An Egyptian Mussulman named Hesham Mohamed Hadayet strode up to the El Al ticket counter at Los Angeles Airport on July 4 carrying two loaded revolvers, extra cartridges, and a six-inch knife. He shot and killed a young female ticket agent, fatally wounded a middle-agedbusinessman, wounded several others, and then stabbed an El Al security guard before being shot and killed by another guard. Early reports described the incident as a “coincidence.”
Although Americans had been threatened with an endless media blitz of warnings that a terrorist attack could occur during our Independence Day weekend, it was said to be merely serendipitous that this particular follower of Islam happened to find himself in front of a Jewish-Israeli owned business armed with two guns and a knife. And, when he discharged his weapon, it was purely a circumstantial accident that the people he aimed at were Jewish.
“He could have appeared at any airport, in front of any airline, and shot any persons of any religion,” read the news-crawl at the bottom of the CNN screen.
Within a few hours of the murders, Greta Van Susteren had two self-styled terrorism experts on her Fox News program. The experts reviewed what information was known up to that time. While they acknowledged that El Al had suffered other similar incidents in the past, they concluded that it was too soon to label it “terrorism” because it didn’t fit the “classic” scenario.
After all, they opined, “No one stepped forward to take credit for the act.” That’s what they said — no one made a phone call, or sent a letter, or held a press conference to announce that the killings were done on behalf of Allah by a peace-loving follower. Therefore, how were we to know what the killer’s intentions were?
I guess the two geniuses were off the planet last September when four passenger jets were hijacked, and three of the four were rammed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon buildings. Otherwise, they would have remembered that no one took credit for those attacks. As a matter of fact, those whom our government rightfully wanted to blame refused to accept anyresponsibility for the assault. But after the second jet flew into the WTC was there any doubt that
the attack was a premeditated plot? Did we need to learn of the subsequent Pentagon attack, or the crashed plane outside Pittsburgh, to make the proper determination?
Correspondingly, how many weapons does a murderer have to carry in order for him to be called a terrorist? Are three not sufficient? How many people does he have to kill? Are two dead too few?
There’s a hullabaloo over the “lack of a motive” for the killings. There is no evidence that it was a robbery attempt, no hint that it was the result of a road-rage confrontation. Other than the coincidental religious differentiation between the assailant and his victims, all we have to go on are previous worldwide terrorist incidents, America’s declaration of a war on terrorism, and the news that Osama bin Laden has called on all Muslims to kill non-Muslims whenever and where
ever they can.
As the day wore on additional details were revealed, such as the not-surprising recent departure of the killer’s wife and two sons for Egypt. According to sources, the family simply decided to spend the summer in lovely sweltering Egypt. I guess everyone forgot that the families of the September 11 killers also coincidentally returned to their home countries just prior to their date with infamy.
Throughout Thursday and the following days (as I write this story) the police and FBI are still not calling the incident “terrorism.” Los Angeles police continue to refer to the situation as a “criminal act.” It is a criminal act all right — and it’s called TERRORISM.
However, the problem is not the identification of the motive behind the LAX attack. As more and more information about the killer’s past links to other activities becomes known, it will be painfully clear that he was just a terrorist out to kill some Jews as commanded by bin Laden and Islam: nothing more, nothing less.
The problem that we’re facing is our own English language. You see, the lexicology used to describe the act that took place at LAX has become inadequate for the job. The news media and our intelligence agencies are all looking for grand conspiracies, genocidal atrocities, and apocalyptic holocausts. Now that we’ve had horrific events that have killed hundreds and thousands in a single coordinated terrorist attack, they can’t go back to using the word “terrorism” to describe casual, garden-variety politically inspired murders. It just ain’t newsworthy and no one is gonna be able to get Congress to convene any special sessions todebate the steps necessary to stop it.
Terrorist acts must now be defined as events of epic proportions, something that can inspire a Hollywood blockbuster movie (or a least a Ken Burns-style mini-series). Pretty soon, if we go around labeling any old hate crime-killing spree as terrorism, the public will lose interest. And when the public loses interest, broadcast ratings decline and agency funding dries up.
Obviously, what we need is a new word; something that’s reminiscent of the old word, but that cleverly employs alternative alphabetical characteristics to convey the nuances of the new word. The new word would provide immediate closure, while being indicative of the level of response used in subsequent retaliation.
Although I’m not suggesting I have the perfect answer, I think it’s a pretty good one. To create the new word I reached way, way back to ancient times — all the way to about four years ago, to the height of the dotcom gold rush. Back then, when a bunch of computer software and hardware companies realized that their products had no viable use in the “Internet” marketplace, they came up with the word “Intranet” to explain their potential use. The word presumably indicated something smaller, more confined, or limited. Ultimately it didn’t have the desired effect — the products still stank — but it did spawn quite the narrow-focused industry.
Therefore, I would like to propose TIRROR, which naturally engenders TIRRORISM and TIRRORIST. Notice how the letter I has replaced the letter E. I as in individual or internal and looking like the Roman numeral one. Tirrorism can henceforth be used to describe all the smaller, more “mundane” attacks — let’s say anything with fewer than 100 dead. The great old stand-by TERRORISM, with an E for everyone or external or extra-special, would then be specifically used for all the attacks that claim 100 or more lives.
To support the semantic change we will, of course, also need a new governmental infrastructure to handle the newly named situations. Fortunately, I have a suggestion for this as well. Let’s find a midget that looks like Tom Ridge and make him the Mini Me Minister of Internal Security. To save on developmental costs he would use all the same security alert color-codes as the full-size Tom Ridge, and he would occupy office space in Tom Ridge’s desk (Mini Me can have the bottom two left-hand drawers). Since the FBI, CIA and NSA are all devoted to only full-scale terrorist acts, we’d assign appropriate organizations of lessersignificance to deal with Tirrorism. We can go with the Sea Cadets, school crossing guards, and any Star Trek fanatic with his or her own Federation uniform.
There, don’t you feel relieved to know that we finally have a motive for the LAX shooting attack, and that it was only an act of Tirrorism? Now we can get back to fighting the War on Terrorism, in peace.