Zero Tolerance

#IStandWithAhmed and the Silence on the Drone Wars

Easier to pick on the other than to reflect on yourself.



Last week, ninth-grader Ahmed Mohamed brought a clock he made from a circuit board to school to show his teachers, and ended up being taken away by cops because a teacher worried the device looked a lot like a bomb. 

The suspension, while tragic, is also, tragically, far too common. The pages of Reason are full of victims of zero tolerance policies of all races. A young boy who shapes his Pop Tart into a guns may not be as sympathetic as a tinkerer, but deserves to get to express himself and be a child without being treated like a criminal. 

The Islamophobia element of the story helped it spread far and wide in the media, even as the concomitant discussion on whether zero tolerance policies had gone too far has largely been absent. That's unfortunate. Insofar as Mohamed's race or religion contributed to the teacher's decision, that should be condemned. But the policies under which the school operated to send Mohamed to police would apply just as easily, and have applied just as easily, even absent the appearance of profiling. 

The zero tolerance policies that have created a climate where educational institutions treat children like criminals for misinterpreted harmless behavior were birthed in the 1990s, as a response to school shootings in the decade, and ramped up after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. 

Even Barack Obama weighed in on Mohamed, tweeting an invitation for the teenager to show his clock off at the White House. But in a very real sense, Obama could have just as easily been responsible for Mohamed's death. A teenage Muslim boy with an electronic device of unknown origin in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, or Pakistan, could have been a target of a drone war. "Signature strikes" are drone strikes where the targets aren't identified by name or affiliation with a known terorrist group, but with fact patterns that suggest terrorist activity. Fact patterns like being a military-age Muslim male tinkering with electronics in one of the places the United States drone bombs regularly. 

Since 2004, drone strikes have killed more than 4,400 people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, the vast majority coming under the Obama administration, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Among the casualties were at least 850 civilians, including more than 200 children. The numbers could be higher. The United States uses a liberal definition for justified kills, claiming if a victim meets certain fact patterns, they can be considered a legitimate target. 

None of this came up in the social media storm over Ahmed. When 14-year-old Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, an American citizen and son of an Al Qaeda leader who came to Yemen to look for his father, was killed in a drone strike, Robert Gibbs, the former White House press secretary, suggested Al-Awlaki should have picked a "more responsible father." 

The drone war is real, even if Americans don't want to talk about it. It would be impossible to wage without a liberal dose of profiling. Targets are chosen based on their religious and geographic affiliations and the activities they appear to be engaged in. The White House came up with lists for drone kills on "Terror Tuesdays."   

The environment in which it seemed normal for an engineering teacher to call the police because a teenage student showed him a circuit board fashioned to tell time grew directly out of not just zero tolerance policies but also our decade-plus long war on terror and its culture of fear. Boston once shut down over a suspicious looking device that was a guerilla marketing ad for Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Before that an MIT student was arrested at the Boston airport for wearing a circuit board as an art installation. Moments after Obama tweeted Mohamed a White House invitation, the White House was put on lockdown over a "suspicious package," found in a park several blocks away, while the president wasn't even in the White House. 

So the idea that there's something especially wicked about the school and police in Irving, Texas, is not just wrong, it's a distraction. The drone war, despite the efforts of some civil liberties activists, did not become a major issue in the 2012 race. It is not an issue any of the Democrats, and few of the Republicans, have addressed in 2016, and it doesn't look like voters will punish them for ignoring the issue. Standing with Ahmed won't erase Americans' complacency in a decade long murder campaign in the Muslim world. That the drone war doesn't kill as many people as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan did doesn't excuse it easier. It's easy to laugh at a scapegoat, at an other, for perceived Islamophobia, much harder to examine the popular opinions, Islamophobic or not, that have contributed to the sustained, bipartisan war on terror.


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  1. Yemen, the vast majority coming under the Obama administration, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Among the casualties were at least 850 civilians, including more than 200 children.

    You Sugarfree’d the link

    1. fixed now

    2. Among the casualties were at least 850 civilians, including more than 200 children.

      How do we know who are “civilians” and who are terrorists or terrorist supporters, again?

      How do we know the children weren’t actively participating?

      These questions apply equally to the people pulling the trigger on droning, and the people reporting on its effects, of course.

