Friday, January 27, 2012

Washington Post Unclear About "Allahu Akbar"

This story in the Washington Post (‘Motive of shooter who targeted military sites is unclear’) gives me pause – again – to wonder about how far the press will go to bury a lead.
Yonathan Melaku was sneaking through Fort Myer and Arlington National Cemetery, his backpack filled with plastic bags of ammonium nitrate, a notebook containing jihadist messages, and a can of black spray paint.  The 23-year-old former Marine was heading to the graves of the nation’s most recent heroes, aiming to desecrate the stones with Arabic statements and leave handfuls of explosive material nearby as a message. 
Before police foiled the attack in June, the vandalism was to be Melaku’s sixth attack, months after he went on a mysterious shooting spree that targeted the Pentagon, the National Museum of the Marine Corps and two other military buildings in Northern Virginia.  A video found after Melaku’s arrest showed him wearing a black mask and shooting a 9mm handgun out of his Acura’s passenger window as he drove along Interstate 95, shouting “Allahu Akbar!” 
It was all part of a solitary campaign of “fear and terror,” federal prosecutors said.  But authorities and Melaku’s defense attorney said no one knows for sure what led Melaku – a naturalized U.S. citizen from Ethi­o­pia, local high school graduate and former Marine Corps Reservist – down that path. . . . 
Gregory English, Melaku’s defense lawyer, said after the hearing that Melaku’s family is of the Coptic Christian faith and that they were stunned to learn of his involvement in the crimes and the references to Islamic jihad.  English said the shootings were out of character for Melaku, and he wonders whether his client suffers from a psychological problem, which he has asked the court to evaluate.
Let us set some things straight, shall we?  The “psychological problem” to which English was referring was post-traumatic stress disorder, popularly called PTSD.  (The term ‘popularly’ has a deliberate double-entendre – claims of PTSD are practically epidemic as means to explain a host of excuses).  In conjunction with the report in the first and third paragraph about Melaku being a former Marine, the forced supposition would be that the two pieces are conflated, but the fact of the matter is that Melaku was never deployed.  (The press loves the Marines.  Reports of acts of murderous intent rarely if ever say that they involve former sailors or airmen.  Reports of soldiers have re-surfaced after Iraq, even including soldiers not assigned to the combat arms.)

The reason that Melaku was a 'former' Marine is that he was administratively discharged from the Marines at about the time of his arrest, for the unrelated charge of grand larceny, and I have to believe that his discharge was 'under other than honorable conditions'.  He later attempted an escape from jail.

English and the article stipulates that Melaku’s family are Coptic Christians, but what is unreported is that he is a convert to Islam and attended the All Dulles Area Muslim Society.

Then, of course, there is that allahu akbar thing again.

Yet the Washington Post remains unclear about his motive.

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