In the past few days, two politically motivated murders occurred in the United States. On Sunday, May 31, Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas abortionist, was murdered in his Wichita church. The following day, Monday, June 1, a US Army soldier working at a recruiting office in Little Rock, Arkansas was also murdered. The way that the media treated the two stories was markedly different.
Scott Roeder was arrested in Dr. Tiller’s murder. Mr. Roeder has a criminal record and long history of membership in radical anti-government fringe groups. In 1996, he was even convicted of criminal use of explosives although the conviction was overturned on appeal due to an illegal search.
Dr. Tiller, called “Killer Tiller” by pro-life protestors, specialized in late-term abortions and had been opposed, mostly peacefully, by pro-life groups for over twenty years. He had been wounded during a previous attempt on his life in 1993. Earlier this year, Dr. Tiller was tried and acquitted on 19 counts of violating the Kansas state law requiring a second opinion for late-term abortions. He estimated to have been responsible for upwards of 60,000 abortions.
Dr. Tiller was acting as an usher at his church when he was murdered. I am curious how he justified his participation in the deaths of 60,000 children with his church membership. The Bible makes it plain that Jesus loved children (Matthew 18:6, 19:14, Mark 10:16).
The killing was front-page news in many newspapers around the country. Some articles referred a series of anti-abortion killings even though the last such murder was over ten years ago in 1998. In some cases, conservatives and pro-lifers were even blamed directly for the murder. This is true in particular of Bill O’Reilly who had featured Tiller’s story on his show.
In contrast, the killing of US Army Private William Long was buried in a short article in the back pages of most newspapers. Private Quinton Ezeagwula was also wounded in the attack. The murderer was a local convert to Islam, Abdulhakim Muhammad.
Muhammad was already under FBI investigation stemming from a trip to Yemen, a hotbed of al Qaeda activity. While in Yemen he was arrested for using a Somali passport.
Privates Long and Ezeagwula were recent graduates of the army’s basic training and were on a temporary assignment at the recruiting office. Neither had ever seen combat or duty in the Middle East.
In the wake of Dr. Tiller’s killing, mainstream pro-life groups denounced his murder. The Kansas Coalition for Life placed a sign outside his clinic stating: “We prayed for his conversion to the pro-life viewpoint, not for his murder.”
On the other hand, there was less furor and mourning for Private Long. There was no rush to blame his Islamic religion or associates. So far I have not seen any Muslim groups who have stepped forward to denounce Private Long’s murder. Few Muslims have denounced terrorism in general.
In the final analysis, Private Long’s murder is much more important nationally than Dr. Tiller’s. While Dr. Tiller’s murder is an isolated event perpetrated by a man whose brother says suffered from mental illness, Private Long’s murder is the most recent in a long list of violent acts by Islamic extremists.
Abortionists have nothing to fear from most anti-abortion activists, many of whom are Christian believers who are commanded by God not to murder. In contrast, many (but not all) Muslims, including those in the United States, follow religious leaders who specifically instruct their followers to engage in terrorist acts. Private Long’s murder fits a new pattern of homegrown terrorism; attacks by lone militants without specific direction by terror groups abroad.
I am a supporter of the pro-life cause and I categorically denounce the use of violence against abortionists. I do not want to minimize Dr. Tiller’s death, but it is not indicative of a larger movement. It was the work of a lone, sick individual.
The proper means of ending abortion is through the political and judicial process. This is not only the moral means of ending abortion; it is the most effective means. A recent Gallup poll showed that, for the first time since the question was asked, 51% of Americans oppose abortion rights (http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2009/05/15/gallup-more-americans-oppose-abortion-rights/). The use of violence is not only immoral, it is counterproductive.
Over the past few years, there have been numerous other foiled plots by homegrown Islamic extremist terrorists. The attempted attack on synagogues in New York City that was foiled in May 2009 was a homegrown terror plot. So was the attempt to kill soldiers at Fort Dix in 2007 and an attempt to blow up the Sears Tower in 2006.
We should learn from this attack, as well as other foiled plots that there are potential terrorists in our midst. Americans can be radicalized via the internet or through extremist Islamic literature found in many mosques and even distributed by Muslim chaplains in US prisons. While we should not harass or imprison innocent Muslims, we should cultivate intelligence sources in the Muslim community and take steps to ensure that mosques are not inciting terrorist acts.
On a final note, the difference in the coverage of the Tiller and Long murders may also be a simple illustration of media bias. Most journalists support abortion rights and are outraged by the murder of a man that many pro-choice supporters consider a hero and a martyr. In contrast, these same journalists oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli occupation of Arab lands, and thus can sympathize with a man who is aggrieved by the military’s actions.
On rare occasions, the news offers stark contrasts between two extremes. The deaths of Dr. Tiller and Private Long provide one. Dr. Tiller, who was responsible for the deaths of 60,000 babies, is trumpeted and mourned by the media while Private Long, who volunteered to risk his life to protect the United States, its people, its constitution, and its freedom of the press passes largely unheralded.
Private Long, I salute you.
“Suspect Held in Doctor’s Killing,” Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2009
“Military Recruiter Killed,” Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2009