      1. This is why I propose nuking everyone from orbit: it’s the only way to be sure.

  2. Fact patterns like being a military-age Muslim male tinkering with electronics in one of the places the United States drone bombs regularly.

    Weren’t Obama supporters satisfied that this was called “due process”?

    1. No. It’s only due process if the Lightworker, prais-ed be his mighty name, has inputted the boy into his spreadsheet known as the disposition matrix, picked up the phone, called SOCOM and yelled (in his best Dalek voice) EXTERMINATE EXTERMINATE EXTERMINATE.

      /Obama Supporter

  3. So the idea that there’s something especially wicked about the school and police in Irving, Texas, is not just wrong, it’s a distraction.


    You wanna talk about the culture of police abuse vis-?-vis the utter lack of accountability with unelected officials an a hyper-regulated environment?

    Nah. #BlackLivesMatter!

  4. Yep, they put it in the police car and drove away it. Because that’s what you do with things you suspect are a bomb.

    1. To be fair, they openly admitted they never suspected it was a bomb. They used a strange, twisted logic that someone somewhere might think it’s a bomb, and we can’t tolerate that.

      1. So how the crap is that on the kid?

        1. That is why this is so bad.

          1. Well, yeah. That’s what I was getting at.

            I guess you are responsible for stupid people’s overreactions to anything you do now. Especially if you are a black Muslim kid.

            I agree that making it all about race misses the larger point, but this particular case does appear to have a good bit of racism and prejudice involved.

            1. black Muslim kid

              I read an interesting thread on facebook yesterday between various perpetually aggrieved groups, and their supporters< trying to claim him. By interesting I mean retarded.

              1. something something grievance draft something something Whites choose that kid something something black Muslims accept somebody in trade something something Charlie Murphy.

        2. It’s “feelz-based policing”, I guess. You might have triggered somebody with your bomb-like device, so off to the hoosegow with you.

        3. Because no one but the kid could conceive of any reason to build something that wasn’t a hoax bomb.

        4. So how the crap is that on the kid?

          How the hell should I know? I’m not a ratty little pub-sec employee tasked with Keeping Our Own Kids Safe.

          1. No. That was one of those rhetorical questions. I suppose this was a rhetorical answer too.

            1. Sorry, I’m a little out of it. Because I was dealing with THE Zeb I thought you might be honestly demanding an answer.

              1. Jeez, am I that bad?

                1. No, baby, you’re that good.

      2. Ahmed was charged with making a hoax bomb. Basically, he was accused of intimidating or threatening the school. The kid didn’t really help his cause by being evasive during questioning. Apparently, the notion that he brought the clock to impress a single teacher was not conveyed to the principal or the school resource officer.

        The school should be commended for NOT requesting a bomb squad. Ahmed wasn’t turning in a project for a school science fair. He did this on his own, and the clock did not look like a conventional clock. His race undoubtedly activated some subconscious bias within the school officials, but really – if you a Muslim dude carrying around a suitcase that had wires hanging around and / or made noise, you wouldn’t feel a slight chill crawling up your spine?

        1. Bombs with dangling wires triggered by anachronistic tin alarmclocks are the scariest.

        2. Absent this story, does anyone think this device wouldn’t set off major alarms if the kid wanted to show it to Oblama, in the WH?

      3. Is there a picture of it anywhere? I got to thinking about it. If I glued a digital clock face, or a cellphone, on the outside of a briefcase, and put it in a public place, how long would it take for it to be called in, as a suspicious object? If it looked like a bomb, it could have been intentional!

        I have a problem believing this kid had no idea that the clock would not be seen as anyone else as a bomb! Maybe that is why he let it be seen by someone who would question its structure. He wanted someone to call the authorities to get his 15 minutes of fame. Seeing him speak, I was impressed that he was not a MENSA candidate. He did not seem like a potential engineer, either. He did not seem to be that intelligent. My twin brother was as intelligent as I (I became a first round, board certified surgeon) and he had all kinds of problems with the academic demands as a college student.

    2. They do the same thing at airports. All those shampoo bottles and toothpaste tubes over 3 ounces are often donated to homeless shelters. So they either know damn well that they’re not in any way dangerous, or they want to blow up the homeless.

