A Killing the Country Forgot

Soft targets, the Long 2002, and the specter of the Next Attack


Scott Morse & Steve Niles

Ten years ago today, in a theater in the Baltimore suburbs, Mujtaba Rabbani Jabbar stood up as X-Men: The Last Stand was playing and fired four shots into the darkened room. One person, a salesman named Paul Schrum, was killed. The gunman then surrendered his weapon and waited for the police to arrive; six months later, he was convicted of first-degree murder and committed to a state mental hospital.

I remember this story because I wrote about it at the time. Indeed, I think I was the first reporter to find the killer's website, a fact that had less to do with any speed on my part—my article appeared several days after the crime—than with the fact that, as best as I can tell, no one else was looking for it. That seems strange now, when one of the world's first reactions after any event like this is to search for the perp's Facebook page, but in 2006 we hadn't yet entered the age of ubiquitous social media.

That's not the only thing about this story that feels a little alien a decade later. If the murder had happened today, it would have instantly been slotted into two different media narratives: one focused on the fact that it was an apparently random public shooting, the other on the fact that Jabbar was a Muslim. Instead the event made a couple of small splashes in the press, the first right after the crime and the second right after the sentencing, and then it faded away. Some anti-Islamic blogs noted it, but even there it never really became a big part of their storyline.

The slaying would have been received differently a few years earlier too. There was a period between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq—call it the Long 2002—when Americans expected the Next Attack to come along any day. Warblogs (remember "warblogs"?) were filled with speculations about how that Next Attack would go down. Maybe the terrorists would bomb four schools simultaneously in different parts of the country. Maybe they'd shoot up some malls. I swear I remember a blogger declaring that he had just realized the perfect way for a terror network to hurt us, but he wasn't going to say what it was because he didn't want Al Qaeda to get any ideas from reading his blog. When a pair of snipers named John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo shot a series of people in the D.C. area, National Review's Jim Robbins declared that the assaults must be "part of al Qaeda['s] fall offensive." (They weren't.)

I don't recall Robbins saying anything similar after Jabbar shot Schrum. As for me, I wasn't sure if Jabbar's act was political—but if it was some sort of leaderless resistance, I figured it was a sign that the strategy wasn't getting very far. "It would be a particularly pathetic sort of terrorism," I wrote: "a kind that inspires grief but little actual terror."

That was then; this is now. Al Qaeda turned out to be focused on following 9/11 with an assault of a similar scale, not hitting soft targets in the heartland. ISIS, by contrast, has basically told its sympathizers around the world to kill whoever they can for the cause; and with that, it has put Americans back on alert for the Next Attack. "The smallest action you do in the heart of their land," Abu Muhammad al-Adnani declared last month, "is dearer to us than the largest action by us, and more effective and more damaging to them." If a killer pledges allegiance to the Islamic State, ISIS sees that as sufficient reason to claim responsibility for his assault, even if he never had any contact with the group and even if—as appears to be the case with the man who murdered 49 people in Orlando last weekend—his grasp of the ISIS ideology seems rather weak. It's entirely possible that Omar Mateen would have gone on a rampage without ISIS in the picture, but if nothing else the group gave him a name to glom on to. The Islamic State's hold on its own territory may be slipping, but when it comes to decentralized terror, its brand is the biggest in town.

Well, here's to the memory of Paul Schrum, a man who deserved a better end. For more on the crime that killed him, you can read my old story about the murder here.

NEXT: Johnson, Weld to Get CNN 'Town Hall' Treatment

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  1. The gentleman who said that we need to be less like a herd, and more like packs, was a genius and I hope I got his quote right. terror is going to be decentralized, and we need to have defense in smaller units. Street militias, armed neighborhood watches, comprised of people we (e.g. neighbors and friends) we trust.

    1. As far back as 2007, when John Robb published Brave New War, where he expounded on the concept of open-source warfare, Robb mentioned that no one of import will take the steps necessary to decentralize our power grids, support home-grown civil defense, etc, as there is too much money to be made otherwise.

    2. And the left would declare all those people terrorists if they attempted that, and demand drone strikes to wipe them out.

