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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

CHAPTER 4 – WHY? – Excerpt From Homegrown Terrorist

A series of homegrown terrorist attacks in New York City left the population in a state of panic, and law enforcement straining to contain the situation. One of the first steps in calculating the nature and scope of the homegrown terrorist threats they were facing, was to determine who the known terrorists were and why they’d acted as they did. John Stamper, acting head of the FBI in NYC, enlisted the aid of his two loyal associates Jim and Eric to attempt to build profiles for the eight known bombers. They only had to go through a few files before a common thread became obvious.

These young men and women were not driven for the most part by religious fanaticism. They were propelled in their disastrous actions by an overriding feeling of hopelessness, and a wish to somehow make a statement that would change the social context in which people like them felt trapped. In their desperation, they ‘d made a determination that no life was better then the life they were currently living. If an afterlife could be provided that would be an added bonus, but not the real reason they were willing to become suicide bombers.

Able Knowi was a twenty-three year old Moslem of Iranian decent. His parents had both passed away when he was nineteen in a car accident. They ‘d been hit by a limousine, which was returning from a lush party in the Hamptons on Long Island, NY with a carload full of hookers. Able had received only a pittance from the insurance company for the limousine company. He lived in a hovel of an apartment in Astoria, Queens, one of the outlying boroughs of New York City, where he’d grown up in relative poverty.

Able was not really a practicing Moslem, going to the local Mosque only occasionally to try and make friends. He was basically a loner who had little money, no job, and practically no friends. It was at the Mosque that he started hearing some of the radical jihadist propaganda that certain radical clerics were spouting with impunity under the guise of free speech. Able was convinced he had no future. Somehow and through some medium he became self radicalized – teaching himself how to become a jihadist. After a period of self indoctrination, Able thought he had found the answer, and blew himself up in the Bangles and Bows Toy Store with a home made bomb constructed from blueprints obtained on the Internet and supplies from the local hardware store, killing and injuring many innocent civilians. There were no links as far as the FBI knew to any known terrorist organizations, and as far as they knew, Able operated on his own with no help from any one.

It all seemed so easy. Blowing himself up was going to be the answer to all his problems. He was going to change America and solve his personal problems at the same time. He was going to become a terrorist – a jihadist. He was going to Heaven where he would be treated like a king and have seventy-two virgins at his command. This last part was the bonus benefit to a wasted life with no purpose and no future he could perceive, except to make a statement as a homegrown terrorist. .

The scariest part of all this was the self-radicalization aspect. He had virtually taught himself how to become a terrorist. As far as the FBI knew he had no contact whatsoever with Iranian terrorists or any other terror organization. The question was how did he do it? How did he learn to make a bomb? How did he teach himself to become a jihadist? He must have been receiving instruction from somewhere or someone. What had convinced him to create a holy war or jihad in the name of a Moslem religion he hardly believed in? What had convinced him that Americans were foreign devils when he himself was an American by birth?

Anna Costa was twenty-nine years old and of Puerto Rican decent. She was a fairly homely girl with buckteeth and a crooked nose. She lived in Flushing, New York with her mother. They hadn’t seen or heard from her father in years. They lived on welfare payments. Anna had dropped out of high school in her junior year. She had no skills, no job, and no boyfriend. She felt hopeless. She had been arrested for shoplifting at a local discount store, and had been treated badly by the store security guards who man handled her and strip-searched her in a dressing room. They discovered she had no stolen property on her person and let her go, not even bothering to apologize. Anna felt violated

At a Sunday Church social, to which she had gone in a vain attempt to meet a man, she met another lost soul who convinced her that there was nothing for her in this life: no future, no man. He convinced her that she would find what she was looking for in Heaven. He told her he had found the way to a better world, and would help her find her way there herself. He told her the way was to become a jihadist and exact revenge against America for leaving her in her current circumstance of poverty. He convinced her that her mother would cry for her, but would be proud of her for helping to destroy America whose fault it was that she was so unhappy. He convinced her that she didn’t have to be Moslem to go to Heaven and be welcomed by Allah. All she had to do was to commit Jihad – war against America.

Anna set off a bomb in Grand Central Railroad Station in New York City killing and injuring one hundred and forty people at rush hour in the main terminal building including herself. She was smiling when she set off the bomb and mumbling something unintelligible. She was on her way to Heaven to meet her new husband she thought. In her case the bonus of going to heaven was an important part in her decision to blow herself up, but it wasn’t what caused her to become desperate enough to become a homegrown terrorist; that part was caused by her feeling of total hopelessness. The FBI hadn’t been able to pin down if the new friend she met at Church was a secret Iranian agent working for a specific terrorist cell, but they had their suspicions.