      1. In that case it’s just about following procedure.

        1. That’s all that matters. Government is supposed to function. It’s not supposed to use any judgement or think. You just blindly follow procedures. And thinking is not in any of the procedures.

          1. As someone who works in government I can say that this is sadly absolutely true. Fortunately we’re also completely incompetent so I can do pretty much whatever I want.

            1. “Fortunately we’re also completely incompetent so I can do pretty much whatever I want.”

              Problem there is … so can the Progtards.

        2. Exactly. Security Theater.

        3. Right. Just like at the school.

    3. They didn’t think it was a bomb. They arrested him because they believed it qualified as a “Hoax Bomb”, which is legally defined in Texas as a weapon. The real problem is that the “reasonable standard” being applied to this device is embarrassing. Based on the pictures I’ve seen of the device in question, just about any electronic device could be considered a “Hoax Bomb”.


  5. Does Sesame Street’s Zero Tolerance policy mean Officer Stan can arrest The Number Two on referring to the 2nd Amendment charges?

    1. In that case, my Elmo uses the Potty video is lousy with 2A overtones.

  6. I for one won’t be happy until these public officials involved with these types of cases are made to take Cercei’s Walk of Shame.

    1. Either that or take the black and head to the wall.

      1. Or get the “Ramsay Bolton Reek Treatment”


  7. Those bastards! Why won’t they let AQ and ISIS make their clocks!

    This article is Riggs-level stupid.

    1. Racist. Dissing on Martin Riggs.

      1. Riggs was Mel Gibson. Murtaugh was the black one played by Danny Glover.

        1. Sarc is getting too old for this shit.

          1. You got that right.

        2. Now you’re being racist against Australians.

          1. They’re all descendants of criminals.

          2. So how long until they “reboot” Lethal Weapon with a Hemsworth brother as Riggs and Idris Elba as Murtaugh?

            1. I am sad because that is probably going to happen.

    2. The idea that they have only ever taken out AQ and ISIS is laughably stupid.

      I mean, these are the same people you will routinely piss on for fucking up every single thing they touch, but somehow they get that exactly right, every time?

  8. So the idea that there’s something especially wicked about the school and police in Irving, Texas, is not just wrong, it’s a distraction.

    And let’s be honest, it’s also the only reason this story is getting any widespread coverage. Nobody’s talking about how Obama would have happily murdered this kid if he lived in Yemen because that would require introspection about the fact that Obama is, you know, a murderer. But make it all about racist hicks in Texas, and it’s just another reason for coastal liberal types to feel superior to the rubes.

    1. bah, html fail

  9. I bet you if that kid was making a wooden sword and the teacher thought it was Crusad-ish, Obama would have kept his mouth shut. Alas, the kid happened to be Muslim and presto! There’s Obama chiming in with his two cents.

    What is wrong with his ‘how will my comment be perceived’ compass?

    I see no difference it what happened to this kid from any other poor kid who faced the irrational and hysterical wrath of teachers. Clock or pop tart guns. It’s all madness. In this case, his religion just happened to add to the hysterics. And President Common Sense is all too ready to jump on it.

    1. *in*

    2. Eh. Wooden sword in shop class is an automatic expulsion for possession of a weapon on schhol grounds. Even if you were making it for the school play.

      1. We used to make pot pipes in shop.

        1. I once spent several weeks making a spear in metal shop. Then when it was done the shop teacher told me it was good work, but he couldn’t let me walk out of the shop with a weapon, so he cut the spear blade off. Which essentially left me with a fucking stick.

          1. I spent a couple weeks using the router to make a lazy susan out of walnut. It was coming out nice. Then some idiot (not me) took my work off the machine, changed the speed to work on a pot pipe, and put my work back on without telling me or changing the speed back. I flipped the power button and BOOM my work exploded. Took out the overhead lights and would have taken out anyone had they been perpendicular to the rotation. Fucking asshole. I ended up with a fucking incomplete. But after that I got good at making pot pipes. Why not? Nothing else to do.

        2. Our metal shop teacher started out the class by saying “you can make whatever you want except weapons or things to smoke pot from”. So you had to make your pipes in pieces and assemble them later.

