On Thursday my weekly date on The Hugh Hewitt Show fell just a couple of hours after the murder of four US Marines by yet another member of the Amalgamated Union of Lone Wolves. It was a victory for the jihad, no question about it. One should be especially careful about what one says in the immediate aftermath of mass murder, but Hugh asked me and here's what I said:
HUGH HEWITT: Mark, this seems to be what everyone has been warning about for the past six weeks or so as Ramadan comes to an end, Abdulazeez arrives on the scene to kill four Marines.
MARK STEYN: Yes, these stories are all different, and in a certain sense, they're all the same. You said it was two "military installations", which makes them sound more secure than they are. This was in fact a recruiting center, which means it was a storefront in a shopping mall. It was next to a pizza joint, and it had a little sticker on the door saying in effect that this is a gun-free zone. So in fact, these storefronts, which are all over America (I passed one earlier this morning in a town in Northeastern Vermont), are incredibly vulnerable to attacks like this... Whether or not it's actually directed by ISIS or anybody, I mean, most of these "lone wolves" turn out to be, as I've said before on your show, "known wolves" - in that they've been on the radar of certain people, certain authorities at some point.
As I said, all the stories are different, but they're all the same. In the case of the Pantybomber, his father fingered him to the CIA - who then did nothing with the information. In the case of this man - Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez - it was (according to The New York Times) his father, an employee of the Chattanooga Public Works Department, who had come under scrutiny by the vast federal terrorism apparatus, who eventually let their investigation lapse. Other than that intergenerational wrinkle, the perpetrator (about whom not much was known when Hugh and I spoke) was a familiar figure: a young man with a university degree in engineering, living in a nice middle-class residence in a nice middle-class neighborhood.
To Marie Harf and her colleagues in the Administration, he's obviously a victim of economic deprivation whose urge to blow up America would be mitigated by a decent economic-stimulus package. In fact, the poverty is all on our side: a poverty of imagination, the inability of Marie Harf and others to understand that not everyone thinks like you do. And until we respect our enemy sufficiently to stop assuming he's just Marie Harf with a beard and a scimitar, we will keep losing. In a further jest on posterity, and a reminder that no good deed goes unpunished, the perpetrator was born in Kuwait in 1990, the year Saddam Hussein invaded and occupied the country ...prompting the first President Bush to send American troops, kick him out and liberate the Abdulazeez family's native land. If you expected them to be grateful for the sacrifice of American blood and treasure, well, that's part of that Marie Harf poverty of imagination, too.
But don't worry, this attack like all the other attacks is an isolated incident of no broader significance:
MS: Any moment now, the President and the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security will be going out and giving interviews insisting that this has nothing to do with Islam, and John Kerry does, as David Cameron does in London, as President Hollande does in Paris, this is the standard line... The same people who tell you that when nine people die in a church in South Carolina that it's all the fault of the Confederate flag, and the Confederate flag has to be run through the shredder, and Confederate war memorials all over the country have to be torn up and the ground salted, then turn around... when four Marines die in a recruiting office ...and will say that this has nothing to do with Islam, and has no wider implication. All jihad is local, there's no bigger picture to see here.
In my bestselling but unheeded book America Alone, I wrote:
Not long after September 11th I said, just as an aside, that these days whenever something goofy turns up on the news chances are it involves some fellow called Mohammed.
Indeed. But don't be drawing any conclusions from that. Yesterday, after CNN had informed its viewers that the killer's name was Muhammad, a genius called Tom Fuentes was anxious to clarify:
We don't know that it's a Muslim name.
That may be, literally, true. Thanks to the enforcers of political correctness, there may indeed be millions and millions of people in America who don't know that Muhammad's a Muslim name.
Hugh, very carefully, drew the Iran connection:
HH: We suspect that this man is a Sunni extremist, radicalized by the Islamic State. We don't know that, yet, but we suspect that. I understand that the Islamic Republic of Iran is a Shiia fanaticism, but they are fanatics, and they are sponsors of terror. Why is it, why does it make sense to negotiate with a terrorist regime of Islamist fanatics, Shiia branch, but to condemn the Islamic State Islamist fanatics, Sunni branch? It does not, it does not make any sense to me that we would trust one set of terrorists because they've been in power longer than the other set of terrorists.
