Thursday, June 15, 2006

My Heart Shall Never Rest ...

Religion makes waves in the news today. Abu Bakr Bashir, the spiritual leader of the gang that killed 202 people in Bali remarked after his release that victim's relatives who were upset by his short sentence could seek solace by converting to Islam. But towards Australian Prime Minister John Howard he offered no words of comfort.

The radical Muslim cleric, who was released from an Indonesian prison on Wednesday, said those killed in the 2002 Bali bombings had been destined to die by God and their grieving families should now convert to Islam to find "salvation and peace". He also called on Prime Minister John Howard to convert to Islam or face eternity in hell.

Tim Blair noted that God -- or Allah if one prefers -- might be saying something else to radical Islam.

Islamic theologians are always claiming to see evidence of Allah in such things as fish, ice cream, and waves. Now tremble in awe as the bomb that took out Zarqawi forms a perfect smoke crucifix. It’s a sign, people!

And if that wasn't enough, Pajamas Media points to a website that reveals the religious affiliation of many of the most famous superheroes based on the illustrations in the comics themselves. Batman is Episcopalian/Catholic; Superman is Methodist; The Thing is Jewish; and Dust is of course Sunni Muslim. Don't believe it, huh? Well, neither did I, but it's true.



The secular age has discovered that belief -- in something at least -- matters. The Atlantic has a long article describing Jihadi efforts to create a virtual community through which it can prosletyze, share information, build community and coordinate action. In other words, create a virtual mosque or church.

After 9/11 and the American bombing campaign in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda lost much of its infrastructure. No longer able to recruit in plain sight, its strategists recognized that the Internet could become a vast global recruiting ground—in effect, a new, borderless Afghanistan.

One enterprising Jihadi, codenamed "Irhabi 007", used the what the Atlantic called "Jihad 2.0" to gather and disseminate information.

On the al-Ansar site he posted maps of Israel, Navy SEAL guides on sniper training, CIA manuals on making explosives, and other intelligence that he’d found online, especially if it concerned Iraq. American soldiers stationed in the country had begun writing blogs about their lives there and were posting photos and videos online. Irhabi wanted to mine those blogs for information about U.S. forces in the country—and he realized how effectively that information could be incorporated into the homemade videos that are the lifeblood of online jihadi forums. “I’m looking for soldier footages from within U.S. bases etc.,” he wrote in March 2004. “That’s the fish I want to catch.”

Yet somewhere else on the Internet, another person, with a different set of beliefs, prepared his countercampaign against the virtual Jihad.

As Irhabi worked to build himself up, Aaron Weisburd resolved to take him down. A computer programmer by training, with expertise in Web development, Weisburd began tracking online jihadists in 2002 from his home office in Carbondale, Illinois. ... Born in New York City in 1964, Weisburd declared his own private war against al-Qaeda because he was mad—mad that Yasir Arafat had rejected the peace plan at Camp David in 2000, mad that al-Qaeda had blown up the buildings in Manhattan he grew up around, and mad because he had read that Hamas was teaching Palestinian kindergartners to hate Israelis. So he set up Internet Haganah, a site designed to put jihadists like Irhabi on the law-enforcement radar screen.

Weisburd is the only paid full-time member of Internet Haganah. He runs his operation from the second-floor office of his home. Surrounded by five computers, he trawls online in search of the press statements and videos that terrorists release to rally their supporters. He goes undercover, logging on to restricted forums ... Then he either shames service providers into shutting down the sites that host them or gathers what he terms “intel” for interested parties. On Internet Haganah he maintains a blog to rally his own side, providing an outlet for people eager to contribute their time and money to the fight against terrorism.

But it isn't just the Jihad 2.0 or the Internet Haganah that are in action. An informal network of the unlikeliest people has sprung up on the Internet which could generally be called Counterterrorism 3.0. It is the nemesis of the virtual community created by radical Islamists created perhaps less consciously but nevertheless effectively by disparate individuals working on a common set of beliefs. The accounts of non-MSM reporter (and former paratrooper Michael Fumento who like Bill Roggio depends on reader support for his embed) filed from Ramadi are examples of its output in the media sphere. Fumento's report is superior in nearly all respects to reportage from regular media outlets. His dispatch from Ramadi takes the reader on not just one but several patrols through the city, mixing video, narrative, strategy and humor in ways that raise the bar higher than the networks can reach; (you must read it to appreciate what I mean) unreachable because, as JD Johannes (a former Marine turned embedded reporter) notes, the MSM is stuck in an obsolete mode, a mode that has none of the features of the Jihad 2.0 and Counterrorism 3.0.

