Thursday, June 08, 2006

Canada 17, Iraq 1

Been busy for a while, I need to DL the shotgun pics for my review of the Benelli Nova Tactical 12 Ga. That will be next, but meanwhile some interesting events have taken place.

First (chronologically, maybe not in importance), the RCMP arrested seventeen people in Canada on a variety of terrorism-related charges. The suspects had been under surveillance since 2004, apparently through Internet monitoring and possibly some cell phone intercepts as well. They had visited with a couple of Georgia Tech students, also apparently Islamic radicals, and had gone on to radicalize even further. The event that set up the bust was a RCMP sting operation, some members were arrested when they bought three TONS of what they believed to be ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer and half of the commercial explosive called ANFO, (Ammonium Nitrate and Fuel Oil). If you remember back to April 1995, one ton of ANFO mixed with diesel fuel took down the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. This is not paintball jihad, these people were serious. One of the conspirators had expressed a desire to behead Stephen Harper, the Canadian PM, during a takeover of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa. Other potential truck bomb targets included the headquarters of Canada'a CSIS, their equivalent to the CIA/NSA, and the CN Tower, a 1,400 foot steel and concrete golf tee in the middle of Toronto.

What's so creepy about this is that these people were, up until the arrests, mostly average Canadians in the eyes of their fellow Canadians. Most of us can understand some sort of radicalization under persecution or a Stalinst state like Hussein's Iraq, what is somewhat jarring to even anti-Americans is that this would occur in Canada. For people who believe that terrorism is the result of an insufficient level of government services, it's hard to believe that the People's Republic of Canada, with it's largely lassiez faire attitude toward immigration and loud claims of tolerance as well as a generous social safety net would be fertile ground for Islamofascism. "Dirt poor" by Canadian standards is still rich beyond measure in most Middle Eastern countries, and the level of oppression in Canada is essentially negiligible (though not zero, racial intolerance is neither an export nor a strictly indigenous product of the US). Somehow, living in this "nice" place like southern Ontario, these people went rather far around the bend.

I would prefer that there have been an Al Qaeda trainer or recruiter found in the mix, it would be comforting to know that Islamic radicalism is being franchised like McDonald's. The reason this would be comforting is that the alternative to homegrown hatred is that Islamofascism is now an open source movement. Get online, download the MP3s of the Friday sermons at the more radical mosques around the world, print out the PDFs to hand out at your own mosque, study the Koran from an apparently authoritative (but skewed) viewpoint and you can practically roll your own terrorism cell. This kind of Islamofascism I find to be far more worrisome than one or a few organizations quietly sending out people to spread the word. If the messengers were the problem, we could kill or imprison the messengers and the cancer would be contained. The fact is, it's worse than you think. The message is out there, and if it can take root and blossom into weapons practice on a farm in northern Ontario and deals for enough HE to blow up several buildings, there is a major problem.

Maybe it's because I live in Flyover Country, but as bad as 9/11 was I believe there are worse ways we could be hurt. The Beslan school incident, in which Chechen terrorists took over a school and ended up killing a couple hundred people including many children, was awful enough Over There. For the vast majority of Americans, New York and Washington were Over There. The terrible acts of terrorists are magnified when perpetrated in major media markets like NYC because of the narcissistic nature of journalists who congregate in NYC, and I can understand why that's a tempting target. But the lives of people in NYC are so separate and different than most of our lives that it's difficult to identify with them, what got many of us was that we have almost all been passengers on airplanes at one time or another -- THAT was something we could relate to. It's the things we relate to where the malignant energy of terrorism resonates within us the best.

This is why I was paradoxically happy to find out that John Allen Mohammed and Lee Boyd Malvo were the pair behind the DC Shootings a couple of years back. For a total cost of $700 for a Bushmaster AR-15 and maybe a couple grand for a junky Caprice, two losers terrorized metropolitan Washington, D.C. for a week. Mayhem for the sake of extortion is something we can deal with, even if we don't want to. We are at least familiar with the concept of crime, even murder, in the pursuit of financial gain. Had this been the first of a number of low-cost Al Qaeda operations, I would begin to believe that Al Qaeda was getting serious about disrupting everyday life in the United States. The problem with Open Source Islamofascim is that you don't need NSA intercepts of international phone calls, you don't even need to see a change in calling patterns or any of the other things that amateurs or sloppy professionals will do that allow our law enforcement agencies to track and dismantle them. No Al Qaeda connection is necessary, these people are independent operators seeking to redress their grievances with commonly-available means. Islamofascism in New York is enough to make us collectively angry. Islamofascism in Fresno, Colorado Springs, Columbus and Charlotte all on the same day, with mall bombings, school takeovers and chemical plant attacks all on the same day would be far more troubling to us. We don't all live in or go to New York frequently, but most all of us have children in our lives, and the video of a school takeover will resonate far better than collapsing towers ever could. Oh my goodness, that child has the same shirt my son wore to shcool yesterday. And that one's hair looks just like my daughter's...

I think you get the picture.

