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“A Laptop And A Grudge”: It’s Too Easy To Become A Terrorist

Authorities say that the two brothers who allegedly bombed the Boston Marathon were probably “self-radicalized.”

The media have embraced this catchy term, partly because of the assurance it seems to offer: Don’t worry, folks — Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev weren’t recruited and deployed by al Qaeda or any other terrorist group; they hatched their own plot with no tactical help from abroad.

That might well be true, but little comfort can be taken from it.

Some of the most notorious acts of political violence in our history were carried out by pissed-off loners or impromptu zealots who belonged to no organized cabal.

By modern definition, Lee Harvey Oswald was self-radicalized. So was Sirhan Sirhan. Ditto for hermit Ted Kaczyinski, the Unabomber.

And who was more self-radicalized than Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the creeps who blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995?

Everyone who sets out to create blood-soaked headlines finds a way to rationalize it. Murder in the name of God, Allah or patriotism is the oldest excuse in the book.

Once caught, the killers seldom admit they did it just for a sick thrill. OK, I’m a loser and my life is crap, so I decided to do something really outrageous.

Self-radicalized terrorists can be scarier than organized cells, because the cells are easier to track and their agendas are less opaque. They wave their hatred like a flag.

In Boston, the older Tsarnaev brother and apparent mastermind of the bombings was loving life until three years ago. According to interviews with friends and family, Tamerlan’s dream had been to become a professional boxer and earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

He wore flamboyant white fur and snakeskins, and trash-talked his opponents in the ring. He was a good fighter, too, twice the Golden Gloves champ of New England.

Then the rules changed. Tamerlan wasn’t allowed to box in the Tournament of Champions because of his immigration status — he was a legal permanent resident, not a full U.S. citizen.

Disappointed, he quit boxing. He didn’t work a regular job. His wife, a healthcare aide, paid the family’s rent. The Tsarnaevs also received food stamps and welfare payments.

Tamerlan tried community college but soon dropped out. He grew a beard and became increasingly interested in Islam, the religion of his Chechen and Dagestani heritage.

Last year he went back to Dagestan for six months without his wife and daughter, a trip being scrutinized by the FBI and Russian authorities. So far, though, Tamerlan hasn’t been connected to any terror group that has targeted America.

His path to Boylston Street, as presented in law enforcement’s scenario, is at once amateurish and harrowing: Older brother returns to the States and enlists his impressionable younger brother, a pot-smoking college student with good grades, plenty of friends and no known hostility against this country.

Together, the two of them assemble bombs from an Internet recipe using kitchen pressure cookers, fireworks, nails, ball bearings and remote control mechanisms from toy racecars. Then they go to the marathon, place the devices in the crowd and stupidly hang around to watch the detonations.

A professional operation it was not. The brothers had no idea there were video cameras all over the place. No disguises, no getaway plan, no fake passports, no money, no plane tickets, no car (Dzhokhar’s was in a repair shop).

This, we are told, is the new face of terror. Spontaneous and rudimentary.

A disgruntled young athlete, his career stymied, violently attacks the country that he’d once hoped to represent in the Olympics. Maybe Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been “self-radicalized” into an Islamic fanatic.

Or maybe he was just furious because a lack of U.S. citizenship papers had kept him out of the biggest boxing match of his life. Maybe it was that simple.

Tamerlan is dead, and Dzhokhar might or might not reveal the motive for the bombing. Clearly, though, it wasn’t the act of two crazy persons.

Cold and twisted? Obviously. But not crazy.

Even more sobering is the ease with which the brothers put their plan in motion. These days, anybody with a laptop and a grudge can arrange a massacre on a shoestring budget.

You don’t need fake IDs. You don’t need special training. You don’t even need to be very smart.

All you need is the one dark impulse.

 

By: Carl Hiaasen, The National Memo. May 7, 2013

May 8, 2013 Posted by | Terrorism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Wayne LaPierre Is Very Afraid”: A Worldview Of Nightmares, Fears And Paralyzing Paranoia

It must be terrifying to be Wayne LaPierre, the man who has led the NRA for the past two decades. For years he has shared his nightmares and fears of daily living with us — a worldview of paralyzing paranoia, where terrorists, bad weather and Latin American gangsters lurk behind every corner, ready to prey on unarmed citizens.

“Latin American drug gangs have invaded every city of significant size in the United States. Phoenix is already one of the kidnapping capitals of the world,” he explains in his latest expression of anguish, an Op-Ed published in the Daily Caller yesterday. “And though the states on the U.S./Mexico border may be the first places in the nation to suffer from cartel violence, by no means are they the last.”

“Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. Lone criminals,” he continues. “These are perils we are sure to face — not just maybe. It’s not paranoia to buy a gun. It’s survival.”