The news media template is: if it bleeds, it leads. They have to work really hard at finding stories besides the explosion outside of Baghdad in the daily car-bombing. ... The daily successes. The Marines would joke about this. Their MOS [military operation specialty] was in 0311 or 0352 is 0350 as in infantry police officer. You gather Intel. You set up ambush and bait-and-kill operations. You track down a bad guy when they were bringing in a bad guy every other day. Finding a weapons cache every other day in the area... But those weren't the things making the headlines.

You just have a handful of reporters covering a major conflict in a large country. ... I've pointed out before that at the height of the Michael Jackson trial, there were some 2,200 credentialed reporters covering that trial. At the height of the invasion, there were 450-some credentialed reporters embedded with the coalition, and probably a couple 100 others out running around on their own, doing a great job. The number of -- especially of western reporters credentialed in Iraq -- is very small. ...

Case in point: I get a call (about a month or two ago) from a TV news director who had known what I had done in Iraq. He was hoping I was still there so he could hire me to go out and do what I had done in the past because there was a reserve unit from their area being deployed. But the parent affiliate said: "nope, we don't leave the Fortified Hotel -- ever." So a lot of the employers aren't willing to bear the risk. And that is the structural program that really tilts the war.

Also, and this is probably the most disturbing part, many journalists have not figured out that they're being targeted by the enemy on purpose to help shape the coverage of the war. The insurgents don't want the reporters out and about running around. They're completely satisfied with the "balcony" report and some video shot by a stringer of the daily car bomb. That's the message that the insurgents want to get out. They don't realize that warfare is both the kinetic and non-kinetic. And, therefore, they miss how they're being played by the insurgents. I wish more reporters realized that.

The image of the MSM pinned down in its "Fortified Hotel" like blind slugs being fed by insurgent-supplied stringer-zookeepers, while Jihad 2.0 and Counterterrorism 3.0 adherents duel across the timezones and continents may be the most enduring snapshot of the War of Belief. Both the Jihad 2.0 and Counterterrorism 3.0 are networks that share information, prosletyze, build community, coordinate action and reinforce belief. And they are important. Sissy Willis, writing on the subject of religion may have hit upon why. She notes that people can't help believing -- in something at least -- and can't help forming communities to support each other. She quotes Freeman Dyson on the subject:

The best source of information about modern Islamic terrorists that I know of is a book, Understanding Terror Networks, by Marc Sageman ... a former United States foreign service officer who worked with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan and Pakistan ... he describes in detail the network that planned and carried out the September 2001 attacks on the United States. He finds that the bonds holding the group together, during its formative years in Hamburg, were more personal than political. He concludes: "Despite the popular accounts of the 9/11 perpetrators in the press, in-group love rather than out-group hate seems a better explanation for their behavior."

We have no firsthand testimony from the young men who carried out the September 11 attacks. They were not as highly educated and as thoughtful as the kamikaze pilots, and they were more influenced by religion. But there is strong evidence that they were not brainwashed zombies. They were soldiers enlisted in a secret brotherhood that gave meaning and purpose to their lives, working together in a brilliantly executed operation against the strongest power in the world. According to Sageman, they were motivated like the kamikaze pilots, more by loyalty to their comrades than by hatred of the enemy. Once the operation had been conceived and ordered, it would have been unthinkable and shameful not to carry it out.

I found it funny that comic book superheroes should have religions. But on second thought, they probably would, wouldn't they?


Blogger What is "Occupation" said...

And if someone shoots him, was it g-d's will too?

6/15/2006 09:50:00 PM  
Blogger Deuce ☂ said...

Interesting point about the 911 groups joined by an internal bond rather than an external hate. The squad concept does bring it down to basic internal group dynamics and not wanting to disappoint your brothers. I always felt there was a strange connection between internet video gaming and the jihadis. It is very much a Global Islamic Columbine repeated and relayed, reinforced and ensconsed in the internet. The more you look, the more intractable and depressing it becomes.

6/15/2006 10:00:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

If the Jihadis are as disturbed by this as I was, we just need to get all our weapons out of the closet.

6/15/2006 10:12:00 PM  
Blogger J. Random American said...

"He also called on Prime Minister John Howard to convert to Islam or face eternity in hell."

At least he is honest about his faith. A Christian preacher who says he wants to co-operate with other faiths and not convert them either does not really believe in Christ, or he doesn't care if foriegn people's souls do not find redemption.

