Jaw-dropping court testimony by Faisal Shahzad, the would-be Times Square bomber, singlehandedly undermines Obama administration efforts to ignore the dangers of Islamism and jihad.
Shahzad's forthright statement of purpose stands out because jihadis, when facing legal charges, typically save their skin by pleading not guilty or plea bargaining. Consider a few examples:
- Naveed Haq, who assaulted the Jewish Federation building in Seattle, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
- Lee Malvo, one of the Beltway Snipers, explained that "one reason for the shootings was that white people had tried to harm Louis Farrakhan." His partner John Allen Muhammad claimed his innocence to the death chamber.
- Hasan Akbar killed two fellow American soldiers as they slept in a military compound, then told the court ""I want to apologize for the attack that occurred. I felt that my life was in jeopardy, and I had no other options. I also want to ask you for forgiveness."
- Mohammed Taheri-azar, who tried to kill students on the University of North Carolina by running over them in a car and issued a series of jihadi rants against the United States, later experienced a change of heart, announced himself "very sorry" for the crimes he committed, and asked for release so that he can "re-establish myself as a good, caring and productive member of society" in California.
These efforts fit a broader pattern of Islamist mendacity; rarely does a jihadi stand on principle. Zacarias Moussaoui, 9/11's would-be twentieth hijacker, came close: his court proceedings began with his refusing to enter a plea (which the presiding judge translated into "not guilty") and then, one fine day, pleading guilty to all charges.
Shahzad, 30, acted in an exceptional manner during his appearance in a New York City federal court on June 21. His answers to Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum's many inquisitive questions ("And where was the bomb?" "What did you do with the gun?") offered a dizzying mix of deference and contempt. On the one hand, he politely, calmly, patiently, fully, and informatively answered about his actions. On the other, he in the same voice justified his attempt at cold-blooded mass murder.
The judge asked Shahzad after he announced an intent to plead guilty to all ten counts of his indictment, "Why do you want to plead guilty?" a reasonable question given the near certainty that guilty pleas will keep him in for long years in jail. He replied:
I want to plead guilty and I'm going to plead guilty a hundred times forward because – until the hour the U.S. pulls it forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and stops the drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan and stops the occupation of Muslim lands and stops killing the Muslims and stops reporting the Muslims to its government – we will be attacking [the] U.S., and I plead guilty to that.
Shahzad insisted on portraying himself as replying to American actions: "I am part of the answer to the U.S. terrorizing [of] the Muslim nations and the Muslim people, and on behalf of that, I'm avenging the attacks," adding that "We Muslims are one community." Nor was that all; he flatly asserted that his goal had been to damage buildings and "injure people or kill people" because "one has to understand where I'm coming from, because ... I consider myself a mujahid, a Muslim soldier."
When Cedarbaum pointed out that pedestrians in Times Square during the early evening of May first were not attacking Muslims, Shahzad replied: "Well, the [American] people select the government. We consider them all the same." His comment reflects not just that American citizens are responsible for their democratically elected government but also the Islamist view that, by definition, infidels cannot be innocents.
However abhorrent, this tirade does have the virtue of truthfulness. Shahzad's willingness to name his Islamic purposes and spend long years in jail for them flies in the face of Obama administration efforts not to name Islamism as the enemy, preferring such lame formulations as "overseas contingency operations" and "man-caused disasters."
Americans – as well as Westerners generally, all non-Muslims, and anti-Islamist Muslims – should listen to the bald declaration by Faisal Shahzad and accept the painful fact that Islamist anger and aspirations truly do motivate their terrorist enemies. Ignoring this fact will not make it disappear.
Mr. Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.
June 25, 2010 addendum: I referred in the first paragraph to "Obama administration efforts to ignore the dangers of Islamism and jihad" but the problem is not limited to the Obama administration. My prior article on Shahzad, "Why Would Anyone Want to Blow Up Times Square?" in National Review Online on May 5, went in depth into media and other governmental efforts to pretend that Islamism and jihad have no role.
July 14, 2010 update: As if the court testimony were not enough to establish Shahzad' motives, we now have the 40-minute suicide video he made months in advance of the operation and issued by the Pakistani Taliban. ABC News quotes him stating that "This attack on the United States will be a revenge attack for all the mujahedeen who have been martyred." Shahzad also describes jihad as an obligation incumbent on all Muslims and asserts that, "by abandoning jihad, the Muslims' honor is lost, we are humiliated, we lose our dignity and our land."