Charles Laffiteau's Bigger Picture
2017-11-15 14:55:00 -

No sooner do I write a column dealing with the mass murderers who pledge allegiance to Daesh than one of their acolytes decides to strike here in America, and on Hallowe’en no less. 


Daesh was, of course, quick to claim credit for the attack which killed eight and injured another 11 innocent civilians. But even though the New York truck attack murderer (in order to deny them the ‘fame’ they seek, I will no longer mention such killers by name) left notes pledging allegiance to Daesh, investigators have thus far found no physical or electronic evidence of any direct contact between him and that terror group.


Then just five days later, another American male perpetrator of domestic violence decided to go on a rampage in the small town of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The Texas killer was angry with his estranged wife and had been sending threatening texts to his mother-in-law. When he didn’t get the kind of response he expected, he put on his body armour and went looking for his wife and in-laws at the Sunday service in their local Baptist church. Although they were not in attendance, he killed 26 people, including his wife’s grandmother, and wounded 20 more.


While President Donald Trump was quick to use the New York attack, by an Uzbek immigrant, to make the case for transforming America’s diversity visa lottery into a merit-based immigration programme, the attack on the Hudson River Park’s cyclists and pedestrians had nothing to do with immigration. In point of fact, the New York City attacker had never had any contact with Daesh or other extremist organisations while he was living in Uzbekistan or after he immigrated. That is why the extreme vetting of immigrants President Trump touts would not have stopped him from moving to America.


The fact of the matter is that the New York truck attack could have just as easily been perpetrated by a native-born American, like John. John had an upper middle-class upbringing in Plano, Texas, a wealthy suburban bedroom community north of Dallas. But John was also a rebellious young man who abused drugs and resented his father for punishing him for self-medicating to deal with his depression. After John went away to college in 2000, he took a course on world religion which stimulated his interest in Islam, and subsequently led to his conversion to the faith 16 years ago this month.


Coming just two months after the 9/11 attacks, converting to Islam in a conservative state like Texas was the ultimate act of rebellion for John, who changed his name to Yahya al-Bahrumi. In 2003, Yahya married a young Muslim girl he met online and in 2005 started a job at Rackspace, a server company headquartered in Texas. While working there as a data technician, Yahya also began visiting Jihad Unspun, a jihadist propaganda website to which he later offered technical support.


Yahya used his position at Rackspace to gain access to the passwords of an organisation that lobbies for pro-Israel policies, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. But before he could hack their website, Yahya was arrested and sentenced to 34 months in prison. After he was released he spent another three years on probation, but as soon as his probation ended he took his wife and children and moved to Cairo, Egypt in October 2011. While he was in prison, however, Yahya’s wife had grown up and learned to think for herself, so in an effort to control her he began to physically abuse her.


Two years later, after the fall of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood-led government, Yahya, his young wife and their three children fled Cairo for Turkey. Yahya wanted to join the Islamist groups that were fighting to overthrow the Assad regime, but his wife was concerned for the welfare of their young sons, then aged eight, five and two. Yahya still took them to Syria but later allowed his wife to leave and return to America, where she promptly divorced him. Today, Yahya is the top producer of the English language propaganda that Daesh uses to recruit new members.


Even though the New York attacker left notes that claimed he was acting on behalf of Daesh, he never had any physical, telephonic or electronic contact with the group or any of its members. Instead, he told investigators that he had been radicalised by watching the 90 Daesh videos and over 3,800 related images investigators found stored on his mobile phone. Included among them was a video with instructions on how to carry out an attack using a rented pickup truck. These videos have been carefully produced by people like Yahya and are designed to desensitise their new recruits.


Like the vast majority of the other followers and members of Daesh, the New York attacker was a social misfit and a business failure. As a result, he became disillusioned when he wasn’t able to achieve his dream, and became a prime candidate for radicalisation. These were the common threads underlying the radicalisation of the Orlando shooter and Boston Marathon bombers, too.


Indeed, there are common threads that I see in the mass murderers I’ve discussed the past two months. The first one is men being abusive to their partners. Another one is the use of AR 15 assault rifles, purchased within the past five years and used in the shootings in Orlando, Las Vegas, Newtown, Sutherland Springs and Plano, Texas. These are common threads that raise difficult questions for American society.

Charles Laffiteau is a US Republican from Dallas, Texas pursuing a career in public service. He previously lectured on Contemporary US Business & Society at DCU from 2009-2011 and pursued a PhD in Public Policy and Political Economy.



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