Say what you will, he loves Prime Minister John Howard enough to worry about his soul. That is more than most "progressive" Christians care about the dirty brown people of the world.

6/16/2006 12:14:00 AM  
Blogger Karridine said...

If "Bakr" knew anything about heaven and hell, Baha'u'llah would have said so in His writings.


Bakr, YOU would do well to hearken to what The Most Great Pen hath written:

'And among them is he who rubbeth his eyes, and looketh to the left and to the right, saying, "Where is Heaven and where is Hell?"

Say: the one is nearness to Me, the other thine own self, O thou who dost set thyself partner to God, and doubtest!'

6/16/2006 03:38:00 AM  
Blogger Karridine said...

j. random: I agree.

Most Christians today are just comfy peachy, engaging in what Saint Peter warned is a 'damnable heresy', 'scoffing and denying our Lord who redeems us' has returned. (IIPeter2:1)

But hey, its only religion, and that's only for the simple and ignorant and those who are too weak to help themselves, eh?

6/16/2006 03:43:00 AM  
Blogger Consul-At-Arms said...

Clearly he has rehabilitated himself and is no longer a danger to society.

Not that he ever was, of course.

6/16/2006 05:33:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

So, it appears that the Jihadists are motivated by a higher purpose but driven in their day to day by the love and respect they hold for their fellow fighters. They are not unstoppable automatons blindly following some brilliant and divine vision.

In contrast, those who would confer some special powers on the terrorists also seem to think that our own troops are losers either desparate to escape the ghetto or rednecks trying to find an outlet for their often frustrated killing instincts. On our side, only those that pity the poor troops and therefore oppose the war are driven by a higher purpose.

From these two images, their holy warriors and our desparate losers, whole strategies are devised, ones couched in terms such as "peace in our time," "peace with honor," and "exit strategies."

I have been struck for years now on how many thinking people are ready to utterly ignore the psychological aspects of warfare. They range from those thinking like 19th Century general officers - simply add up the numbers of troops and guns and the guy with the most toys wins - to those who say "You simply can't fight people like that" - thereby embuing the enemy with a mystical competance that cannot be matched, only escaped.

Read a thousand books on military history, or even one book by a master historian such as Stephen Ambrose, John Keegan or Victor Davis Hanson and you find out differently. Or serve in the military and see so things go wrong that should have all rights gone right - and vice versa - and you conclude that war is primarily a psychological engagement.

6/16/2006 06:12:00 AM  
Blogger ShrinkWrapped said...

The greatest irony is that the most secular and spohisticated, the liberal left, do not even realize they are motivated as much by their faith as the most fervent Jihadi. They fervently believe in Human generated global warming, socialism lite, multiculturism, etc, despite all contradictory evidence. It is religion under another name. Unfortunately, the MSM is stocked with such believers, and their unwitting, and sometimes witting, alliance with the Jihadis is a result of thier unacknowledged religious orientation.

6/16/2006 06:17:00 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

Yeah. It's great that someone can be so dedicated to mystical irrationality that he can carry it out to its extreme - murdering innocents who don't believe as he does. How admirable. I just wish modern thinkers could realize and act on the implication of their "faith" - that anyone who doesn't agree with them in every detail should be killed. Unfortunately for this argument, the essence of scientific thinking is skepticism and the willingness to change one's ideas when they lead to immoral ends - like killing innocents.

6/16/2006 07:32:00 AM  
Blogger bobalharb said...

The zoroastrians had the better outlook. In their way of looking at things, after all the fighting around, and much purgation, hell ends up....empty. Would that Iran go back to an earlier outlook.

6/16/2006 07:49:00 AM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...


John Casti once asked "why do we see what we do" and his answer was "because of the way we see". The different 'reality generating mechanisms' that people use generate different pictures. The distinguishing feature of science is that everything it believes is provisional, though it believes "something" at any given time. The price for the 'truth' of science is the acceptance that its images will paradoxically be regarded as tentative. The scientific truth is in some way inseparable from the acceptance of uncertainty.

If that's valid, then a scientific image will always be distinguished from the unscientific one in the same way that a natural image is distinguishable from a computer generated one. The former will be slightly fuzzy while the latter will be absolutely defined.

But it's the uncertainty that unsettles us. People can't live with the fuzziness. Global Warming won't sell as theory. It first has to be converted into "fact" to enable the power of the rapturous crowd.

