Archive for April, 2014


Bergen: U.S. extremists worse than jihadists

By Peter Bergen and David Sterman
On Sunday, a man shot and killed a 14-year-old boy and his grandfather at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and then drove to a nearby Jewish retirement community where he shot and killed a third person. Police arrested a suspect, Frazier Glenn Cross, who shouted “Heil Hitler” after he was taken into custody.

Cross, who also goes by Frazier Glenn Miller, is a well-known right wing extremist who founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Now let’s do the thought experiment in which instead of shouting “Heil Hitler” after he was arrested, the suspect had shouted “Allahu Akbar.” Only two days before the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, this simple switch of words would surely have greatly increased the extent and type of coverage the incident received.

Yet the death toll in the shootings in Kansas is similar to that of last year’s Boston Marathon bombings, where three people were killed and the suspects later killed a police officer as they tried to evade capture. (Many more, of course, were also wounded in the Boston attacks; 16 men, women and children lost limbs.)

In fact, since 9/11 extremists affiliated with a variety of far-right wing ideologies, including white supremacists, anti-abortion extremists and anti-government militants, have killed more people in the United States than have extremists motivated by al Qaeda’s ideology. According to a count by the New America Foundation, right wing extremists have killed 34 people in the United States for political reasons since 9/11. (The total includes the latest shootings in Kansas, which are being classified as a hate crime).

By contrast, terrorists motivated by al Qaeda’s ideology have killed 23 people in the United States since 9/11.

(Although a variety of left wing militants and environmental extremists have carried out violent attacks for political reasons against property and individuals since 9/11, none have been linked to a lethal attack, according to research by the New America Foundation.)

Moreover, since 9/11 none of the more than 200 individuals indicted or convicted in the United States of some act of jihadist terrorism have acquired or used chemical or biological weapons or their precursor materials, while 13 individuals motivated by right wing extremist ideology, one individual motivated by left-wing extremist ideology, and two with idiosyncratic beliefs, used or acquired such weapons or their precursors.

A similar attack to the one that Frazier Glenn Cross is accused of in Kansas occurred in August 2012 when Wade Michael Page killed six people in a shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. Page was a member of a white supremacist band and associated with the Hammerskins, a white supremacist group. Page committed suicide during the attack.

Page is not, of course, the only right wing extremist to have used lethal violence to achieve political ends. In 2009, for instance, Shawna Forde, Albert Gaxiola, and Jason Bush raided a house in Arizona, killing Raul Flores and his daughter Brisenia. The three attackers sought to use the burglary to finance their anti-immigration vigilante group, Minutemen American Defense. Forde and Bush were convicted and sentenced to death. Gaxiola was sentenced to life in prison.

Also in 2009, Scott Roeder murdered Dr. George Tiller, who ran an abortion clinic in Wichita, Kansas. In 2010 Roeder was convicted of first-degree murder. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Roeder not only had ties to the extreme anti-abortion movement, but he also had been pulled over while driving with a fake license plate bearing the markings of the Sovereign Citizens, a movement of individuals who deny that the government has authority over them.

Of course, the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil prior to 9/11 was the Oklahoma City bombing, which was masterminded by Timothy McVeigh, a man with deep ties to far-right militant circles. McVeigh killed 168 people when he bombed the Alfred P. Murrah federal building on April 19, 1995.

Despite this history of deadly violence by individuals motivated by political ideologies other than al Qaeda, it is jihadist violence that continues to dominate the news and the attention of policy makers.

Some of this is quite understandable. After all, on 9/11 al Qaeda’s 19 terrorists killed almost 3,000 people in the space of a morning. Since then al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen tried to bring down with a bomb secreted on a passenger an American commercial jet flying over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 and al Qaeda’s branch in Pakistan tried to launch bombings on the New York subway system a few months earlier. Luckily those plots didn’t succeed, but certainly if they had the death toll would have been on a large scale.

Yet the disparity in media coverage between even failed jihadist terrorist attacks and this latest incident in Kansas is emblematic of a flawed division in the public’s mind between killing that is purportedly committed in the name of Allah and killing that is committed for other political ends, such as neo-Nazi beliefs about the need to kill Jews.

Part of the reason for this disconnect might be that when a Department of Homeland Security report warning of violent right wing extremism was leaked in 2009, it generated a substantial political controversy.

In a 2011 interview with the Southern Poverty Law Center, Daryl Johnson, the leader of the team that produced the report, argued that following the controversy, DHS’s examination of such threats suffered, stating “Since our report was leaked, DHS has not released a single report of its own on this topic. Not anything dealing with non-Islamic domestic extremism—whether it’s anti-abortion extremists, white supremacists, ‘sovereign citizens,’ eco-terrorists, the whole gamut.”

