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The other America

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The one that sees us as always under seige:

WINDER, Ga. —All Jim Cooley wants to do is buy some soda.

“You want to come to Walmart?” he asks his wife.

“No,” Maria says.

“Pretty please?” Jim asks.

“I’m not going to sit there and have the police called on you. I mean, I don’t want to see that crap,” Maria says, knowing what a trip to Walmart means. She knows her 51-year-old husband has two guns inside the house, and this afternoon it won’t be the 9mm, which he straps on with a round in the chamber when grabbing lunch at his favorite fast-food restaurant or visiting a friend’s auto shop. It’ll be the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, which he brings when going somewhere he thinks is dangerous, like the Atlanta airport, where he’s taken it loaded with a 100-bullet drum, or Walmart, where he thinks crowds could pose easy targets for terrorists.

In a country of relaxing gun laws where it’s now legal to open-carry in 45 states and there are 14.5 million people with carry permits, every day seems to bring a new version of what open carry can mean. In Kentucky, it’s now legal to open-carry in city buildings. In downtown Cleveland, people carried military-style rifles during the Republican National Convention. In Howell, Mich., last month, a father went openly armed to his child’s middle-school orientation. In Mississippi, it’s now legal to open-carry without a permit at all. And in Georgia, which has passed a “guns everywhere” bill and has issued nearly 1 million carry permits, Jim Cooley is staking out his version of what’s acceptable as he keeps pleading with his wife.

“I got to get soda.”

Maria sighs. She worked the night before assembling air-conditioner compressors at a nearby factory, and in a few hours, she knows she’ll have to leave for another third shift.

“Yeah,” she says, giving in. “I might as well get this travesty out of the way.”

“What travesty?”

“You carrying a big ol’ rifle in the store, scaring the hell out of all the Walmart shoppers.”

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Kamikaze mission

Thunderbirds Formation - 01

Wow, I never knew this story:

WASHINGTON — Late in the morning of the Tuesday that changed everything, Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney was on a runway at Andrews Air Force Base and ready to fly. She had her hand on the throttle of an F-16 and she had her orders: Bring down United Airlines Flight 93. The day’s fourth hijacked airliner seemed to be hurtling toward Washington. Penney, one of the first two combat pilots in the air that morning, was told to stop it.

The one thing she didn’t have as she roared into the crystalline sky was live ammunition. Or missiles. Or anything at all to throw at a hostile aircraft.

Except her own plane. So that was the plan.

Because the surprise attacks were unfolding, in that innocent age, faster than they could arm war planes, Penney and her commanding officer went up to fly their jets straight into a Boeing 757.

“We wouldn’t be shooting it down. We’d be ramming the aircraft,” Penney recalls of her charge that day. “I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot.”

Was the Nice attacker really an IS ‘lone wolf’?

2 more arrests in Nice truck attack; IS claim is studied

This post was written by Mia Bloom, Georgia State University.

The Bastille Day terror attack on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice has been claimed by the Islamic State Group – sort of.

Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a delivery driver known to police for petty crimes, drove a 19-ton white Renault truck into crowds gathered for a fireworks display. At least 84 are dead.

As they did when Orlando shooter Omar Mateen killed 49 people, IS news agency ‘Amaq released a statement calling Bouhlel a ‘soldier of the Caliphate.’ IS reiterated the claim in its Bayan Radio news bulletin, adding a warning that “Crusader states” are not safe from its fighters.

However unlike the attack in Dhaka, Bangladesh or even attacks at Bataclan and Brussels airport as yet no pre-attack photos or ‘last will and testament’ videos have been released to cement the connection beyond a loose and general claim of affiliation, which may or may not be legitimate.

IS fan boys celebrated with glee on IS-linked social media accounts in the immediate aftermath of the attack, but this does not mean that Raqqa, the self declared capital of the caliphate headquarters in Syria, ordered or organized the attack.

Reasons to doubt an IS link

President Hollande has already determined this to be a terrorist act – even before any real evidence has been found on Bouhlel’s cell phone or in his laptop browser history on his laptop beyond a phone number alleged to be connected to Al Nusra Front’s Omar Diaby. This is problematic.

According to reports, Bouhlel suffered from depression after his wife divorced him. Stories are circulating that he acted in ways consistent of someone with suffering from mental illness. His own father admitted he had bouts of depression and breakdowns.

