wrote, “…if initial reports of alleged gunman Robert Lewis Dear Jr.’s comments about “no more baby parts” prove true — and logic suggests that it was no mere coincidence the attack was at a Planned Parenthood clinic — Republican politicians who fueled the overwrought and unsupported controversy over selling baby parts bear some measure of responsibility.”

Parker, seemed to respond, but I perceive each were writing independently, ”

… as abhorrent as we find the shooter’s actions, we should tread carefully in assigning broader blame. One man may have heard fiery rhetoric and decided to kill people, but 320 million other Americans went about their day as usual. The rationale we seek for mass killings may ultimately be elusive because a variety of variables are usually in play. In time, perhaps the suspect will provide answers, which we can parse in search of helpful insights. So far, he’s been unhelpful. Saying “no more baby parts” may suggest a motive, but it is also nonsensical. There will be more baby parts as long as there are abortions. By his comment alone, one suspects that Dear is mentally incompetent, drunk, on drugs, off his meds or all of the above.

A provisional observation — perhaps a mere impression — entirely susceptible to empirical refutation: But in recently reading a bunch of analyses regarding Mr. Dear’s background, Dylan Roof (Charleston church shooter), Timothy McVeigh (Murrah Federal Building), James Holmes (Aurora movie theater), the Charlie Hebdo assailants and the perpetrators of the most recent Paris attacks… I seem to notice that whatever else the writer does, s/he makes a strong argument that the murderer/terrorist/some-other-designation is entirely unlike him or her.

I see the same pattern in the early profiles already emerging on Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik after the San Bernardino massacre.

It causes me to consider how our problem-diagnosis might be more productive if, instead, we started by asking, “How does this person remind me of myself?”

Je suis qui? Who am I?

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14 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 3, 2015 @ 4:12 am

Americans once were known for high levels of individual violence but not feared as a nation for its organized military violence or at least that seems to be the historical take.

I would argue that the history is wrong and we have high levels of violence endemic in both individuals and societies.

Am I wrong?

I was practically laughed at in 34 years of federal service for being concerned over workplace violence. Perhaps a fist fight between two female lawyers in the office completely ignored by management was one highlight. Or lowlight.

And mass media seems to love violence against women and children! How many movies consist of almost no dialogue but massive portrayals of violence.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

December 3, 2015 @ 4:42 am

Bill: From On Human Nature by the biologist E.O. Wilson (chapter 5):

Are human beings innately aggressive? …The answer to it is yes. …Only by redefining the words “innateness” and “aggression” to the point of uselessness might we correctly say that human aggressiveness is not innate.

Yesterday Scientific American had a helpful short piece on terrorism in Europe: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/terrorism-science-5-insights-into-jihad-in-europe/

Comment by Concerned Citizen

December 3, 2015 @ 10:51 am

I would prefer to note much of this violence inspired from with…within the Muslim community and its Islamic fundamentalists hell bent to cause terror in our streets and God Bless these law enforcement agencies who have scoffed at this biased Oval Office striving in every way to diminish our security in every way and particularly taking heavy weapons and protective vehicles and other such equipment and training of our brave and dedicated police officers who were so yesterday in CA utilizing such equipment to kill the Islamic fundamentalists who pervert and manipulate Islam by such planned attacks….Imagine an Arab Mother with small child as reports surface leaving her child far yonder to come to America and take up arms and kill innocent Christians!

As far as the refugee reference in this article and who have done us no harm, let’s close our borders and when this government from the WH down affords us any piece of mind and that it is not taking equipment away from our local police departments and Barry Obama starts talking about Islamic fundamentalist terror and its direct threat from within against our Judeo-Christian and beloved Republic instead of bringing up gun laws with intent to take our guns – for all lawful purpose – away from us here on “Main Street USA” then refugees and specifically Christian refugees being overwhelmed throughout the Middle East – might – be welcomed, however not until each and every vetted in every way and then some….

