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How to Make a Terrorist

30 July 2011 5 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

How to Make a Terrorist

Here’s an eye-opening article from the indefatigable Glenn Greenwald, which underscores why the government/media establishment absolutely cannot tolerate honest answers to the question: “why do they hate us?”

Anwar al Awlaki

Anwar al Awlaki

The transformation of Anwar al-Awlaki

The Washington Post today has the latest leak-based boasting about how the U.S. is on the verge of “defeating” Al Qaeda, yet — lest you think this can allow a reduction of the National Security State and posture of Endless War on which it feeds — the article warns that “al­-Qaeda’s offshoot in Yemen is now seen as a greater counterterrorism challenge than the organization’s traditional base” and that this new threat, as Sen. Saxby Chambliss puts it, “is nowhere near defeat.”  Predictably, the Post‘s warnings about the danger from Yemen feature the U.S. Government’s due-process-free attempts to kill U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, widely believed to be in Yemen and now routinely (and absurdlydepicted as The New Osama bin Laden.

The Post says Awlaki is “known for his fiery sermons” (undoubtedly the prime — and blatantly unconstitutional — motive for his being targeted for killing).  But what is so bizarre about Awlaki’s now being cast in this role is that, for years, he was deemed by the very same U.S. Government to be the face of moderate Islam.  Indeed, shortly after 9/11, the Pentagon invited Awlaki to a “luncheon [] meant to ease tensions with Muslim-Americans.” But even more striking was something I accidentally found today while searching for something else.  In November, 2001, the very same Washington Post hosted one of those benign, non-controversial online chats about religion that it likes to organize; this one was intended to discuss “the meaning of Ramadan”. It was hosted by none other than . . . “Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki.”

More extraordinary than the fact that the Post hosted The New Osama bin Laden in such a banal role a mere ten years ago was what Imam Awlaki said during the Q-and-A exchange with readers.  He repudiated the 9/11 attackers.  He denounced the Taliban for putting women in burqas, explaining that the practice has no precedent in Islam and that “education is mandatory on every Muslim male and female.”  He chatted about the “inter-faith services held in our mosque and around the greater DC area and in all over the country” and proclaimed: “We definitely need more mutual understanding.” While explaining his opposition to the war in Afghanistan, he proudly invoked what he thought (mistakenly, as it turns out) was his right of free speech as an American:  “Even though this is a dissenting view nowadays[,] as an American I do have the right to have a contrary opinion.”  And he announced that “the greatest sin in Islam after associating other gods besides Allah is killing an innocent soul.”

Does that sound like the New Osama bin Laden to you?  One could call him the opposite of bin Laden.  And yet, a mere nine years later, there was Awlaki, in an Al Jazeera interview, pronouncing his opinion that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempt to blow up a civilian jet over Detroit was justified (while saying “it would have been better if the plane was a military one or if it was a US military target”), and urging “revenge for all Muslims across the globe” against the U.S.  What changed over the last decade that caused such a profound transformation in Awlaki? Does that question even need to be asked?  Awlaki unwittingly provided the answer ten years ago when explaining his opposition to the war in Afghanistan in his 2001 Post chat:

Also our government could have dealt with the terrorist attacks as a crime against America rather than a war against America. So the guilty would be tried and only them would be punished rather thanbombing an already destroyed country. I do not restrict myself to US media. I check out Aljazeerah and European media such as the BBC. I am seeing something that you are not seeing because of the one-sidedness of the US media. I see the carnage of Afghanistan. I see the innocent civilian deaths. That is why my opinion is different.

Keep in mind that I have no sympathy for whoever committed the crimes of Sep 11th. But that doesn’t mean that I would approve the killing of my Muslim brothers and sisters in Afghanistan.

And in his Al Jazeera interview nine years later, he explained why he now endorses violence against Americans, especially American military targets:

I support what Umar Farouk has done after I have been seeing my brothers being killed in Palestine for more than 60 years, and others being killed in Iraq and in Afghanistan. And in my tribe too, US missiles have killed 17 women and 23 children, so do not ask me if al-Qaeda has killed or blown up a US civil jet after all this. The 300 Americans are nothing comparing to the thousands of Muslims who have been killed.

A full decade of literally constant (and still-escalating) American killing of civilians in multiple Muslim countries has radically transformed Awlaki — and countless other Muslims — from a voice of pro-American moderation into supporters of violence against the U.S. and, in Awlaki’s case, the prime pretext for the continuation of the War on Terror.  As this blogger put it in response to my noting the 2001 Awlaki chat: ”it’s interesting to think about how many other people followed that same path, that we don’t know about it.”  In other words, the very U.S. policies justified in name of combating Terrorism have done more to spawn — and continue to spawn — anti-American Terrorism than anything bin Laden could have ever conceived.  The transformation of Awlaki, and many others like him, provides vivid insight into how that occurs.

* * * * *
It’s equally instructive to note that if the Post were to give Awlaki a venue to express his opinions now — or if the Pentagon were to invite him to a luncheon — those institutions would likely be guilty of the felony of providing material support to Terrorism as applied by the Obama DOJ and upheld by the Supreme Court.