Austin Blake was a feckless young man from a well to do family. He was twenty-two years old and had recently dropped out of college. He was a druggy who had been in and out of drug rehab, disowned by his parents, and currently living on the streets. He was trying to keep warm over a vent on the sidewalk in front of Dales Department store, which he had just been thrown out of for loitering, when the thought struck him that there must be a better way. He had no friends and no hope for the future. He hated America and what he perceived had been done to him. He wanted to make a statement and change things. He knew he was a useless bum who had no future. He felt hopeless.

Two weeks later he blew himself and eighty-nine other people up on the main floor of the same Dales Department Store in New York City on 43rd street and Ninth Avenue, which he had been thrown out of earlier. In his drugged out state, he’d convinced himself that he was going to a better place where everything would be all right, and where he would be loved by his new family and friends. He died smiling and mumbling something unintelligible.

This trend towards self-radicalization scared John more than anything else. Who knew how many of these crazies there were out there who thought they could commit jihad against America and find a better life for themselves in Heaven? The question was how were these people, who had little or no connection to each other all finding the same way to self-radicalize themselves and make the same kind of homemade bombs? Who was teaching these people what to do? Were the Iranians really involved, at least on an organizational level?

John Unridge was perhaps the most disturbing of the group. He was a matriculating student at Downswitch University on a full scholarship who was on Dean’s List and had a bright future in front of him. He came from a middle class Ohio Methodist family, and had never been in trouble of any kind. What could have possessed him to become a suicide bomber? What made him hate his country enough to kill himself and scores of innocent strangers who had never done him any harm?

John had been turned on by one of the Moslem groups who were tolerated if not supported at Downswitch under the guise of free speech and equal rights for all, but this group did not appear to be a terrorist cell or have connections to foreign terrorists. They’d simply put the idea of jihad in Undridge’s head. He had self-radicalized himself. John was the only one who left a note, which said in part that he was sacrificing himself to demonstrate against the social inequities in America that had developed an impoverished underclass for which he felt partially responsible. He also stated that his parents who’d given him everything weren’t to blame for him turning out the way he did. He ended his note by saying, “We are coming.”

John Stamper shook his head in disbelief. He couldn’t understand how any of this was enough to make someone kill himself or herself and innocent people. He couldn’t understand how a bright young man with a great future and good marks in school, who apparently had friends and was popular, could fall for this line of bull from an on campus non confrontational Moslem group. Where was he getting the information on how to become a terrorist? Where had he learned to make a bomb? Why did all the bombs appear to have used a commonly constructed explosive device? Where have we gone wrong? What were these homegrown terrorists mumbling when they exploded their deadly bombs? How many other young men and women were ready to sacrifice their lives for warped principals, and what did the statement “We are coming,” mean? Who’s coming?

John Stamper turned to his assistant Eric and said, “I don’t fathom any of this. It’s beyond me.

Eric shook his head in agreement. “You got me boss. I don’t have a clue.”

This is part of what scared John so. The whole thing didn’t make sense. It wasn’t rational. It defied logic – “We are coming.” Who was coming? Who was we? How do you fight something that makes no sense? How were they going to beat this insidious virus that virtually leapt from the mind of one lost soul to another, constructing a virtual community of dissidents who had practically no physical association with one another?

The profiles the FBI established were based on the most extensive investigation of the terrorist’s actions in the weeks leading up to the bombings, and cell phone videos taken by alert spectators at the various bombings. A pattern of self-radicalization had become obvious in every case investigated. In each case these warped and misguided individuals had taught themselves how to become terrorists and how to make bombs.

Much of the information was gathered from pictures of the terrorists from their embedded microchip identification chips. They were identified by their DNA, and from camera shots of the terrorists. Cameras on most New York City blocks were a given in this day and age, similar to what London had installed years earlier.

We could go on and on analyzing all eight known terrorists, but the pattern was undeniable. All of them felt hopeless and lonely for one reason or another, or committed to some higher calling as radical as it might be. They had all taught themselves how to put the bombs together. The bomb components were readily available at your local hardware store. Most of them thought they were going to Heaven where there dreams would come true, so they had borrowed heavily from Moslem jihadist teachings, and all of them thought they were making a statement against American society.

No one knew what they were mumbling when they died, or how they’d learned how to self-radicalize themselves. Someone had to be pulling their strings. These people weren’t smart enough to do this on their own. Only the lone wasp in the group, John Unridge, had thought to leave a note or make a statement, that was before the videos of some of the suicide bombers started to circulate on Social Networks on the Internet.

Hi, this is Arthur Levine with an excerpt from my recently completed novel – Homegrown Terrorist. To read more excerpts from this novel, or to leave a comment, please go to

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