Today’s essay can be considered to be a second part to my “Constructive Criticism vs. Destructive Criticism” essay below, since it involves the same “Rev. Jim Sutter” (RJS)—in this case, examining more closely his equivalency between non-Islamist terrorist groups and Islamist terrorist groups. (Most of the substance of this essay would fit well on my other blog, The Hesperado, but since it connects with the aforementioned essay, I thought it meet to post it here.)
Actually, what RJS seems to be doing is not solely equivalency, but rather using equivalency to establish a quantitative preponderance, and then concluding with a significantly higher degree of concern for the superficially preponderant non-Islamist terrorist groups he has putatively marshalled, compared to his concern for Islamist terrorist groups (and then standing upon that mountain to demonize others who, unlike him, have a higher degree of concern for Islamist terrorist groups).
But even on that basis of quantitative preponderance, the evidence RJS adduces does not seem to stand.
In his prodigious pdf file devoted to diabolicizing Robert Spencer as a megalomaniacal “hater” and traitor of quasi-apocalyptic proportions, RJS introduces his section on one of the many sins Spencer supposedly commits—to wit: the sin of thinking that the most important and alarming type of terrorism in our time emanates from the Islamic orbit—thusly:
ANOTHER MAJOR POINT OF SPENCER’S HYPOCRISY is that he denies that any other form of terrorism exists in today’s world other than Islamist. . . .Spencer routinely denies that there is any danger from Christian terrorist groups, he’s even writing a book “proving this danger doesn’t exist.”
RJS then adduces a link to prove his claim from Spencer’s own writing on an essay at Jihad Watch. However, a reading of that essay comes up empty-handed for any basis to that claim. Nowhere in that essay does Spencer say that “no other form of terrorism exists in today’s world other than Islamist”; nor does Spencer say there is “no danger from Christian terrorist groups” (though it is likely Spencer has the good sense to recognize the minuscule proportions of that threat compared with Islamist terrorism—once any actual Christian elements of many, if not most, of those purportedly “Christian” terrorist groups are found to be non-existent, circumstantial, and/or to be peripheral rather than central as they are with most Islamist terrorist groups).
What Spencer does say in that essay is:
I decided to write a book about it, evaluating the evidence for the threat of Christian theocracy and the threat of global jihad. Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn't will be published August 13 by Regnery Publishing. This book is a realistic appraisal of the teachings, histories, and contemporary status of Christianity and Islam, an examination of the jihad threat and the "Christian theocracy" threat as imagined by Chris Hedges and others, and a call to Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, secular Muslims, and everyone else who is a victim or potential victim of the global jihad and Islamic supremacism to unite together against this scourge.
It is clear that Spencer is engaging the comparison on the level of religio-imperialistic ideology: Christian theocracy on the one hand, vs. Islamic jihad on the other, linked directly or indirectly with aspirations to restore the Caliphate which was dismantled by the West (one of a long list of profound wounds inflicted by the West on the truculent pride of Muslims) in the years after World War One.
RJS then marshals two supposedly major and weighty beanhills of evidence to prove that non-Islamist terrorism is a far more important and deadly concern for the U.S.A. (and, apparently, by extension, for the world) than Islamist terrorism is.
The first is a seemingly impressive list of terrorist groups that are supposed to be a current danger, and which, as he claims has, collectively, accounted for “546 terrorist incidents, 4,170 injuries, 3,228 fatalities” (not counting the deaths from 911, of course).
Each terrorist group listed by RJS is a link to its description on a website that monitors and reports about terrorist groups around the world, the MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base. Well, I clicked on a random sample among the 61 listed, and here was what I found: virtually every one I randomly sampled is, by the analysis of the website that RJS himself adduced, no longer a threat! They are deemed to be defunct! And of the one or two that remain a threat, the quality of the threat is far, far milder than what threatens various countries around the world from Muslim terrorists. In addition, there are subtle factors in the following descriptions that tend to undermine the apparent claim of RJS about this matter. I.e., the very evidence RJS marshals undercuts the very same thesis he is propounding.
To read my random sampling from that list and my comments interspersed therein, the reader may click on the Appendix: Rev. Jim Sutter's List of non-Islamist Terrorist Groups. The Assessment that follows should best be read after having read the aforementioned Appendix.
