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White-Boy al-Qaeda

1 37 0
08.08.2019

Speaking with a retired intelligence analyst a few years ago, I was surprised to hear him insist that we had, in a sense, been lucky with the horrifying attack of September 11, 2001. There are today many factions and tendencies that operate under the name “al-Qaeda,” but, as the analyst explained at the time, the group associated with Osama bin Laden was determined never to follow a spectacular terrorist atrocity with anything except a more spectacular sequel. That insistence, combined with our efforts to degrade the jihadists’ logistical and financial infrastructure after 9/11, probably prevented a series of subsequent attacks. Al-Qaeda could not manage something bigger and more homicidal than 9/11 at the time.

But it could easily have managed what many of us feared at the time: a series of low-level, paralyzing attacks on shopping malls, movie theaters, and other public places, unsophisticated and low-investment atrocities requiring very little more than a gun or some dynamite and — most important — a man of no consequence willing to carry it out. We didn’t get that from al-Qaeda.

We got it from a lot of dysfunctional young white guys from suburbia.

It is proper that the El Paso massacre is being treated as an act of terrorism. It was an act of political violence with a political point, crackpot manifesto and all. We may very well learn at some point that the young murderer suffered from this or that mental-health problem, that he had more “red flags” than a May Day parade, or that he had voiced his intentions. But that often is true of people who carry out what we generally understand to be acts of ordinary political terrorism of the jihadist variety or other genres. Happy, well-adjusted people do not generally massacre innocents and willingly go to their own deaths to do so. For some people, labeling crimes such as the one in El Paso “terrorism” is a kind of moral victory, because they believe that the label is more readily applied to the acts of people who are Muslim or who are not white.

But it is not clear that the “terrorism” designation, appropriate though it is, will do us very much good in working to prevent these crimes. As far as we can tell, there isn’t really much of a White Boy al-Qaeda out there. What we have instead is a tribe of Richard Reids — you remember, the feckless would-be........

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