If you’re not a fan of right-wing media, you may have missed the conservative consternation over President Obama’s handling of the shooting at an Army Recruiting Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 2009.
Carlos Bledsoe, a Memphis man who later became Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad after convincing himself he was a warrior in Al Qaeda’s war on America, shot two soldiers outside that recruiting station, killing one of them, 28-year-old Pvt. William Long.
Two days after the shooting, Obama released a statement condemning the “senseless act of violence” against two soldiers. Muhammad was charged with capital murder by the state of Arkansas, to which he ultimately pled guilty after his lawyers unsuccessfully tried to argue he was delusional. In exchange for his plea, Muhammad did not receive the death penalty.
Right-wingers were upset for two overlapping reasons: first, that Obama did not forthrightly condemn Muhammad as a jihadist but rather decried simple “senseless violence.” Second, that the federal government didn’t treat the shootings as an act of terrorism and either bring Muhammad up on federal terrorism charges or have the military capture him and treat him as an enemy combatant.
“’Senseless?’ It made perfectly good sense to a vengeful Muslim convert jihadi,” sneered right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin. In an editorial titled “Arkansas Jihadi,” the Washington Times charged that “perhaps the White House thinks that if it turns a blind eye toward domestic Islamic terrorism, it won’t really exist.”
Today on Capitol Hill, Representative Peter King held the latest of his high-profile hearings into perceived Muslim radicalization problems inside the United States—specifically, the problem of terrorists targeting US military personnel on American soil. “Military communities in the US have recently become the most sought-after targets of violent Islamist extremists seeking to kill Americans in their homeland,” said King in his opening remarks. “We cannot stand idly by while our heroes in uniform are struck down in the place they feel safest.”
As you might expect, the Little Rock incident played a central role in the hearing. King called William Long’s father, Daris, to testify.
Daris Long didn’t hold back, and strongly asserted the popular right-wing arguments: “Abdulhakim Muhammad’s jihad in America has been downplayed by the federal government and the mainstream media, causing irreparable change to the families involved as well as flat-out lying to the American people,” he said. “I am convinced the government’s position is to deny Little Rock was a terrorist attack. By not being open and transparent, despite promises to do so, to this administration’s shame two soldiers have been abandoned on a battlefield in the advancement of a political agenda.”
Those were strong words, and Daris Long coupled them with wrenching minute-by-minute accounting of his son’s murder, including gruesome details about William Long’s mother watching his legs flail in the air as he was given fruitless CPR.
Republican members of the committee seized the moment, and attacked the Obama administration for not sufficiently combative when it comes to “radical Islam,” in the verbal or actionable sense. The best distillation of that clash came when Representative Dan Lungren confronted Paul Stockton, an assistant Secretary of Defense who was also called to testify.
Lungren wanted Stockton to admit that the United States was at war with Islamic extremism, something that Stockton repeatedly declined to do. I’d recommend watching this brief exchange because it distills the clash well (but also because Lungren’s increasing contempt for Stockton gets hilarious fast):
Previous hearings of this sort by King received megawatt attention, but this one isn’t getting much play in Washington, especially as Occupy protesters were shutting down K Street at the very same time. But this issue won’t go away—Mitt Romney was sure to mention in his major foreign policy speech that the United States faces a threat of “Islamic fundamentalism with which we have been at war since September 11, 2001.” Expect to hear this debate again and again in 2012.