It is ostensibly obvious that RJS is “padding his resume” with this list: he is presenting this mountain of terrorist groups and apparently hoping the reader won’t simply click on the links and investigate further. Terrorist groups that are defunct are not comparable to Islamist terrorists who are bristling with current and future plots to mass-murder as many as they can possibly get away with, at times and places we cannot predict. The methodology of RJS here is not only sloppy and shoddy, it is unconscionable.
Then—and we’re not done yet in picking apart this sorites wrapped in a hill of beans wrapped in a mountain—on that same terrorist watchdog website given the blessing of RJS (the MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base) as a credible source and from which he mounted his steaming mountain of “evidence”, we find this interesting feature:
EMM – Europe Media Monitor
Latest Stories and Articles - Terrorist Attack
This feature is basically a daily brief of news related to the worldwide threat of terrorism. Now guess what kinds of terrorism I found to be presented there on all three pages of its latest briefing as of yesterday, June 30 2007? Christian terrorism? Socialist terrorism? Environmental terrorism? Buddhist terrorism? Amish terrorism? Nope. We all know what kind of terrorism was so prevalent it flooded the news brief section of this website approved of by the old Reverend. Also among the stories featured were tangential or outright irrelevant stories (e.g., briefings about the latest tennis competitions, or a story about a disease afflicting certain populations of bees, or a story about the rising crime rate in certain northeastern cities of America). Since I do not wish to clutter this particular blog essay here with that other heaping glut of information, the reader can access it as a separate blog essay by clicking here.
Finally, Rev. Jim Sutter (RJS) makes this bald claim in this same section on the particular error of Robert Spencer in thinking that Islamist terrorism is a higher priority than other types of terrorism:
In his testimony to Congress in 2005, Director Mueller of the FBI stated that THESE terrorist groups [i.e., the non-Islamist ones from that mountain we analyzed in our Appendix which was linked above] were the most imminent domestic danger to the United States today.
Perhaps RJS is hoping the reader will not just simply locate that testimony of Director Mueller (which RJS does not provide a link to, perhaps out of an uncharacteristic show of actual cleverness). Well, this reader did. And here is how Director Mueller begins his testimony:
“The threat posed by international terrorism, and in particular from al Qa'ida and related groups, continues to be the gravest we face.”
Perhaps RJS does not know that the word “gravest” is an adjective in the superlative form, meaning “the most grave”, and that “the most” means more than others. Thus, Director Mueller, in this one, and prominently placed, part of his testimony, was flatly contradicting the claim of RJS’s description of Director Mueller’s assessment of the terrorist threat. Either RJS is an obtuse nincompoop, or he is a scurrilous liar. I cannot see a third alternative to describe it.
This is not all. I read the testimony of Director Mueller. It flatly contradicts the agenda of RJS on almost every point.
After that opening salvo about the “gravest” threat we face, and after several paragraphs of testimony amplifying this “gravest” threat from al Qaida, Director Mueller continues:
Looking ahead, there are three areas that cause us the greatest concern.
First is the threat from covert operatives who may be inside the U.S. who have the intention to facilitate or conduct an attack. Finding them is a top priority for the FBI, but it is also one of the most difficult challenges. The very nature of a covert operative -- trained to not raise suspicion and to appear benign -- is what makes their detection so difficult.
Mr. Chairman, while we are proud of our accomplishments this year and the additional insight we have gained into al-Qa'ida's activity, I remain very concerned about what we are not seeing.
Second, because of al-Qa'ida's directed efforts this year to infiltrate covert operatives into the U.S., I am also very concerned with the growing body of sensitive reporting that continues to show al-Qa'ida's clear intention to obtain and ultimately use some form of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-energy explosives (CBRNE) material in its attacks against America.
Third, we remain concerned about the potential for al-Qa'ida to leverage extremist groups with peripheral or historical connections to al-Qa'ida, particularly its ability to exploit radical American converts and other indigenous extremists. While we still believe the most serious threat to the Homeland originates from al-Qa'ida members located overseas, the bombings in Madrid last March have heightened our concern regarding the possible role that indigenous Islamic extremists, already in the U.S., may play in future terrorist plots. Also of concern is the possible role that peripheral groups with a significant presence in the U.S. may play if called upon by members of al-Qa'ida to assist them with attack planning or logistical support.
