Amid all the media coverage of the Times Square Fizzler, Faisal Shahzad, we still know very little about the circumstances surrounding his actions. As Rachel Maddow helpfully pointed out on MSNBC Wednesday night, all those leaks about his alleged "links" to the Pakistani Taliban, and other "news" stories purporting to tell us what he’s told investigators, are unsourced, often single-sourced, and subject to the agendas of various factions who want to put their "spin" on the failed attack.
What we do know is this: his father, Baharul Haq, is a retired Pakistan air force officer, a former top official of the civil aviation agency, and that the family is "liberal" and secular. He had lived and worked in the US for years, become a naturalized US citizen, and was employed by Elizabeth Arden, the cosmetics company, and also by the Affinion Group, based in Connecticut, as a financial consultant. He bought a house that was later foreclosed on, andsent his wife to Pakistan, along with the rest of his family.
He had no past affiliation with radical groups, and was not unusually religious, although friends had noticed a change in his behavior over the past year, a new quietism, a certain reserve. Aside from that, however, there were no warning signs he was planning anything out of the ordinary. He was, in short, an ordinary man, but there is one thing that stands out in this little narrative: he was not very good at terrorism.
This is somebody who left the keys to his apartment in the ignition of the would-be car bomb, and had to call his landlord to be let into his Connecticut digs. He spent all of a month planning the attack, and used the wrong kind of fertilizer for his bomb — the device could never have gone off. So much for all that "training" he supposedly received from the Pakistani Taliban. And one little detail does stand out, amid all the leakage coming out of law enforcement circles. According to Newsweek, when federal agents boarded his Emirates flight to Dubai on the runway at JFK airport, Shahzad said:
"I was expecting you. Are you NYPD or FBI?"
There he was, about to get away – he was belted in his seat, and the plane was ready to take off – and yet he tells the feds he was "expecting" them. There is some speculation as to how he managed to even get on the plane, given that an alert had already gone out, but the point is that he seemed relieved he was caught. A New York Times article on the trail followed by investigators is aptly entitled " — A Suspect Leaves Clues At Every Turn."
Did Shahzad want to be caught?
I won’t speculate as to why someone would deliberately set himself up for all this, but there is another explanation, one that explains an awful lot of what we know about Shahzad’s recent experience.
Think about it: he was having huge financial difficulties: the couple reportedly walked away from their foreclosed home in a hurry, leaving a lot of their possessions scattered over the house. The bank that financed his home in Shelton, Connecticut, was suing him. He left his job at Affinion – he wasn’t fired, he simply quit. Forget, for a moment, all the speculation about "links" to the Taliban. The truth of the matter is that he may simply have gone insane.
If so, then he has a lot in common with many of his fellow Americans, who also seem to have gone off the deep end these days, especially some of our most prominent elected officials. How else can we explain the reaction of some of our more prominent politicians to Shahzad’s crazed act?
Senators Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.), are joined by Reps. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) and Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), in introducing a bill that would strip Americans of their citizenship if they are suspected of having joined or given material support to a "foreign terrorist organization" – and, no, this doesn’t include the IDF. Never mind all those bothersome details about due process, and the rule of law: one merely has to be accused, and – zap! – your citizenship is gone in a puff of smoke. Oh, you can appeal – to the US State Department, or in a court of law – but that’s only after the fact. You’re guilty until you can prove you’re innocent.
Under normal conditions, one would think that such an extreme proposal would fall flat on its face from inception, but in the wake of our post-9/11 madness, a supposed "liberal" can endorse it without a thought. The Hill, Capitol Hill’s newspaper of record, reports House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Baghdad-by-the-Bay) "expressed openness to the idea on Thursday, — saying she liked the ‘spirit’ of the proposal, but would have to see the specifics."
I’d love to show Nancy some specifics – but the last time I tried to engage the imperious Speaker, she was most uncooperative: and, in any case, Madame Pelosi is so distanced from ordinary citizens that she never has to engage anyone but sycophants and campaign donors.
Of course Pelosi loves the "spirit" of the Lieberman-Brown bill – the gang in Washington is instinctively authoritarian, and could care less about the Constitution, never mind the principle of individual liberty. Liberals and conservatives alike worship at the altar of government, and think they know what’s best for us peons – and as for the peons, they long ago gave up any hope of influencing their rulers, preoccupied as they are with day-to-day survival.
While Republicans cavil about reading Shahzad his Miranda rights, and the Pelosi-crats jump on board Lieberman’s Police State Express, ordinary Americans are only vaguely aware that their republican (small ‘r’) patrimony is being sold down the river by a pack of drooling opportunists. If, indeed, Shahzad is a madman, then he is far from alone – and it’s no wonder no one’s noticed, thus far, because he fits right in.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
In view of yesterday’s 1000-point-plus boomerang on the stock market, I’m reminded of my April 30 column on the British election campaign:
"It’s a good thing for the three main parties that the election is taking place at this particular moment, because if you’ll go here, you’ll see why, by this summer, the economic crisis may heat up considerably – perhaps to the point of international meltdown. As one financial analyst puts it:
"…the entire global government connected financial sector is teetering and could collapse at any time."
After an extensive review of the Greek fiscal crisis and its domino effect, I concluded:
"So that’s what’s on the horizon: imminent economic calamity, rising social protest, and increasing prospects of a major war. Now, please, don’t let me ruin your day. Go about your business just as you would on any other day – walk the dog, feed the cat, tend to your garden — but just remember: you read it here first."