With no clear connection to Jihadi groups (and merely a record as a petty criminal), French officials are trying to ascertain whether Bouhlel was a lone actor terrorist or a mentally ill person with whom IS is opportunistically associating.

The idea that a mass casualty perpetrator is likely to be suffering from mental illness is consistent with the research on lone actors conducted by Paul Gill, John Horgan, Emily Corner and others.

The worst case scenario is that Bouhlel is so-called ‘clean skin.’ That’s what security officials call a terrorist with no real criminal record who is not under surveillance, and who might be part of a larger plot.

The response by counter terror officials would be very different depending on which of these theories proves to be true.

My research on suicide terrorism has demonstrated that affiliation with a group is quite different from the research of Criminal Justice professor Adam Lankford of the University of Alabama who insists that many terrorists are suicidal and not sacrificing themselves for a greater cause or for some underlying altruistic motivation of self sacrifice.

The implications for policy and the potential for backlash from terrorists and counter terrorists vary greatly depending on which scenario ends up being accurate for Bouhlel, whether he was in fact radicalized or possible mentally ill matters.

At this time, any of these explanations are plausible. It is important to explore what is known, admit what we don’t know, and base any analysis on fact and not speculation.

Why France? Again?

A French soldier stands guard next to a muslim prayer room in Nice, Jan. 23, 2015.
REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

France has suffered three attacks in the past 19 months. There is a robust literature exploring why Europe and especially France has borne the brunt of Jihadi terrorism.

Explanations include the fact that Muslims (mostly of north African origin) in France have not assimilated into the mainstream of French society. Muslims constitute a disproportionate percentage of those unemployed, poor living in the banlieus, or suburbs, of urban sprawl. They are incarcerated at percentages that far exceed their percent of the population, and have fewer opportunities for upward mobility than even their non-Muslim African counterparts have enjoyed in the UK and France.

The French government has aggressively banned the veil. The extreme right wing party, the National Front, has soared in the polls and increased its percentage of the seats in the Parliament.

However, one point the news media has largely neglected to mention is that France has been spearheading the bombing campaigns against IS (compared to the Russian bombardment of free Syrian Army positions). It has led attacks against Jihadi groups in Mali and other parts of Africa.

President Francois Hollande’s declaration that, ‘We will continue striking those who attack us on our own soil’ is a not-so-veiled reference to France’s involvement in air strikes in Syria. Hollande’s statement reflects what the French security services already believe to be a persuasive hypothesis: even if this attack was not IS-directed, it might have been IS-inspired.

Beyond Syria, France has expanded its counter terrorism operations throughout North Africa as Jihadi groups have proliferated in the aftermath of the downfall of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Groups in Morocco, Algeria, and Mali affiliated with Al Qaeda or IS have flourished. The French counter terror operations launched in 2013 to roll back the Islamist militant uprising in the north of Mali, has metamorphosed into a semi-colonial arrangement.

All of this goes a long way to explain why France.

But it is crucial to point out that just acts inspired by IS are most certainly not the same as those planned or at the behest of IS. The connection to IS is not crystal clear even when groups (let alone individuals) claim affiliation by making a pledge, or bayat, to the Islamic State.

According to the Minerva research team at Georgia State University, the 2014 expansion of IS’ so-called Caliphate, was foretold by “Wiki Baghdady” –a Jihadi insider, but more than likely an Al Qaeda agent – who predicted IS would amass multiple group allegiances and then announce them simultaneously in order to project power and influence.

“It would be as if the pledges came from everywhere, answering al-Baghdadi’s call,” WikiBaghdady wrote. Unsurprisingly, within 10 months WikiBaghdady’s predictions proved correct. Formal pledges from jihadists in Sinai, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Libya, and Algeria were released through IS media in November and were formally accepted by the “emir” three days later.

The black flag commonly used by IS militants.
REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

In essence, the IS expansion strategy follows a pre-set “script.” Obvious patterns have emerged in terms of the types of attacks a group perpetrates – and even IS’s use of a standardized logo, font, colors, and branding.

For individuals, the branding is more complex. Unless video emerges of Bouhlel being trained in Mosul or Raqqa or some incriminating materials are found on his cell phone or personal computers, we must treat the situation as unconfirmed until we have more information.