While the world has always been an impossibly forbidding place, LaPierre continues, our socialist president has made it worse, naturally: “When the next terrorist attack comes, the Obama administration won’t accept responsibility. Instead, it will do what it does every time: blame a scapegoat and count on Obama’s ‘mainstream’ media enablers to go along.”

And finally, the solution: “No wonder Americans are buying guns in record numbers right now, while they still can and before their choice about which firearm is right for their family is taken away forever.”

(What LaPierre should really be worried about is a faulty “shift” button on his keyboard, as he inexplicably failed to capitalize the name of his organization here: “Now, an even stronger nra is the only chance gun owners have to withstand the coming siege.”)

This frightful fretting is nothing new for LaPierre.

When the NRA head appeared on Fox News Sunday earlier this month, he told host Chris Wallace, “My gosh, in the shadow of where we are sitting now, gangs are out there in Washington, D.C. You can buy drugs. You can buy guns. They are trafficking in 13-year-old girls. And our government is letting them!”

At his much-lampooned press conference after the Newtown massacre he said, “The truth is, that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters. People that are so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons, that no sane person can ever possibly comprehend them. They walk among us every single day, and does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn’t planning his attack on a school, he’s already identified at this very moment?

This is bread and butter LaPierre, seeded in the paranoid high crime days of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when politicians feared the rise of a generation of crack-addicted “superpredators” and when anyone aspiring to have a voice in the national public policy debate had to be “tough on crime.”

And if it wasn’t criminals, it was government you should fear, LaPierre has repeatedly warned over the past 25 years. Three months after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, when more than 160 federal employees were murdered, LaPierre went on “Meet the Press” and warned that federal law enforcement agents, in “Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms,” were out to “attack law-abiding citizens.”

That prompted former President George H.W. Bush to publicly revoke his lifetime membership to the NRA in a sharply worded letter published in the New York Times.

Eventually, everyone else moved past the heady ’90s paranoia of inner-city crime and black helicopters — LaPierre did not.

Violent crime is now at a two-decade low and urban centers are seeing a revival unlike any time in the past 100 years. But LaPierre chooses to ignore that. And he chooses to ignore the fact that most gun violence is suicide, while most homicide is inflicted by people who know each other (usually scorned lovers, angry relatives and criminals in dispute) — hardened criminals preying on innocents is relatively rare.

For instance, in his Daily Caller Op-Ed, LaPierre writes hyperbolically: “After Hurricane Sandy, we saw the hellish world that the gun prohibitionists see as their utopia. Looters ran wild in south Brooklyn. There was no food, water or electricity. And if you wanted to walk several miles to get supplies, you better get back before dark, or you might not get home at all.”

In fact, crime dropped in New York City during Hurricane Sandy, with murders plummeting a whopping 86 percent over the same period in 2011 and overall crime down 27 percent. There was a single homicide on the Monday before the storm hit, then none for the next five days.

“After a natural disaster or large-scale catastrophe like 9/11, we see conventional crime come down,” NYPD spokesman Paul Browne explained. “A lot of people are indoors. Taverns are closed. You have less people out late at night and getting into disputes.”

While conditions after storm were hellish in places, there were also plenty of beautiful stories of cooperation and altruism and small acts of random kindness: Sandwich shop owners staying open 24 hours a day to serve people with no food, some giving it away for free; a hotel manager turning away marathoners to give shelter to victims; people running extension cords out their window so strangers could charge their cellphones for free; a doctor giving free healthcare to victims, etc.

LaPierre chooses to ignore all of this and see the world as nothing but a cold and scary place where you can’t trust anyone and only lethal force can protect you. Too bad for him.

 

By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, February 14, 2013

February 15, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Horror Of No Future”: It Makes No Rational Sense To Bring A Child Into A World Like This One

In Newtown, families are grieving dead first-graders. On the day of the killings, while I counted the minutes until I picked up my own daughter from day care, I was haunted, for every one of those minutes, by a figure of contemporary cultural mythology, Katniss Everdeen.

Katniss, the bow-wielding Athena of The Hunger Games series, recognizes that it is actually senseless to bear children into a violent world. In the series’ dystopian world of Panem, the power of the state in destroying young people is explicit and active: children 12 and older are placed in a lottery each year—a reaping—and selected to compete to the death in a moment of national spectacle; tribunes in a futuristic, reality-show arena.

In the very first chapter of the very first book, Katniss and her friend Gale contemplate the dawning of another year’s reaping. “I never want to have kids,” Katniss says. “I might. If I didn’t live here,” says Gale. Katniss, irritated, replies, “But you do.”

Yes, we do. We do live here. We live in an America with a high rate of gun violence. We live in a world where children die every day, from guns, from domestic violence, from car accidents, from wars (including bombs we have dropped), from starvation, from disease.

