, I think we know who ISIS is.
We know those people who are
planning attacks against our
European allies and against ourselves.
-- Bernie Sanders, March 27, 2016 --
The secret to Bernie´s success so far is simple. He is an erstwhile practitioner of psychological poetry.
What that means: you wish what he says were true. But it isn´t.
The fact is, America and Europe have no idea who ISIS is. Certainly not the FBI, CIA, NSA, Pentagon, State Department, Congress or White House. If they knew, they could tell you in an instant what the two men at the top of this post, a burglar and a scholar, had in common.
Sorry, Washington, but your bureau-pathic reasoning excludes you from finding the answer, simply because the answer is not formalistic, e.g., a wanted list or membership cards in ISIS, al-Qaeda, or other terrorist organizations. You will find below another reason for your self-imposed exile from reality.
We come to this post´s basic premise:
If Western governments knew who ISIS was, 32 people would not have been murdered and 340 wounded in the ISIS attacks in Belgium on March 22, 2016.
Which calls for an explanation ...
Proficient in advanced technology, Western intelligence agencies have a good idea who individual terrorists are. That technical information is extremely helpful, basic; we would never suggest that it be minimized much less discarded.
However, as the world just saw all over again in flesh and blood, exclusive reliance on whiz-bang satellites and megabuck-bells and whistles does not get the job done. It never has. It never will.
The problem is, individual terrorists may come and go; the syndrome that creates them accumulates. Keeping track of this or that man can mean losing track of the larger picture.
What, then, is the larger picture?
* * *
We wrote in 2009:
"The combination of middle class rebels with lumpenproletariat elements can have consequences as spectacular as they are lethal. According to investigators, the attacks in Madrid in March 2004, were the work of a ´collaboration of educated, middle-class and ideologically radical Muslims with drug dealers and petty criminals.´ Elaine Sciolino, ´More Madrid suspects at large,´ International Herald Tribune, April 12, 2004.
Two other notable cases: (i) the Symbionese Liberation Army whose members* in 1974, kidnapped the heiress Patti Hearst; (ii) the Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany. Andreas Baader was a high school dropout and petty criminal. Ulrike Meinhof was the daughter of a prominent art historian.
The relationships between middle class rebels and petty criminals that generate hyper-violence have never been adequately portrayed, much less analysed; Dostoevsky’s The Possessed comes the closest. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood explores how, acting together, two petty criminals were capable of committing a heinous crime that neither could have committed alone." (The Source of Terrorism: Middle Class Rebellion, p. 272)
Let´s get practical. What difference does it make?
Answer: everything. Belgium just furnished a classic legal textbook case.
Salah Abdeslam was a petty thief and one of the 10 perpetrators of the ISIS attacks on Paris on November 13. The following morning, two companions drove him back to Belgium. On the way, they were stopped three times by Belgian and French police who noted the criminal record of one of the car occupants. However, they let the men go because they were not on any wanted list.
After a four-month manhunt, Salah Abdeslam was captured on March 18. The connection between his arrest and the terrorist attacks four days later is patent. Salah Abdeslam was involved in the planning of those attacks, which were speeded up after his capture.
The key question: had Salah Abdeslam been arrested on his return to Belgium in November, would the Belgium massacre have occurred in March?
If you know who terrorists are -- about the interrelationships between middle class rebels and gangsta hoodlums -- it is an easy call. Any petty criminal who is out and about after a terrorist attack should be immediately arrested. To the contrary of not being on any wanted list, petty criminals should be at the top of every wanted list.
The fact that French and Belgian police failed to arrest the three men indicates European authorities are as lost and confused as their American colleagues about who terrorists are in general, who ISIS is in particular.
Before continuing, where were the middle class rebels in this picture? Name one, you demand.
Here are two: Salan´s childhood buddy, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, leader of the Paris attacks. And there is always Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, former university lecturer, family man and chief of ISIS.
For a third middle class rebel, look no further than yesterday´s newspaper. Three days after the Brussels attacks, ISIS´ Number 2 man was killed in an airstrike. Reportedly a superb hands-on plotter and battle strategist, Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli was an ex-physics teacher.
The Belgian-shaken, middle class rebel-petty criminal cocktail that exploded in Paris in November 13 was discussed in our post of December 13, 2015: "Abdellhamid Abaaoud and The 75% Solution to Terrorism."
What it boils down to:
Right now, CIA, FBI, Pentagon and NSA operatives are swarming over Europe to "help out." European intelligence agencies will discover soon enough that, apart from any hard electronic-virtual data the Americans offer, the men and women landing on their doorstep are, at the end of the day, superb time-wasters.
The reason why CIA and FBI agents are so ineffective is simple but profound. Their thinking about terrorism was pre-packaged by the same ideology that creates terrorism.
No, I won´t elaborate that point here. For those who want to pursue it, see the 496-page The Source of Terrorism: Middle Class Rebellion.
* * *
Washington and I are locked in a zero/sum game, an either-or proposition. Only one of us can be right.