The Conversation

Mia Bloom, Professor of Communication, Georgia State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

So either George Bush was the dumbest man alive…

prince-bandar-and-george-bush-2

Or the Bush administration was in on 9/11. They finally released the 29 censored pages about the Saudi government’s connection to the hijackers, and Bush’s good friend Prince Bandar is all over it:

President Bush did not want the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia investigated. President Bush has deep ties to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its royal family and only wanted to protect the Kingdom. President Bush wanted to go to war in Iraq — not Saudi Arabia. So, 29 full pages that said “Saudi” and “Bandar” instead of “Hussein” and “Iraq” was a huge problem for President Bush.

It is well documented that the Joint Inquiry received enormous push-back against its investigation into the Saudis. In fact, former FBI Director Mueller acknowledges that much of the information implicating the Saudis that the Inquiry investigators ultimately uncovered was unknown to him. Why does Mueller say this? Mostly because Mueller and other FBI officials had purposely tried to keep any incriminating information specifically surrounding the Saudis out of the Inquiry’s investigative hands. To repeat, there was a concerted effort by the FBI and the Bush Administration to keep incriminating Saudi evidence out of the Inquiry’s investigation. And for the exception of the 29 full pages, they succeeded in their effort.

Notwithstanding the lack of cooperation from the FBI and the pressure from the Bush Administration to thwart any investigation of the Saudis, the Joint Inquiry was still able to write 29 full pages regarding Saudi complicity in the 9/11 attacks. No other nation is given such singular prominence in the Joint Inquiry’s Final Report. Not Iraq. Not Iran. Not Syria. Not Sudan. Not even Afghanistan or Pakistan.

The 29 pages have been kept secret and suppressed from the American public for fifteen years — not for matters of genuine national security — but for matters of convenience, embarrassment, and cover-up. Executive Order 13526 makes that a crime. Neither James Clapper nor Barack Obama want to release a statement about that.

And none of this answers the question as to why the FBI was forbidden to follow these leads.

Terrorist or mentally ill?

Pulse Orlando Nightclub Shooting from People/Time magazines

This is an excellent piece from McClatchy, and lines us with what I already suspected. I don’t believe the Orlando shooter was a terrorist, but our national ADD makes us want easy answers to everything:

Focusing on extremist ideology as the driver of radicalization, rather than as the end result, is often misleading and even dangerous, according to experts who’ve studied the backgrounds of violent jihadists.

“It can make us less safe. It means that we’re missing a really important conversation about all the other drivers, and all the other complexities that we might be able to address,” saidQuintan Wiktorowicz, a former White House senior adviser on countering violent extremism who’s now a managing partner of Affinis Labs, a Virginia-based startup incubator whose projects include apps to combat radical messaging.

A reporter for The New York Times posted more than 150 numbered tweets related to the Islamic State angle; prominent Washington policy figures implored her to stop, given the many unknowns in the case. Cable news channels splashed Arizona Sen. John McCain’s statements that President Barack Obama was “directly responsible” for the Orlando killings because of his policies toward the Islamic State – with little discussion of the weaknesses of such a charge.
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Why gun rights shouldn’t be tied to watch list

FIFTY DEAD IN FLORIDA ....................

Read this:

If the government can revoke your right to access firearms simply because it has decided to place you on a secret, notoriously inaccurate list, it could presumably restrict your other rights in a similar manner. You could be forbidden from advocating for causes you believe in, or associating with like-minded activists; your right against intrusive, unreasonable searches could be suspended. And you would have no recourse: The government could simply declare that, as a name on a covert list, you are owed no due process at all.

What Congress, or the next president, should not do is forbid individuals on the FBI’s terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms.
President Barack Obama does not appear to be discomfited by this possibility. Indeed, he seems to have decided that tethering gun control to the watch list is a wise use of his remaining political capital. Last week, before the Pulse massacre, he made another appeal to ban gun sales to those on the watch list, which has gained viral traction in the wake of Sunday’s attack. “I got people who we know have been on ISIL websites, living here in the United States, U.S. citizens, and we’re allowed to put them on the no-fly list when it comes to airlines, but because of the National Rifle Association, I cannot prohibit those people from buying a gun,” the president said. “This is somebody who is a known ISIL sympathizer. And if he wants to walk in to a gun store or a gun show right now and buy as much—as many weapons and ammo as he can, nothing’s prohibiting him from doing that, even though the FBI knows who that person is.”

This rhetoric may sound persuasive. But the deeper problem is that virtually anyone who wants to commit a mass shooting can easily obtain a gun designed for the battlefield. In the gun safety debate, the terror watch list is largely a distraction.

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