Belmont Club

Inspirational vs Operational

ISIS claimed that the failed attack on an American Freedom Defense Initiative event in Garland, Texas was its “first attack” inside America.

The Islamic State’s official radio station, al Bayan, first announced the claim for responsibility describing gunmen Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi as “two soldiers of the caliphate.” In a news bulletin al Bayan said the event at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland was targeted because it “was portraying negative pictures of the Prophet Muhammad.”

The report boasted of more attacks to come, warning, “We tell America that what is coming will be even bigger and more bitter, and that you will see the soldiers of the Islamic State do terrible things.”

The apartment the assailants shared in Phoenix was searched Monday by FBI agents, who are trying to follow how the attackers plotted their operation and what their links might have been with foreign jihadists. Shortly before the attack Simpson tweeted he had sworn allegiance to ISIS.

The Obama administration is unwilling to admit it just yet, saying it is investigating these claims, presumably to determine whether to accept it or not. “White House spokesman Josh Earnest said many people tried to capitalize on the influence of the group by claiming allegiance when they were not directly affiliated.”

U.S. officials said separately that investigators did not know whether the group was opportunistically claiming credit when it had little or no direct or indirect involvement.

One U.S. official said investigators believed it was possible, if not likely, that IS played an “inspirational” rather than “operational” role in the attack.

That would mean the gunmen may have immersed themselves in items posted online by Islamic State and other groups such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula intended to incite violence but that the group played no role in directing an attack on the Texas event.

The distinction between “inspirational” and “operational” is apparently the bright line used to bin who those who cannot take credit from those who can. ISIS itself makes no such clear distinctions. It’s model of organizational expansion allows for remote, non-physical recruitment. For example, the Fort Hood shooter mailed in his pledge of allegiance to the group.

The Army psychiatrist who killed 13 people at Fort Hood has written a letter to the leader of ISIS, asking to become a citizen of the Islamic State’s caliphate, his attorney said Thursday.

“The letter states that Nadal Hasan wants to become a citizen of the Islamic State caliphate,” attorney John Galligan said. “He wrote it in the last few weeks.” …

Described as a two page letter, it was addressed to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the notorious leader of ISIS who declared himself the caliph — the religious ruler — over what he calls the Islamic State that he says stretches from western Syria to eastern Iraq. …

“I formally and humbly request to be made a citizen of the Islamic State,” Hasan wrote in the letter, according to Fox News.

The government determined that Hassan had no links to ISIS in the ordinary meaning of the word. In fact, the administration has balked at even calling the Fort Hood incident a terrorist attack. Hassan was influenced by “inspirational” rather than “operational” means. But that did not mean it was ineffective. Alessadria Massi of the International Business Times writes that “inspirational” linkages are quite prevalent in ISIS’ expansion model.

How do you go from being a teenager in Middle America to pledging allegiance to the bloodthirsty Islamic State? There’s a lot of vetting along the way, terrorism experts said.

“People collaborating with IS can be ordinary people,” said Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum. “They don’t have to be religious fanatics. They could be anyone provided you give your pledge of allegiance to ISIS.”

In countries like the U.S., Canada and Britain, potential recruits must find a jihadi mentor, which can be done online or through ISIS supporters in their local communities, according to Imam Syed Soharwardy, founder of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada.

“I cannot believe that there is no one from ISIS on the ground here in Canada or the U.S. or Europe. They are now recruiting, so they are absolutely here,” he told IBTimes. “IS people, those who are very rigid fanatics, they do live in this country, they do recruit. They do facilitate in recruitment.”

The mentor-recruit relationship often begins through religious seminars, community activities or classes that might look normal to the average Westerner, Soharwardy said. Of the five known foreign fighters in Syria from Calgary, Alberta, three attended the same mosque, Soharwardy said.

In other words, ISIS relies for expansion on the force of propaganda or proselytization more than the traditional army model of direct command and support. You make your bayat, accept the attack guidelines, follow the general strategy — find a gun, knife, acid or a car to use as a weapon — and you’re good to go.

ISIS’s weapons are ideas, which cannot be stopped by TSA screeners at an airport.  In many ways the ISIS approach is a more extreme form of the Wermacht’s “saddle orders” which proved so effective against the French Army.  Instead of handing their commanders World War 1 style maps with phase lines, Guderian gave his commanders “objectives” and turned them loose.

ISIS is thoroughly modern.  Look at the results and ask yourself if because not operational, then not effective. So why is the administration so concerned with finding out if ISIS legalistically controlled the Garland attackers?  Because adopting the “inspirational” and “operational” distinction allows governments to avoid the nettlesome problem of radical mosques.  And avoiding the problem of radical mosques means that you can avoid offending Muslim voters.  And radical mosques can be a problem.

Known as the Cambridge mosque, it is run by the Islamic Society of Boston and is just a few short blocks from the well-traveled Red Line, which serves Boston’s many universities and colleges. “The mosque is open to everyone,” says spokeswoman Nicole Mossalam. “We don’t have a core membership. It’s very fluid.”

