I read Glenn Greenwald regularly, admire his writing enormously, and seldom have much if any disagreement with the points which he makes in his columns. In his column yesterday, however, I think he is shooting blanks with his claim that the Boston bombing is being called a “terrorist attack” merely because the perpetrators are Muslim. I do agree with him that use of the term is premature, but I think his claim of Islamic prejudice, while it may be true, is unproven by his argument.
He compares the Boston event, which killed three people, to three other events in this country in the past two years: the Tucson shooting in which six people died, the Aurora movie theater shooting in which twelve people died, and the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in which 26 people were shot and killed. He then adds the Columbine School shooting in 1999, in which 12 people were killed by gunfire. He points out that despite the greater number of people killed, the term “terrorism” was “virtually never” applied to any of these acts.
He says that there is “no basis at all for claiming that this was an act of ‘terrorism’ in a way that would meaningfully distinguish it from Aurora, Sandy Hook, Tucson and Columbine,” and goes on to claim that it is the ethnic and religious nature of the perpetrators which is the sole difference and is the basis upon which the “terrorism” label is being applied.
I’m not sure how he can possibly overlook a much more immediate and really glaring difference between the Boston event and the other four which he names. Anyone?
Boston was a bomb attack, which would most certainly “meaningfully distinguish it” from four events consisting of violence with guns. I’m not sure that I would agree that the difference in and of itself justifies application of the term “terrorism” to the Boston event, but I think it is enough of a difference to invalidate Greenwald’s claim that Islamic prejudice is the only possible explanation.
Now, if he wanted a comparison which would bolster his argument, he could have cited the Fort Hood shooting, in which 13 people died by gunfire. That attack did not differ in any significant way from Aurora, Sandy Hook, Tucson and Columbine other than it was perpetrated by an Islamist, and it was widely referred to as a “terrorist attack.”
I’m not smarter than Glenn Greenwald, so I can’t believe he missed that.