Category: islam


when Iran wants to assasinate someone

October 12th, 2011 — 5:36pm

(learn more about the book at the “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit)

They simply find a way to make sure the guy gets shot.  In a sense the Iranians are the hipsters of assassinations on American soil, because although they’ve done it here at least once before -  you’ve probably never heard of it.

But in light of the recent “plot” that was foiled, it’s important to bring up that historical precedent.  As Salon‘s Glen Greenwald among many others have noted, this particular scheme seems about as far-fetched and shadily-orchestrated as international terrorist plots of sinister assassination come:

The Terrorist Mastermind at the center of the plot is a failed used car salesman in Texas with a history of pedestrian money problems. Dive under your bed. “For the entire operation, the government’s confidential sources were monitored and guided by federal law enforcement agents,” explained U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, and “no explosives were actually ever placed anywhere and no one was actually ever in any danger.’”

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3 comments » | Arab Spring, counterinsurgency, islam, news, politics, Saudi Arabia, terrorism

the jinn in the machine

October 5th, 2011 — 9:29am

(learn more about the book at the “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit)

A kettle which has been just on the edge of simmering for a good long time now finally began to boil over earlier this week, as violent protests erupted in Qatif, a city in the eastern part of Saudi Arabia that like almost every city in that region of the nation is majority Shia.  And like almost every other city in the Shia-dominated eastern edges of Saudi Arabia – it sits directly on top of the world’s largest remaining easily-accessible oil reserves.

Instability has been built into the region since the founding of the Saudi Kingdom, a geopolitical reality that bodes disaster for American geopolitical goals in the region.  Namely, securing access to the lifeblood of Western civilization:

The Shia of Saudi Arabia, mostly concentrated in the Eastern Province, have long complained of discrimination against them by the fundamentalist Sunni Saudi monarchy. The Wahhabi variant of Islam, the dominant faith in Saudi Arabia, holds Shia to be heretics who are not real Muslims.

The US, as the main ally of Saudi Arabia, is likely to be alarmed by the spread of pro-democracy protests to the Kingdom and particularly to that part of it which contains the largest oil reserves in the world. The Saudi Shia have been angered at the crushing of the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain since March, with many protesters jailed, tortured or killed, according Western human rights organisations.

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Comment » | Arab Spring, counterinsurgency, economics, islam, news, politics, Saudi Arabia, terrorism

by whatever means necessary

September 2nd, 2011 — 8:18am

(learn more about the book at the “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit)

This September the UN will vote on whether or not Palestine should be officially recognized as a state, an aspiration that first gained international attention two generations ago.

Although statehood would largely just be a technical distinction, Israel is still bracing itself for unrest.  The IDF has reportedly begun arming settlers in the West Bank with tear gas and stun grenades and setting “red-lines” for each settlement.  The plan is that should any Palestine cross a red-line, IDF soldiers will open fire at their feet.  Given the visceral decades-old hatred between Israel and Palestine, violence in one form or another once again seems inevitable.

And should Palestine finally get recognized as a state by the UN, it would bring full-circle a series of events that first ushered the specter of international terrorism onto the world stage.  Events that would gather the world, rapt in horror, around the flickering macabre  spectacle playing itself out in their darkened living rooms.

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Comment » | current affairs, islam, terrorism

innocents and innocence alike

August 13th, 2011 — 12:52pm

(read the book free online - get a copy for your Kindle - read the Reddit AMA)

In one of The Dark Knight‘s pivotal scenes, Alfred descends into a strictly ordered and starkly lit Batcave as Bruce Wayne is doggedly patching himself up. After helping his employer with some stitching, Alfred realizes that Master Bruce doesn’t fully comprehend the dystopian miasma of violence that the Joker has brought upon Gotham City:

Alfred: A long time ago, I was in Burma, my friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never found anyone who traded with him. One day I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.

Bruce Wayne: Then why steal them?

Alfred: Because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

It’s a fantastic scene from a cinematic standpoint, but a problem occurs when you pull the Joker out of the movie as one crazy-ass allegory for chaos and death. And especially when you make the leap of trying to fit terrorism into the framework provided by the Joker, to use the the Joker as a rubric for terrorism.

No one better proves this than the Ft. Hood shooter, Nidal Malik Hasan.