Law enforcement officials say the mosque has attracted a number of known terrorists and accused extremists, among them the accused Boston Marathon bombers, “Lady al Qaeda,” and now an American fugitive wanted for questioning for possible ties to ISIS’ social-media wing — too many for law enforcement to ignore. …

At least 10 suspected or convicted terrorists have prayed at the mosque, a number confirmed by a federal law enforcement official, court documents and the mosque itself.

The notion that Islamic institutions can serve as recruiting depots for ISIS is very dangerous politically and for that reason is often rejected out of hand as a form of “Islamophobia” or bigotry. For example, the CNN article on the Cambridge mosque cites sources who say that no connection can be drawn between the mosque and the extraordinary number of terror suspects associated with it.

“None of these individuals, if and when they prayed at the ISB mosque, ever exhibited any hint of criminal or violent behavior. …The Islamic Society of Boston unequivocally condemns ISIS and is deeply angered by the grievous harm it has done to innocent lives: American, Iraqi, Syrian and more,” [mosque spokeswoman Nicole] Mossalam said. She said, for the most part, the individuals did not participate in the mosque community or its programs. Nor is there any evidence suggesting Cambridge mosque officials knew or were involved with the suspects, nor do they preach any form of radical Islam.

And in a way Mossalam might be right.  Maybe it’s not the mosque but some zeitgeist in the area.  Perhaps the joint effect of the Cambridge Mosque together with the general intellectual ambiance draws individuals who are mostly to be self motivated to change the world, some alas in explosive ways.

But although officials appear to discount the possibility that mosques may be dangerous, it ironically seems a well established media truth that Geller’s speech is dangerous. To them Gellers and Wilders can rouse people to seditious behavior in a way that a radical imam cannot. Chris Matthews was outraged at the Garland, Texas event because in his view it was an incitement to violence.

The group targeted in Garland, Texas on Sunday is in a “weird sort-of-symbiotic” relationship with its radical Muslim would-be attackers, MSNBC Chris Matthews said on his show Monday night.

“We’re learning more about the gunman who opened fire at an event where an anti-Islamic group held a contest on who could…draw the nastiest cartoon of Muhammad,” Matthews began. “Can you believe that people set that kind of a mousetrap?”

Yet somehow the intellectual process through which the attackers were themselves formed seems curiously exempt from examination.  Matthews, like a moth drawn to a flame, is making an unconscious approach to the truth. He thinks groups like the American Freedom Defense Initiative  are embarked on a “weird sort-of-symbiotic” with ISIS because they engage it at the  “inspirational” rather than the “operational” level, something which the establishment will refuse to do.  In an unconscious way, he’s getting to the core of the matter. It’s instructive that the Obama administration appears to think that ISIS can be stopped with policemen, drones and screeners at airports. It is determined to fight at the level of things, but leaves the level of ideas entirely to ISIS.

Part of the reluctance by the elite to take on Islamism at the level of “inspiration” is probably rooted in the almost unconscious conviction that religious discourse is inherently illegitimate. Religion is superstition. Talk about religion and you’re a crank. Talk against religion — excepting Judaism and Christianity — and you’re also a crank.  Fighting ISIS’ ideology is like exorcism, a futile exercise in Bell, Book and Candle.

They wouldn’t be caught dead doing it and ironically — wind up dead — from the ghosts they refuse to recognize. The nearest the elite can come to fighting Islamism with an idea is to remark, as Marie Harf did, that perhaps ISIS violence is a just a desperate cry for jobs.

Part of the reason why the Cambridge Mass Islamists may be so militant is that they are operating in precisely this sort of ideological vacuum, proceeding unopposed in an environment which has muzzled itself on the subject, and is therefore open to the preachings of the most wild-eyed imams. Many on the Left don’t want to know what Islam, Judaism or Christianity preach and are therefore deliberately ignorant of these in the substantive sense. In place of their ignorance they substitute emotional impressions. Islam becomes reduced to “the most beautiful sound in the world” and is therefore preferred solely on that basis. Jeremiah Wright told author Ed Klein in the book The Amateur.

that the Obamas chose his church for political, not religious, reasons, and that “church is not their thing.” He also noted that Obama’s religious knowledge upon meeting him consisted entirely of bits and pieces he had picked up from Islam. Perhaps this explains Obama’s baffling comment in April of this year about Jesus Christ not as the Son of God but as “a” Son of God. Who are the other sons? Obama didn’t say. The remark indicated that he has a very foggy notion of the Trinity, bordering on the biological conception of it pushed by Muslims.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative can’t debate Islamic theology with the liberal press.  Nobody understands it at that level.  What they understand is the image of happy, smiling, clapping people in exotic clothing trying to stay free of some whiskey preacher. The reason why the media see no threat in Islamism is because they don’t take it seriously. Ironically, they fear Geller and her associates is because they do.

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