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Homegrown Jihadists By: Dr. Walid Phares
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, October 14, 2003


With the arrest of Youssef Yee, Muslim Chaplain of the U.S. Armed Forces, a line was crossed. Not only he was trusted by the military and in principle checked thoroughly for a security background, but he was in charge of the single most sensitive mission entrusted by any member of America's defense arm: to counsel the archenemies of this nation, al-Qaeda members detained in Guantanamo.

At first sight, most citizens are appalled enough at charges of spying for and collaborating with the enemy. But the man who was shuttling to Guantanamo was (allegedly) in bed with a category of evil unprecedented in these lands. Osama Bin Laden and his jihadist cohorts are not just an enemy, for that matter they are not "just" terrorists: they are genocidal murderers bent on liquidating Americans and others. In his fatwa of 1998, the al-Qaeda master called openly for the mass killing of U.S. citizens. Later he followed his threats with actions. The killing fields started in Africa with the murder of diplomats, and then spread to Yemen, where servicemen not engaged in combat were killed, before reaching the mainland and thousands of innocent civilians on 9/11.

And precisely, there is no notion of innocent civilians in al-Qaeda's rhetoric. Bin Laden made it clear: "Americans must die, men, women and babies," he said in his infamous videotapes aired by al-Jazeera during the Fall of 2001. He wasn't using symbolism, for he called for specific numbers. "We must kill three million Americans," he declared. In any court of international law, this would be viewed as a call for genocide, reinforced with an active attempt. There is no parallel in American history to such a mass murder doctrine. Hence the seriousness of finding members of the national community who support al-Qaeda's jihad.

Ironically to us, but certainly stunning to future historians, U.S. law allows and its political culture tolerates citizens -- and in some cases residents -- who make the same calls. A Colombia Professor who called for a million Mogadishus this year may have been blamed by colleagues, but he remains in the classroom under the roof of freedom of thinking. This, I believe, is a sign of strength rather than weakness. But the thin red line is in the hallways of thinking and expressing. Wishing the incineration of America in Berkeley or in Columbia may be psychologically troublesome. But aiding al-Qaeda detainees on a military base and allowing the mother organization to inflict further bloodshed on America's "mothers and babies" is a clear and present crossing of a thick red line.

Mr. Yee is an educated person. He was entrusted with the religious obligations to the enemies of a nation in mourning. While awaiting the next stage of legal proceedings (for fairness to due process) one must not preempt his right to a legal defense. But beyond the trial, and even regardless of its outcome at this point, one must ponder this case and think deeply. Mr. Yee was a chaplain in the military. If the information already made public is verified, this would translate into an attempt to aiding al-Qaida against the U.S. And in the context of Bin Laden's above-mentioned calls, helping this group means practically inflicting unbearable casualties on America's civil society.

Some are attempting to connect the dots with other cases to draw conclusions. They link this case to the U.S. soldier who -- while deployed in Kuwait -- blew up his fellow servicemen in solidarity with the "enemy." From the late 1990s, some remind us of another serviceman who flooded jihad terrorists with information that could have enabled them to kill U.S. servicemen overseas while he was training Marines in Virginia.
 
The dots are there, and the connection is at the will of analysts and ultimately of courts. But the case of Youssef Yee is part of a larger problem: We know that radical Muslims prepared for jihad are among us, even within our most delicate national security system. That is a fact. But what we need to learn about, or at least deepen our inquiry about, the factors behind them. Who is creating the "Youssef Yee" of Guantanamo, the "Jose Padilla" of Florida and the "John Walker" of California? Where is the factory that produces all these Jihadists?

Soon we will know. And our surprise will grow greater.

Dr Walid Phares is the author of the newly released book Future Jihad. He is also a senior fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington DC.


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