None wants to call it 'terrorism'
Local, state, and federal authorities are all tiptoeing around the notion of calling the attack in San Bernardino that killed 14 people "terrorism." Caution in identifying the motive for the attack as Islamic terrorism as opposed to some kind of "workplace violence" – a meme being aggressively advanced by many on the left – is understandable and justifiable. The fact is, there is a lot that we don't know about the shooters, Syed Rezwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. It would be irresponsible for authorities or the media to jump to conclusions based on the evidence we have so far.
But that shouldn't constrain us from putting two and two together and realizing there is a strong possibility that they equal four.
1. The idea that Farook got mad at a luncheon, "stormed out," and returned with Malik, dressed in tactical gear, carrying several homemade explosives, and had a getaway car waiting (with or without a driver) in order to seek revenge for some wrong inflicted doesn't pass the silly test.
2. Farook visitied Saudi Arabia, ostensibly to marry Malik. It has not been reported when he went overseas, or how long he stayed. His profile appeared on a dating page that claims to be "a site for people with disabilities and second marriage." So far, authorities have been unable to determine if Malik is his wife, his fiancée, or his girlfriend.
3. Have you ever heard of an ordinary Saudi woman being able to handle an automatic weapon? The government doesn't even let most women drive a car.
Taken together, a compelling case for a planned act of terror. But was it Islamic terrorism? If critics who say many of us jump to conclusions regarding this incident can come up with an equally plausible motivation, I'm all ears. But at the same time, there are just too many holes that need to be filled in before one can definitively say that this was an terror act committed in the name of Allah.
Some of the holes we need filled in before we can be certain:
1. Just who is Tashfeen Malik? Is it his second wife? A girlfriend? Farook was apparently married for "two years," according to the CAIR spokesman. But he only recently returned from Saudi Arabia with Malik. That doesn't track.
2. All four guns used in the attack were purchased legally in the U.S. Farook bought the two handguns a couple of years ago, and a friend bought the rifles (still no word on make or model of the long guns). How Farook got a hold of the long guns is not known. Why would he have a friend puchase the weapons for him?
3. If this was terrorism, who radicalized whom? Or were both radicalized before they left Saudi Arabia for America?
4. By all accounts, Farook would appear to be the least likely candidate to carry out a mass casualty terror attack. Could he have been that good at hiding his extremism from co-workers and family? The level of sophistication of the attack indicates that it is possible that Farook, an American citizen, was some kind of sleeper. If so, he would have had that kind of training, and it is entirely possible he could have fooled everyone.
Untangling Farook's and Malik's movements and interactions in the days leading up to the attack will probably fill in a lot of these holes.
Authorities have a vested interest in playing down the Islamic terrorism theme. They fear a backlash against them by Muslims if they get it wrong, and they also worry about attacks on local Muslims by crazies.
The media, however, have no such excuse. They are bending over backward to play down the Muslim angle and are advancing a narrative that makes the attack a matter of workplace violence. This may be considered justified caution – or it may be simple ideological bias. Unless or until the FBI clarifies the attack as a terrorist incident, that will be the nature of reporting on the tragedy.