“White Christian Terrorist” Still an Oxymoron in 2010

By Channing Kennedy Jun 02, 2010

This week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled the nation’s new National Security Strategy. There’s a lot improved over the previous version from 2006 (the one that used the word "preemption"), and a lot to praise. The Obama version doesn’t use the phrase the "War on Terror" or "radical Islam," and it reiterates the administration’s intentions to close Gitmo; it’s not afraid of a "multipolar" world power structure. And it’s not every National Security Strategy that calls to "Promote Dignity by Meeting Basic Needs" via cooperative efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and childhood illness in Africa. That said, what’s up with administration counterterrorism advisor John Brennan? Here he is speaking at a Washington thinktank last week:

The president’s national security strategy explicitly recognises the threat to the United States posed by individuals radicalised here at home. We’ve seen individuals, including US citizens, armed with their US passport, travel easily to terrorist safe havens and return to America, their deadly plans disrupted by coordinated intelligence and law enforcement.

Brennan then goes on to name seven acts or attempted acts of terrorism from the last year by U.S.-based Muslims with international ties (not all of whom are of Middle-Eastern descent). The deadliest by far is Nidal Hasan’s Fort Hood shooting; some of Brennan’s offenders, like Faisal Shahzad, were hoisted on their own poorly constructed petards, and even cooperated with questioners. In other words, it’s a group united by the presence of extranational ties, not by extraordinary threat. The problem? The absence of any "homegrown" terrorist attacks from the last year by white non-Muslims who actually know how to make bombs. Explosives expert Robert Joos Jr., the Hutaree family militia, Dr. Tiller’s killer, and the still-not-identified guy who bombed a Florida mosque three weeks ago don’t count as terrorists in the letter or the spirit of Brennan’s directive, despite getting infinitely closer to killing Americans than his frequent flyers. Allison Kilkenny ties it to the bigger picture:

In the U.S., having ties to a foreign land is slowly becoming a crime. Those individuals, who are innocent of having ties to extremism, are simply guilty for looking foreign (as in the case of the Arizona racial profiling law.) Recently, this frenzied pandemic of nationalist paranoia almost resulted in a legal citizen being deported to Mexico. Instead of developing a uniform definition for “terrorism,” the government has adopted the two-tier Newsweek strategy and directed the “terrorist” label only at dangerous “others.” Domestic, white attacks are…something else. The enemy must be clearly defined as living outside U.S. borders, or things would get terribly muddied. … It seems a silly strategy, or at least a misguided emphasis, considering some right wing recruits have received far superior training from the military than the average Middle East terrorist receives in al Qaeda camps.

Meanwhile, conservative leaders like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann have gleefully invoked images of ‘real Americans’ rising up against the oppressive United States government and ‘taking the country back’ from the elected Black president with the suspicious name — while mocking Homeland Security’s reports on the recruitment of veterans by right-wing hate groups. No word yet on which talk show hosts encouraged Shahzad to ruin a used Pathfinder. It’s worth pointing out that law enforcement obviously recognizes the threat of white militia and hate groups — after all, they knew about and stopped the Hutaree. Which is why it’s so frustrating that the administration won’t use the T-word against these people. Along with recent rollbacks and exceptions in Miranda rights, we’re seeing a blatantly racialized Bush-era double standard in justice evolve into a blatantly racialized Obama-era double standard in justice.