BY JAMES TARANTO
Monday, December 17, 2001 2:50 p.m. EST
Walker's Quest for Manhood
Clarence Page weighs in with a thought-provoking analysis of Marin mujahid
John Walker. Page peruses Walker's postings on Usenet newsgroups (which you
can read at The
Weekly Standard) and notes that the pre-Muslim Walker was a rap music enthusiast
who even described himself as black, writing: "Our blackness does not make white
people hate us, it is THEIR racism that causes the hate." Page invokes Norman
Mailer's "white Negro":
Hip-hop proved to be a phase on Walker's way to all-out black militancy.
By age 16, his parents say, he drifted over to Islamic Web sites and discovered
"The Autobiography of Malcolm X," a chronicle of the famous black leader's
journey from a jailhouse to Islam.
Soon Walker was wearing long white robes, studying at a local Islamic center
and calling himself Suleyman. This apparently was viewed as unusual even on
the streets of Marin County, Calif., the wealthy enclave where Walker grew
up. . . .
Whiteness somehow lost its appeal for young John and, somewhere along the
line, so did patriotism for America and allegiance to western culture.
I've seen Walker's type before. Black street culture, a byproduct of historical
exclusion and oppression, has long offered an attractive alternative for rebels
against mainstream society.
It's an interesting theory, but it breaks down after Malcolm X. After all,
Walker didn't end up in the Nation of Islam or the Muslim American Society,
the much larger traditionalist black Muslim group headed by W. Mohammed Deen.
Instead he ended up among the Taliban, a bunch of white guys in Afghanistan.
Allow us to suggest an alternate theory. Perhaps Walker didn't want to be black
so much as he wanted to be a man. He grew up in a time and place where
androgyny was at its apogee. The denizens of Marin County, Calif., we'd venture
to guess, view traditional sex roles as strictly optional, if not downright
regressive. Walker is 20, which means his adolescence coincided almost exactly
with the presidency of Bill Clinton. And news accounts paint his father as a
sensitive, New Age kind of dad--the sort who thinks "a big hug" is an appropriate
punishment for treason.
We are of course engaging in armchair psychoanalysis, but a confused quest
for manhood would explain how Walker progressed from rap music, so swaggering
and misogynistic as to be a parody of masculinity, to an embrace of "pure"
Islam in which women hide under burkhas while men maim each other for
trimming their beards.
Over the past 30 years or so, elite culture has urged men to become more sensitive
and scoffed that traditionally masculine men are "Neanderthals." Our
Noonan has argued that in the wake of Sept. 11, manly virtues are suddenly
respectable again. If she's right, perhaps future John Walkers will aspire to
be firemen or soldiers instead of literally becoming cavemen.
Newsweek reports that under interrogation from his U.S. captors, Walker "acknowledged
a lot more than fighting for the Taliban":
According to administration sources, he also admitted to being a member of
Al Qaeda and training at its camps, where he participated in terrorist exercises--including
learning to use explosives and poisons--and met with visiting Qaeda officials,
including Osama bin Laden. Walker also admitted having been instructed in
how to act in airports so as not to attract police attention. "He was no innocent
bystander," said one official. "This wasn't like learning to be a soldier
in Patton's Army. He was training to commit terrorist acts."
You Seen Me?
It seems no one is quite sure where Osama bin Laden is. CNN reports "a handful
of prisoners taken by anti-Taliban forces said that they believe Osama bin Laden
is still in the Tora Bora mountain region," but two anti-Taliban commanders
told the network "that they believe al Qaeda fighters--possibly including bin
Laden--are heading over the mountains into Pakistan." John Walker's claim last
week that bin Laden planned to attack America yesterday leads InstaPundit.com
to an interesting speculation:
I wouldn't be surprised to find that the Al Qaeda grunts were told something
like this to keep them fighting until Sunday the 16th. Problem is, once Sunday
comes and nothing happens, their morale will probably drop.
So why keep them fighting, but just until Sunday? The most logical explanation
is that it's to buy time for Osama and some other bigshots to escape. Isn't
it? If I were Osama, I'd have bugged out a week or two ago, leaving behind
the bulk of the Al Qaeda fighters as a distraction, and perhaps a few tape
recordings of my voice for strategic deceptions via radio and satellite phone.
