It was terrible, but was the Ottawa attack terrorism?




Canada’s Prime Minister, along with CNN and Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcast Network, and now even the White House, are all referring to the horrible shooting in Ottawa, Canada last night as “terrorism.”

But was it really?

In case you hadn’t heard, a lone gunman opened fire yesterday, and killed, a soldier standing guard at the Canadian National War Memorial.

He then went into the parliament building, shot a guard, and was gunned down before being able to harm anyone else.

But was it terrorism?

I’ve written about this topic before, about whether some of us are prone to label violence “terrorism” if there’s a hint of a connection to Islam. In this case, the shooter-suspect was Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a “reported” recent convert to Islam.

But what makes this terrorism, if we don’t yet have a connection to a known terrorist organization? And is such a connection even necessary? If it’s not, then how does this attack differ from some nut just opening fire because he’s some nut? Was it terrorism when Adam Lanza murdered nearly two dozen small children at Sandy Hook Elementary? Or was it not terrorism simply because Lanza chose an elementary school rather than a government building?

There was a second “terrorist” attack in Canada earlier in the week. More from CBN:

Wednesday’s act of Islamic terror in Ottawa came just two days after another recent convert to Islam ran over two soldiers near Montreal with his car.

Ran over them with his car?

Not to minimize the deadly damage a car can cause a human body, but using a car to run over a pedestrian doesn’t sound terribly Al Qaeda.

As for the murder at the war memorial, and the attack on the parliament, CNN reports that the shooter had reportedly talked about being stalked by the devil and demons:

Mr. Bathurst said Zehaf-Bibeau did not appear to be an extremist, but was “erratic” and exhibited strange behavior. “We were having a conversation in a kitchen, and I don’t know how he worded it: He said the devil is after him,” Bathurst said, adding that Zehaf-Bibeau talked frequently about Shaytan, or Satan, being a presence in the world. “I think he must have been mentally ill,” Bathurst said.

He sounds like a nut. And while that doesn’t preclude him from also being a terrorist, it, again, doesn’t sound like the kind of people we usually think of when we think “terrorist.”

As I’ve written before, it’s not easy defining terrorism. Some cases, like September 11, are obvious. Others, less so. And while no one wants to lessen the impact of these crimes, it’s important that we use the right language, lest the phrase “terrorism” become meaningless.


CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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