      After all as bad as Jihadi terrorists are, in the mind of the left, they are all just misunderstood poor brown people, but these militias, these neighborhood watches, they might have white people in them, and we all know how evil the white man is, who knows what evil they’re capable of.

      1. you’re assuming the military would turn on the citizenry. I don’t think it would.

        1. Probably not the military, but the police, the swat units, they would, and depending on how small this group is when it starts out, thats all you would need.

          I don’t know, it would depend on a variety of factors. One is of which is geography. I think a small town in Texas would be more open to the idea of armed militia patrols, then say a neighborhood in the middle of New York City or the D.C. area.

          1. Which is why smart people who wanted to form such groups would make sure they had their own people in the police department.

      2. Shouldn’t be too hard to find a token minority to lead your militia…

        1. What some Uncle Tom? Come on think like a leftist, once a black leaves the Progressive plantation they’re no longer black, at least not a real authentic black.

  2. The DC snipers made me realize how weak the terror groups really are. If they can’t even do something as simple as get 30 or 40 sniper teams causing mayhem in the US, what the fuck can they do?

    1. I mean, other than, you know, 9/11 and stuff.

      1. Sort of seems like that was a fluke, doesn’t it?

        1. That or the conspiracy theorists are onto something. Has anyone seen Jesse Walker lately?

          1. Oh, duh, who else could have written this article.

            1. HE’S RIGHT BEHIND YOU.

              1. And he brought me cookies! Thanks Jesse!

          2. When’s the last time he posted an article to H&R?

        2. At the risk of sounding insensitive, 9/11 wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. If flight 93 had found its target, or if a different part of the pentagon was hit, or if either of the WTC planes was able to crash below the 50th floor, loss of life would have been much, much greater.

          It’s not that hard to kill a lot of people if you really want to.

          Fortunately, most people are decent, and they don’t want to.

          1. I read somewhere that they were thinking of flying one of the airliners into the Statue of Liberty.

            Kinda dumb in a terrorist point-of-view.

            1. We should get rid of the Statue of Liberty anyway. It’s all a lie.

              I can’t even light sparklers on the 4th of July anymore.

              1. +1 eagle tear

            2. The WTC towers were hit because they represented America’s economic power and the Pentagon was hit because it represents American’s military power.

              The Statute of Liberty make sense because it’s used to represent the US around the world ? in movies, in books, etc.

              1. I thought they hit the Pentagon because they got lost.

            3. They were obsessed with symbolism. That’s why the choose the towers in the first place. 9/11 was a counting coup, ultimately. They knew we weren’t going to just give in.

              What they should have concentrated on was The White House and the Capital. Turning the Mall into Fallout 3 would have had more symbolic value.

          2. Fortunately, most people are decent, and they don’t want to.

            This is the only thing that really matters. If that’s not true, then we’re fucked no matter what anyone does.

          3. I’m surprised they haven’t realized they could bring the country to its knees by finding a guy infected with ebola, draining his blood, and then having 100 resident martyrs infect themselves and go out and about and spread their fluids far and wide. I’m guess partly because they don’t really want to die slow, and it’s also maybe religiously unclean? They also tend not to use poison — I guess actual weapons like guns, knives, and bombs are more their idiom.

  3. I swear I remember a blogger declaring that he had just realized the perfect way for a terror network to hurt us, but he wasn’t going to say what it was because he didn’t want Al Qaeda to get any ideas from reading his blog

    You remember correctly (it was Steven Den Beste).

    1. Did he ever say what the method was?

      I’m guess a suicide bomber in a TSA screening line?

      1. 1st, kidnap Lucy….


    2. There are a zillion possibilities. Load up a U-haul with gas cans, dribble them across a major bridge, stop in the middle, light it up, and at the very least cause panic, possibly kill hundreds and shut down the bridge for a year or two. If the bridge has pedestrian walkways, walk off in the same direction with a timer to ignite it, and you don’t even have to self-immolate.

      Steal dynamite and a decent boat on a reservoir, sink it next to the dam face with a 1 minute timer. Even if it doesn’t do any real damage, they’d have to play it safe, meaning drain and inspect. Especially in droughty California, it would be a major problem.


      I have always assumed that when the bets they can do is four leaders and 15 followers who were kept in the dark, then an underwear bomber and shoe bomber, it means they don’t have much depth on the bench. Maybe the good ones sent here were only interested in migration to a freer country.