But Newtown, like Columbine and so many other school shootings before it, moves and horrifies us nationally because of so many images, most of them religious. Students fleeing from their school building. The meeting of the quotidian classroom and weapons that belong on a battlefield. Two children before wintery woods in a New York Times photo, clutching each other like Hansel and Gretel in the forest. Grieving parents, who I pray, this time, will be spared the spotlight. Beautifully lit candlelight vigils. Stories of bravery among teachers and staff. Our tearful parent-in-chief.

Like the Roman arenas that inspired The Hunger Games, the coverage of these tragedies is all about spectacle, our voracious need, even in mourning, to witness the horror vicariously from the comfort of our own bread-filled homes.

We have always been morbidly captivated by dead and threatened children. Abraham is “father of faith” because of his willingness to bind and nearly sacrifice Isaac, to take part in what Kierkegaard calls “the teleological suspension of the ethical.” Suspension barely covers it. Jephthah, a military chieftan in the book of Judges, keeps a vow with God and sacrifices his daughter. No angel stays his hand.

We remember child martyrs in the crusades, young Holocaust victims like Anne Frank, the deaths of Emmett Till and four little girls in Birmingham, Alabama. The children of the day care center in Oklahoma City. Our enduring image from that dark day is a fireman, soaked in blood, carrying a baby on the cover of the magazines. Youth move us because they bring to the light the existential horror of no future.

Katniss is right. It makes no rational sense to bring a child into a world like this one. Her words will be prophetic, as her state destroys children under more than one regime. Ours does not kill them quite so explicitly. But our passive failure to act against violence is an unholy unsacrifice all the same. There is no divine gift exchange here, no ritual logic, and no meaning.

“Who would do this to our poor little babies?” asked a teacher at Sandy Hook. What would Katniss do? In the end, she does have children, saturated with terror the whole way. Before that, though, she ends the game. She fires her arrows at the perpetrators of the endless cycle of violence. Many, many years later, she has children.

They play upon the meadow that covers a mass grave.

December 18, 2012 Posted by | Guns | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Climate of Hate: Who Could Not Have Seen This Coming?

When you heard the terrible news from Arizona, were you completely surprised? Or were you, at some level, expecting something like this atrocity to happen?

Put me in the latter category. I’ve had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach ever since the final stages of the 2008 campaign. I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 — an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again. The Department of Homeland Security reached the same conclusion: in April 2009 an internal report warned that right-wing extremism was on the rise, with a growing potential for violence.

Conservatives denounced that report. But there has, in fact, been a rising tide of threats and vandalism aimed at elected officials, including both Judge John Roll, who was killed Saturday, and Representative Gabrielle Giffords. One of these days, someone was bound to take it to the next level. And now someone has.

It’s true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled. But that doesn’t mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate.

Last spring Politico.com reported on a surge in threats against members of Congress, which were already up by 300 percent. A number of the people making those threats had a history of mental illness — but something about the current state of America has been causing far more disturbed people than before to act out their illness by threatening, or actually engaging in, political violence.

And there’s not much question what has changed. As Clarence Dupnik, the sheriff responsible for dealing with the Arizona shootings, put it, it’s “the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business.” The vast majority of those who listen to that toxic rhetoric stop short of actual violence, but some, inevitably, cross that line.

It’s important to be clear here about the nature of our sickness. It’s not a general lack of “civility,” the favorite term of pundits who want to wish away fundamental policy disagreements. Politeness may be a virtue, but there’s a big difference between bad manners and calls, explicit or implicit, for violence; insults aren’t the same as incitement.

The point is that there’s room in a democracy for people who ridicule and denounce those who disagree with them; there isn’t any place for eliminationist rhetoric, for suggestions that those on the other side of a debate must be removed from that debate by whatever means necessary.

And it’s the saturation of our political discourse — and especially our airwaves — with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence.

Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

And there’s a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you’ll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won’t hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, and you will.

Of course, the likes of Mr. Beck and Mr. O’Reilly are responding to popular demand. Citizens of other democracies may marvel at the American psyche, at the way efforts by mildly liberal presidents to expand health coverage are met with cries of tyranny and talk of armed resistance. Still, that’s what happens whenever a Democrat occupies the White House, and there’s a market for anyone willing to stoke that anger.

But even if hate is what many want to hear, that doesn’t excuse those who pander to that desire. They should be shunned by all decent people.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been happening: the purveyors of hate have been treated with respect, even deference, by the G.O.P. establishment. As David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter, has put it, “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we’re discovering we work for Fox.”

So will the Arizona massacre make our discourse less toxic? It’s really up to G.O.P. leaders. Will they accept the reality of what’s happening to America, and take a stand against eliminationist rhetoric? Or will they try to dismiss the massacre as the mere act of a deranged individual, and go on as before?

If Arizona promotes some real soul-searching, it could prove a turning point. If it doesn’t, Saturday’s atrocity will be just the beginning.

By: Paul Krugman: Op-Ed Columnist, New York Times-January 10,2011

January 10, 2011 Posted by | Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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