Saturday, December 14, 2013

Terry Loewen, Al Qaeda, "Most Muslims," and Assumptions

(From, used w/o permission.)
Terry L. Loewen, 58: aviation technician and would-be Al Qaeda suicide bomber, apparently.

Mr. Loewen wrote that he planned to be "martyred in the path of Allah," and that "most Muslims in this country will condemn what I have done." 1

I don't doubt that he was sincere. I also think that he was right about "most Muslims in this country."

But I'm not surprised that he doesn't "look Muslim."

I've been over this before: quite a few Muslims come from the Middle East, but Islam isn't an ethnic group.

Eventually, all but the most ardently chauvinistic WASP supporters in America may get used to the idea that someone can 'look American' and be a terrorist. Maybe they'll even decide that folks don't have to look English to be American: but I doubt it.

Learning the Right Lesson: Or Not

I'm very glad that Mr Loewen didn't succeed in becoming a "in the path of Allah:" for his sake, and for the sake of everyone else he would have killed.

How and why he made the choices he did may or may not come out as his case goes through the courts.

Based on what's been in the news so far, and depending on what folks assume, we could learn that:
  1. The FBI conspires to hurt innocent Americans
  2. You can't trust white people
  3. Religion kills
  4. All of the above
  5. None of the above
I think "E" is the right answer: but there's a tiny element of truth in "D."

Innocent people have been unjustly accused. Steven Hatfill is a recent, and happily rare, example.

Some white people are untrustworthy. I'd be astounded if any large group of human beings was entirely free of folks who are untrustworthy: or worse. But assuming that a few individuals are typical of a group is not, I think, usually prudent.

Religion of the 'kill a commie for Christ' or 'death to the great Satan America' variety is, in my considered opinion, dangerous. But I think that sort of attitude is often rooted in a desperate desire to preserve a dead or dying culture.

But I think that the FBI often serves a beneficial function, that many folks are trustworthy, that religion isn't necessarily a psychiatric condition: and those are other topics.

My take on:
In the news:

1 Excerpts from the news:
"FBI: Man spent months planning bomb plot at ICT Explosives were fake, U.S. Attorney says"
Adam Knapp,KWCH (December 13, 2013)

"A Wichita man has been arrested and charged in federal court for attempting to blow up Mid-Continent Airport in a suicide bombing Friday.

"Terry Lee Loewen, 58, who worked at the Hawker Beechcraft Services facility at Mid-Continent Airport, is alleged to have spent months developing a plan to use his airport access card to drive a van loaded with explosives to the terminal. He planned to pull the trigger on the explosives himself and die in the explosion, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said.

"The explosives were fake, Grissom said....

"...According to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Loewen:
  • Studied the layout of the airport and took photographs of access points.
  • Researched flight schedules.
  • Assisted in acquiring components for the car bomb.
  • Talked about his commitment to trigger the device and martyr himself.
" 'The threat was real,' said Michael Kaste of the Federal Bureau of Investigations. 'But I assure you, the public was never at any risk at all.'

"Loewen, who is not believed to be involved with any religious affiliation in the Wichita community, was arrested at 5:40 a.m.

"He faces one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against people and property within the United States, one court of attempting to damage property by means of an explosive and one count of attempting to provide material support to Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

"In a 21-page complaint filed in federal court, documents found that Loewen engaged in an online conversation with an undercover FBI agent to reflect his 'desire to engage in violent jihad on behalf of al Qaeda.'

"Lowen wrote, 'Brothers like Osama bin Laden and Anwar al Awlaki are a great inspiration to me, but I must be willing to give up everything (like they did) to truly feel like a obedient slave of Allah.' He went on to say 'I MUST be active in some kind of jihad to fell I'm doing something proactive for the Ummah.'

"In October, Loewen sent numerous photographs of his airport access badge, entrance gates to the tarmac and devices used to access the gates. He told the undercover agent he felt a morning attack at the airport would be best....

"...Loewen and the undercover agent met at a Wichita hotel Friday morning, drove to the location of where the bomb was being stored, the complaint read. The two arrived at Mid-Continent Airport at 5:40 a.m., where Loewen was arrested after two attempts at opening the gate to the tarmac.