Enough of those named Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik and so many others embarrassing and taking actions against innocents at a Christmas party or at Ft. Hood or in Boston or so, so many incidents where Islam is depicted as a violent religion and it is not and can e attested to being Peace loving and Respectful of other religious choice – however enough is enough and this nation is and will continue to be a Judeo-Christian nation welcoming all, however Christmas prevails and therefore, with respect to all, enjoy your holidays, yet the majority of us all say, Merry Christmas!

There are many Middle East nations who will accept refugees and the majority of Americans are law abiding and Respect anyone’s religious choice, don’t impose values on us and to this government, We the People distrust you who we have “entrusted” by our precious vote to enforce laws and to hold the Oval Office and good ‘ol Ms. Hillary accountable to the laws of our nation!

To our Muslim friends and neighbors – thank you this morning for voicing your uproar via the media and extending your condolences to the victims and families….We must Respect one another and work together to thwart those who seek our demise and to the Christian and Muslim hierarchy, put an end to your corrupt ways and stop challenging one another —

We are all Peace loving and seek to nurture Life, not kill innocent human beings….

Comment by Vicki Campbell

December 3, 2015 @ 2:57 pm

I was going to post a completely different response to this forum until I read the first 2 posts. Bill and Phil, I’m sorry but as a woman I find the core of both your comments painful and disappointing – and also really tiresome. The statements also remind me of an earlier statement by Bill where he stated (and I’m paraphrasing, but barely) that humans really like dominating and controlling others (with my instant response as a woman being ‘speak for yourself, thank you’). The constant need by men to recast and universalize what is, by any meaningful measure, all but wholly male violence and other clearly gender specific behavioral problems, as just “human nature” or something endemic throughout “individuals and societies” has been very effective in normalizing violence as somehow “just the way it is (ie., always has been and therefore always will be),” – which of course, is nothing more than very poor problem/threat identification, and has left us unable to have any intelligent or meaningful discussion or analysis of the very large problem of violence, and consequently getting largely nowhere in terms of its overall reduction. In all honesty, I truly have a hard time understanding how any man can make such assertions with a straight face – and I mean that very sincerely. It’s simply mind-boggling to me – it really is.

And I’m in no way trying to suggest that women can’t be violent, or domineering, etc. My point is, and yet, even though we certainly are capable of such issues and problematic behaviors, we overwhelmingly don’t exhibit them in anything even remotely comparable to mens’ equally overwhelming demonstrations of the same. It is just night and day, statistically speaking – so much so that again, it just leaves me astonished that anyone would talk in a manner that suggests otherwise. In absolutely no other area of problem identification or issue analysis that i can think of where there was such a glaringly consistent, predictable factor or component would it be so completely ignored – unless, of course, it was another major and overwhelmingly male behavioral issue or problem causes such havoc. I mean seriously…

Related to this is how very, very tiresome it has gotten as a woman to always have to be the one to make this rather large and glaring point, and correction (or for it to need to be made at all) – just as minorities get very tired of always having to be the ones to raise the issue and offer a half decent racial analysis of an issue or problem. It’s just really not that damned hard to do – really its not.

And it would likely be made easier if one was reading something better than E. O. Wilson, at this level of analysis, (of which there are MANY better resources)…who some would argue may have single-handedly done irreparable damage to the field of evolutionary psychology, and – well, wasn’t there the little matter of a group of African American women (students?) pouring water over his head at a lecture once (a tactic I don’t particularly support, but that I also bet they probably don’t feel compelled to do very often), and him laughingly responding that it was like having just been speared by aborigines….so…. just sayin…

Comment by Philip J. Palin

December 3, 2015 @ 7:52 pm

Vicki: Thanks. I apologize for the sloppy language and sometimes, I regret to say, related thinking. I will try to be more attentive. I agree with your core argument. To answer my own question (who am I… and how am I similar to the terrorist?), one of my principal shared characteristics is to be a male predisposed to territorial competition and control.

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 4, 2015 @ 2:50 am

What are the best explanations for beliefs in Life after Death that have been developed by and for humanity?

