There is little surprise in the authorities’ determination that the massacre in California was an act of fanatical terrorism. The old cliche “if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, the chances are it’s a duck” seems apt.
It was clear as events unfolded that this wasn’t just an “I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore” affair. The elements were all there for fanatical terrorism, albeit with a new twist: the participation of a woman.
The fact that the husband and wife team clearly planned the operation carefully, stockpiling the weapons and material needed to carry out the killing of 14 and wounding of 21 pointed immediately to that. Add several other clues — religion, ethnicity, Middle East travel, and the husband’s increasing religious seriousness — and it all pointed toward terrorism.
This was confirmed in the revelation by official investigators that the wife, Tashfeen Malik, had put her pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State on the Internet just before she and her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, went off quietly to fulfill their destiny at the expense of innocent civilians, some of whom he had worked with for five years.
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The American-born Farook of Pakistani extraction went online a couple of years ago and found his Pakistani wife during a trip to Saudi Arabia. He brought her back with him and at least one fellow worker said he had been more subdued and religiously conservative since, even growing a beard in the fashion of many jihadists. This led a fellow worker to speculate in the aftermath of their murderous adventure that he had “married a terrorist.”
Now the question becomes whether Malik had used the vulnerable American to find a way into this country where she could carry out her fanatical intentions, radicalizing him and biding her time. She ultimately displayed a willingness along the way to callously sacrifice motherhood and leave behind the couple’s small child. Or perhaps the cache of weapons, including ammunition and pipe bombs left in their house showed a naive belief they could return to some sort of normality to then do it again.
We may be seeing a new phase in ISIS’s determination to use radicalized Muslims born in the West with access to relatively free travel to create the soft target approach of the Paris attacks, and to do so without openly putting on its own stamp of approval. These so-called “sleepers” are dedicated to the Islamic State’s twisted principles as lone wolves and non-official true believers. In the end ISIS reaps the benefit of association without taking responsibility. Discovering the ultimate truth will take months of meticulous examination by the FBI and other agencies that, in the end, hopefully will give us a better understanding of how to try to prevent a recurrence.
Meanwhile, it is time for Americans to decide once and for all whether there should be reasonable restrictions on their constitutional rights when it comes to firearms. The alternative is to continue to ignore the dangers of unfettered access, shrugging off each new mass murder as the price one pays to protect the liberties of gun owners.
Should we not expand background checks to try to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill? Should we not deprive those whom we have decided are a flight risk to buy weapons of mass destruction? Should we permit guns to be carried into bars, churches, schools, and on the street?
The shills of the firearms manufacturers, the National Rifle Association and the Shooting Sports Foundation, think so, and they blow off each new tragedy with impunity, taking no responsibility for the death, pain and destruction caused by their policies. Never mind that Malik and Farook could legally get the weapons designed only for the battlefield almost as easily as purchasing a fishing pole, apparently using straw men. The number of people who have died in mass shootings over the last few years is horrendous. But as Ted Alcorn, the research director For Everytown for Gun Safety, a non- profit organization promoting gun control, succinctly put it: “You have 14 people dead in California and that is tragic, but likely 88 other people died today from (random) gun violence in the United states.” Is anyone out there paying attention?