One of the oddest surveys I've ever seen apparently shows that the proportion of mathematicians, biologists and astrophysicists who believe in God was apparently unchanged from 1916 to 1996. That's a tremendous testimony to the invariance of human belief. We like to think of the past as more pious than the present. Apparently not. The degree of belief and doubt seems little changed. The men who fought in the Somme thought pretty much like the men who went into Desert Storm, and likely enough the same as the men who fought before Troy.

I've almost come to the conclusion that belief and doubt are both human conditions which no amount of science -- which is after all committed to its own tentativeness -- will ever alter. But we ought to at least do ourselves the favor of not imagining that we live in a uniquely secular age. The Jihadis believe in something. And remarkably enough, we do too.

6/16/2006 07:51:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Wretchard: I have thought a lot about the fact that all of our scientific studies, from space probes to deep earth core samples, to Stephen Hawkings musings, all confirm the creation process as described in Genesis, if you only interpret the 7 days of creation as 7 time periods - which is one way to translate the original Hebrew writings in any case.

I have wondered if our view of the universe is so warped by the Bible as to focus thousands of scientists in multiple cultures in this way - or is it something else? As in something "spooky."

Recently I read where Stephen Hawking described being told by Pope John Paul II to not think about the process of creation of the Universe because that was God's purview. Hawking was emabarrassed because he had just delivered a paper on that very subject at the very conference the Pope was addressing. I was shocked. Was this an example of faith - or is it something else?

6/16/2006 08:34:00 AM  
Blogger Pax Federatica said...

Chances are you've already read this piece, but Lee Harris has also attributed the persistence of socialism's appeal to the desire to believe in something, and the bond of camaraderie that results from such a common desire.

6/16/2006 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger enscout said...


Great insight.

People always make a big deal about the creation story, pointing to the "seven days" as a fairy tale. As if the purpose of the story was of some scientific journal piece about timing. But that's not what Genesis is about. It tells of man in terms of his nature & his relationship with other creatures and with G-d.

Given those eternal questions, it really doesn't matter how old this piece of rock is.

I've done a lot of thinking about this whole thing - about Einstein's relativity theory and the whole gravity/space time continuem thing. Seems like the G-d of Abraham, Isaac & Israel would have quite a different perspective from you and I - Him being outside of and not a part of all that "matter" stuff.

About 200 years after Genesis, the apostle John wrote about his Master. "In the beginning was the word"....." and the word became flesh...."

Could be G-d's plan was to create a world and universe for a creature that was to be formed in his likeness. Just took some time for the environment to develop.

Gives me an ice-cream headache.

The Pope & Hawking are right. There are some things we just need to leave to the Almighty. It truly is beyond our capacity to grasp.

6/16/2006 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger enscout said...


Just another example of me trying to understand somthing beyond my grasp. ;o)

6/16/2006 12:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure that Bashir just needs a little "sensitivity training." right.

I read that Indonesia had arrested 150 Islamists. Wow, I am really impressed! Indonesia has proven their resolve and I doubt that Bashir has any followers that aren't in prison.

Bashir's 26 months in prison should act as deterent thinking of jihad.

Yeah Right!

6/16/2006 03:40:00 PM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

Well, think of the intense frustration imposed on a Jihadi by being forced to sit idle for 26 months when what one really wants to do is rush about sawing off infidel heads and planting sacred explosives to send shrapnel hurtling through the soft bodies of sinful infidels, and fire bullets through the exploding crania of offending infidels.

What's a committed Jihadi to do?

6/16/2006 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger Starling said...

In the last two weeks there have been an untold number of references on blogs and in MSM reports to certain religious fanatics and terrorist enablers as "spiritual advisors" and "spiritual leaders."

Zarqawi, for example, was said to have been found by tracking his "spiritual advisor" to Hibhib.

I have wondered whether there might be a more appropriate word(s) for such men. Although I like "svengali" - someone (usually maleficent) who tries to persuade or force another person to do his bidding - I recognize that it is a bit arcane. I further suspect that the MSM would view its use as too judgmental.

6/17/2006 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger Don Cox said...

"He also called on Prime Minister John Howard to convert to Islam or face eternity in hell."____Islamism is not about religion, it is about punishing people. Preferably punishing everybody.

6/17/2006 01:03:00 PM  
Blogger bobalharb said...

"All right then, I'll go to hell"--Huck Finn, in 'Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' by Mark Twain

6/17/2006 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger bobalharb said...

That's where Huck Finn boldly walks into the Grail Castle of European literary tradition, a hero.

6/17/2006 01:19:00 PM  

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