The only benefit I see to Islamofascism being the driving force behind these losers is that the deeper you go into any cult-like organization, you of necessity leave behind your relationship to the world the rest of us share. What becomes important to you is not important to us. We mourn the 3,000 dead on 9/11 but the planes and buildings are just stuff. We can replace stuff in the West almost without thinking, in five years another building will rise at the WTC site, and probably it will be larger and more beautiful than the ones it replaces. A person on one of the Internet message boards I frequent pointed out that Islamofascists are drawn to destroy what the Islamic world cannot create, by destroying the symbols of our great technological leaps ahead of them they demystify our power and show that the favor of Allah is not with the infidel. This kind of ignores the unbelievable feats of engineering in nearby Dubai, but it could be fairly argued by fundamentalist Muslims that Dubai and the Emirates are a bunch of free-living sybarite infidels as bad as or worse than we are. My theory on the "Big Bang" concept of going against large public targets is that Islamofascists only have so many people willing to blow themselves up in spectacular fashion, and blowing away a Denny's in South Bend with a truck bomb doesn't have the same impact that an attack on the Eaton Centre in Toronto would, so if you have one shot you need to swing for the fences. The fact that Palestinian terrorists will go after the same falafel stand in the Old Tel Aviv bus station not once but twice suggests that they have manpower to spare.

The implications for Open Source Islamofascism are pretty dire, I'm afraid. One (or two, if you count the 7/7 bombers in the UK) example is not a trend. But as more cells of non-Al Qaeda-affiliated wanna-be terrorists are identified, the big losers in the equation are the Muslims of the West who see the concept of jihad as an internal struggle and have no desire to attack their fellow citizens. It's worth noting that an important group helping to keep the lid on Islamofascist terrorism in the US are the Muslims themselves, who regularly report people attempting to radicalize their mosques or lead their kids astray into martyrdom and ignominity. It's incredibly valuable to have people inside the community volunteer information that keeps the rest of us safe, establishing agent networks in the American Muslim community would otherwise take time we may not have. The precipitous downside of a successful large-scale terrorist attack in the US, particularly if it comes from a domestic-only source, will be an actual backlash against Muslims as opposed to the Astroturf ones groups like CAIR promote as examples of intolerance.

I don't have time to get to the ex-Zarqawi right now, but I'll add another post in a while.

3 comments:

The Troy Stirman Family said...

Well put, sir! You should hire out as a freelance journalist. God knows the AP could use someone with your keen insight, clarity, communication skills- and most importantly, p-e-r-s-p-e-c-t-i-v-e!

Lucas Hendrickson said...

Here's the thing, though: the lives of everyday people in New York City *aren't* "so separate and different" than those in the rest of the country. It only *seems* that way.

It seemed that way to me, as well, until I spent a couple of weeks working in Manhattan a few years ago, smack dab in the middle of the East Village, doing a software transition in the Citysearch.com office there. Yeah, I rode a subway down from my hotel everyday instead of riding in a car, and lunch was a tad more expensive, but working alongside people who were wage-slaves exactly like me was no different there than it is in Nashville or Longview or Abilene or St. Louis or Denver or Oklahoma City or wherever else in the U.S.

The danger becomes when you imbue the city (or any large center of population) with some sort of media-induced "pocket universe" status. Maybe I feel a little different about it because Nashville operates in much the same way in that very few people who live here are actually *from* here, but I met people in NYC who were from all over this country, not to mention the world, and they're all just trying to get by, exactly like the rest of "flyover country".

It's when you allow yourself to buy in to media categorizations that you shut yourself off from the reality of the situation.

And, no, Darren, you should not hire yourself out as a freelance journalist...not out of a lack of writing skill, mind you. It's just that I've been doing this awhile, and I wouldn't wish this life on anybody, especially someone with an M.D.

Darren Duvall said...

Troy,

Thanks. :)

Lucas,

Perhaps another reason I shouldn't be a freelance journalist is that I burned a lot of bandwidth without making myself as clear as I had hoped.

I don't think NYC folks are unAmerican or choosing to be targets or whatever. I would happily bust a cap into someone threatening the farthest-left Code Pink activist from the deepest, darkest part of The Village. If we're getting tribal, they're part of my tribe.

I think my point was more that terrorists targeting, say, people who row crew boats for a hobby don't generate the same sense of personal threat as terrorists who intentionally target schools, at least not in my opinion. To use a TCP/IP analogy, crew rowers are port 45423, hardly anyone uses that port, so terrorists can't "get to" the rest of us that way. Schoolkids are port 80, an archetype that we all recognize and a source of visceral dread for those of us who were in a school or have kids or grandkids in school.

I wouldn't dismiss terrorism against crew boats, it's terrorism and again, they're picking on my tribe. But knowing that terrorists were attacking crew boats wouldn't cause me personal concern other than a "what boaters are they going to go after next?", which also wouldn't concern me personally as I don't own a boat.

In short, terror is at least partially in the eye of the beholder IMO and I'm glad that terrorism (here, at least) hasn't figured out some of the Least Common Denominators to really jack with our society.