"In a letter to family members dated December 11, 2013, Loewen said,
" 'By the time you read this I will - if everything went as planned - have been martyred in the path of Allah. There will have been an event at the airport which I am responsible for. The operation was timed to cause maximum carnage + death. My only explaination is that I believe in jihad for that sake of Allah + for the sake of my Muslim brothers +sisters. Fact is, most Muslims in this country will condemn what I have done. I expect to be called a terrorist (which I am), a psychopath, and a homicidal maniac.' "
"Loewen made his first appearance in federal court on terrorism charges at 3 p.m. U.S. attorneys will present the case to a grand jury for indictment next Wednesday....

"...Beechcraft released a statement saying Loewen is suspended from employment pending the outcome of the investigation...."

"Arrest made in attempt to bomb Wichita airport, FBI says"
Edmund DeMarche, (December 13, 2013)

"A Kansas man who authorities say in the past made threats to engage in violent jihad against the U.S. was charged Friday for allegedly plotting to detonate a car bomb at the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.

"Terry L. Loewen, 58, an aviation technician who FBI agents say was inspired by Usama bin Laden, spent months planning the attack and was intent on using his employee access card to drive the vehicle loaded with explosives to a terminal, Barry Grissom, the U.S. Attorney for the district of Kansas, said, citing the criminal complaint. Loewen planned on dying in the explosion as a martyr, Grissom said.

"The complaint says an undercover FBI employee told Loewen about a recent trip overseas and a meeting with members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. This agent told Loewen that 'brothers' were interested in his airport access, and asked if he'd be willing to plant 'some type of device,' the complaint said.

"Loewen allegedly responded, 'Am I interested? Yes. I still need time to think about it, but I can't imagine anything short of arrest stopping me.' The U.S. citizen allegedly wrote to the FBI agent that he was inspired by Usama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki.

"He was arrested at 5:30 a.m. without incident while trying to gain access to a tarmac, Grissom said. At the time, his access card did not work and he was with the vehicle he allegedly believed was filled with explosives.

"Authorities said there was never a bomb that could explode and the public was not in danger.

"Loewen has been under investigation by the Wichita Joint Terrorism Task Force since early summer 2013. It is alleged that in the past he has made statements that he was resolved to commit an act of violent jihad.

"The affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint alleges that Loewen studied the airport's layout, researched flight schedules, assisted in acquiring car bomb components and talked about sacrificing his own life in the attack....

"...His wife and attorney declined comment after the hearing....

"...Authorities said they believe Loewen acted alone. No other arrests are expected...."

Sunday, December 1, 2013

"Displaced Aggression:" Terrorism, Culture, and Assumptions

This isn't, as I've said before, a "political" blog.

I don't claim that a particular party or person is always right, or wrong; or believe that major problems are always the result of commie plots, capitalistic greed, or what the 'other' party is doing.

That doesn't make me "moderate." I have a well-defined point of view, and definite opinions. I try to limit my opinions to matters where I have at least some data to work with.

Looking for Reasons

I've run into folks who don't seem to have any doubts about why terrorism is a problem. Depending on who you ask, it's the fault of Muslims, American imperialism, news media, religion in general, or not having the 'right' party in Congress. That's overly-simplified, of course, and doesn't include all possibilities.

I don't think it's quite that simple. Anything having to do with human beings isn't, generally.

I do think that some Muslims are terrorists. So are some Christians, and folks with no particularly strong religious views. That doesn't mean that religion makes people want to kill other people: or that having religious beliefs keeps folks from acting badly.

Sadly, angry people seem to want reasons for being angry: other than what's actually frustrating them. Religion, national identity, economic status, and ancestry can be convenient canvases for folks desperately in need of a 'big picture' for their feelings. My opinion.

Folks who still yearn for a worker's paradise, or who sincerely believe that American corporations are responsible for the world's woes are a familiar part of America's cultural landscape. I don't think they are potential terrorists - - - but I'm getting ahead of myself.

This excerpt from a CNN talk show got me started on today's post:

"I think there is a real displaced aggression in this very fundamentalist, jihadist, Islamic community. And that is that the west is responsible for everything that goes wrong, and that the only thing that's going to solve this is Islamic Sharia law and the concept of the caliphate.

"And I see more groups, more fundamentalists, more jihadists more determined to kill to get to where they want to get. So, it's not an isolated phenomenon. You see these groups spread a web of connections. And this includes North Africa, it includes the Middle East, it includes other areas as well."
("Feinstein: 'Terror is up worldwide'," CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley transcript, CNN (December 1, 2013))

"Fundamentalists:" Accurate, But - - -

I don't like Feinstein's use of "fundamentalists" in this context. I think she's right, in the strictly dictionary meaning of the word fundamentalist: but in American culture that term can also refer to any Christian group or individual.