Friends the Pakistanis
The New York Times (links require registration) reports that "if Mr. bin
Laden does not head for Somalia, then he will probably try to melt into the
complex political contours of Pakistan":
In fact, though they will not say so publicly, some administration officials
say that Pakistan may be where the next phase of the war must unfold. And
it is treacherous ground for Mr. Bush.
He has nurtured a relationship with the military government of Gen. Pervez
Musharraf, maintaining that the general has been transformed from a nuclear
renegade to a staunch American ally. After all, he has stationed troops along
the Afghan border to help cut off Al Qaeda escape routes, and he has detained
several Al Qaeda sympathizers. He has allowed the United States to establish
bases in his country and has shared intelligence.
But the terrorists who killed eight people at the Indian Parliament building
on Thursday are alleged to come from Pakistani groups that the government
has tolerated, and perhaps secretly helped in its conflict with New Delhi.
India has threatened a military retaliation, and Secretary Powell conceded
today that the situation "has the potential of becoming very dangerous."
The Times also
reports that India has arrested four people "who admitted under 'intensive
interrogation' that they conspired in the attack" on Parliament and who
say the plot was organized by two anti-Indian terrorist groups that "operate
openly in Pakistan," Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad.
Trust of India reports that "Pakistan's ISI"--the Inter-Services
Intelligence Agency--"has changed its strategy in carrying out operations
in India especially after the September 11 attacks in the United States and
has adopted a new modus operandi of giving 'limited task' to a chain of militants
and their sympathisers. . . . Sources said the Thursday's audacious
attack on the Parliament House was carried out under the same modus operandi
where several batches of militants and sympathisers had been engaged."
reports that India's minister for external affairs "debunked Pakistan's
offer of a joint probe into Thursday's attack."
An editorial in the Times
of London warns that the attack in India "points not only to an upsurge
of violence likely to exacerbate tension between India and Pakistan but to an
ominous new development, the migration of al-Qaeda terror from Afghanistan to
Kashmir," the disputed territory that is at the center of the Indian-Pakistani
"Chilling plans for a devastating bomb attack on the City of London"--that
is, the financial district--"have been discovered in a terrorist base in
Afghanistan, revealing a sophisticated al-Qaeda training programme to spread
its terror campaign to Britain." The plan called for the use of a van bomb
like those with which al Qaeda blew up the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania
In an interview with Canada's National Post, Harvard law professor and O.J.
Simpson lawyer Alan Dershowitz makes the case for military tribunals by arguing
that the Osama bin Laden tape wouldn't prove his guilt to the satisfaction of
a civilian court:
In assessing the legal implications of the tape, it is as important to focus
on what is missing from the tape as what is present on it. There is nothing
on the tape that reveals bin Laden possessed information only a person guilty
of planning this horrible crime would possess. In other words, the truth of
the incriminating statements made on the tape is not self-proving: It relies
on believing bin Laden is telling the truth.
Contrast this tape with tapes that are sometimes introduced in organized-crime
or drug cases that are self-proving. Such tapes contain information that is
not in the public domain and could be known only by the criminal. Such information
might include the calibre of bullets used, the location of transit points
for drugs, the names of undisclosed associates, etc. The bin Laden tape, in
contrast, includes only information known to everybody. For example, bin Laden's
assertion that Mohammed Atta was the leader of the hijackers has been widely
reported and cannot be independently confirmed.
The Taliban-imposed burkha may have undone the Muslim maniacs, the Sydney
Morning Herald reports:
Abdul Ali displays his work around the city of Kandahar, pointing to the
rubble and dust of bombed-out buildings.
Mr Ali, 45, a soft-spoken former United Nations worker, identified targets
in Kandahar for the US-led air campaign that blasted the Taliban out of their
southern stronghold. He counted on women who risked their lives to carry his
satellite phone under their all-encompassing burqas, moving it from house
to house to avoid detection.
Mickey Kaus, a prescient welfare-reform advocate in the early '90s, makes the
intriguing argument that welfare causes terrorism:
The point isn't simply that many terrorists take advantage of Western welfare
states, the same way they take advantage of Western freedoms and Western technology.
The point is that extreme antisocial terrorist ideologies (radical Islam,
in particular) seem to breed in "oppositional" cultures supported by various
government welfare benefits.
