THE SPINE NOVEMBER 10, 2009
By the way, I don't think I've written that Nidal Malik Hasan is a terrorist. But, believe me, it's not because I pondered the aptness of the word. It's enough for me that, having killed 13 people (and wounded 28 others) because of his religious beliefs--yes, his religious beliefs--and surely also his deranged mind, he is a mass murderer. And, please, none of this crap about "innocent until proven guilty."
On the other hand, John Judis is very perturbed about the terrorist nomenclature. Jason Zengerle is less perturbed, and may even be ready to concede the point. But their argument over definitions is really nitpicking. John, I believe, really doesn't want to see America with serious enemies, least of all internal enemies. It's unpleasant for me, too. Still, I'd rather be alert to what's around me than dither over the Oxford dictionary, the last edition of which is none too restrictive about the definition of terror, terrorism, terrorist.
Of what are those who cling to the illusion that Hasan was not really engaged in terror afraid? That the government will sweep down on tens of thousands of Muslims and intern them in Guantanamo? For God's sake, the Congress passed and President Reagan signed a law in 1978 apologizing for the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and paying (none too generous) reparations to all survivors and their heirs.
But Korematsu (in a decision written by the great liberal Supreme Court justice Hugo Black) and Hirabayashi still stand. If we liberals want to preclude anything ugly (which I most assuredly do not foresee) from happening to American Muslims as a group, that's what we should address. And we should address it quickly.
Yet this does not deal with a clear fact. This is that, here and there in America, there are Muslims plotting against the country and its people. Some of them are pathetic, as I believe Hasan’s act was pathetic. But maybe there are people more conspiratorial, more imaginative, more efficient who are planning more dramatic terrorist feats. After all, in Great Britain, in Germany, in Spain, in Holland, terrorism is an on-going enterprise. Is America so different?