D. Dowd Muska


Drama Queenery as Homeland Security

March 27, 2014

Arun Kundnani has complied a devastating critique of the well-intentioned, but fundamentally flawed, effort to protect America from Islamic terrorism. It’s required reading for anyone trying to understand government’s clumsy overreaction to the 9/11 atrocities.

The Muslims Are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror (Verso Books; 327 pages; $26.95) skillfully skewers the assumptions and tactics of the homeland-security complex. Kundnani, an adjunct professor at New York University and former editor of a U.K.-based journal on “racism, empire and globalisation,” is an unapologetic leftist. But wisely, his book contains only occasional references to “social justice” and “the easy access to guns in the U.S.” (No mentions of universal preschool and a higher minimum wage as answers to Muslim disaffection.) It’s a focus that will serve him well in attracting readers.

Counterterrorism, Kundnani writes, got it wrong from the beginning. Conservatives finger culture as the cause for Muslim militancy. To right-wingers, the Islamic world “has a unique problem with modernity.” Adherents “live hermetically sealed within their homogenous culture, their lives entirely determined by it.” As such, they are “preprogrammed for fanaticism.” In contrast, liberals consider murderous extremism “a perversion of Islam’s message,” the product of “twentieth-century ideologues who transformed … essentially benign teachings into an anti-modern, totalitarian, political ideology.”

Yet neither perspective is adequate, Kundnani avers, because both “eschew the role of social and political circumstances in shaping how people make sense of the world and then act upon it.”

Oh boy. Them’s fightin’ words for politicians, as well as citizens, unwilling to acknowledge Washington’s subsidies to Israel and bloody blundering in the Islamic sphere. As Ron Paul learned in a famous tête-à-tête with Rudy Giuliani, suggest that U.S. foreign policy motivates terrorists, and you’re immediately labeled a Blame America Firster.

Jingoistic certainty is more fun than dispassionate analysis, so Giulianism prevails in counterterrorism -- they hate us for our freedoms, let’s go get ‘em! But how many are there to get? Kundnani summarizes the gutsy work of Mother Jones investigative journalist Trevor Aaronson, who discovered that most high-profile “terrorism” prosecutions have a disturbing similarity: “Without the FBI’s help in supplying money, weapons, and often a specific plan of attack, the accused would not have had the capability to carry out any plot. In many cases, there is evidence suggesting that FBI agents provocateurs manipulated vulnerable people with mental health or drug addiction problems into conspiring in acts of planned violence they would otherwise have had no intention of carrying out.” (The book’s profile of the junkie stumblebums who comprise the “Newburgh Four” is particularly illuminating.)

Whether prospective attacks are spontaneous or fabricated, thwarting them is no longer sufficient for the officials who claim to protect us. Here’s where things get nutty, and “policing agencies search for scholarship that can give them a magical formula to predict who will be a future terrorist.” Kundnani writes that “counterradicalization” has become “a career, as young scholars enter the mini-industry of national security think tanks, terrorism studies departments, law enforcement counterterrorism units, and intelligence services to work on modeling radicalization.” A bit like their celluloid counterparts of the “PreCrime” unit depicted in the film Minority Report, undercover agents, working with paid informants and practitioners of the pseudoscience of terrorism prediction, play spot-the-budding-jihadist. The models employed are no more accurate than the computer simulations that drive climate-change hysteria. But no matter. The threat is perceived to be great, thus even specious tools must be used.

As for mosque leaders, Kundnani makes a compelling case that if anything, imams are too willing to cooperate with harebrained schemes to infiltrate their communities in pursuit of future killers. The anecdotes he provides should make American Muslims ask if privacy is respected at their houses of worship.

Narcissism is now the national pastime. So it’s probably fitting that many of our countrymen believe a crazed Islamic conspiracy -- one that necessitates frequent violations of civil liberties -- aims to destroy The Land of the Free.

An infinitesimal number of American Muslims, be they natives or foreign-born, become radicalized? Refugees fleeing the ummah are delighted to relocate to a nation with free speech, equality under the law, the right to vote, and ample economic opportunities? The vast majority of the planet’s 1.6 billion Muslims are too busy living their lives -- or slaughtering each other -- to plan terrorist extravaganzas against the United States?

They’re realities known, sadly, by far too few Americans. And they’re why the grandiosity, blundering, and oversights of law enforcement’s Islam-oriented counterterrorism regime will continue.  

D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.

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