What’s in a name?
All I’ve been hearing on the news for the last two weeks is “lone wolf” or “self-radicalized”. Martin Rouleau, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, and Alton Nolan have all been described as one or the other, or both depending on who you’re talking to. “They don’t have any real connections to ISIS”, or “We don’t know that he’s had contact with anyone in the Middle East”. It would appear that in order to be a terrorist one must have a membership card or some other overt means of identification. Maybe an “I Heart ISIS” t-shirt would do?
What I’m going to say now, I’ve said before. But it bears repeating. I want to make sure that it gets through to at least one person. Two if I’m lucky.
It doesn’t matter what we call these people. None of the labels, names, or descriptions we assign to them mean a hill of beans. We can call them “Lone Wolf”, “Self radicalized”, “Independent Contractor”, or my all-time favorite “Wannabe”. They are all meaningless. “Well what does matter, Chuck? Since you’re being all preachy.” What matters, the only thing that matters, is what these people (and I use the word “people” loosely) believe themselves to be. In simple terms, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and has feathers like a duck, it’s a duck. There is no such thing as a “Wannabe”, there is no such animal as a “Lone Wolf”. If these folks are committing crimes that they believe will further a root cause or ideology, they are indeed what they profess to be. We, in the military, and more importantly in this case, law enforcement communities don’t have the luxury of asking for a terrorist ID card along with a driver’s license and proof of insurance. We must take these folks at their word. If you call yourself a jihadist, I have no choice but to treat you as such. “Are you sure that you’re acting in accordance with Article 10, section 5, subsection 23 of the ISIS rule book sir?”, “Are your Taliban membership dues all paid up?”. It’s a silly prospect, a dangerous one in fact, to not accept at face value what we’re being told by these guys, whether it be straight from the horse’s mouth or through a preponderance of evidence. Let me frame it a different way. I have a suspect in a murder where the victim’s body was surrounded by “NHC Rollin’ 60’s” graffiti. My suspect is a ginger white kid from Suburbiavilleland. He doesn’t know any other Crips. He’s never been to prison. He’s never left Suburbiavilleland and has no friends. The victim had on a red shirt but has no known gang ties. He does, however, know the complete history of the Rollin’ 60’s, has a framed picture of Tookie on his wall, calls his dad “Big Homie”, bangs a blue flag, and believes that the murder has sufficiently marked the boundaries of his “territory”. He has committed a crime in the name of a larger organization. He, despite being “alone” in his actions, believes that what he is doing will further a greater cause. He believes, in his heart, that he is doing what is required of him to be a gangster in good standing. Who am I to tell him that he’s not “real”? He’s as “real” as he believes he is. It makes no difference if he’s net banging or hood banging. He’s no less a danger, or potential danger, to society. Not a perfect example I guess, but I think you’re picking up what I’m putting down.
Why did I call out the LE community as “more important”? Because when this stuff comes home again, and it will, it’s going to be the beat cop that is the first to show up. I’d like nothing more than to see some d-bag jihadi step off on a rampage only to be put down by a 21 year old girl with a S&W 642 before anyone gets hurt, but I don’t think the odds are in our favor. I feel confident that it will be one cop, in one patrol car, with a .45, a shotgun, and maybe an AR (assuming it hasn’t been taken away from him in the name of political correctness) to confront one of these clowns. And I can assure you that asking the bad guy if he’s a “real terrorist” isn’t going to be an option, nor will it matter. I feel pretty confident that none of the folks I named above called themselves anything but what they believed themselves to be, and I doubt that they give a damn what we call them. It is of the utmost importance that we are, above all, honest with ourselves and with each other. Call them what they are. Not according to what we believe them to be, but according to what they know themselves to be.
In closing, let me say this. If you don’t carry everywhere, everyday, start doing that. If you’re a cop and you don’t carry off duty, choke yourself. If you’re active duty military, do the best you can to carry. I know the rules on base are shady, but figure something out to make it work without getting yourself in trouble. The important thing is to be an asset. We were put here to make the world a safer place, not only for ourselves but for everyone else. If we aren’t doing that, we’re not living up to our name.
A wolf in sheep’s clothing is no less a wolf.
Be safe. Or be dangerous.