The threat from al Qaeda and its associated forces has changed significantly since 9/11. Today, almost 13 years after 9/11, al Qaeda has not successfully conducted another attack inside the United States. And since 2011, no individual charged with plotting to conduct an al Qaeda-inspired terrorist attack inside the United States has acted with more than one accomplice. This demonstrates the difficulties today of forming a jihadist group sufficiently large enough to conduct a complex attack anything on the scale of 9/11, and is a tribute to the success of law enforcement agencies in detecting and deterring jihadist terrorist activity.

Today in the United States, al Qaeda-type terrorism is the province of individuals with no real connection to foreign terrorists, aside from reading their propaganda online. Given this, it becomes harder to explain, in terms of American national security, why violence by homegrown right wing extremists receives substantially less attention than does violence by homegrown jihadist militants.

Tyler Hite contributed research support for this article.



STR/AFP/Getty

Boko Haram’s Sick Hatred of Schoolgirls

The abduction of 200 female students from northern Nigeria was not the first attack on girls’ education by the al Qaeda-linked group—and it won’t be the last.
The numbers were shocking: “Nigerian Unrest: Gunmen abduct ‘about 100 schoolgirls’” headlined the BBC after guerrillas believed to belong to the al Qaeda-allied group Boko Haram attacked a boarding school late Monday in the Nigerian state of Borno. But this is not the first time that these radical Islamist rebels have abducted girls en masse, and it almost certainly will not be the last.

In mid-February, according to local press reports, about 400 members of the group, some of them wearing military uniforms and traveling in military-style trucks, attacked the town of Konduga, also in Borno state, near the borders of Cameroon, Chad and Niger. They murdered 51 people and carried away 20 young women.

Whether the girls are to be brutalized as part of a systematic campaign of terror in which rape is a weapon of war, or whether they are taken away by young men who believe they can marry them under Islamic law, is not entirely clear. Since the girls have no say, any difference would lie only in the degree of violence, not the fact of violation.

The Nigerian military claimed on Wednesday, without offering any specifics, that all but eight of 129 abducted girls had escaped. But according to the BBC, many parents say their girls are still missing.

What is clear is Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden,” likes to focus violence on schools, and especially girls’ schools. Western education for men is bad enough in the view of these militants; any education for women is worse. In the Government Girls’ Secondary School in Chibok, where the latest attack took place, the young women reportedly were in their dormitories studying for exams when the attackers arrived.

They were loaded into trucks and driven out into the bush, but dozens—reportedly as many as 80—managed to escape when the trucks got bogged down. The father of one told the Nigerian online newspaper Daily Post that the kidnappers did not shoot and “allowed those who could run to go but those who could not run either as a result of fear or wounds are still with them in the bush.” The man said his daughter told him there were over 100 attackers and that there were initially 243 girls taken: “She said the insurgents asked them to count themselves.”

Men described in the Nigerian press as vigilantes, local hunters and soldiers tracked the attackers, and found the women who escaped and helped them to get back to their families.

In November the U.S. State Department designated Boko Haram and a splinter group, Ansaru, as “foreign terrorist organizations.” It noted Boko Haram’s close ties to the North African chapter of al Qaeda, and said it is responsible for “thousands of deaths in northeast and central Nigeria over the last several years including targeted killings of civilians.”

Dozens—reportedly as many as 80—managed to escape when the trucks got bogged down.

In February, Secretary of State John Kerry denounced what he called “a brazen attack” on a village near the border with Cameroon that “took the lives of more than 100 innocent people.” Not less than a week after that, said Kerry, “Boko mounted another attack in Bama, setting 1,500 buildings ablaze, killing more than 115 people and leaving many others injured.” The United States is providing Nigeria with counterterrorism assistance, according to a statement from Kerry. “We stand with the people of Northern Nigeria in their struggle against violent extremism.”

But despite American encouragement and backing, the Nigerian government of President Goodluck Jonathan has made little headway in its war on the militants. It imposed a state of emergency in Borno and neighboring regions that are Boko Haram strongholds deep in the interior of the African continent, but it has fought a desultory counterterror campaign, and much of the funding for the fight is alleged to have been lost to corruption.

This week Boko Haram appeared to be gaining confidence and extending its range. The attack on the girls’ schools was near the established war zone. But on Monday a massive bomb hit a bus terminal on the outskirts of the capital Abuja, killing at least 71 people.