      1. someone just got added to the list.

      2. Doing what happened in Orlando is what I always thought would be effective. You just do it, god forbid, a day care, a store, coffee shops, etc.

        1. You wonder why mass shootings don’t happen more often.

          I think it’s more mental illness than anything else.

          1. Mental illness makes you wonder? Mental illness is why they don’t happen more? Or mental illness is the most often reason they happen?

            1. All three.

              **puts flower pot on head and jumps around like Daffy Duck**

          2. As Playa said: “Fortunately, most people are decent, and they don’t want to.”

            That said, calling it “mental illness” is an attempt to “other” these kinds of people, to make it sound like it’s beyond comprehension. Which I think is a big mistake.

            For example, suicide bombers in the middle east?? A lot of them aren’t Islamic fanatics to start with. They’re normal guys that just have been given the shit-stick in life (often because they’re in shitty countries). And from there you work ’em. They’re out of work? It’s not your fault, it’s their fault. You feel like your life doesn’t have a purpose? We can give you a purpose. You want to feel like you belong? You belong with us. And so-on. And in a few months you can turn a normal Joe into someone willing to die for a cause.

            It’s not “mental illness”. But it is psychology.
            ?This is based on pre-ISIS reports, so tactics might be different now.

    3. The reason they haven’t been more successful is that every one of these guys is batshit insane, bordering on completely dysfunctional. They are incompetents.

      You are all correct. There are too many soft targets to name and too many easy ways to do damage. Like Mr. Den Beste I am not going to start listing them off and for the same reason.

      1. And oddly clueless about the culture they are attacking. If it had been even an hour later, the planes that hit the towers might have killed twice as many based on the simple fact that New Yorkers get to work later on average.

        1. Part of that was getting 4 cross country flights full of fuel that departed within a few minutes of each other. They may have been limited by the airlines’ scheduling.

        2. I also believe as you (and John notes below) that they’re horribly clueless about America’s culture. They really believe that simply destroying the two buildings would get L.A. residents up in the morning.

          I remember years ago i was arguing with some hawkish European nationalist on line who asked me what I would do if some French military hardware were heading towards New York City.

          “Not much” was my reply.

      2. This. Suicide attacks are impulsive, and not very well planned.

        1. Many are but some are not. There have been some very well planned and executed suicide attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq.

          Hell, the Mumbei attack was extremely well planned. It was anything but impulsive.

          1. The people who planned those weren’t the ones who carried them out.

            I still remember reading the transcripts from the cell phone intercepts by Indian intelligence. The shooters can’t believe how nice the hotel is, and they’re describing the opulent lobby and the plumbing in the bathrooms.

            The handler basically tells them to shut up, do a line of coke, and kill more people.

            1. True. But the fact that the guys who did it were retards, didn’t prevent it from being well planned and executed.

            2. The handler basically tells them to shut up, do a line of coke, and kill more people.

              Wasn’t that a hoot? You had two country-bumpkin teenagers who’d never seen clean sheets, shooting the place up, and the handler is saying “Start a fire… do… do something!”

          2. One of the brains behind the Mumbai attack was half-‘white’, half-Pakistani. He looked like some middle-manager shlub out of Omaha.

            1. By “half white” you mean “half Irish”, right?

        2. Could it also be because a well planned attack is more likely to be uncovered, while a spontaneous act carried out by a guy with a case of sudden jihad syndrome is extremely unlikely to be uncovered?

          1. Probably, in a few cases. 9/11 being the exception.

          2. That too. Their strategy seems to be to just inspire as many angry rejects to die for the jihad as possible.

            This is why the publishers of Rolling Stone should have been shot for putting that asshole from Boston on their cover. Go ahead and tell every loser murdering for Islam will make you a celebrity. Way to go Rolling Stone.

            1. They don’t care about celebrity, they just want their 72 virgins.

              1. I disagree. Never underestimate the lure of fame and glamour. For example, the Muslims in prison who have actually been to the Middle East and fought there, and there are a few of them, are fucking rock stars there. I guarantee you that little shitbag in Boston is rock star in prison right now.