This is particularly evident in France, where . . . unemployed
and alienated North African Arab immigrants in subsidized public housing projects
turn to crime and violence in a vicious cycle familiar to students of the
African-American "underclass." Except that in France, in the "violent neighborhoods,
the housing projects where the young men can be recruited" into terrorism,
an "ironic thing" happens, according to a French intelligence officer quoted
by the [Los Angeles] Times' Sebastian Rotella: "When the extremists take control,
violence goes down. Islam brings discipline. But then we have to watch that
neighborhood for a different reason." . . .
In fact, there's a good argument that "welfare benefits + ethnic antagonism"
is the universal recipe for an underclass with an angry, oppositional culture.
The social logic is simple: Ethnic differences make it easy for those outside
of, for example, French Arab neighborhoods to discriminate against those inside,
and easy for those inside to resent the mainstream culture around them. Meanwhile,
relatively generous welfare benefits enable those in the ethnic ghetto to
stay there, stay unemployed, and seethe. Without government subsidies, they
would have to overcome the prejudice against them and integrate into the mainstream
working culture. Work, in this sense, is antiterrorist medicine. (And if you
work all day, there's less time to dream up ways and reasons to kill infidels.)
Backing up Kaus's theory about the oppositional underclass culture is one Bonnie
Greer, an American-born British citizen, who writes in London's Observer
of a visit to America:
I went back to talk to the people I came from--my family and friends, all
of them working class and lower-middle class black and Muslim people. They,
too, were shaken by what had happened [on Sept. 11], but here's the difference:
while they did not condone in any way what happened, they clearly understood
how it could have happened. They could see what could have led to mass murder
on a cloudless September morning.
Because they are citizens of "another country", they were able
to enter into the mind of Mohamed Atta and his cohorts. Unlike the majority
of Americans, Euro-Americans, some of them could even put themselves in the
Greer quotes one black woman as saying "that if she could say 'sorry'
to the Muslim world, she would." It's worth noting, though, that perverse
sentiments such as this can also be found among overclass whites, such as Susan
Sontag and Katha Pollitt.
Bee Gets Stung
Remember when conservative speakers used to get shouted down on campus? Well,
the times are changing. The Sacramento Bee reports that its publisher, Janis
Besler Heaphy, was heckled during her commencement address at California State
University, Sacramento, when she began speaking on behalf of the civil liberties
of terrorists. (The text of her speech is here.)
"Her comments were drowned out about five minutes into the eight-minute
speech when a segment of the audience began to stomp and clap in protest to
her words," the Bee reports.
We don't condone such rudeness, but the Bee has been awfully dopey on this
subject. Here's an example, from an editorial
that ran last Tuesday:
And with public opinion behind him, [Attorney General John Ashcroft] took
the offensive by lashing out at "those who scare peace-loving people with
phantoms of lost liberty." Their tactics, he said, "only aid terrorists . . .
give ammunition to America's enemies, and pause to America's friends."
Hello? Draconian measures are exactly what America's enemies want.
Rabinowitz had the best rejoinder to this nonsense: "A nice picture,
that--Mohamed Atta and his crew sitting in their fly-specked motels dreaming
of the joyful day the Americans would suffer intrusions on lawyer-client privilege,
government wire-taps and other civil liberties infringements."
At Missouri's North
Kirkwood Middle School, students aren't allowed to say the A-word. No, silly,
not that A-word. We're talking about "anthrax." In a letter
to the editor of the Webster-Kirkwood Times (ninth letter), Wendy Jamison-Hoge
Attention all Kirkwood School parents! Warn your children of the danger of
saying the word "anthrax" at school--in any context.
I wish I had cautioned my daughter before the North Kirkwood Middle School
administration submitted her to a distressing, intense cross examination,
with threats of possible punishment for simply saying the word anthrax in
a harmless comment. The climax of her ordeal resulted in an ominous call home
from the assistant principal, with my daughter crying in the background. . . .
Nasty, abusive language of all sorts abounds in North Kirkwood Middle School,
bombarding expletives in school hallways with teachers present. But the word
anthrax is anathema to adults--totally unpalatable used in any reference.
So how is a 12 year-old child to realize that some adults go to pieces at
the mention of a word still thankfully harmless to them?
A fake grenade, designed to test security screening, rolled down the aisle of
an American Airlines plane yesterday, delaying the flight for more than three
hours. "A woman was in custody and authorities were trying to determine
how she ended up with a bag belonging to a security screener that contained
the phony grenade," the Associated Press reports. "The woman may have
inadvertently picked up the bag at the security checkpoint. . . .