Ironically, all this is happening at a moment when oil-rich Nigeria has discovered, due to a change in its accounting procedures, that it has the biggest economy in all of Africa. Numbers are forever being revised there, it seems. And big and powerful as Nigeria is, a leading newspaper in Burkina Faso noted it feels like “a locomotive that never quits running off the rails.”



TLC

Sex Scandal Rocks the Duggars’ Christian Patriarchy Movement

The far-right Christian Patriarchy—brought to American audiences by the Duggar family—is on the verge of collapse after a series of alleged sex scandals involving the movement’s leaders.
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have put many years and a lot of work into putting a smiling, nearly normal-seeming face on the extreme Christian right. The couple adheres to a fringe strain of fundamentalist Christianity dubbed the “Christian patriarchy” or sometimes the “Quiverfull” movement, and while there is a lot of internal diversity to the movement, they generally preach a combination of beliefs that run counter to mainstream America: absolute female submission, a ban on dating, homeschooling, a rejection of higher education for women, and shunning of contraception in favor of trying to have as many children as humanly possible. The movement is controversial even within Christian right circles, but the Duggars have tried to counter that with their popular reality TV show 19 Kids & Counting, where they present themselves as a wholesome everyday family that just happens to be a little more fecund and conservative than average.

The strategy has been surprisingly effective, with Michelle Duggar being able to act like she’s just like any other reality TV star, giving sex tips and sharing recipes. Jim Bob has also been able to turn their fame into an opportunity to get political power, chumming around with presidential candidates and speaking at more mainstream conservative events. While many in the Christian right are still skeptical of Biblical patriarchy’s extremism, this charm offensive has clearly softened up resistance and is giving this fringe an ability to throw their political weight around. The fact that Republicans have started to step up the anti-contraception rhetoric lately appears, in part, to be the result of this tiny group of extremists Christians putting a smiley face on absolutist anti-contraception sentiments.

But right as the Duggars are beginning to cash in on all this hard propaganda work, it seems the world they come from—the tiny but growing world of strict Biblical patriarchy—is in real danger of collapsing. While adherents to this form of Christianity, like the Duggars, like to paint an uber-wholesome face on their families and beliefs, ugly truths are finally starting to leak out regarding the problems of infidelity and alleged sexual abuse in the community.

The latest scandal is a doozy. Back in November 2013, Doug Phillips, who, in his capacity as the president of Vision Forum Ministries, is probably the most important leader in the world of Biblical patriarchy, confessed to cheating on his wife and resigned as president of his ministry. “I engaged in a lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman,” he wrote. “While we did not ‘know’ each other in a Biblical sense, it was nevertheless inappropriately romantic and affectionate.” Shortly after his confession, Vision Forum Ministries closed up shop, unable to continue with the stink of sex scandal upon them.

It’s hard to underestimate the importance of Phillips in the small world of extreme fundamentalists. His father is one of the most critical founding fathers of the Christian  right movement generally, and Doug extended his work by largely building this culture of the far Christian right as we know it, especially if you watch 19 Kids & Counting. The Duggar family are friends and acolytes of Phillips, and Vision Forum, in turn, has used Michelle Duggar in their efforts to demonize contraception, including giving her an award for “Mother of the Year” for having so many children.

On Tuesday, it was revealed that there may be more to this entire scandal than the typical minister-caught-cheating story. The woman with whom Phillips confessed to an “inappropriate” relationship, named Lourdes Torres-Manteufel, filed suit in Bexar County, Texas, accusing the powerful Christian right leader of pushing her into a multi-year abusive relationship that allegedly featured frequent sexual assault. While the complaint never mentions sexual intercourse, it does claim that he repeatedly groped and masturbated on her while she protested. The plaintiff alleges she was basically moved into Phillips’ house with his wife and children, taken on many family vacations, and given work as a caretaker for the family, all while secretly being bullied into sexual encounters without consent. She even claims that Phillips told her that they would marry soon, as he believed that his wife was about to die.

Torres-Manteufel’s lawyer provided me with a copy of the complaint. It is searing in its criticisms of Doug Phillips. “Phillips’s patriarchal movement teaches that men are, and should be, in the absolute control of women,” reads the complaint, claiming that Torres-Manteufel was therefore bullied into believing she had no choice but to submit to Phillips’ alleged sexual abuse, even though she feared it made her “damaged goods.”

“Women within this movement are perceived to exist only for the end-goals communicated by the male leaders…” the lawsuit reads.