          3. It might also be people who are willing to perform a suicide attack, are stable enough to get into the county and smart enough to get a plan together are thankfully more rare than we fear.

            1. That is a good point SF. And they are also limited in number. Anyone will talk shit and cheer other people making suicide attacks. Actually doing that is a different story. In Israel Hamas relies on blackmail to get people to do it. They kidnap some poor bastard and give him a choice of being shot as a traitor and having his family killed for helping him or becoming a suicide bomber and having his family taken care of and hailed as heroes.

              You can’t really can’t do that kind of shit here. Also, a huge number of the people who are willing to do it have gone and done it in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Syria. Think of all the fighters who flooded to Iraq form all over the world really and ended up blowing themselves up or being killed by the US military before they could. That greatly reduced the recruiting pool for such attacks over here.

      3. Like Mr. Den Beste I am not going to start listing them off and for the same reason.

        As I see it, for every one idea I come up with someone else has come up with a half dozen others.

    4. You remember correctly (it was Steven Den Beste).

      Ah! I was thinking Eric Raymond but I couldn’t find the post.

  4. Poor schmucks don’t even have wiki pages. Google doesn’t show much either.


  5. Wow. What an asshole.


    1. Now he’s going to get Channed and I bet we find out some interesting things about Pastor Jimenez.

    2. I googled to see where it was. I guess I never thought about a church having google reviews.

        1. Which was just locked down.

          “Active cleanup alert”

    3. Speaking of batshit…

    4. Dios odia los maricones!

    5. “Pastor Roger Jimenez”

      White hispanic?

    6. Oh. My. God.

      Someone in the country said something for attention. Did it work?

      1. Why assume the guy isn’t sincere? What light research I’ve seen done indicates the guy has a homophobic record. The only reason this sermon hit the news is the timing.

    7. So I guess pedophiles are bad because God hates fags and not because they victimize innocent children? Even if you think “sodomites” are bad, I think there is a pretty big distinction to be made there.

      1. Um, well… most of the Bible’s prohibitions on sex are in Leviticus 18, so let’s look. Remember, this is all from a male perspective (with one exception, which I’ll note):

        Your mother and step-mother.
        Your sister-by-blood.
        Your grand-daughter.
        Your aunt.
        Your uncle’s wife (calls out your father’s brother’s wife, with no matching call to your sister’s brother’s wife, so she may be kosher)
        Your daughter-in-law.
        Your sister-in-law.
        Some combination of a woman and her daughter or grand-daughter.
        Your wife’s sister, if your wife is still alive (problem isn’t polygamy, it’s banging sisters)
        A woman who is menstruating
        Your neighbor’s wife.
        A man.
        An animal.

        The one command for women is also in Leviticus 18:24, women shouldn’t bang animals either.

        Conclusion: if girl children are a no-no (boy children are covered under 18:22), it’s not called out in Leviticus 18.

        Second Conclusion: There’s a reason even “Fundamentalists” tend to add to and creatively interpret what the bible says. I mean, it’s a Bronze Age book and reflects that morality, ya know?

        1. I suppose if your focus is the OT, then rape and genocide are sometimes OK.

  6. remember “warblogs”?

    Nope. Enlighten me?

    1. Be still, my dog blog of war. I understand your pain. We’ve all lost someone we love. But we do it my way! “

    2. A long-discarded post-9/11 term for blogs that discussed the War on Terror, usually from a hawkish perspective. The word was coined by one Matt Welch, later of Reason magazine, who eventually came to hate the term but by then it was too late.

      1. Hey, according to Charles Stross’s Timelike Diplomacy books, galaxy-roving warbloggers will have replaced newspapers completely by about 500 years from now!

        1. There’s a warblog inside my pants.

        2. I assume their starships will all be shaped like Welch’s head.

          1. It’s Stross, so the starships are actually shaped like his buddy Krugman’s occicat.

      2. The word was coined by one Matt Welch, later of Reason magazine, who eventually came to hate the term but by then it was too late.

        There’s nothing more grating than accidental success.

      3. So like Nuke the Moon except not satire, got it. Back then I was reading Real Ultimate Power.

  7. Some anti-Islamic blogs noted it, but even there it never really became a big part of their storyline.

    Those existed in 2002? I guess… based on 9/11?

