Mohammed bin Salaam went into a building in broad daylight and coldly assassinated a man. He did it in front of small children and innocent men and women. It was an assassination instead of a run of the mill murder, because the victim was targeted with a political motive for the purpose of sending the clear message to other people who believed as the man did—the man being a well-known and respected advocate of his cause. Do what this man does, act as this man acts, and this will be your fate.
The assassin was quickly caught, because he considered himself a martyr to his cause and made no special effort to escape. In the days that followed, the authorities discovered the following about Mr. bin Salaam:
- Mr. bin Salaam was unrepentant about his crime; in fact, he did not consider it a crime at all.
- Mr. bin Salaam had already been stopped by the police for a minor traffic violation and found to be in possession of bomb-making equipment.
- Mr. bin Salaam was a member of a radical group that had declared itself an enemy of the American government and had been in at least one standoff with the FBI.
- Mr. bin Salaam subscribed to a magazine that had called for the use of deadly force against individuals who did not adhere to the strict tenets of his movement’s cause.
- Mr. bin Salaam had also participated in online discussion boards with people who advocated the disruption and even destruction of the homes and work places of their enemies. Some of these people had been tied to fire bombings, attempted assassinations and harassment.
Despite all of these facts, none of which have been refuted or denied by anyone, Mr. bin Salaam was never placed on the radar of Home Land Security nor added to any terrorist watch-list.
The reason is simple. The assassin was neither a Muslim nor a foreigner, nor was his name Mohammed bin Salaam. His real name is Scott Roeder, and he was recently convicted of the cold-blooded killing of a man whose crime was the performance of legal abortions, in America.
It only took a jury of his peers a little under an hour to find Mr. Roeder guilty, but that seems to be the end of it. Mr. Roeder was apprehended at the end of last May. Had he been a Muslim or an Arab, almost every element of the federal enforcement apparatus would have sprung into action. All of his associations would have been put under a microscope. Any organization to which he had belonged or charity to which he had donated would have been audited and put under surveillance. The press, especially the right wing radio community and Fox News would have thrown into suspicion anyone that Mr. Roeder had identified as a hero, mentor or spiritual leader.
Mr. Roeder has never been identified as a terrorist or even suspected terrorist in any of the mainstream media that I know of. The newspaper reports of his conviction called him a murderer, and activist, an extremist, but not what he was—a cold-blooded, deliberate, political terrorist assassin. Consider his action. He killed a man, because that man perform a completely legal and sought after medical procedure. He did it not only to keep this man from performing that legal act but also to make it clear to anyone else who thought about continuing the practice that they could be next–to terrorize his ideological opponents.
When Nidal Malik Hasan spontaneously went on a killing spree at Fort Hood, the political right couldn’t wait to label it an act of terror. They vilified mosques that he had attended and religious leaders with whom he had been in contact as obvious fellow travelers. When these people disavowed him and avowed their abhorrence of his acts, the pundits and politicians winked or scowled. They knew better. When the radical anit-abortion leaders disavowed Mr. Roeder, the case was closed. The Nidals in America are not really “equal in the eyes of the law” with the Scotts. Lone assassin. Doesn’t represent the movement. But if we’re being completely honest (wink wink), the man killed babies and had it coming.
America had this double standard long before May 31, 2009. We couldn’t close the books fast enough on the Oklahoma City bombing even though the perpetrator had been an active member of more than a few radical anti-government groups—many of which still exist. But as more and more rights get stripped away from all of us and ever more shameful racist slurs and outright attacks on Muslims go unchallenged in the name of fighting the war on terror, the injustice of and the threat posed by that double standard make it an ever worse idea.
Apart from the abject, un-American injustice, there is a profound and immediate reason for this double standard to be erased. The terrorists are winning! It has become clear that organized, Christian, anti-American terror groups will not be held to the same account as left wing radicals and foreigners. The law is either afraid of them or on occasion sympathetic. And when the government does act, like it did in Waco, Texas, it is vilified for pickin’ on good God fearin’ folk whose compounds are filled with enough weapons to perpetrate a dozen jihadist attacks. The left wing politicians are afraid of the voting power of a powerful and vocal constituency, and these radicals are the modern day folk heroes of the religious right. David Gunn was killed, in 1993, after Operation Rescue poster “Wanted Posters” in his name. Barnett Slepian was murdered in 1998 by a man who was able to make it to France and hide out for years before he as apprehended. How did these men travel? Where did they get his funds? Did their murderers get safe haven from people sympathetic with their cause? Did tips that could have led to their arrest go unreported? How did Slepian’s murderer so easily leave the country? Had his name been Mohammed, even then, someone would have thought to ask. Rev. Michael Bray, who was convicted twenty years ago for complicity in clinic bombings, but is still a figure in the movement was investigated by the FBI during the Clinton years, but he has never been named an “enemy combatant” and dragged off to Gitmo.
How wacky has it gotten? Bill Mahar, a television talk show host, lost his job for saying Al Qaeda suicide bombers were brave. When Randall Terry described Scott’s victim as “a mass-murderer… whose hands were dripping with blood” he suffered not at all. Remember how much the politicians howled in the 1960s when the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam in New York City started practicing their second amendment right to bear arms? In 2009, right wing lunatics were able to stand outside a venue housing the President of the United States and brag about it, even though random acts of violence had already sprung up at several such meetings. The police did nothing. The right wing press had a field day.
If the government is serious about terrorism, it needs to be serious about all terrorism. It can start with the sad case of Scott Roeder. It is certainly not too late. Sweeping audits need to be made of any and all groups in this country that advocate illegal or even legally ambiguous acts against people who are put at risk by doing their legal, and in their minds moral occupations. How does the money flow? Through whose hands does it pass? Are there more than casual relationships among organizations that on the surface seem appear to be independent? The FBI needs to infiltrate every evangelical church and every religious television network where people regularly tout war metaphors and make threats—not always veiled—against their enemies. If it was good enough for left-wing anti-war groups in 2004, it is good enough for right wing extremists now. After all, the government wouldn’t be trampling on peoples’ civil liberties; it would be fighting the war on terror.
Is the 700 Club the American Al Jazeera? Are Randall Terry and Ted Haggard the Imams of the right-to-life insurgency? For my money we will never know. The right wing needs them. The left wing fears them. The government is over-worked keeping infants whose names are on the no-fly list off of airlines. The press could do it, but Fox and MSNBC are too busy with their pissing contest, CNN is still working out the wrinkles in its flying TV graphics, HLN will only recognize a terrorist if he confesses to them in a Twitter message, and the local press has a weather cat to train.
So the double standard is here to stay. If you are afraid, stay afraid. If you are a right wing terrorist, you are clear to stay the course. If you are a foreign terrorist who is bound and determined to attack this country from within, the best thing you can do is change your name to Scott.