Hugh's correct in the basic sense that the reappearance of Islamic terror on the home front two days after Obama's strategic realignment with Iran is not, as they say, helpful. But it also bolsters, again in a very basic sense, the other narrative of the hour: the Donald Trump line on immigration - in that the Abdulazeez family were graciously admitted to this country and then repaid their new "homeland" by murdering Americans. So, if you're not interested in the clash-of-civilizations angle, it works in Kate Steinle terms, too. The appeal of Big Government is that it offers security - economic security (in terms of welfare), medical security (in terms of health care), social security (in terms of massive regulation to protect you from the vicissitudes of life); that's its seductive appeal: security. But in its perverse final stage Big Government in the western world has decided to make you less secure and throw its doors open to large numbers of people who want to kill you. So Big Government's contradictory pitch is we can't let you hold a Fourth of July parade because that would be totally unsafe but we've got no plans to stop importing fanatics and career criminals and letting them gun you down at the shopping mall.
So it's a nanny state run by a nanny who's a mobsters' moll. That suits both the jihad and the Mexican druglords just fine - so expect the Trump narrative to gain a bit more traction as a result of this. But, even in purely jihadist terms, the response is that we're just gonna have to put up with it. Bo Dietl said on Fox News last night that Americans are going to have to give up freedom for security. Aside from its unwitting evocation of Ben Franklin, wouldn't it be easier maybe to restrict the freedom of our enemies instead? By, say, reining in mass Muslim immigration to the west? Or outlawing the foreign funding of mosques? Or any one of half-a-dozen other policies so obvious they will never happen.
Instead, we'll trade more and more freedom - and get less and less safety. As I said to Hugh:
MS: I think it's comparable with what happened in Ottawa and Quebec last fall, where ISIS supporters killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Office Patrice Vincent. And by doing that, ISIS is telling you look, if we can kill your soldiers with impunity, nobody is safe. If you can just kill four U.S. Marines from the most powerful fighting force on the planet, how easy is it then to kill the kindergarten teacher? How easy is it to kill the pastor? How easy is it to kill the accountant? If a soldier's not safe in a recruiting center, then nobody is safe - and that's the message that ISIS or whoever is trying to send.
So four Marines, some of whom survived the bloody battle for Fallujah, came home to die unarmed at the hands of a "lone wolf".
HH: My friend, retired Army Colonel Mark, came by today to drop off a symbol to me, and he also told me that it is prohibited by military regulations to have weapons in any recruitment center, regardless of the state law, which seems to me to be insane.
MS: Yes, I think is absolutely is insane, and we've seen this again and again. I understand that it's a Clinton era policy, but in fact, some of the most vulnerable places in the United States are actually "military installations" - just recruiting centers, or full-scale military bases. But basically, they're the equivalent of some insane left-wing campus that's all fluffy-bunny peacenik. And it is absolutely ridiculous that these four Marines were dependent on that sticker in the glass door of the shopping mall declaring that this place was a gun-free zone, that they're dependent on that to protect them. And that is going to have to change because you know - this is from an ISIS point of view, from the jihad's point of view - four high-value targets, the best in America trained to the highest level, and some nothing, some punk guy, some kid born in Kuwait whose dad works for the Chattanooga Public Works Department or whatever, is able to take them down, because as a matter of United States government policy, these Marines in these recruiting centers are vulnerable, because the government says they have to be vulnerable.
We also discussed Iran, where I somewhat dissented from the idea that the American hostages in Iran should have been, formally, part of the grand bargain between Teheran and Washington:
MS: You shouldn't be seen to be negotiating for hostages. So the idea that four hostages would be traded for a $100 billion windfall or whatever Iran's getting out of this would not have been good. But at the same time, if this was a genuine rapprochement between the United States and Iran, those hostages would already be on a plane...
MS: ...to the United States. The fact that they're not tells you that these guys are still in full-scale death to America mode.
Hugh and I also pondered the wretched behavior of the press corps in front of both the President and his designated successor. You can find the full interview here.