Faisal Shahzad sought to massacre scores of fellow Americans in Times Square with a bomb made of M-88 firecrackers, non-explosive fertilizer, gasoline and alarm clocks.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a U.S. airliner over Detroit with a firebomb concealed in his underpants. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan shot dead 13 fellow soldiers at Fort Hood and wounded 29.
Why did these men attempt the mass murder of Americans who did no harm to them? What impelled them to seek martyrdom amid a pile of American corpses?
Though all were Muslims, none seems to have been a longtime America-hater or natural-born killer. Hasan was proud to wear Army fatigues to mosque. Shahzad had become a U.S. citizen. Abdulmutallab was the privileged son of a prominent Nigerian banker.
The New York Times ties all three to the Internet sermons of Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemen-based imam born and educated in the United States who inspires Muslims worldwide to jihad against America. But, following Sept. 11, al-Awlaki had been seen as a bridge between Islam and the West.
Now President Obama has authorized his assassination.
What do the four have in common?
All were converted in manhood into haters of America willing to kill and die in a jihad against America. And the probability is high that there are many more like them living amongst us who wish to bring the war in the Af-Pak here to America.
But what radicalized them? And why do they hate us?
Taking a cue from George W. Bush, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said of the Times Square bomber, "We will not be intimidated by those who hate the freedoms that make ... this country so great."
This was the mantra after Sept. 11. We are hated not because of what we do in the Middle East, but because of who we are: people who love freedom and stand for women's rights.
And that is why they hate us -- and why they come to kill us.
In a way this is a comforting thought, because it absolves us of the need to think. For no patriotic American is going to demand we surrender our freedom to prevent fanatics from attacking us.The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens advances a parallel view. We are hated, he says, because of our popular culture.
We are loathed in the Islamic world, Stephens writes, because of "Lady Gaga -- or, if you prefer, Madonna, Farrah Fawcett, Marilyn Monroe, Josephine Baker or any other American woman who has ... personified what the Egyptian Islamist writer Sayyid Qutb once called 'the American Temptress.'"
This hatred is at least 60 years old, says Stephens, for Qutb wrote even before "Elvis, Playboy, the pill, women's lib, acid tabs, gay rights, Studio 54, Jersey shore and ... Lady Gaga."
Qutb's revulsion at American degeneracy is why his legion of Islamic followers hate us.
Again, a comforting thought. For, if Lady Gaga is the problem, there is nothing we Americans can do about it.
Yet, this is as self-delusional as saying the FLN set off bombs in movie theaters and cafes in Algiers to kill the French because of what Brigitte Bardot was doing on screen in "And God Created Woman."
American's toxic culture may be a reason devout Muslims detest us. It is not why they come here to kill us. Mohammed Atta's friends did not target Hollywood, but centers and symbols of U.S. military and political power.
U.S. Marines were not attacked by Hezbollah until we inserted those Marines into Lebanon's civil war. No Iraqi committed an act of terror against us before we invaded Iraq. And if the Sept. 11 killers were motivated by hatred of the immorality of our society, what were they doing getting lap dances in Delray Beach?
Some may insist this was not his real motive. But, apparently, the Saudis believed him, for they quickly kicked us out of Prince Sultan Air Base.
As for the Taliban, they would surely make short work of Lady Gaga. But their stated grievance is the same as Gen. Washington's in our war with the British: If you want this war to end, get out of our country.
By Occam's razor, the simplest explanation is usually the right one. Looking at America's wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Maj. Hasan, Abdulmutallab and Shahzad decided that what we call the war on terror was in reality a war on Islam.
All decided to use their access to exact retribution for our killing of their fellow Muslims.
We are being attacked over here because we are over there.
Nor is it a good sign that U.S. intelligence is reporting that rising numbers of U.S. Muslims are making Internet inquiries about how and where to get training to bring the war home to America.