There are Christian fundamentalists, but not all Christians in America are fundamentalists. I'm Catholic, which by some Christian fundamentalist standards means that I'm not any sort of Christian, and that's not quite another topic. I've put links to posts in this and another blog near the end of this one, which may or may not be of interest.

Wrenching myself back to Feinstein, fundamentalists, and folks who kill other folks for 'religious' reasons -

Sincere, Maybe: Justified, No

I think many, but not all, of today's terrorists are folks who really believe that God wants them to kill 'unbelievers.' Many of these terrorists insist that they're the only true Muslims around: and are more likely to kill their neighbors for being insufficiently Islamic, than go to the trouble of killing Westerners.

Folks in Europe and on this side of the Atlantic aren't safe, as deaths before, during, and after 9/11 showed. That's partly because we live in a world where travel is fairly easy: and because an increasing number of folks in America are not WASPs and WASP wannabes.

This most certainly does not mean that I think America should repeat the grotesque mistake of rounding folks up for having the 'wrong' ancestors. I think I understand why FDR signed Public Law 100-383. I also think it was a mistake that took much too long to sort out.

Making 'looking like an Arab' an acceptable excuse for detaining someone makes as much sense as rounding up all the pale people in Oklahoma City, after the bombing. The folks who blew up the Alfred Murrah building apparently had ethnic and nationalistic motives: which doesn't make having European ancestors and living in America grounds for suspicion of terrorist tendencies.

Dealing With Difference

The Ku Klux Klan isn't the social and political force it once was in America, but a burning cross still occasionally shows up on the news. I think some iterations of the KKK are a useful example of how folks can use religion as a reason for hating outsiders.

That's more an indictment of human nature, I think, than a reason to distrust all spiritual beliefs.

Here's a sampling of how different folks express their religious beliefs:

From ''Klansmen: Guardians of Liberty'', 1926. Published by the Pillar of Fire Church in Zarephath, NJ. Copyright was not renewed.
(Pillar of Fire Church, via Wikipedia, used w/o permission)
"From ''Klansmen: Guardians of Liberty'', 1926. Published by the Pillar of Fire Church in Zarephath, NJ...."

New York, NY, September 28, 2001 -- A view of the recovery operation underway from a roof adjacent to the World Trade Center. Photo by Andrea Booher/ FEMA News Photo
(Andrea Booher/ FEMA News Photo, via Wikipedia, used w/o permission)
"...A view of the recovery operation underway from a roof adjacent to the World Trade Center. Photo by Andrea Booher/ FEMA News Photo." (September 28, 2001)

(From "The Pope and Children" (January 6, 2003), used w/o permission)
Some Catholic, carrying out standing orders: Matthew 25:31-46.

From the Days of Abram to Cable TV and Beer in One Generation

I've had personal experience with Christians who didn't distinguish between personal preference, cultural mores, and eternal principles. Folks who sincerely believe that God ordained that folks always act like the American middle class of the 1950s are more funny than dangerous: because they're not likely to kill you.

Other folks, equally convinced that God ordained that everyone should act they way they did in some village before they had Internet and cable: they don't always have inhibitions about enforcing their beliefs with an axe or a sword.

I'm strongly inclined to believe that we're looking at cultural values here, since many Muslims in places like Malaysia seem to have little trouble fitting into a global society. I doubt that every Muslim in Malaysia thinks the Petronas Towers were a good idea: but quite a few Americans of various beliefs are grumpy, too.

I do not think that feeling bad made it okay for white supremacists to kill people in Oklahoma City, any more than I think it's okay for folks to kill Americans because they miss the 'good old days.' I do think that we need to remember that some folks sincerely believe that killing others for being different.

Terrorists, whatever their motivation, are a real threat. Forgetting that, and 'defending' America against efforts to stop terrorists, is a bad idea.

So is forgetting that disagreeing with the government is not treason, too: and I've written about that before.

Related posts:

1 Excerpts from CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley transcript
"The big question that's always asked, are we safer now than we were a year ago, two years ago? In general?"