Is the Life Force stronger than the Death Force? Or not?

I ask these questions in the context of the needs for our species to survive or not?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

December 4, 2015 @ 3:59 am

Mr. Tingus: I read you wanting to honor and respect Islam. You recognize that the vast majority of Muslims are “Peace loving and seek to nurture life.” You are horrified by those who wantonly murder, especially under the disguise of religion.

You also perceive there are enough murderers potentially hiding in the ranks of those fleeing murder and mayhem that you oppose allowing some of the refugees to relocate to the United States.

I hope this is a fair summary of your position. If so, I entirely agree with your predisposition to honor and respect. In regard to there being some risk involved in receiving refugees, I cannot argue there is no risk.

But the murderers have many different ways to attack us. They will find other ways. The widows, orphans, persecuted, homeless have very few options. To reject them — especially if our rejection seems arbitrary and motivated by fear — is to tell the murderers we are intimidated. This will encourage them. And it will demonstrate to the world that the Statue of Liberty has become a symbol of hypocrisy and shame. This will discourage many good people, including many Americans.

Comment by Vicki Campbell

December 6, 2015 @ 2:17 pm

Phil, Thank you. On a side note, you regularly post that you largely or mostly agree with me, about one thing or another – at least about a few things – but never mention what you don’t agree with or think about the rest. That’s fine and certainly your right, but it definitely leaves me both wondering, and curious sometimes, and wishing you would elaborate. At least this one inquiring mind would like to know…

And quid pro quo, my confession about sloppiness is along very different lines. I’ve noticed, especially lately, that I have many often more positive and less critical responses to a variety of posts that I often don’t get around to posting, and when I do, it usually seems almost silly to because the forum’s so far down, and so I don’t. However, I have also noticed that I always seem to find time to post my more critical responses now don’t I (and often not as carefully as I could be, only because they don’t sound nearly as critical in my head) – and I’m increasingly aware that this gives both a rather skewed impression of where I’m coming from more generally – but more importantly, also probably just isn’t always that much fun to be in dialogue with, etc. You’ve born the brunt of much of that – and I will try to do better as well.

Comment by Vicki Campbell

December 6, 2015 @ 4:01 pm

I actually thought the question posed at the end of this post was both interesting and potentially very useful. My first thought in response to the notion of asking how terrorists remind us of ourselves was that the question felt to me much more like something that should be put more to men specifically, at least for the purposes of generating very useful responses. I’ve always semi-consciously operated under the presumption that men in general must have or at least be capable of more insight into what is overwhelmingly male violence domestically and internationally than most women, or I individually, had to offer. In fact, its always felt quite foreign to me, so much so that I barely bother to think about it beyond identifying it as primarily male in nature.

HOWEVER, also lately, I have quite separately been thinking about how I tend not to focus on or express my actual responses to the terrorists and their horrific actions very much at all beyond just being generally very upset about the loss of life they cause like everyone else, but instead tend to skip straight to wanting to “fix” the larger problem through analyses that focus on causes and solutions constructed in direct relation to them. In fact, I almost don’t even allow myself to have a real response to it at all internally beyond general upsetment about its impact on others. I also think this is endemic to the progressive left’s response more generally, which is to skip over focusing on the acts themselves, while acknowledging their obvious horror and moral travesty of course, and move quickly to a critique of what most including myself see is the fairly dishonest, self-serving nature of the counterterrorism narrative, largely because our overarching analysis is fundamentally excluded from the mainstream conversation about the issue, and is seemingly all but lost on the Homeland and National Security establishments, who I think shape the national conversation much more than is realized (and definitely to our detriment, to my mind).

