This is sort of a question of epistemology, but it is worth reading this article and asking yourself, how much of this story do I believe?
More important than the information itself is the source of the information, its context. So who is the author?
Khatchadourian’s work was nominated for National Magazine Awards—once for his profile of an Al Qaeda propagandist, titled “Azzam the American,” and a second time, in collaboration with a New Yorker multimedia team, for “Secrets of Edgewood,” an investigation into Cold War psychochemical experiments.
A quick look at his Twitter will tell you what he is all about; one will notice immediately that he is participating in an Israeli campaign against Turkey and at least half of his feed is what one might expect of someone who has an unusual confluence of interests with the US State Department.
Just as interesting is his other award winning piece Secrets of Edgewood, December 21, 2012
For two decades during the Cold War, the United States Army tested chemical weapons on American soldiers at Edgewood Arsenal, a secluded research facility on the Chesapeake Bay. Thousands of men were recruited to volunteer; at the arsenal, they were exposed to chemicals ranging from mustard gas and sarin to LSD and PCP.
While Ketchum was conducting experiments with a drug called BZ, the arsenal’s chief scientist, Dr. Van Murray Sim, instigated a series of overseas “practical experiments,” in which LSD was tested in enhanced interrogations of unwitting subjects. This online addendum to “Operation Delirium” documents the secret missions to Europe and Asia.
In the era of Covid it is important to remember that all levels of the state, especially the US military, especially the US Army, use – currently, “use” not “used” – various biological and chemical weapons against “their own people” and in numerous cases, against “their own civilians.”
Drugs, especially, will turn up time and time again in various “experiments” as well as people known as “knuckledraggers” a pejorative term for certain national security circles.
It is important to read with a critical eye; any piece of literature must be read with an eye to distinguishing truth from falsehood. The narrative given by “C.I.A. case officer named Marc Sageman” should be assumed to be mystification. One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist, and when the Empire studies terrorism it is just as often to commit it than to defend against it. So Sageman’s process of radicalization should be understood to be a description that can be followed as a prescription.
Adam Gadahn’s journey to Al Qaeda may seem idiosyncratic, marked by adolescent loneliness and confusion and religious seeking gone wrong, but it appears to adhere with remarkable precision to a model developed by a forensic psychiatrist and former C.I.A. case officer named Marc Sageman. After September 11th, while teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, Sageman decided to examine the process of Islamic radicalization in a way that had not been done before: empirically. In his clinical research, he had studied murder, genocide, and ethnic conflict. He had worked for the C.I.A. in Pakistan during the nineteen-eighties, in the effort to push the Soviets from Afghanistan.
Sageman discovered that most Al Qaeda operatives had been radicalized in the West and were from caring, intact families that had solidly middle- or upper-class economic backgrounds. Their families were religious but generally mainstream. The vast majority of the men did not have criminal records or any history of mental disorders. Moreover, there was little evidence of coördinated recruitment, coercion, or brainwashing. Al Qaeda’s leaders waited for aspiring jihadists to come to them—and then accepted only a small percentage. Joining the jihad, Sageman realized, was like trying to get into a highly selective college: many apply, but only a few are accepted.
Perhaps his most unexpected conclusion was that ideology and political grievances played a minimal role during the initial stages of enlistment. “The only significant finding was that the future terrorists felt isolated, lonely, and emotionally alienated,” Sageman told the September 11th Commission in 2003, during a debriefing about his research. These lost men would congregate at mosques and find others like them. Eventually, they would move into apartments near their mosques and build friendships around their faith and its obligations. He has called his model the “halal theory of terrorism”—since bonds were often formed while sharing halal meals—or the “bunch of guys” theory. The bunch of guys constituted a closed society that provided a sense of meaning that did not exist in the larger world.
One should be careful when emotional language is used to mystify, in this case, “a sense of meaning.” One could just as easily describe “an alternative status system.” Or even “gamification” – the macho “one-upsmanship” as an obvious example.
One also might think that either Sageman or Khatchadourian is winking at the audience with the group he mentions next.