"I don't think so. I think terror is up worldwide, the statistics indicate that, the fatalities are way up. The numbers are way up. There are new bombs, very big bombs, trucks being reinforced for those bombs. There are bombs that go through magnatometers. The bomb maker is still alive. There are more groups that ever and there's huge malevolence out there."

"So congressman, I have to say, that is not the answer I expected. I expected to hear, oh, we're safer. Do you agree?"

"Oh, I absolutely agree that we're not safer today for the same very reasons.

"So the pressure on our intelligence services to get it right to prevent an attack are enormous. And it's getting more difficult because we see the al Qaeda as we knew it before is metastasizing to something different, more affiliates than we've ever had before, meaning more groups that operated independently of al Qaeda have now joined al Qaeda around the world, all of them have at least some aspiration to commit an act of violence in the United States or against western targets all around the world.

"They've now switched to this notion that maybe smaller events are okay. So if you have more smaller events than bigger events, they think that might still lead to their objectives and their goals. That makes it exponentially harder for our intelligence services to stop an event like that."


"So, one of the things that the senator said was that there is more hatred out there, more - and why is that?"

"I think there is a real displaced aggression in this very fundamentalist, jihadist, Islamic community. And that is that the west is responsible for everything that goes wrong, and that the only thing that's going to solve this is Islamic Sharia law and the concept of the caliphate.

"And I see more groups, more fundamentalists, more jihadists more determined to kill to get to where they want to get. So, it's not an isolated phenomenon. You see these groups spread a web of connections. And this includes North Africa, it includes the Middle East, it includes other areas as well."

"Lots of times we look at kind of some of these splinter groups going, yeah, but their interest is local."

"And here's the - but here's the concern of that. Now, remember, you have somewhere near 25 states that have some failed level of governance, meaning they can't secure large spaces of their own country. Those are always attractive for safe havens when it comes to any terrorist organization. And we're finding they're taking advantage of that.

"So you see what's happening in a place like Syria where you have a pooling of al Qaeda members and affiliates of al Qaeda in a way we've never seen before at the level of numbers that we have never seen before, and here's the scary part of this, some thousands of people showing up to participate in that in their mind jihadist effort are westerners, meaning they have western passports.

"A percentage of them have already gone home, including the United States, by the way, is included in that western number. We are very, very concerned that these folks who have western paper have gone there, participated in combat events, are trained, are further radicalized, now have the ability to go back in western countries.

"We know that those–"

("Feinstein: 'Terror is up worldwide'," CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley transcript, CNN (December 1, 2013))

Kiev Police: When Crowd Control Goes Horribly Wrong

First, the good news: The Kiev chief of police seems to realize that storming a camp of protestors doesn't make his troops look good.

Not-so-good news: folks who want Ukraine's government to sign an agreement with the European Union and hold elections got attacked by police in Kiev. That's their version. The chief of police says that the protestors started it. Maybe he's right, maybe not.

More good news: Ukraine's Viktor Yanukovych, the country's current leader, says that he's "deeply outraged" by what Kiev police did. It's probably the only sensible thing he could say at this point: but political leaders don't always act sensibly.

The War on Terror: Accepting the 21st Century, or Not

In a way, Saturday's attack has very little to do with the war on terror.

As far as I can tell, Saturday's attack by Kievan police has nothing to do with Islamic extremists, or religion of any sort.

Nobody seems to have used car bombs, yelled "down with the Great Satan America," or sent anthrax through the mail.

However, I think the incident illustrates the sort of conflict we call the war on terror.

On the one hand, we have folks who seem to like the 21st century and think their country should get involved in current international affairs.

On the other are folks who might reasonably be expected to like things pretty much the way they were in the 'good old days.'

Control and Change

For some in Ukraine, that would be before the Soviet Union unraveled in 1991; for others, before 2004. That's when reformers forced a reasonable facsimile of an honest election down the throats of Ukraine's rulers.

For folks who like the status quo, particularly those who have had unquestioned control over the lives of others, this is not a pleasant era. Change is always happening, but we're in a time of great and rapid change.

I like it this way, but as I said: many don't; and some are willing to kill, rather than give up control.

Sunday in Kiev

Folks who want change in Ukraine are planning a very large public demonstration in Kiev today. They'll probably attract more people to their demonstration, and support around the world: thanks, I strongly suspect, in large part to the daft actions of Kiev police Saturday.

In the news:
More about Ukraine:
Somewhat-related posts:

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.