Back at it | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Back at it

Posted By on Sun, Jan 31, 2010 at 10:06 AM

I rolled in from San Francisco this morning to find, as usual, that the Martin Street hill is the last stretch of road in town likely to thaw. Slipping and sliding, I made it safely into the garage. Sigh. I'm missing a couple of daily newspapers and the Sunday New York Times. So I can't fully get back into the routine.

On-line will just have to do, though I prefer the sweep of assessing the total package in paper form.

If you're looking for something to read today, you could do worse than this NYT feature on a gifted Alabama student, raised Baptist, who's become leader of a Somalian insurgent group linked to Al Qaeda.

Not long ago, the threat of American-bred terrorists seemed a distant one. Law-enforcement officials theorized that Muslims in the United States — by comparison with many of their European counterparts — were upwardly mobile, socially integrated and therefore less susceptible to radicalization. Perhaps the greatest proof of this came with the absence of domestic terrorist attacks following 9/11, a period that has brought Europe devastating homegrown hits in Madrid and London.

America is now at a watershed. In the last year, at least two dozen men in the United States have been charged with terrorism-related offenses. They include Najibullah Zazi, the Afghan immigrant driver in Denver who authorities say was conspiring to carry out a domestic attack; David Coleman Headley, a Pakistani-American from Chicago who is suspected of helping plan the 2008 attacks in Mumbai; and the five young men from Virginia who, authorities say, sought training in Pakistan to fight American soldiers in Afghanistan.

These cases have sent intelligence analysts scurrying for answers. The American suspects come from different backgrounds and socioeconomic strata, but they share much in common with Europe’s militants: they tend to be highly motivated, even gifted people who were reared in the West with one foot in the Muslim world. Others may see them as rigid or zealous, but they envision themselves as deeply principled, possessing what Robert Pape, a professor at the University of Chicago, calls “an altruism gone wildly wrong.” While their religious piety varies, they are most often bonded by a politically driven anger that has deepened as America’s war against terrorism endures its ninth year.

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