Burns: No more fuddy-duddy political correctness

Bullets beat words, but only in the short run

     The silent killer. No, not heart disease—Mohammed Sidique Khan. No, not Paris—London. The July 7, 2005, jihadist bombing of a bus and the London underground killed 55 people. It was Britain’s 9-11. France just had theirs.

Daniel Biddle was just six feet from Mohammed Khan on a crowded car of their underground train. He looked the killer in the eye. “He didn’t say anything. He just looked down the carriage and made an arm movement.”

Today and yesterday by James F. Burns

Today and yesterday
by James F. Burns

That simple arm movement was Khan’s slipping his hand into a backpack to pull a cord that detonated a homemade organic peroxide bomb. Boom!! Biddle vaguely recalls “a big white flash,” a deafening noise, and almost instantly being blown out of the train. You could call Dan Biddle the luckiest eyewitness survivor of a terrorist bombing—except that losing two legs, an eye, and your spleen isn’t exactly lucky.

Khan’s being a silent killer contrasts with the very vocal Muslim murderers who attacked the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices in Paris. They shouted “Allahu Akbar (God is greatest)” and then began mowing down journalists and cartoonists in a carnage matching their bullets and bravado against principles of free speech and freedom of the press. Bullets beat words but only in the short run.

As the three masked men dressed in black made a hasty departure, they uttered, “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammed” while also crediting Al Qaeda of Yemen as their sponsor. The London terrorist left a message which could well speak for his French brethren in this sick but religious-based barbarism that includes beheadings, crucifixions, and killing in the name of a deity and a prophet. Makes Newsweek’s mocking of Christian evangelicals look tame.

Mohammed Khan, the father of a young child and a mentor at a primary school, said: “I and thousands like me are forsaking everything for what we believe. Our drive and motivation doesn’t come from tangible commodities that this world has to offer. Our religion is Islam, obedience to the one true God and following the footsteps of the final prophet messenger…We are at war, and I am a soldier…I am responsible for avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters.”

The trouble with terrorists is that they’re persistent in trying to kill those with differing ideologies. The Irish Republican Army, undaunted by narrowly missing in a murder-bomb bid on Margaret Thatcher’s life, said: “Today we were unlucky, but..we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always.” Thomas Jefferson was way ahead of the IRA’s warning, having advised us several centuries ago “That the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

I made eight trips to Belfast covering the Troubles of Northern Ireland. I had retired from writing on terrorism until having a family friend—and her handicapped daughter—get caught up in the Boston Marathon bombing. My knowledge of terrorist tactics and ideology transferred almost too easily to today’s Islamic jihadists. Here’s a handful of quotes from my recent articles. They should sound familiar by now.

“We’re well past the point where political correctness need hold us back from stating the obvious—yes, we’re at war with a deadly strain of an Islamic ideology that uses ‘infidels’ for target practice, images for recruitment, oil and extortion for finance, and finds foot soldiers by the thousands among impressionable youth…The barbaric beheading savagery of the Islamic State and their cyber-smart methods of murder present a new level of lethal evil.”

New York. Madrid. London. Ottawa. Sydney. Now Paris. I also warned that “the threat of lone-wolf and sleeper-cell attacks on these shores is becoming a..serious threat.” Allow me to modify that. London and Paris both showed that it’s not always literally a single lone-wolf terrorist but rather a larger pack of wolves. And while we’re hardening the sites of obvious targets, remember that wolf packs bide their time and attack the weakest of their prey, soft targets like commuters on a train and journalists at a conference table. I hope the press hardens their work sites as well as their words. No more fuddy-duddy political correctness.

James F. Burns is a professor emeritus at the University of Florida.

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