Since the shooting in Ottawa last week by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a very familiar political debate has broken out in Canada: Was Zehaf-Bibeau a terrorist or just a disturbed man committing a crime?
In his first statement after the attack Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper described Zehah-Bibeau as a terrorist saying, “in the days to come we will learn more about the terrorist and any accomplices he may have had.”
A few days later the Royal Canadian Mounted Police published an update on the case which stated, “Michael Zehaf-Bibeau’sattack was driven by ideological and political motives.” The RCMP based this conclusion on ad video clip made by Zehaf-Bibeau himself just prior to the attack. RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said the video showed Zehaf-Bibeau was both “deliberate” and “lucid” in outlining the reasons for the attack. He added that the motive was, “in respect, broadly, to Canada’s foreign policy and also in respect of his religious beliefs.”
All of this seems pretty cut and dry. For a time the only person who seemed to be suggesting Zehaf-Bibeau’s actions were not terrorism was his mother. And then, earlier this week, the leader of the NDP opposition party, Tom Mulcair, stepped forward and said he wasn’t convinced. “I don’t think that we have enough evidence to use that word,” Muclair stated. Pointing to reports that Zehaf-Bibeau may have had some problems with mental illness, Muclair added, “If that turns out to be the case, I think we are not in the presence of aterrorist act in the sense that we would understand it and I think wehave to be very careful with the use of the word terrorism, make surethat’s actually what we are dealing with.”
Apparently, Muclair’s theory is that mental illness and home grown terrorism are mutually exclusive. There may be some instances where that distinction matters but, so far, this does not seem to be one of those. As Bob Paulson made clear, Zehaf-Bibeau appeared lucid in describing his motives.
The whole argument should sound familiar to anyone who followed news of the Ft. Hood shooting. In that case Nidal Hasan, who had reached out to an Al Qaeda propagandist online, later murdered 13 people while shouting “Allahu Ackbar.” Hasan, who is still alive, has put in writing that he seems himself as a “Soldier for Allah” and renounces his citizenship because he believes it contradicts the will of Allah. None of this seems to matter to the FBI which has categorized his rampage as workplace violence.
The real difference between the debate taking place in Canada and the one here is which party is in charge. Canada’s more conservative government didn’t hesitate to call a jihadist attack what it was, just as many American conservatives had no problem labeling Ft. Hood a terrorist attack. Meanwhile the Obama administration seems to line up with the left-wing NDP in Canada, both seem determined to ignore the evidence in favor of a politically correct outcome.
Of course there’s no reason someone can’t be mentally unstable and a terrorist. The Unabomber was both. At least one Canadian columnist has argued the whole thing seems like a bogus debate:
What will be obvious to any reasonable person is that it is not justpossible for someone to have “mental issues” and at the same time be arampaging jihadi “terrorist” (bred in the bone, recently converted,pretty well mandatory. Those three things do tend to form the profile,after all.
If only we had some reasonable people in charge here in the United States.