If The Source of Terrorism and this blog are mistaken about terrorism, no harm done; they are just words on a page. On the other hand, if the CIA, FBI, White House, and Pentagon are wrong, thousands of people will continue to be blown apart, shot, decapitated, starved, imprisoned, beaten, kidnapped, mutilated, raped, tortured.
Think about it.
Note to family members of Brussels terrorist victims:
Your trials and tribulations have only just begun. Front row and center among them: for the rest of your lives, you are condemned to wonder.
Where is the sense in what happened? Of all the places in the world, why was my loved one at that one place at that one instant? What purpose does it serve? Is there in fact a purpose?
Here is what I think the Brussels attacks mean:
Seen enough dead children? Body parts in streets?
I do not know the laws in Belgium and France. I do know that in American courts, the unconscionable incompetence of authorities in their three nonarrests of Salan Abdeslam would constitute an open and closed case of legal misfeasance, if not nonfeasance. In a word: the police should have acted; they did not. They betrayed your trust; they violated their public obligations; they broke their sworn oaths.**
What needs to be exposed once and for all in a court of law, in full view of the world community, is the point made over and over again in this blog. Western governments have no analysis of terrorism. They have no idea who terrorists are, how they are created and what makes them tick, much less what to do about them. Regarding those subjects, the CIA, FBI, Pentagon and White House show no curiosity and complete indifference.
But why a court of law?
Only when Western governments are hit where it hurts -- millions and millions of dollars paid out in humiliating lawsuits -- will they make meaningful changes. Until irresponsible people in responsible positions are held responsible, the 300-plus victims in Belgium will be victims twice over.
Yours would be the lawsuit heard around the world.
In the meantime, expect more official stumbling and fumbling. Expect more bombings, shootings, stabbings.
If you or other family members decide to take legal action, I am an accredited expert witness in United States Federal Court. It is a status that 99% of CIA and FBI agents can only dream of obtaining.
It´s time to ratchet things up. The meaning of the terrorist attacks in Brussels, Paris, Madrid, Ankara, New York, London, Baghdad and elsewhere is not in what we think about them, but in what we do about them.
Update, April 11:
Is it possible that Europeans are listening when they should not listen and not listening when they should?
The Director of the Terrorist Screening Center, Christopher Piehota, criticized European governments for not availing themselves of U.S. electronic-virtual data on individual terrorists.
The problem is that in Europe the criteria for defining "terrorist" differ country by country.
And what a difference a definition can make. If you think, dear reader, definitions are purely academic, wait until you end up on a terrorist watch list. Piehota says it can´t happen in America; we say, oh really?
We explored in our post of September 12, 2014 ("ISIS: Winston Churchill Speaks") how British and American government definitions of terrorism are so full of holes, a typical teenager can play them like a flute. The bottom line: according to official definitions, Winston Churchill and Harry Truman were terrorists.
Watch out, dear reader. If Churchill and Truman are not safe from being put on a no-fly list, neither are you.
According to our definition of terrorism in The Source of Terrorism: Middle Class Rebellion,*** neither leader was a terrorist. They may have been right, they may have been wrong; they were not terrorists.
We issue our challenge to Washington. Let´s go on TV and debate what a terrorist is.
My only demands are that the debate be fair and that you send your A-Team.
*Donald DeFreeze was a 9th grade drop-out and parking meter thief. Nancy Ling Perry was an upper middle class cheerleader, ex-Barry Goldwater supporter, and topless blackjack dealer. Camilla Hall´s father was a missionary; her mother, a college art department head. Patricia Soltysik´s father was a pharmacist. The son of a prominent anesthesiologist, Willie Wolfe was a preppy and Berkeley anthropology student.
**The specific wording of oaths sworn by pubic officials varies by country and institution; however, certain themes prevail. Here is the oath of the International Association of Chiefs of Police:
On my honor,
I will never betray my badge,
my integrity, my character,
or the public trust.
I will always have
the courage to hold myself
and others accountable for our actions.
I will always uphold the constitution
my community and the agency I serve.
*** "A terrorist is most often a middle class rebel (1) experiencing magnified marginal and/or transitional conditions, who (2) voluntarily (3) goes through certain rites of passage, among which are (4) clique membership and (5) a deliberate decision to commit a criminal act which is almost always (6) violent and usually (7) murder, in (8) the name of higher intentions or convictions without (9) retaining consciously the ambiguity of his criminal act and his higher intentions/convictions. He manifests powerful, unconscious, ambivalent emotions in two ways: (10) converting his intentions/convictions into idées fixes or absolute truths, the opposite extreme from ambiguity, and (11) wielding uncertainty as a weapon. That uncertainty is total, as demonstrated by the fact that (12) everybody -- allies, non-combatants, even himself -- is a potential victim.
A concluding note: it is the syndrome, the running together of components, which counts -- not components in isolation.
By not admitting what he cannot admit, the terrorist guards his secret, even from himself.
By not admitting what he is, the terrorist shows the gravity that admission holds for him. To my knowledge, no terrorist or other middle class rebel ever said what he is.
What he is, is the secret he keeps: he is a middle class rebel." (The Source of Terrorism: Middle Class Rebellion, p. 141).