Saturday, May 22, 2010

Imperial Brain Damage: They Still Hate Us, We Still Don't Get It

by Michael K. Smith

The New York Daily News' May 5 article on the Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad's "hatred" for the United States ("Confessed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad's hatred stemmed from personal failure, war on terror") provides a textbook case of imperial obtuseness guaranteed to keep conflict brewing between Washington and Islam for a long time to come.

The article opens with a claim by "law enforcement officials" that "Faisal Shahzad's descent from a suburban Connecticut family man to a wanna-be terrorist was fueled by a raft of grievances that built up over time." No evidence is offered for the view that Shahzad "wanted" to be a terrorist. (The cutesy-phrase 'wanna be' is grotesquely inappropriate, and the idea that Shahzad might have felt duty-bound to inflict bloodshed on the society wantonly slaughtering his fellow Muslims is apparently unthinkable.) This is followed up with the strange observation that "Shahzad, 30, a naturalized citizen from Pakistan, did not come to the U.S. 12 years ago bent on carrying out a spectacular terror attack."

Of course, he could not have arrived with such motivation, for as the article states, his main grievances (aside from his alleged "personal failure" to "make it" in the U.S.) were the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, which could not have provided a motivation for terrorist attack 12 years ago for the simple reason that the respective "wars" began nine and seven years ago.

"[He was] slowly radicalized as events piled up - the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, Muslim brothers being killed, innocent people being hit by drones from above," said an unnamed source. "He did a slow burn."

All well and good, but the writers of the article (Kevin Deutsch, Alison Gendar, Rocco Parascandola, Rich Schapiro), ignore this clear motive for revenge in favor of the nonsensical claim that "Shahzad, the son of a wealthy Pakistani family who earned a college degree and an M.B.A. in America, offered few clues of his growing resentment toward his adopted country." As though two imperial wars slaughtering hundreds of thousands of Shahzad's fellow Muslims weren't sufficient to provoke resentment.

By last year, the article goes on, Shahzad had developed a "fixation" on U.S. policy in the Middle East (normal people ignore taxpayer funded mass slaughters), which was "evident at a house party in leafy Shelton, Connecticut." Shahzad's neighbor Dennis Flanner, 18, is quoted saying that a "brooding" Shahzad was "staring at the TV news in a room packed with drunken partygoers."

"They were talking about those drones blowing things up in Afghanistan," Flanner went on. "He was the only one watching it. Everybody else was just having a good time." When someone told Shahzad to loosen up and enjoy himself, Shahzad replied: "They shouldn't be shooting people from the sky. You know, they should come down and fight."

"By that point," say the Daily Post writers, "Shahzad . . . was starting to shed his middle-class life."

Consider what is implied by these peculiar comments. Middle class people should properly ignore mass slaughters carried out by their government and with their tax dollars. A Muslim who identifies with the victims of the slaughter is a "brooding" oddball incapable of having a good time. His unnatural preoccupations lead him to forfeit an inherently wonderful middle-class American life that is beyond moral reproach.

Note that Shahzad implies he dislikes the drones because by raining death from the sky they don't give their victims a chance to engage in a fair fight. In other words, he indicts U.S. cowardice, not U.S. justifications for the war. This is more generous-minded than Americans have any right to expect him to be, but the Daily Post writers show no sympathy toward him and make no attempt to understand his plight. If they did, they'd have to find another profession, which is an interesting commentary on our "free press."

The article goes on to link the foreclosure on Shahzad's home and his quitting his marketing job to his attempted terrorist attack, quoting former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt on Shahzad's alleged motivation: "It looks like everything was tilting toward, 'I'm not succeeding in America. I'm going back to Pakistan, and I'm going to carry out an attack." The speculation of unnamed "experts" is also cited, the upshot being that Shahzad "may have felt the American Dream was passing him by."

The reader is left to conclude that had Shahzad been more materially successful, he would not have been bothered by television news reports of the mass killing of Afghan civilians, and thus would have been ready to join in drunken revelry with his adopted countrymen, oblivious of the horrendous pain and suffering Washington's policy is continually causing. This would have been normal, and therefore good.

Of course, in a perverse way this is indeed normal in the United States, thanks to overwhelming propaganda, but it is in no sense good. Shahzad's having been unable to tear himself away from scenes depicting destruction in a Muslim country right across the border from his own was doing what anyone in his circumstances would likely have been doing. If terrorists inflicted a 911 type attack on Toronto, would it be normal for Americans to be so engaged in drunken partying that they paid no attention to it? Would it be appropriate to tell an American disturbed by the attack that he ought to "lighten up" and join the party?

And let's recall that Washington has inflicted vastly more suffering on Afghanistan than was visited on the U.S. on 911.

Since Shahzad was not inclined to political violence when he lived in Pakistan, we can only conclude that the experience of living in the U.S. turned him towards it. Could it be that a relentlessly anti-Muslim mass media that smears Islam as a hatchery of bloody insanity drove him over the edge? Could it be that the sanitized Middle East coverage Americans receive - whitewashing Washington and Israel's mass killing of Arabs and Muslims - did so? Could it be that Americans' complete obliviousness of politics, in favor of sports and celebrity-worship and fashionable consumption, drove him mad?

Maybe. But with a mass media dedicated almost exclusively to distraction and distortion, a sensible answer to such questions will likely be a long time in coming. Pity that we can't say the same about the next terrorist attempt against us.


"Confessed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad's hatred stemmed from personal failure, war on terror," New York Daily News, May 5, 2010

Michael K. Smith is the author of "Portraits of Empire," and "The Madness of King George" from Common Courage Press. He can be reached at

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