Sageman examined scholarship on other revivalist movements and found important parallels. He learned that doctrine played a negligible role for new converts to the Reverend Moon’s Unification Church, for example. “Many moved into the Moonie commune because of their attachment to group members while still openly expressing rejection of the Moon ideology,” Sageman wrote in his book, “Understanding Terror Networks,” which was published in 2004.
Surely it is an oversight they didn’t mention Scientology along with the Moonies, if we’re going to go down that route.
Within the “bunch of guys,” Sageman found, men often became radicalized through a process akin to oneupmanship, in which members try to outdo one another in demonstrations of religious zeal. (Gregory Saathoff, a research psychiatrist at the University of Virginia and a consultant to the F.B.I., told me, “We’re seeing in some of the casework that once they get the fever they are white-hot to move forward.”) Generally, the distinction between converts and men with mainstream Islamic backgrounds is less meaningful than it might seem, Sageman said, since “they all become born again.” Many Muslims who accept radical Salafist beliefs consider themselves “reverts.” They typically renounce their former lives and friends—and often their families.
As the newsreader said after he was told to claim that an FBI official found the charred passports of the hijackers in the rubble of the World Trade Center on 9/11, “if you can believe that.”
One of the ways journalists mystify stories is by telling them out of order. Telling the story in order often clarifies things. For instance, paying close attention to the intersections, and ignoring all the fluff about what kind of music he likes, the story of Azzam the American becomes a bit more clear.
Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the Blind Sheikh, speaks at the Islamic Center and calls for “violent” jihad, and three months later is indicted for the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. Two days later, the “Waco Siege” begins, which is claimed to be the motivation for the Oklahoma City Bombing, although not until the mainstream media spreads a rumor that Iraqis working for Saddam Hussein were behind it. The Islamic Center is supposedly the subject of bomb threats.
Now Attorney General Merrick Garland, under orders from former 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick, made sure that the Israelis and Iraqis present in Oklahoma City during the bombings are not a part of the official investigation – neither will be Andreas Strassmeir – even though Israeli lawyers who claim to be in the United States to “keep an eye” on another group of Israelis will share offices with Timothy McVeigh’s legal team before and after the events.
This is when our boy Adam moves in with his grandfather, the ADL director, and infiltrates the Islamic Center. Our boy Adam sides with the most radical faction, the ones that supported the Blind Sheik, going so far as to physically assault the Center leaders that are “moderate” and “associate with Jews and Baptists.”
Then our boy Adam skips bail and flies to Pakistan and within six months is the Vice President of Al Qaeda.
If you believe that …
But we know it is true because Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed both mentioned our boy Adam while they were being drugged and tortured.
Sageman is on to something however, but he is hardly the first agency connected person to come up with it.
How do you radicalize someone?
What does it even mean to “radicalize” someone?
In 2022, the Democratic party wants people to believe that Vladimir Putin is posting memes on Facebook that “radicalize” Republicans to vote against Democrats. That seems unlikely.
But I’ve noticed a pattern similar to what Sageman observed, but a lot wider.
Ask yourself, what do all these things have in common?
- John Travolta
- Tom Cruise
- Adam Pearlman
- Tulsi Gabbard
- Julian Assange
- אֵזוֹר יְהוּדָה וְשׁוֹמְרוֹן
- The Army of God
Here is a mystery. What do you think the US State Department was doing in October of 2001? The month after 9/11?
If you guessed “pressuring the government of Germany to stop investigating Scientology front groups” … admit it, you didn’t guess that, did you?
The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights. The status of Scientology was the subject of many discussions. The U.S. Government has expressed its concerns over infringement of individual rights because of religious affiliation, and over the potential for discrimination in international trade posed by the screening of foreign firms for possible Scientology affiliation. U.S. Government officials have discussed with state and federal authorities U.S. concerns about the violation of individual rights posed by the use of declarations of Scientology affiliation. U.S. officials frequently have made the point that the use of such “filters” to prevent persons from practicing their professions, solely based on their beliefs, is an abuse of their rights, as well as a discriminatory business practice.
Now why might this be?
It is one of those questions you are not ever, ever supposed to think about.
Here is another fun bit of trivia. In the context of “national security” what does the term “knuckledragger” refer to?
Hint: Obama’s first act in office dealing with what people might call “the Deep State” was all about protecting “knuckledraggers.”