The potential recruitment of radicalized American Muslim converts continues to be a concern and poses an increasingly challenging issue for the FBI because the process of recruitment is subtle and many times, self initiated and radicalization tends to occur over a long period of time and under many different circumstances.
Several more paragraphs of testimony follow, amplifying other disturbing nuances to this threat from Islamist terrorism to the US. Then much later, Mueller continues:
. . .al-Qa'ida and the groups that support it are still the most lethal threat we face today.
There is that superlative again: “the most lethal threat”. That means more than the others that RJS is wetting his pants about so much that anyone who dares worry about what Director Mueller thinks are in fact worse than the ones RJS frets about must be a shameful and treasonous “hater”.
However, other terrorist groups that have a presence in the U.S. require careful monitoring.
Now, guess who these “other terrorist groups” are? Mueller tells us:
It is the FBI's assessment, at this time, that there is a limited threat of a coordinated terrorist attack in the U.S. from Palestinian terrorist organizations, such as HAMAS, the Palestine Islamic Jihad, and the al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade.
And immediately following the above, Director Mueller adds Hizbollah to the list.
I.e., the “other” terrorist threats just below “the most lethal threat” are also Islamist! They just happen to lie nebulously outside the current umbrella of “al Qaeda”.
Several paragraphs of testimony follow, amplifying more disturbing aspects to these various Islamist threats.
Then, far down in his testimony, after 2,381 words of testimony amplifying this “gravest threat” and “most lethal threat” from Islamist terrorism in its various and global permutations, Mueller moves on to the issue of non-Islamist domestic terrorism (which amounts to a whopping total of 478 words by Mueller). Here’s how he introduces this topic:
The Threat from Domestic Terrorism
While national attention is focused on the substantial threat posed by international terrorists to the homeland, law enforcement officials must also contend with an ongoing threat posed by domestic terrorists based and operating strictly within the U.S. Domestic terrorists motivated by a number of political or social agendas—including white supremacists, black separatists, animal rights/environmental terrorists, anarchists, anti-abortion extremists, and self-styled militia—continue to employ violence and criminal activity in furtherance of these agendas.
Not only is Mueller’s testimony about non-Islamist domestic terrorism quantitatively minor (478 words) compared with his testimony about Islamist terrorism both foreign and domestic (2,381 words), a closer reading of the quality of the threat often deals with milder problems compared with the horrific and barbaric possibilities that continue to be imminent from Muslim terrorists. And, of course, as we have already said repeatedly, the non-Islamist threat is framed by Director Mueller in contrast to the #1 threat—the “gravest” and “most lethal” threat coming from Islamist terrorism.
So, in sum, reading the testimony from Mueller about non-Islamist domestic terrorism (and contrasting it to what he testified about Islamist terrorism), one is compelled to ask: Does this sound like Rev. Jim Sutter’s characterization, when he writes—
“Director Mueller of the FBI stated that THESE terrorist groups were the most imminent domestic danger to the United States today.”
(A search for the words which RJS uses to characterize Mueller’s description of domestic non-Islamist terrorism—e.g., “imminent”—yielded only one result, and that one was with reference to Islamist terrorists plotting an attack in the UK. A search for “domestic danger” yielded zero results.)
Well, against my better judgment as expressed in the Conclusion of my previous essay about Rev. Jim Sutter, I decided to waste a good deal of my time examining in detail one of his claims. I spent several hours examining the mountain RJS built up (among the veritable mountain range that his pdf document as a whole adds up to) to prove his point that non-Islamist terrorist groups are a worse threat than Islamist terrorist groups and that therefore Spencer is being a diabolical traitor in disputing that. The additional wrinkle, where RJS asserts, without sufficient proof, that Spencer utterly denies the existence of non-Islamist terrorist groups (though Spencer has never to my knowledge done that and RJS did not provide evidence to back up such a melodramatic claim), is beside the point, since it seems clear that RJS would similarly consider anyone as a “hater” worthy of being on his “Hall of Shame” who thinks Islamist terrorism is the #1 problem—while still acknowledging the lesser priority of other types of terrorism.
And, at the end of the day, the mountain out of that mountain range does not add up to a hill of beans. Once a person takes the time and trouble to sort it out, in fact, it does not even add up to a sorites at all—though it does amount to a steaming pile of shit.