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Terrorism as Normalcy | The Nation

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Terrorism as Normalcy

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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!

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