    1. Sorry, I’m cisscrossing the numbers, shooting occurred ten years ago… ignore me.

  8. Right after 9/11 I was expecting bus bombings, more airplane attacks, mall shootings, etc etc.

    When none of it happened, I suppose many people thought our amazing intelligence services had actually stopped them in some covert way. Or not.

    I some ways 9/11 was like Pearl Harbor – audacious sneak attack with no planned followup. The Japanese, for example, didn’t have a second attack plan set to go until months later with the clusterfuck of Midway.

    1. *edit – forgot about the DC Snipers that Warty mentioned. Only took two guys to put the fear into an entire area. And the Anthrax letters.

      1. But neither were Al Queda follow-ups. The only reason those attack got the coverage they did was because of 9/11.

        1. true that…

        2. Funny thing about AQ was is that they couldn’t follow up because they only thought big, high value targets, usually in transportation.

          3 guys with boxcutters will never take over an airplane again.

  9. If only he’d made a bigger splash, they could’ve made the next X-Men movie have a sequence wherein a shadow appeared on the screen & pretended to shoot people in the audience.

    1. Come to think of this, they could do this w subsequent Batmen now.

  10. a blogger declaring that he had just realized the perfect way for a terror network to hurt us, but he wasn’t going to say what it was because he didn’t want Al Qaeda to get any ideas from reading his blog.

    We all kind of did this after 9/11. We used sit in our cubicles and talk about really awful shit that someone could that would either kill or… you know, terrorize more people than 9/11 did– if by nothing more than the randomness of the target and the clearly impossible-to-protect-against nature of the attack.

    I had mused publicly for years why terrorists didn’t simply attack the security lines at the airport, forcing officials to predictably move the sphere of security outward to the parking lot. Then a real terrorist actually figured this out… causing officials to move the sphere of the security outward to the parking lot.

    1. My sister worked for Social Security in Baltimore at the time. She said that they had to stop every morning for a month after 9/11 to have their cars inspected before they drove into the garage. She also said that you could have killed the whole building by bringing in enough poisoned donuts for each floor. Because who turns down free donuts, amiright?

  11. When a pair of snipers named John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo shot a series of people in the D.C. area…

    While the majority of these attacks took place in the greater DC metro area, the snipers killed people in several other states (WA, AZ,TX, LA, GA and AL), as well as in non DC-suburb areas of MD and VA.

    1. Tag fix.

      First paragraph was a quote from the article, second paragraph was mine and should not have been italicized.

  12. “Omar Mateen may not have understood the difference between ISIS, al-Qaeda and Hezbollah”

    That’s … a really big thing to not understand.

    1. Particularly for someone who grew up Muslim with Afghan-immigrant parents.

    2. Not when you just want to kill people and scream some pseudo-revolutionary shit into the phone during a 911 call.

      1. I bet Bill Ayers was lucky to explain the difference between Stalinism and Trotskyism. Since when do you have to be some deep thinker to volunteer to do the dirty work?

        1. Stalinism and Trotskyism, sure.

          But this is like not knowing the difference between Catholic and Protestant. I mean, hell, Hezbollah and ISIS are even fighting one another.

          1. I suspect Mr. Mateen was not fully in control of his faculties or mood swings.

            Let me rephrase, we know Mr. Mateen was not fully in control of his faculties or mood swings, so expecting him to suss out the geopolitical relationships of varying political groups throughout the middle and far east is probably expecting a bit much.

          2. Stalin murdered Trotsky. And most Muslims have never read the Quran. It is illegal in many Muslim countries to translate it from Arabic. What most Muslims know about Islam is what their community and local Imam has told them.

            This is why we probably ought to nuke Saudi Arabia from orbit. All over the world the Saudis are replacing Imams with ones that teach their brand of barbarism and making peaceful Muslim communities into fanatical violent ones.

          3. A lot of people don’t really know the difference between Catholic and Protestant.

            1. Confessionals and a pope. I think that’s the big difference.

              1. Yep. There were a lot more differences until the Church started installing socialist popes.

    3. Obama doesn’t either.

  13. We have been very lucky in that our enemies have very little understanding of our culture and haven’t thought very hard about what a long term terrorism campaign should look like. Our enemies have been so stupid they actually thought the World Trade Center really was a center of world trade rather than a giant money losing office building and that hitting it would do long term damage to our economy. They were fixated on the WTC throughout the 90s.

