It took less than a few hours after the death of Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, who shot and killed five U.S. Marines at a Marine training center in Chattanooga, Tennessee on Thursday, for the FBI to announce that the shooting would be investigated as an act of “domestic terrorism”. The corporate media, always true to form, began immediately speculating over whether Abdulazeez’s actions were perhaps inspired or directed by I.S.I.L. or some other self-proclaimed jihadist terror group. The contrast to the response in the aftermath of last month’s vicious attack on a Black Church in Charleston, South Carolina by avowed an white supremacist, Dylann Storm Roof, which left nine parishioners dead, couldn’t have been more stark. Initial reports in the wake of the Charleston Church Massacre seemed at a loss for words over what possibly could have motivated this obviously mentally ill lone gunman, who just so happened to be white, to want to shoot up a Church which just so happened to be predominately African American and a symbol of abolitionism prior to the Civil War. (Fox “News” went so far as to claim that racism had absolutely nothing to do with the massacre!) In the case of Muhammad and his assault on both a military recruitment center and Navy Marine training base, it was almost immediately assumed this was an act of organized terrorism. This, in spite of the fact that, since 9/11/01, white supremacist and other right-wing extremist hate groups have killed twice as many people and committed more than twice as many overall domestic terrorist attacks than Muslim extremists. Yet which image is it that is conjured up with mention of the word “terrorist”? The differences in the responses to the two massacres doesn’t stop there.
Dylann Storm Roof was rather peacefully arrested the day after committing the horrific massacre and was reportedly delivered Burger King in his cell. He has been indicted on 9 counts of murder, illegal possession of a firearm, and 3 counts of attempted murder for each survivor of the massacre. Muhammad Abdulazeez by contrast won’t be facing any charges as he isn’t alive to face them, having been killed by police who responded to the violent, chaotic scene with lethal force. Another difference is that Abdulazeez actually came into possession of a number of his firearms legally, whereas Roof is said to have been carrying his gun without a permit. Dylann Roof’s massacre of innocents is being investigated as a “hate crime”, whereas Abdulazeez’s ambush is being investigated as “domestic terrorism”. But the most important contrast by far is the issue of who each gunman targeted. In the case of Dylann Roof, he intentionally attacked a place which symbolizes the overcoming racial adversity in America, in which he knew a large number of Black people would be present. He charged his victims with “raping our women and taking over the country.”, baseless claims which had nothing to do with anyone who was present in that church. In contrast, Muhammad Youssef’s attack, while certainly not to be condoned, appears to have had some basis in reality, as he apparently believed, according to an anonymous friend, that the U.S. military was playing a very negative role in Southwest Asia (Abdulazeez was a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents from Jordan). Perhaps by shooting up the Navy’s recruiting center and the U.S. Marine training center, he was consciously striking at the very places where people are recruited and trained to fight in wars abroad where they will in all likelihood be ordered to maim and kill a large number of Muslims and granted impunity. At least three of the five who were killed in the attack had previously done tours of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The media has been quick to sensationalize the supposed Muslim factor in the shooting. The sub-headline to an article on the Huffington Post literally reads, “Attack doesn’t appear to have been inspired by ISIS“, as if we were supposed to automatically assume that it was? And this media is being fed all kinds of irrelevant tidbits by law enforcement agencies, even though the FBI continues to insist that it has no evidence of Abdulazeez’s actions being linked to so-called jihadist groups. The agencies are combing through every aspect of the assassin’s entire life, trying to locate every single utterance he ever made that can be linked to extremist activity. According to the corporate media, it’s incredibly important that the night before he carried out the attack, he sent to a friend a link to a verse in the Quran (*gasp*), as if this were some sort of smoking gun. They also make note of his growing of a “bushy beard”. So far, the FBI has been able to produce very little motivation for the attack, especially considering how everyone who knew him from his high school years indicated he was just a regular fun guy, with one acquaintance describing him rather nonchalantly as “as Americanized as everyone else.”
There’s a certain amount of hypocrisy on display on the part of U.S. politicians’ and government officials’ reactions to an attack on American soil. (*) When George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair declared the West’s “war on terror”, they effectively initiated a war which had no territorial boundaries, declaring the right to strike anywhere in which “terror” resides. How then can it be expected that the battlefield of such a war remains exclusively in the nations which come under attack, and that repercussions would not be allowed to make their way back to the West as well? When wars are declared as having no boundaries, this opens up those who initiated these wars to forms of blowback they never could have imagined, as harsh as this may sound. No matter how much authorities in the U.S. and U.K. attempt to solely blame social media interactions as being the catalyst for radicalization among certain segments of their own populations, it should not and cannot be discounted that it is the “war on terror” itself which has led – and will continue leading for as long as the war continues – to such immense radicalization. Just as Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is asking his entire state to be “sick to our stomachs for the lives lost… from some faithful people who are serving our country”, is it too much to ask for the U.S. as a whole to feel a lot more “sick to our stomachs” over the more than 1 million Iraqis deaths that were caused by our vicious war on that country?
* U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch for example has condemned the attack on the Marine training center as a “shameful and cowardly act of violence”, language she has never used in regards to the much more frequent acts of police-on-civilian violence and terror meted out most commonly on people of color in this country.
** Perhaps there is another reason the FBI seems to have been so caught off guard by the case of this lone gunman: because he was acting on his own without any nudging from federal law enforcement. For in reality, the majority of alleged terrorist plots the FBI tracks are only cases of manufactured FBI entrapment. This generally entails the FBI locating someone who is usually mentally ill or unstable, having a paid informant take advantage of the mentally ill person’s weaknesses, filling his head with ideas on how to carry out a terrorist attack, and supplying him with the weapons to carry out such an attack before thwarting him at the last moment. Voile! – the headline in the newspaper reads “FBI foils possibly ISIS-linked terrorist attack.“