Sometimes being guilty is getting off easy.
You don’t have to be a criminal to get a sentence. Sometimes innocence results in a punishment even longer and more painful than if you’d committed the crime yourself in the first place.
Yesterday, Paul and Nadia Rockwood, secret dévotes of Islamic terrorist Anwar Al-Awlaki, who pretended to be loving friends so they could use all of us as a cover for their assassination plot, stood before a federal judge in Anchorage, Alaska.
They’d pled guilty on July 21st to domestic terrorism and August 23rd was their day of reckoning.
Their sentences: 8 years in federal prison for Paul, 5 years of probation for Nadia, which she’ll serve in her native England.
Their 4-year-old son’s life sentence: convicted terrorist parents, who are no longer welcome in the country of his birth.
Growing up in a foreign (to him) country, under the cloud of his mother’s criminal history. Not seeing his dad again until he’s 12 years old…and then what?
(The Rockwood’s unborn child’s sentence: never, ever knowing what true family life is like.)
The Rockwood boy is a cute kid. Dark hair, a bit curly. Very energetic, borderline wild at times, but what kid that age isn’t? (If you think I’m picking on little boys, there are little girls his age in their former Alaskan hometown who are worthy competitors.)
For everyone who knew − or thought they knew − the Rockwoods, I think our first thought, when we heard of their arrest, was of their little child and was he OK. Too bad he wasn’t his parents’ first thought, or none of this ever would’ve happened.
The press’ only comment about this little boy was that he’d come along with his parents to federal court for the plea hearing. How bizarre. Thankfully, they didn’t mention him by name and I’m not going to, either. (His maternal grandmother took care of that deliberate omission when she was interviewed in the British press. Shame on her.)
The pre-schooler and his Batman backpack sat in the pews, playing, the American reporters duly noted, while his parents pled guilty to terrorism.
I’m flashing back to the King Salmon choir rehearsal, the few I attended − and he attended, too. A local church offers their space free for rehearsals and I can still picture him in my mind, alternately sitting and playing in the pews, running back to the foyer, using his “outside voice” (yelling) despite all guidance to the contrary, and then running back, worried he’d missed something…because when you’re 4 going on 5, that’s the worst possible thing.
Or, so he thought, until his parents were arrested.
Of all the choices available to Paul, this boy’s father, in this richest of all countries (and rich in openness and opportunity most of all), he chose to espouse Al-Awlaki’s ideology. He chose to hate America, a country he’d sworn to serve as a member of the military. He chose to make a list of 16 fellow Americans to assassinate, including his fellow veterans, as well as 4 other American businesses and organizations. (The hit list contained 20 targets in all, not 15 as originally reported.)
Then he took it one step further and chose the methods by which he thought these targets should be eliminated, as punishment for their alleged viewpoints contrary to radical Islam.
Option #1: kill them by mail, or kill by mail whoever(s) had the misfortune of opening the package first because you can be pretty sure they’re an enemy of Islam anyway. Better yet, be able to set off the bomb remotely, so you can watch it all happen.
Option #2: find them in person and shoot them in the head.
Anybody who still harbors doubt (or hope) about these convictions being a result of railroading by the FBI needs to take a look at the level of detail the hit list included, besides just the names of the assassination targets.
Ages. Hometowns. Business names and addresses. Military ranks and branches of service.
Names of targets’ spouses, siblings, parents, and CHILDREN.
Paul and Nadia planned to send bombs in the mail to addresses where they knew children lived and even knew the name of a child who might check the family mailbox on the way home from school and be killed?????
Nobody goes to this much trouble over “paperwork,” over a 4-year period. Nobody puts together an operational timeline for murder over a philosophical discussion. Nobody buys bomb-making components without intent to assemble them.
According to documents filed in federal court, Paul had already managed to create a small bomb that any mail carrier could deliver. So much for his family’s assertions that he was “mechanically unsophisticated.” He was one trip to the King Salmon post office away from 20 (at a minimum) people’s deaths.
8 years in federal prison is not even close to long enough for this guy (and neither is 5 years of probation for his wife, while she lives in a cushy London suburb). Paul is exactly the kind of deluded believer we’re going to see on the roster of a 9/11-like terrorist attack in the future.
And we know there will be one in the future. Islamic terrorists are not done with us, by any means.
This little boy’s mother Nadia knew her husband had become radicalized years before this and did nothing to stop it. Instead, she perpetuated his assassination plans as a go-between for him with like-minded believers.
Had she called the authorities early on, as did the brother of the Unabomber and the father of the Christmas Day airplane bomber, all would’ve been well. There would’ve been no question as to her culpability, since she had no idea the FBI had already had them under surveillance for some time.
Instead, she chose at the very least to enable her husband’s convictions and additionally, according to her plea bargain, to participate in their execution. (What a frightening word choice.)
Nadia’s statement in court: “To associate the word terrorist with me is absurd. I truly believe my husband never had any true intent to kill anyone.”
District Court Judge Ralph Beistline’s reply: “You’ve lived with a man who, by his words, is a militant jihadist. That’s not the kind of rights we gain by U.S. citizenship, those are the kinds of things we are protected from.”
Once Paul gets out of prison in 2018, the Rockwoods won’t have much of a life to pick up again (for which they’ll receive exactly zero pity). He’s lost his military benefits, his social security, his job prospects. They’ve lost their home, their friends, and any resources they might’ve acquired in the last decade.
Who hires a convicted terrorist except other terrorists? Who gives visas to convicted terrorists, except terrorist nations?
There’s already an outcry in Britain, reported by the press there: DO NOT under any circumstances let Paul Rockwood move to the UK after he serves his sentence! It’s bad enough that Nadia, pregnancy aside, is being allowed to live here while she serves hers. Our soft-on-crime government is probably going to let the family reunite here permanently. We already have enough Islamic terrorists in the UK without importing even more from the USA!
From the country of September 11th to the country of July 7th, we understand your feelings perfectly.
Regardless, anybody who Googles the Rockwood boy from this day forward will see that his parents are Islamic terrorists, no matter who he decides to be himself. That includes future employers, future friends, future wives. Credit bureaus. Mortgage companies. University admissions boards.
Guess who will be on the mother of all no-fly lists.
His father and mother decided all that for him before he was even born and, unless he grows up believing the same ideology (and let’s pray that he doesn’t), he’ll be forever explaining and explaining and explaining to people who look on him with immediate suspicion, if not fear.
Sometimes we read about parents who cut a child out of their will. You’re on your own, they say. Don’t ask us for money. Don’t ask us for help. Your unacceptable choices have forced us to take these painful, drastic measures that we’d give anything not to have to do, because we love you. But we cannot and will not condone or support what you do and who you are.
Imagine saying that to your parents.
The inheritance you’re leaving me – the poisonous hate and murderous betrayal of Islamic jihadism – I reject absolutely. Your unacceptable choices have forced me to take these painful, drastic measures that will separate me from you and everything you stand for. I’ll always love you, but you always loved something else − someone else − more.
And that’s a legacy I must live without.