One of the speakers I was looking forward to during the recent MJCCA Book Festival was Peter Bergen. He is making the rounds, promoting his new book, United States Of Jihad. Mr. Bergen often appears as an analyst on CNN but has authored several books including Holy War Inc. which is sitting on my shelf. His big break came on 9-11 because he was one of the few people who actually had interviewed Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. He is a well-respected expert on terrorism.
Without sounding too much like Mr. Spock, I found his presentation fascinating. What astounded me was how meticulous his research has been. In his new book, he breaks down exactly who the terrorists are in the U.S. and he has communicated and researched the lives of those involved with Jihadist acts here in the U.S. In his presentation he was able to produce solid figures and stats that painted a comprehensive picture for the audience.
Turns out the Jihadists aren't who the far-right say they are. They aren't refugees or Syrians trying to sneak into the country to do harm. The vast majority were born or raised right here in the U.S. He talked about their common traits and the one that stuck out to me is that they all had a desire to be a hero in their own story, as Mr. Bergen put it.
My question during the Q & A was why don't Americans label right-wing attacks as terrorism? I also asked if the neo-Nazi perpetrators of these attacks had anything in common with Jihadists. Dylan Roof being a good example. A white supremacist who walks into a black church and guns down nine people at a Bible Study.
Mr. Bergen said he agreed that in effect, these acts are terrorism. He said there was a legal reason though that the Justice Dept. was reluctant to label the incidents as terrorism and went on to explain that it created a burden of proof in system where it isn't illegal to be a neo-Nazi. He also explained that he hadn't studied these people in detail the way he had Jihadists but that on the surface the 'hero in their own story' scenario seemed to fit as well.
This was a fascinating presentation and it gave you a real look at who terrorists really are and how America's role in places like Afghanistan helped create a scenario for the expansion of Jihadists. I look forward to reading his new book and if the subject interest you, suggest you grab a copy as well.