Wed, Aug 17, 2011 | Rubin Reports | By Barry Rubin
Obama Suggests The Biggest Domestic Terrorist Threat Is Not Islamism But Right-Wing Americans?
This is huge. President Barack Obama informs us, as the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks approaches, that his biggest fear is not radical Islamist terrorism but right-wing, Islamophobic terrorism. On Wolf Blitzer’s CNN show, the president explains:
“The biggest concern we have right now is not the launching of a major terrorist operation, although that risk is always there. The risk that we’re especially concerned over right now is the lone wolf terrorist, somebody with a single weapon being able to carry out wide-scale massacres of the sort that we saw in Norway recently.”
In other words, the main threat to America isn’t al-Qaida or various other groups — which have tried and failed on a number of occasions recently (“underpants” bomber; “Times Square” bomber) but some right-wing anti-administration nut.
Now, the Norway terrorist attack did happen and such things are certainly possible in the United States. And in theory the president’s defenders could explain that he could conceivably be talking about a “lone-wolf” Islamist terrorist. But the context seems to indicate he wasn’t talking about the latter threat.
It should also be noted that Fort Hood I was dismissed by the administration and the U.S. military’s official report as having anything to do with Islam, even though Major Nidal Hassan was in close contact with a leading al-Qaida terrorist in Yemen and was clearly motivated by Islamist ideology. Now we have Fort Hood II in which thankfully the intended terrorist was caught before doing damage even though the military ignored earlier direct warnings that he was a real terrorist threat.
In short, it is reasonable that the president is concerned over the possibility of right-wing terrorism but putting that in top position, and refusing to deal with Islamist terrorism, suggests that the terrorism issue is one more way of demonizing his opponents. Note, too, that Vice-President Joe Biden — albeit in a completely different context — has dubbed the Tea Party to be terrorist, as have some other pro-administration talkers. At the same time, “Islamophobia” is said to be a bigger threat than revolutionary Islamism despite the drastic gap in the level of violence perpetrated between these two.
Note: Some have suggested that I am over-interpreting a statement merely meant to evoke the possibility of any kind of lone-wolf terrorism. It is possible that this is a fair statement, yet it seems to me to be giving Obama an exaggerated benefit of the doubt. He could have cited numerous cases of “lone-wolf” terrorism within the United States in which literally every one since the Oklahoma City bombing has been Islamist-driven. To my knowledge, he has never labeled any such attack as related to Islamist ideology even though he and his administration could have done so in the context of saying that this is a small minority of hijackers or misinterpretors of Islam.
One could argue that the recent nature of the Norway case makes it the prime example, yet since then there has been the second Fort Hood case and the start of the trial of the shooter in the first Fort Hood case. No one in modern American history has been given the benefit of the doubt so often as Obama, but if I’m persuaded that my interpretation is unfair I will certainly modify it or withdraw it.
Still, what picture do you think was put into the minds of those who heard his statement, and wasn’t that the intention? Judge for yourselves one way or the other.