          1. I must have gone to a poor high school. No wood shop, and no metal shop.

      2. What about one made with Royale toilet paper with all those cute kittens rolling around on the sword for decoration?

    3. Bingo! The only reason anyone cares about this is because it’s just an excuse for some east coast liberals to feel superior to some hicks in Texas. If it were a white kid drawing a gun then these people would be silent on the issue, or if this incident happened in some enclave of tolerance and diversity like NYC or San Fransico then silence.

      This kid got in trouble due to public schools and their insane zero tolerance policies, and it’s only creating outrage because it happened to the right identity group in the right geographical area.

      1. Plus, it’s an opportunity for Obama to hype up the Democrats’ alleged love of science.

  10. Drone kills are ‘accomplishments’.

    The phrasing is where one gains the supernatural-like ability to present illusions capable of satiating certain thirsts- even massive thirst. John Wayne did this just by existing. The majority of society lacks this uncommon ability and government found it in the science of biologically rearranging words and images which I don’t think is even a science but since it isn’t magic it must be some sort of science.

  11. From CBS sports Top Headlines:

    “Manfred: MLB will consider tweaks to wild card
    Browns to start Manziel against Titans, Mariota
    Day shoots 61 at BMW | Follow: Leaderboard”

    What day of the week shot what at a BMW?

    That’s one awkward sentence. Of course, it only come by way of a hobby like golf.

  12. This is still an improvement over Boston having a complete melt down over some LED signs back in 2007.

    1. Never forget the day the Mooninites invaded Boston!!

  13. Look, I made a clock in an engineering class, and it doesn’t look anything like that. The kid even said, “I’m surprised I got this far.” Given that his dad is/was politically active in Sudan, I think he went into it trying to get busted, to prove some kind of point. I wouldn’t put it past the father, at any rate.

    1. Honestly, there is a chance everyone involved is an asshole. Like pretty much every other OUTRAGE story covered by the MSM.

    2. Wouldn’t that be annoying.

    3. The father reportedly insisted that the boy should be kept in handcuffs so he could take photos. Even if the handcuffing was gratuitous, we should not be surprised to find the family quickly associated itself with CAIR, nor that there was a concerted effort on the part of Islamist organizations to frame the narrative as Islamophobia. This is not accidental, and however irritating we find zero-tolerance policy, this is really the most politically significant aspect of the entire affair.

  14. Racialism and its bastard mongoloid child identity politics has thoroughly poisoned our nation.

    Sad, really. And I doubt there’s much anybody can do about it.

    But expect just about any public policy discussion to be sidetracked onto the dead end of identity politics, at this point.

    1. That’s why the state is willing to take the ID politics criticism. It’s the round-file of political action. It essentially says, “Carry on with policy and procedure, just make sure there’s no discrimination in it”.

      1. I wonder how many people would leave the #Blacklivesmatter group if the cops just came out and said “Ok we’re going to make sure we shoot an equal number of white people to make it even.”?

  15. But in a very real sense, Obama could have just as easily been responsible for Mohamed’s death. A teenage Muslim boy with an electronic device of unknown origin in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, or Pakistan, could have been a target of a drone war. “Signature strikes” are drone strikes where the targets aren’t identified by name or affiliation with a known terorrist group, but with fact patterns that suggest terrorist activity. Fact patterns like being a military-age Muslim male tinkering with electronics in one of the places the United States drone bombs regularly.

    Standing motherfucking ovation.

    No seriously Ed, that is a superb juxtaposition to shove in the face of every single liberal that has stood silently by while President “Drone anything that moves” has “done his job”.

  16. I think the whole thing was probably a hoax:…..chump-out/

    1. Or a stunt, perhaps.

      Assuming that a metal case with some electronics in it is a possible bomb is pretty dumb too. I wonder if any of the images for “suitcase bomb” are actually bombs?

      Seems like maybe this was a stunt to make some point. But I also used to disassemble clock radios (and many other things) and put the parts back together at around that age.

      Whatever the intent was, the reaction of the police and school officials is still terrible. Once they know it is not a bomb, it should end. There is nothing wrong with bringing a little case of electronic clock parts to school, even if some people think it looks like a bomb.