“In other words, women within this movement are perceived to exist only for the end-goals communicated by the male leaders that perceive themselves as the ‘patriarchs’ of this world,” the lawsuit reads. The conclusion is that a woman who truly believed this—whose boss, mentor, and father figure taught her that total submission was her duty in life—was not able to effectively plot an escape from a sexually coercive relationship.

Torres-Manteufel’s  lawyer, David C. Gibbs, is a light of the Christian right himself, having worked for Terri Schiavo’s parents, and most of the initial coverage was handled by the Christian right media rather than the secular media—suggesting that the Christian right itself is ready to boot a leader whose behavior has made him a liability.

Phillips has not publicly responded to the lawsuit but several weeks ago, when rumors of the suit began to circle, his attorney called Torres-Manteufel’s legal claims “false, defamatory and made with malicious intent,” according to The Christian Post.

Unsurprisingly, Phillips himself seems to be spiraling out of control. The Christian Post reports that Phillips’ lawyer has been sending out letters to former employees, accusing them of trying to destroy him and Vision Forum Ministries. Even though Phillips did confess to an inappropriate relationship, he has also signaled that he intends to deny some of the more shocking accusations leveled by Torres-Manteufel.

The scandal around Phillips is just the latest in a long line of ugly shocks to the far Christian right that threaten to destabilize and possibly capsize the community. As The Wire reported in early March, Bill Gothard, the leader of the Institute in Basic Life Principles, resigned his position in the wake of a series of accusations of alleged sexual abuse from dozens of women in the organization. IBLP, like Vision Forum Ministries, is a major clearinghouse for adherents to Biblical patriarchy, teaching members to shun contraception, embrace extreme forms of female submission, and, of course, use homeschooling to shelter young people from the outside world.  Unsurprisingly, IBLP is also associated with the Duggar family, who participated in the organization’s many training seminars on embracing Biblical patriarchy and who called Gothard their “number one recommended resource” for family advice. He has exerted political influence in other ways, as well, befriending Sarah Palin and bringing her in for his International Association of Character Cities conference.

Similarly, both Bob Jones University and Patrick Henry College—schools that were established in no small part to give these homeschooled and sheltered kids from far Christian right backgrounds a place to go to college—have been at the center of accusations of indifference and even of allegedly covering up reported sexual abuse on campus. BJU received a lot of heat when they fired an outside firm that had been brought on to investigate accusations of sexual abuse, only to rehire them when it looked like they were punishing the firm for being too thorough in exposing the problem. Patrick Henry College was the recent target of an exposé in The New Republic that explored how young women who brought sexual abuse complaints to the school were frequently drummed out of the college or made to felt that they had somehow brought the abuse on themselves.

The “pitch” of Biblical patriarchy, as epitomized by Michelle Duggar, is that women will be coddled and worshipped in exchange for giving up their ambitions and the autonomy to practice an extreme form of female submission. The unpleasant truth is that a culture that teaches that women are put on Earth for no other purpose but to serve men is not going to breed respect for women. Instead, these incidents show a world where men believe they can do whatever they want to women without repercussions. Is it any surprise that a subculture that promises absolute control over women will attract men who want to dominate and hurt women? Don’t believe the TLC hype. Biblical patriarchy is a sour, dangerous world for women, and luckily, that reality is finally being outed.


New Law in Saudi Arabia Labels All Atheists as Terrorists

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President Obama walks with Prince Khaled Bin Bandar Bin Abdul Aziz (C-R), Emir of Riyadh, in Riyadh on March 29, 2014.

Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

No one has ever accused Saudi Arabia of being the Holland of the Middle East. You know, Holland, the country of unbridled liberalism where they encourage euthanization via legal pot brownie consumption. But, a recent report from Human Rights Watch shows new laws in Saudi Arabia have taken the country a step back and bulldozed what little public space there is for dissent in the country. The changes, predictably, come under the guise of “fighting terror.” And what’s the number one terrorist threat facing the country? Atheists, apparently.

Included under the terrorism provisions is the ban on “calling for atheist thought in any form.” That’s Article 1, in fact. It’s a rather strange headliner to the whole who-is-a-terrorist question considering atheism doesn’t historically raise many red flags in the pantheon of global terrorism. The provisions, which are almost imperceptibly broad, “create a legal framework that appears to criminalize virtually all dissident thought or expression as terrorism,” according to HRW.

And dissent is of rising concern in the country. Here’s why from the Independent: “The new laws have largely been brought in to combat the growing number of Saudis travelling to take part in the civil war in Syria, who have previously returned with newfound training and ideas about overthrowing the monarchy.”

What does POPE Mean?

Posted: April 14, 2014 in Pope Pedophile
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