    I don’t think we can depend on Jihadists being effectively retarded and completely ignorant of our culture and weaknesses forever. Eventually we will run into an enemy who is a little smarter.

    1. In fairness to the enemy, our leaders are pretty ignorant of their culture as well. Obama doesn’t even know what Jihad is.

      1. That is true. And honestly it might help us. They get their idea of American culture from Hollywood and watching our leaders on the news.

  14. This is what makes the Orlando attack potentially such a bigger deal than even September 11th. All of the other attacks so far have been pretty much done at random or at some symbolic target like the WTC or a recruiting station. The Orlando attack was an attack on people engaging in what from the Jihadist perspective objectionable activity. That is how you terrorize a society. You pick some activity or type of place you don’t like and start killing people who do that thing or go to one of those places until people stop doing that out of fear for their life. And when you are done with that, move onto another activity and so on until society has been terrorized into bending to your will. If our enemies are smart, they will concentration every attack over the next year or two on gay bars and pride parades and so forth. Make being openly gay impossible to safely do. Then, move onto something else like bars or synagogues or women who are not covered in public.

    That would be a real terror campaign and would be a real bitch to endure.

    1. The thought of our government’s knee-jerk, hamfisted response is terrorizing me.

      1. That is just because you assume nothing else or worse is going to happen. And you might be right. If you are not, you will see it differently.

        1. I don’t assume “nothing else or worse” is going to happen. But taking away my AR-15 isn’t going to do jack or shit to stop it.

          1. Of course not. It will make it more likely to happen. I am not saying the government is your friend. I am just saying it isn’t your only enemy.

    2. This shit is already happening in Europe. Swedish women dye their hair brown so they don’t get harassed by Muslim gangs. This is how they are winning. Major media outlets won’t even show a depiction of Mohamed anymore.

      Face it, right now the west is losing this war, our societies keep bowing to their will, and will continue to unless we stand up to them.

      1. If I had told people 20 years ago that in 2016, it would effectively be impossible to draw Muhammad in public or make a movie depicting him, no one would have believed me. They would have called me a racist paranoid. Yet, here we are in 2016 and that is exactly what is happening.

        Why is it inconceivable that in 2036, there won’t be any gay bars?

        1. Why is it inconceivable that in 2036, there won’t be any gay bars?

          Because everyone will be so gay, we won’t need special bars.

          1. YASSSSSSS

        2. No gay bars, and women will have dress far more conservatively, you know all the sort of things that Progressive types accuse Christians of wanting to do, but for some reason when the Muslims do it they are strangely silent because of some weird identity bullshit.

          If the Progressives and SJWs really care about gay and women’s right, then they’ve become their own worse enemy, by labeling anyone who stands up against Islamism a racist. And unlike other appeasers in the past these idiots won’t be eaten by the crocodile last.

          1. I’ll say it again. Assuming any kind of consistency among SJWs is foolish to say the least.

        3. There will only be trannie bars.

        4. Bad example. Grindr (or more broadly, the internet) killed gay bars.

    3. That is how you terrorize a society. You pick some activity or type of place you don’t like and start killing people who do that thing or go to one of those places until people stop doing that out of fear for their life.

      Sounds a lot like The War On Drugs.

  15. The fact is 49 people were killed in a horrible crime by a nutjob. That leaves 320 million Americans who didn’t die. Until the odds of being killed by a nutjob are greater than being killed in a traffic accident we should just basically ignore it.

    1. I don’t know about that. There’s a reason people don’t draw Muhammed. They don’t have to kill everyone to be a threat, they just have to semi-reliably kill or harm people for engaging in specific behaviors, in order to exercise control. The only real defense is either to annihilate the oppressor group, or power through it until they give up. But they’re suicidal fanatics, so I’m pretty sure our society’s will would break first, which just leaves option A.

  16. That seems strange now, when one of the world’s first reactions after any event like this is to search for the perp’s Facebook page,

    And now we’ve reached the point where you are considered a sociopath if you DON’T have a facebook page.

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