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Comment » | books, counterinsurgency, Current Events, domestic terror, islam, news, politics, terrorism

an American nightmare

August 1st, 2011 — 10:27pm

(read the book free online - get a copy for your Kindle - read the Reddit AMA)

Things had been looking up for black families, back in 1963 as MLK gave his “I Have A Dream” speech about 70% of black families were headed by a married couple. But that percentage steadily began to drop, between 1970 and 2001 it declined by 34%, double the white decline, and by 2002 it had bottomed out at just 48%.

But if the War on Drugs didn’t directly precipitate the destruction of the African-American family, why did the decline in married black women triple during the first decade of the War?

In fact, the impact of the War on Drugs has been so racially biased that although only 14% of all illicit drug users are black, blacks make up about half of those in prison for drug offenses.  (When you adjust for the fact that the Department of Justice simply throws prisoners who identify as mixed race half-black and half-white out of their data, the proportion is well over half.)  A black man is eight-times as likely as a white man to be locked up at some point in his life. And by 2006 America had, proportionally, almost six-times as many blacks locked up as South Africa did at the height of Apartheid.

Our penal system has grown so massive that the U.S. criminal justice system now employs more people than America’s two largest private employers, Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, combined.

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5 comments » | Arab Spring, current affairs, domestic terror, innercity violence, islam, news, politics, prison system, racial inequality, racial tension, racism, reform, revolution, terrorism, war on drugs

the more things change

June 8th, 2011 — 11:00am

(read the book free online - get a copy for your Kindle - read the Reddit AMA)

Al-Qaeda didn’t realize it at the time, but the blueprint for their next campaign of terrorism against America had already been sketched out across the suburban roads and streets of Washington D.C. nearly a decade ago.  In the fall of 2002 the DC Sniper terrorized suburban Washington, killing ten people and critically wounding several others.

It’s taken awhile, but they’ve finally put the pieces together and in the first operational video released since Osama bin Ladin’s death are calling on Muslims in America to carry out the exact same type of attack, simple random shootings that don’t require a cell of fellow terrorists or the resources to construct a bomb – just one bullet and one victim at a time.

These random, utterly unpredictable shootings can be terrifyingly effective. If you weren’t there at the time it’s almost impossible to portray the aura of terror that settled across the beltway duringthe DC sniper’s attacks:

“As the DC Sniper methodically laid victim after victim against the silent and unflinching pavement, every element of society became clotted with the blood of his victims. The first morning of killings was followed, never more than three days later, by more deaths. Deaths which came at intersections you recognized, at gas stations you’d filled your car up at, in parking lots you’d parked in. There was no telling who would die next – no segment of society was being spared.  And so, inside the first week, the mechanics and behavior of DC-area communities began to change.

High school football teams went through plays meant for games that had been suspended indefinitely on the lifeless floors and under the sterile lighting of a gym, instead of surrounded by the smells and memories of grass and dirt and grit that high school football is meant to anoint its followers with.  For weeks, the paths of children walking to school changed from careless and curious Family Circus-esque meanderings to the tactical and strategic zigzags of hardened soldiers operating in hostile territory.

Gas stations no longer enticed new customers by offering free carwashes or lower prices but by stringing up giant tarps in front of their pumps to keep you out of sight while you waited for your car to fill, still pacing behind the tarp in an effort to be a harder-to-hit moving-target. Sitting at a dead stop in your car during rush hour wasn’t frustrating, it was out and out terrifying.

You no longer walked your dog, you ran your dog.

And, in no discernable pattern and with no unifying link, the bodies continued to fall. After the first day of four shootings, a grandfather was followed by a mother-of-two who was followed three days later by a thirteen-year-old boy followed two days later by Vietnam vet. Then came a bus driver. Victims were shot at bus stops, at gas stations, in front of their schools, in parking lots, and inside a city bus. Schools kept the blinds closed in front of every window that had them and taped colored construction paper meant for art projects in front of the windows that didn’t.

Every traffic light seemed like the pull of a trigger in a game of automotive Russian roulette. Halloween pumpkins rotted in their patches, remaining unpicked because spending time bending over in an open field to find the perfect canvas for your jack-o-lantern would mean turning a class of 3rd Graders into a gallery of shooting ducks.

You only felt safe in your own home as long as the window you were standing in front of was shuttered from the evil lurking and killing outside of it. This was terrorism at its awesome finest.”

The one man and one boy team accomplished this with the bare minimum of resources, a handful of bullets, one sniper rifle, and a used 1990 Chevy Caprice purchased on the one-year anniversary of 9/11 as an intentional tribute to that day’s attacks.

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Comment » | current affairs, domestic terror, islam, racial inequality, terrorism

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