John Muhammad - sympathetic terror opportunist

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Nov 06, 2002 12:00 AM
Let's listen in on a make-believe interview with an investigator in the sniper case... ...And so, what is your assignment? The terror link - to pursue it wherever it leads, if it leads anywhere. Terror? Come on. John Muhammad was a failure at everything he tried: business, marriage, love - you name it. He obviously was angry about his seeming inability to succeed. As a child, his father probably abused him. And he was penniless, a homeless vagrant.... For a tramp, he had enough money to buy and modify an expensive submachine gun and plenty of ammunition, and to take calls from a travel agent about skiing weekends in Colorado and Utah. ...And now they're investigating his possible ties to killings in Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Michigan, Tennessee, Connecticut, Baton Rouge and Montgomery - not to mention a shooting in a Tacoma synagogue. He is one very upset puppy. The synagogue shooting, if it proves connected to Muhammad, could reflect an Islamist hatred of Jews. You can't be serious. Yes, serious. A former Washington State friend says Muhammad not infrequently spoke disparagingly of Christians and Jews. 'In his mind, even black people were no good if they stood with whites or Christians.' The friend adds that maybe it isn't merely coincidental that none of Muhammad's victims, if he was the lead killer, was visibly Muslim. Interesting. What else do we know suggesting a John Muhammad connection to Islamist terrorism? These things. (1) His membership in hatemonger Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam. (2) The change of his name from John Williams to John Muhammad in April of last year - 16 years after his conversion to Islam. (3) His reported sympathy for Osama bin Laden, including Osama's anti-Americanism. (4) His reported rejoicing in 9/11, including his statement to a friend that the 9/11 attacks 'should have happened a long time ago.' Even (5) his registering of the Caprice in New Jersey in his name on 9/11 - apparently with a time notation coinciding with the World Trade Center attacks. That's pretty tenuous stuff. It's all a stretch - a reach. Maybe. But there's more. (7) A Washington acquaintance says Muhammad always greeted him with a traditional Muslim salutation in Arabic. (8) Another Washington acquaintance told the FBI a year ago he suspected Muhammad was affiliated with a terrorist group. (9) We're now checking in Antigua and elsewhere to see if Muhammad had any ties to, ever worked with, Englishman Richard Reid - the Antigua-ticketed "shoe bomber" convicted of trying to blow up a trans-Atlantic airliner. None of that says John Muhammad was a member of al-Qaida. He doesn't have to be, and I didn't say he was - or is. But if not one of the estimated 5,000 open al-Qaidists in the United States, he could be a sleeper al-Qaidist, the way Jack Ruby may have been a sleeper Communist operative who killed Lee Harvey Oswald on command. Muhammad could have gone into action after the word came down from a fractured and dispersed al-Qaida leadership to operatives worldwide to do their own thing - to go into business for themselves. Or Muhammad could be merely a sympathetic freelancer, with no ties to al-Qaida, open or stealth. So, in summary, what are you saying - that Muhammad is a terrorist? I'm saying that on the basis of the limited things we know, it looks like he could be - and that this is one of the major avenues of the sniper story we ought to be, and are, developing. I'm saying further that the terror angle seems to me much more important than the peripheral things the politically correct mainline press seems to think are important, such as whether the president of Bushmaster Firearms has any political ties to President Bush, whether Muhammad's Gulf War experience was a factor in his training or attitude, or consequently - as a fatuous Reuters reporter asked Donald Rumsfeld - whether the U.S. military 'felt responsible for creating the alleged killer.' John Muhammad clearly is an embittered man styling himself a radical Islamist - even to the point, now, of totally not cooperating with the arresting authorities (his cohort Lee Malvo reportedly hasn't uttered word one). If John Muhammad were a Branch Davidian or a religious rightist calling himself 'God,' and if his declared religion had broadly known terrorist factions, everyone would be all over his religious connections and those connections to terror. But somehow it is politically correct not to mention Muhammad in the context of radical Islam. Oh, and where are the moderate Muslims declaring he is not one of them? Finally, this. Islamist terrorists are killing Westerners and Americans - perceived infidels - of whatever race or gender, wherever they find them. Since 9/11 there have been terrorist episodes or terrorist-related arrests in - among others - Moscow, Copenhagen, London, Germany, Bali, Jordan and the Arabian Sea. Why shouldn't we think terrorists are active in the United States? And why shouldn't we be pursuing every possible lead suggesting that Muhammad is, in fact, the sympathetic terror opportunist du jour?