So I’ve lately started thinking, not about “analyses,” left, right or center – but instead about allowing myself to sit and feel much more fully what my actual individual responses to “the terrorists” so to speak might be – and even more so, what would I say to them. It actually took me a little while to locate myself and my primary emotions within it all, but when I did, it definitely didn’t involve many words or much speaking at all. Put simply, from the back of my head to the front, the only words that kept tumbled forth, again and again, went something like, albeit a little bit crudely: “if you think you can dig deep long enough to grow a pair, and put down your cowardly weapons for just a few minutes, a few of my sisters and I would love to meet at a place and time of your choosing, anytime – and we’ll see who see who walks away with their head on straight – yeah, we’ll see who ends up terrorizing who.” That’s really the only response I have, again and again. And along with it I experience a level of rage that I have absolutely no frame of reference for really, but which feels decidedly female to me – I don’t know how else to put it. I also feel both a degree of invincibility and lack of concern for consequences to myself that is both very unusual and probably at least somewhat delusional. And I feel fine about my responses here actually. It’s the logical implications of them, especially in relation to your question “how am I like the terrorist” that I start feeling almost physically unnerved – like both my individual self identity and fundamental world view suddenly starts coming unhinged in some subtle but very core way that I actually find pretty disturbing, and that I also have no real frame of reference for – and then I just shut down altogether. And, as Forrest Gump would say, “thats all I really have to say about that.”

Comment by Philip J. Palin

December 6, 2015 @ 5:37 pm

Vicki: I very much value what you have outlined in terms of a propensity for terrorizing. I think there are ethical and practical reasons for more of us to engage in such disciplined discernment.

In terms of disagreement: I am more interested in conversation than debate. I am more inclined to ask questions than disagree… or at least before I disagree. The recent encounter with the somewhat-not-really subtle racist has me reconsidering this stance. But it will be tough to adjust a life-long habit.

Both of your comments deserve more of a response than I have time to make tonight… and given the President’s speech, I think this will be a long night and lots of work in the morning. So I wanted to at least affirmatively acknowledge before running…

Comment by Philip J. Palin

December 7, 2015 @ 4:23 pm

Vicki: I’m still running and having a hard time keeping up. But two follow-on comments — back here where only you might still be looking — First, I am going to try to sort-of follow your lead in my Thursday, December 10 post to the front page… or perhaps turn-it-around and outline how a “terrorist” may view me. In any case, your comment unlocked a willingness to go public with something I have only privately considered. Second, we only have so much time and energy. In my experience, often we have to choose between resisting evil or encouraging good. Maybe you will tell me this is another male preoccupation. But in any case, in my life encouraging good has paid a much better return on the investment — and always been more fun. I have less experience regularly resisting evil… but I am concerned we may be coming into a time where it will be more necessary, even crucial. Encouraging good may not be enough. And since I am writing mostly to you, a working definition: Evil is the active warping of reality for self-interested purposes. The more warp and the more self-interest, the more evil (in my ledger).

Comment by Vicki Campbell

December 8, 2015 @ 5:59 pm

Thanks, Phil. The theme for Thursday sounds interesting, but I was surprised by your unorthodox definition of “evil.” I think you might end up implicating a lot more people under that definition than the traditional one, and that might not be a good thing, to my mind. I don’t tend to use the term, both because it has such extreme religious connotations that I don’t think its very useful or descriptive, and because I think it encourages very simplistic, one dimensional thinking about some of our biggest, most complex issues and problems. I also think its possibly the most dehumanizing concept I can think of, and as such, functions to let individuals completely off the hook for their behavior as well. Beyond this, I tend to eschew framing in dichotomies, etc. – but anyway, to be continued…. I look forward to Thursday’s post.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

December 9, 2015 @ 6:13 am

Vicki: We may actually agree more than not (once again and sort of awkwardly). My definition of evil is Jungian, I did not spin it up unilaterally. But for all the reasons you outline, I agree this definition nets many more of us… and, therefore in my mind, prompts a recalibration of often “orthodox” dualities.

Comment by Christians

December 17, 2015 @ 10:40 am

Evil is indeed evil and the fundamentalists of Islam who kill in cold blooded – innocents – indeed an evil act! Those that seek our demise walk among us and a government who we have little confidence from the Oval Office down who truly gives a damn other than its own divisive ambitions and compromising Amrica in every way….

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