The big Middle East news story this week has been the brutal murder of American citizen James Foley by ISIS terrorists in Iraq. Foley, a freelance journalist who’d been covering the Syrian civil war for Agence France-Presse, had been abducted in November 2012. It’s believed ISIS bought him from his original kidnappers to use in their propaganda. What’s really grabbed the headlines is the fact that his murderer seems to be a British ISIS member. ISIS is no conventional enemy, with a defined nationality and a recognizable uniform. We’re not at war with the Iraqi Army here – but we are definitely at war.
It’s no surprise to find European nationals flocking to the Middle East to join the ISIS fanatics – everyone is well aware by now that many European countries, even traditional allies like Britain, have a serious problem with radicalized home-grown Muslims. A lot of that is down to immigrants who’ve failed to integrate, and who’ve been allowed by failed multiculturalist policies to set up parallel societies in their host countries – and for many of these people that means “host” as in what a parasite feeds on. In the USA we do a much better job of turning immigrants into Americans inside a couple of generations. Can we relax though? Is there a risk of Americans becoming radicalized and travelling to join ISIS or other violent jihadist mobs – then returning to cause mayhem on our streets?
Yes, there certainly is. Senator Lindsay Graham said this week that information suggests hundreds of US citizens are potentially in the Middle East with jihadi groups, and every one of them has the potential to return to this country and carry on their campaign of violence. A real problem is that many of them don’t come from Islamic backgrounds either. The most famous American jihadi is John Walker Lindh, who converted to Islam as a teenager then traveled to Afghanistan in 2000 to join the fanatical Taliban. Apologists try to paint Lindh as a misguided dreamer, but in fact he was part of a Taliban mob who murdered CIA officer Mike Spann in late 2001. The terrifying thing is that, cleaned up and shorn of his wild Afghan beard, he could have slipped easily back into the USA at any time – a jihadist terrorist with no backtrail to follow. There’s nothing to stop other convert fanatics from doing the same, especially if naïve – or dumb – parents don’t inform law enforcement that their kids have gone to study at foreign madrassahs.
To guard against the threat of the next John Walker Lindh bringing his jihad home with him we need to be ultra-vigilant about travel to anywhere there’s Islamic extremism. Conversion to Islam isn’t a threat in itself, but there’s no legitimate reason to study the religion in Pakistan or Yemen instead of in the USA.
We also need to be a lot less squeamish about what happens to anyone who does travel to join these anti-American groups. As 9/11 and the Boston bombing showed, Islamist terrorism is a real threat to us here in the USA. As a nation we have a perfect right to strike at their camps when we locate them, and if any American citizen has chosen to be in those camps they have only themselves to blame when the Hellfire comes down on them.