  18. A white grammar school kid points a finger at classmate as though it were a gun and gets suspended. Where was the outrage then?…..ike-a-gun/

    This case of an overly cautious school staff has nothing to so with racism, or this kid being Muslim. It has everything to do with so-called “zero tolerance” school policies, which takes away a teacher’s or principal’s discretion in dealing with a case like this, and constant admonitions of “see something say something” by law enforcement and the political establishment.

    Conversely, if something violent had happened all the self-righteous protectors of racial and Muslim sensibilities would be singing a different tune, and tearing the school staff and authorities a new one.

    Moreover, the family of Kathryn Steinle, killed in San Francisco as a direct result of liberal sanctuary cities policy, didn’t get a visit to the White House. However, a teacher abides by the zero tolerance policy and constant admonitions of “see something say something,” and suddenly this kid is some kind of cultural hero? We are so easily manipulated, it’s frightening!

    1. “A white grammar school kid points a finger at classmate as though it were a gun and gets suspended. Where was the outrage then?’

      Uh, reason covered it here and mentioned it again here, making the same point you’re making and which they’ve repeatedly made for years.

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  20. For libertarians, zero tolerance policies are an example of how policy can not substitute for the exercise of reason and application of common sense. Without a sense of proportionality, all political movements and all levels of government are destined to blunder.

    What is really most troubling?
    1)Alleging that a student perpetrated a bomb hoax? (A hardly unprecedented stunt, especially for 14 year old, and in this case at least conceivable:…..ourselves/).
    2)An arrest being made on this suspicion? (probably unnecessary).
    3)A Mayor is intimidated into police protection and the media narrative following the lead of American Islamist organizations like CAIR? (The reflex of alleging Islamophobia has been the conscious and stated aim of myriad organizations internationally recognized as Islamist.)

    The propaganda infrastructure of Islamic organizations is by now well established. This political force is evident in mass media, and far more troublingly, distorts language used in military intelligence and foreign service. Let us not lose sight of the very proportionality that is the antidote to misguided criminalization.

  21. Just throwing this out there…

    What are the chances that the teacher who kicked of the entire problem is a proud card carrying union member and registered voter of Obama’s political party?…..?ind=l1300

    Probably a RETHUGLICAN ISLAMOPHOBE because TEXAS and the MAYOR IS A JERK, right?

  22. This “alarm clock” looked more like a bomb than a pop tart looks like a gun. Imagine the poor kid trying to get through the front door of the White House with this as part of some tour group versus as a leftist celebrity du jour. The SS would have body slammed him the second they opened his backpack.

    Try googling “school suspensions for gun-like object, gun drawing, toy guns” and see how many of these kids got White House invites.

    If you’ve no problem with the double standard, you probably think Hillary is a reasonable candidate for the presidency. As to why the zero tolerance policy in the schools: child safety is a fig leaf for indoctrinating/imprinting the message in a child’s brain that guns are bad, so when the grow up they’ll see no reason for the 2nd Amendment.

    Other points of interest: The alarm clock project was not a school assignment. The kid came up with idea all by himself and had no help at any point from his dad (really?) who is a Sharia law activist, has served as self-elected president of the small Sufi Muslim AlSufi center in Irving, and has run for president of Sudan on two separate occasions.

    Then there’s the Go Fund Me angle.

    This whole thing was a stunt planned by the dad. Stupid sheople.

    1. How much for the little girl? I trade you two sheople and a goat.

  23. a clock he made from a circuit board

    How many times is this bullshit going to be repeated? He didn’t “make” anything. He bought (or otherwise acquired) and old 1980’s era digital alarm clock, removed the innards from their plastic case and shoved them into a metal pencil case. Then the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth, and internet billionaire, a corporate software behemoth and more other liberals than you can shake a soldering iron at all made enormous fools of themselves by declaring this phony an engineering prodigy and showering him with praise and material benefits.

    We truly are a nation of morons….from top to bottom.

  24. I think this was a set up – shame on our media – AGAIN
    Wondering if this family is on goverment benefits – Medicaid, food stamps, welfare

  25. Now that it is known the sister did same thing a few years back
    Will any of the invites be pulled back
    A student trying to defraud get attention – and a student who is not attempting to gain from devious works – they get nothing
    This is another sad story – the family pushing for personal gain
    Setting up account for personal travel – FRAUD

  26. Where does the father work?
    Does he work? Or are they on government benefits totally

  27. Does anyone in this family have a job??

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