Peter King’s “Danger from Within”

As Adam Serwer notes, one of the most interesting things about this long story on how Peter King came to split with a Muslim community close to his district as he increasingly attacked Muslims in general after 9/11 is the description of the way a novel of his tied al Qaeda, Long Island Muslims, and the IRA together.

But for some of King’s Muslim constituents, his most hurtful words came in the form of his 2004 novel, “Vale of Tears.” The story revolves around a fictional congressman who stumbles across a plan by terrorists – who are associated with a Long Island mosque and work with al-Qaeda and remnants of the Irish Republican Army – that could kill hundreds.King dedicated the novel to “those who were murdered on September 11” and explained his purpose in the preface: “It describes how vulnerable we can become if we lower our guard – for even the slightest moment – and if we fail to recognize that our terrorist foes comprise a worldwide network with operatives active within our borders.”

Adam writes,

King’s love affair with the IRA ended shortly after 9/11 as well, because King said his former allies had adopted a “knee-jerk anti-Americanism” in response to American military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it’s still extraordinary that someone as actively supportive of the use of political violence in the past as King would be running these hearings.

His decision to take some kind of bizarre emotional revenge by slapping his former allies together in a novel with an implausible plot in which violent Islamic extremists somehow lose their distaste for “infidels” and the IRA suddenly decide they’d like to start targeting the United States is also really strange, but I find myself wishing King had stopped there.

But something else struck me about the story (which was billed as a “religion” story). It’s the story’s treatment of whether King’s concerns about terrorist sympathizers (aside from himself, of course) are justified.

Few take issue with King’s assertion that homegrown terrorism is rising dramatically.

In the past two years, according to Justice Department statistics, nearly 50 U.S. citizens have been charged with major terrorism counts – all of them allegedly motivated by radical Islamic beliefs.

But many law enforcement leaders disagree with King’s allegation that most Muslim leaders do not cooperate with authorities. In the past, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has praised the community. And in a speech last month, U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said: “The cooperation of Muslim and Arab-American communities has been absolutely essential in identifying, and preventing, terrorist threats. We must never lose sight of this.”

Experts also point to a string of recent terrorism cases that were foiled or reported by Muslim leaders.

Within King’s district, Nassau County Lt. Kevin Smith said he couldn’t recall the last time police received a tip from local mosques. But the detective said: “It’s hard for us to judge what that means – whether that’s because they’re not reporting something or if there’s just nothing to report. On the whole, though, I think we have a good relationship with the mosques in our county.” [my emphasis]

Now, I will try to hunt down the statistics the WaPo used to make the assertion that all homegrown terrorists–or even all US citizens charged with major terrorism counts–were “allegedly motivated by radical Muslim beliefs.” DOJ released stats last year that were specifically defined as terrorists tied to international terrorist groups. It focused on convictions as opposed to charges, but in that list, at least, were included a number of people with ties to terrorist groups like FARC and even anti-communist Cambodians convicted of what DOJ classifies as major terrorist offenses. And while our government tends to interpret the use of WMDs by white people differently than it does by people of color, it did indict the Hutaree militia last March on WMD charges under 18 USC 2332a, among other things, which is one of the statutes DOJ considers a major terrorism charge.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think the Hutaree militia are even allegedly motivated by radical Islamic beliefs.

So the WaPo claim, whether because DOJ gave it bad data or because it interpreted that data incorrectly, is plainly false.

And all that’s before you consider the growing list of right wing terrorist attacks, not least the still unsolved bombing of a FL mosque, the George Tiller murder, and the recent bombing attempt in Spokane.

This false claim that all the terrorists indicted in the last two years are allegedly motivated by Islamic extremism is not just sloppy. It serves to excuse one of the biggest problems of King’s fear-mongering: the way it tautologically focuses on Islamic extremism and ignores other terrorists that pose an important threat to this country.

Of course, that might be inevitable in a story treating King’s fear-mongering as a religion story.

  1. al75 says:

    Yes – it’s remarkable the degree to which white people’s acts of political violence are minimized and dismissed as the action of “lone wolves”, while “islam” is equated with “terrorism” in the minds of millions of americans.

    I was struck, for example, by Tom Rick’s contemptuous dismissal of Seymour Hersh’s remarks about religious militancy and secretive alliances in the US armed forces.

    We face a growing domestic movement of ‘Tenthers’ and ‘Oath Keepers’ who advocate violent resistance against constitutionally-established government.

    How worried should we all be? It’s hard to say, when the subject is off-limits for most US journalists.

  2. tammanytiger says:

    The sad thing is that nearly ten years after the 9/11 attacks, fear-mongering like King’s still resonates with voters. I know a number of people who, after the attacks, turned into brainless “security moms” (or dads) who voted for George W. Bush and John McCain because Republicans would “keep them safe”. Safe from what? An event that, statistics tell us, is less likely than being struck by lightning.

    • onitgoes says:

      Ain’t that the truth? WTF happened to these people to cause them to be such scaredy-cats?? And then to trust the likes of W? or McCain? to make them “safe”?? WTF?

      Never ceases to amaze me, but otoh, these are same folks who listen to the rightwing corporate-owned noise machine daily. Anyone who’s so addicted to those lies is not really staying in reality and slicing the whole loaf of bread. It’s the same people who honestly believe that Muslims are “imposing Sharia law all over the country.” When you ask for specific examples, there are none because it’s not true. Yet these same people cling with desparation to this very sick and dysfunctional belief system.

  3. hijean831 says:

    all homegrown terrorists–or even all US citizens charged with major terrorism counts–were “allegedly motivated by radical Muslim beliefs.”

    Silly, Christians aren’t terrorists and only get charged with murder or whatever, not ‘terrorism’. Terrorists are, by definition, Muslims. /s

  4. JamesJoyce says:

    Pete King and Joe McCarthy! A bogyman under every bed? Political opportunists suck! Joe M was quite the alcoholic who eventually died from his affliction, alcoholism! Maybe King has a similar problem where the poison consumed has a detrimental effect on his neurons and cognitive reasoning abilities? Yup, Drunks sure do suck! Let’s just call it the “Muslim Scare,” akin to the Red scare?