After boarding the plane, the woman pulled a jacket out of the bag and the fake
grenade rolled out.
In his final column for the New York Times (links require registration), Anthony
Lewis presents himself as a lonely voice of reason:
No one can miss the reality of that challenge after Sept. 11. Islamic fundamentalism,
rejecting the rational processes of modernity, menaces the peace and security
of many societies.
But the phenomenon of religious fundamentalism is not to be found in Islam
alone. Fundamentalist Christians in America, believing that the Bible's story
of creation is the literal truth, question not only Darwin but the scientific
method that has made contemporary civilization possible.
Now, we have no brief for Christian fundamentalism, but give us a break. There's
a world of difference between hijacking airplanes, destroying skyscrapers and
murdering thousands on the one hand, and "questioning Darwin" on the
other. (Besides, to question is the essence of the scientific method.)
On the rare occasions on which Christian fundamentalists engage in political
violence or make un-American pronouncements (such as Jerry Falwell's notorious
post-Sept. 11 comments), they deserve to be denounced. But Lewis goes far further
than this, begrudging them their very beliefs.
And you think we're being too harsh, consider this Lewis comment, from an interview
published in yesterday's Times: "Certainty is the enemy of decency and
humanity in people who are sure they are right, like Osama bin Laden and John
Ashcroft." Comparing your opponent to bin Laden is the 21st century's version
of the argumentum ad Hitlerum. (Imagine if a right-wing commentator had
similarly likened Ashcroft's predecessor, Janet Reno, with, say, Stalin.) Lewis
has had a long and storied career at the New York Times, but for our part, we
aren't going to miss his smug intolerance and sanctimony.
The Washington Times reports that "federal and state wildlife biologists
planted false evidence of a rare cat species in two national forests":
Had the deception not been discovered, the government likely would have banned
many forms of recreation and use of natural resources in the Gifford Pinchot
National Forest and Wenatchee National Forest in Washington state.
The previously unreported Forest Service investigation found that the science
of the habitat study had been skewed by seven government officials: three
Forest Service employees, two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials and
two employees of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The officials planted three separate samples of Canadian lynx hair on rubbing
posts used to identify existence of the creatures in the two national forests.
DNA testing of two of the samples matched that of a lynx living inside an
animal preserve. The third DNA sample matched that of an escaped pet lynx
being held in a federal office until its owner retrieved it, federal officials
The punishment for the employees who perpetrated this fraud? They've "been
counseled for their actions and banned from participating in the three-year
survey of the lynx."
Chinese director Long Zanxu has written Jenna Bush a letter offering her $12
million to star in an "anti-terrorism movie," according the Associated
Press, picking up a report in Hong Kong's South China Morning Post. " 'I
intend to console the victims of this terrorist accident with my film,' the
Post quoted the letter to Bush as reading in English. 'And if you, Jenna, the
daughter of the USA President, could play the role in this film developed by
China and America, how much would it set the hearts of the people aflame.' "
Friday referred erroneously to an incident at girls' field-hockey game in
Minnesota. It was actually a game of ice hockey, which is a version of field
hockey played on an ice-skating rink.
Medical officials at Yale University say an unidentified woman fell ill with
a brain abscess. What's bizarre is the way it happened. Fox News reports--we're
not kidding--that she had her tongue pierced. She put a stud (a "tongue
ring"?) in her tongue, and it became infected. Later she "developed
symptoms of a brain abscess. . . . She had difficulty walking and
showed signs of clumsiness."
If she mistook her tongue for an ear, she's got bigger problems than clumsiness!
(Elizabeth Crowley helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to C.E. Dobkin,
Damian Bennett, Raghu Desikan, Paul Music, Rosslyn Smith, Mike Wagner, Hazen
Dempster, Laura Tushnet, Flavio Martinez, S.E. Brenner, David Mariani, David
Merrill, Jerry Treadway, Janice Lyons, Russell Harris, Joshua Trevino, T.A.
Young, Ben Phillips, E. Cameron, Ronald Ramsay, Dave Abbuhl, John Posthill,
Brian Merriam, Richard Vatsaas, Isaac Fox, Skip Dickinson, Michael Rogers and
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