The fourth mystery: was the LAX murderer a terrorist?
By John O’Sullivan, National Review, July 9, 2002
The case of Hesham Mohamed Hadayat, my dear Watson, is one of those
detective stories whose solution is obvious to any newspaper reader but which
baffles the authorities by its mysterious complexity.
Let us simply list the clues:
1. He attacked the El Al line at Los Angeles airport and killed two Jews. There
are at least 20 airlines using LAX. So if this was a random attack – an enraged
response, say, to bad airline food over the years – the odds were at least 20 to
1 against his targeting El Al.
If, however, he consciously selected El Al for attack – which seems
much more likely – then is reasonable to conclude that he did so because El Al
is the Israeli national airline and its officials and passengers were likely to be
Israelis and/or Jews.
2. He was heavily armed but had no airline ticket or passenger pick-up that day.
In other words, he went to LAX to murder people and not for some legitimate
3. He was an educated middle-class Egyptian citizen with family connections to
people in the national establishment. If the FBI were still allowed to profile, it
would have noticed that he fit the profile of the September 11 hijackers with
almost embarrassing exactitude..
4. His car bore the bumper-sticker “Read the Koran.” Nothing wrong with that,
of course. In the absence of other evidence it would suggest merely that he
was a pious Muslim.
But since ordinarily pious Muslims do not think it right to murder
complete strangers, we may legitimately infer that he was one of that extreme
“Islamist” faction known as al Qaeda that believes it entirely permissible, even
mandatory, to kill Israelis, Jews and their friends and supporters such as
5. His neighbors and employees testify that he frequently denounced Israel,
U.S. support for Israel, and – despite his own relative rise to prosperity as a
limousine business owner (the first limousine terrorist? Alas no) – American
discrimination against Arabs and Muslims.
6. And the final conclusive piece of evidence that he was a terrorist – he had
once been slated for deportation by the Immigration and Naturalization Service
but the INS changed his mind and allowed him to stay in the U.S.
Boom Boom, as they say on the comedy shows.
What these clues establish, of course, is merely that Hadayat was a terrorist
who set out to murder innocent bystanders from political motives. There is less
evidence as yet that he was acting on the actual instructions of al Qaeda, or
Egyptian Jihad, or any other organized terrorist group.
Some Middle Eastern sources, both Arab and Israeli, claiming
counterintelligence sources, suggest that he was a “sleeper” for Egyptian Jihad
and that he had twice met Osama bin Laden’s deputy in California in 1995 and
1998. According to this theory, he set off to LAX on July 4 because his
terrorist godfathers wanted a terrorist outrage on America’s national day.
That is perfectly plausible. It is also possible, however, that he was a terrorist
sympathizer who quietly seethed with hatred for Israel and the U.S. and
sympathy for Osama bin Laden until he decided one day to strike a blow on his
own. After all, it required no great ingenuity to guess that an attack on July 4
would be especially unsettling to Americans.
We shall discover which version is correct in due course. In either event
Hadayat was a terrorist.
Why then have the authorities, beginning with the FBI but also including the
White House, wriggled and maneuvered to avoid reaching this obvious
conclusion. That is the only mystery attached to this particular crime.
What seems to be the explanation is that the U.S. government is less afraid of
terrorists than of the American public. For the authorities the terrorists are a
known factor. Their habits and “M.O.s” can be categorized and studied; their
actions predicted; and precautions against their attacks mounted.
But the American public is an unknown beast which the political and media
elites long ago decided was racist, sexist and homophobic. Our betters fear us.
If not guided and controlled, they believe, we will hit out in dangerous spasms
of violence at minorities, immigrants and anyone who looks like “The Other.”
We cannot be trusted with inconvenient truths. In particular, we have to
be prevented from launching discrimination and attacks on Muslims and Arabs
in bigoted response to terrorist outrages.
Hence they seek to calm our latent hysteria by keeping the words “Muslim” or
“Arab” as far as possible from the word “terrorist” lest we leap illegitimately to
the conclusion that Muslims and Arabs in general are terrorists. Hence Hadayat
(who is undeniably Muslim) is shrouded in ambiguity by the FBI as a lone wolf
figure whose motives are unknown and unknowable
As I pointed out a few weeks ago, these establishment fears are grossly
exaggerated. Since September 11 only 51 cases of civil discrimination and 65
cases of criminal threats and violence against Muslims were found to have
merit. In a nation of 270 million people, these statistics amount to a very small
backlash indeed – one greatly outweighed by the many attempts of ordinary
Americans to assure their Muslim neighbors of their goodwill and acceptance.
In fact only one thing is likely to provoke the unfair suspicion and hatred of
Muslims and Arabs that gives nightmares to Uncle Sam – namely, the fear of
ordinary Americans that their government is not taking commonsense measures
to protect them against terrorism because it is afraid of offending groups from
which the current crop of terrorists comes.