Gangbangers with dirty bombs! Now we’re talking. The big news about the latest suspected terror bomber is not that he now calls himself Al Muhajir but that he was formerly José Padilla, a Puerto Rican raised in Chicago. Padilla became a son of militant Islam in the slammer, same way thousands of other young denizens of our gulag do.

In the normal order of business, suspected gangbangers don’t have much purchase on the Bill of Rights. Their rights of assembly and protection against unreasonable search and seizure were curtailed long since. Padilla’s current status could foreshadow a trend. Pending challenge in the courts, he’s classed as an “enemy combatant” and locked up in a Navy brig in Charleston, with no rights at all.

Tuesday, June 11, all the way from Moscow, Attorney General Ashcroft fostered the impression that Padilla/Muhajir had been foiled pretty much in the act of planting radioactive material taped to TNT in the basement of the Sears Tower or some kindred monument of Chicago. “US: ‘Dirty Bomb’ Plot Foiled,” exulted USA Today.

Next day came a modified climb-down. “Threat of ‘Dirty Bomb’ Softened” muttered USA Today‘s front-page headline. It turned out Muhajir had ten grand in cash and maybe big dreams but nothing in the way of radioactive dirt or even TNT. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told the press, “I don’t think there was actually a plot beyond some fairly loose talk.” He should know.

But at least we’re now sensitized to the “dirty bomb” menace. It seems that ten pounds of TNT, wrapped around a “pea-size” piece of cesium-137 from a medical gauge, would give anyone within five blocks downwind a one in a thousand chance of getting cancer. We should be worried about this? I’d say it should come pretty low on the list of Major Concerns. Suppose Al Qaeda were to plan something really nasty, like shipping spent nuclear fuel by rail from every quarter of the United States to a fissured mountain in Nevada not that far from one of America’s prime tourist destinations. That’s the Bush plan, of course.

What a gift to the forces of darkness the War on Terror is turning out to be, as a subject-changer from the normal terrorism inflicted by the state. Right now, across the United States, the final cutoffs for people on welfare are looming. The guillotine blade ratcheted into position by Clinton’s 1996 welfare reform is plummeting.

Take Oregon. It has a terrible recession, the worst unemployment rate in the country and the largest deficit in the state’s history. Back in 1979, according to the Oregon Center for Public Policy, 39 percent of poor Oregonians were getting public assistance. These days it’s under 10 percent. Does that mean the previously destitute are now in regular jobs? No. It just means you have to be a lot poorer to get any sort of handout. It means the usual story: exhausted mothers scrabbling for petty cash, doing occasional starvation-wage work. Over the first fourteen months of the current recession, the combined number of unemployed in eight Oregon counties grew by 92 percent. At the same time, the number of welfare cases went down by 16 percent.

This is the Terrorism of Everyday Life, at the most elemental level, aimed at the weakest in our midst: no money for food, for shelter, for the kids, and a President who actually wants to stiffen the work requirements. Thus do we nourish the next generation of Enemy Combatants on the home front.

Dershowitz: Baby Slaughter Plan Flawed

Nathan Lewin, a prominent DC attorney often tipped for a federal judgeship and legal adviser to several Orthodox organizations, has told the Forward, as reported there on June 7, that the families of Palestinian suicide bombers should be executed, arguing that such a policy would offer the necessary deterrent against such attacks.

According to the Forward, Alan Dershowitz and Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, argue that Lewin’s proposal represents a legitimate attempt to forge a policy for stopping terrorism. Foxman refused to take a stand on the actual proposal, instead deferring to Jerusalem on Israeli security issues. Exhibiting his habitual moral refinement, Dershowitz–also an advocate of judge-sanctioned torture here in the United States–argues that the same level of deterrence could be achieved by leveling the villages of suicide bombers.

Lewin cites the biblical destruction of the tribe of Amalek as a precedent for measures deemed “ordinarily unacceptable.” Those who consult the first book of Samuel will find the Amalekite incident vividly described. First, the divine injunction: “Thus saith the Lord of hosts…. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.”

King Saul hastens to obey. “And Saul smote the Amalekites…and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.” But Saul spares Agag, king of the Amalekites, “and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs.” Even though the animals were scheduled for sacrifice to Him, God is furious at the breach of orders and prompts the prophet Samuel to berate Saul: “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft….

“Then said Samuel, Bring ye hither to me Agag the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came unto him delicately. And Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past. And Samuel said, As the sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal.”

Now that’s what I call getting back to fundamentals!