  1. The world despairs for what happening to Palestinians. Flotillas from Turkey. Canada, England, Ireland, Poland Germany & everywhere risk their lives against psychopathic Israelis to show Love & Support for Gaza.There was Nazi hatred towards Jews, Spanish inquisition against the Jews, The Russian Pogrom against Jews,The English hatred against jews since Shakespearean times [merchant of Venice] & backlash from Europe
    who did not want Displaced Jews refugees in their Country.So they were Settled in Palestine with finance & Bombs from England & USA. Instead of being thankful & try some ways to settle with Jews already living in Mid East. They did the very thing for which every State had been saying since Ancient times. They Claimed their own God had classified them as Chosen People & started Plundering, killing Brutalizing Palestinians,Driving them into destitution & destruction and STEALING everthing Palestinian Homes, Farms, Domestic production Factories, Sheep, camels, destroying Palestinian Schools, Hospitals.And Assassinating most of the Leadership. And at the same time crying to the world, US EU, Please believe us what are threatened & feel
    insecure. While Gullible West was fooled Isreal has expropriated more Arab Land Resources, Got US arms & Finance to become Shadow Super Power of the World. with huge ownership in World Insurance, Finance, Diamonds, Armaments & news Media & Security Services. While Homeless Palestinians have become refugees. Bombed & Humiliated daily.Gaza women & Children spending hours at Israeli Army Check points. imprisoned unable to travel outside Gaza. The Jews controlling all money & banking for Gaza and food, fuel Supplies Too. Then spreading worldwide hate speech Against Palestinians accusing them as Terrorists.The Blind, Deaf, Dumb Politicians of US, EU, MidEast Arab tyrants & cowardly world Nations buying & believing this Anti gaza Hate speech. But the Grass roots Free thinking Universal People of the World know this Isreali BS & deceit, So come with their own homemade Non-Govt Flotilla to Assist Humanity in gaza. It time for Isreali people to kick out Apartheid Tyrants & bring Inclusive democratic ideals & THINK of better Future for ALL.
    Apartheid in NOT the Answer. Human Rights 4 All is IT.


  2. Naz, the people in Gaza and those around Israel do not want peace they want the end of Israel. If you allow those boats to land they will bring missiles, guns, and bombs. Until the Arab world and these terrorist groups agree and support Israel’s right to exist as a state I do not see how peace will ever be had. I support Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself. If it pulls back from disputed areas, all it means is that the people who want to kill Israeli citizens will be closer to the cities so they can do more damage. I realize that the Israeli government is not innocent in these issues but to agree with most of what is being suggested would be national suicide.

  3. wow, this glenn greenwald is tireless in his non-sense. so 9/11 happened, we told the afghan leadership to turn over ubl, they didn’t. glen that is the end of our ability to handle the situation as a police matter. if you and the cleric didn’t notice, we didn’t have a police force in afghanistan. as for our actions creating more terrorists, i’m sure you are right. we probably didn’t endear ourselves to the germans or japanesse during ww2. that happens in war. maybe tomorrow a german will blow up the empire state building to avenge the millions of germans we killed in ww2. we dropped two a-bombs on japan. would you justify a kamakaze flying into the sear tower? as for this man’s change of heart, that is what makes muslims somewhat scary to americans. no one knows where their allegence lies. i guess in islam you can redefine “inoccent soul” as an innocent “muslim” soul? plus if it is solely our reaction to 9/11 that turned this follower of “the religion of peace” into a terrorist, why did he say “I support what Umar Farouk has done after I have been seeing my brothers being killed in Palestine for more than 60 years”?

    sahra, that’s why it’s call “islamic terrorism” it is to avenge islamic deaths. it finds inspiration in it’s interpretation (which appears to be quite fluid) of islam.

    glen how do you explain the blind shiek’s bombing the world trade center?

  4. I think it’s really sad, but in a way I completely understand why he thinks like that. He suffered a terrible loss (of INNOCENT civilians) in his own tribe, and when you finally see the American massacre in it’s true light, you can’t help feeling angry and upset.

    But now we’re finding out about Dick Cheney’s assassination ring, and cyber attacks mounted by the CIA on Iran (which, by the way, has never provoked or started a bloody war killing civilians like America or Israel), and we’re seeing all kinds of ‘collateral damage.’

    Imagine if that ‘collateral damage’ was 23 children from YOUR family. I never understood groups like al-Qaeda who hated America, but the truth is, America is only your ‘friend’ if you’re giving them oil and nodding inanely at every retarded thing they do.

    Just to be clear, I DON’T condone the killing of innocents. It’s disgusting and against Islam in the most basic sense. But I am starting to understand it.

  5. leila,

    so what would you have had us do after 9/11? you say you understand his reasoning because members of his tribe (i thought he was born in virgina) have been killed. i see my self as an american, therefore members of my “tribe” were killed on 9/11. so if i go and blow up a mosque or stab a muslim cabbie, or shot a guy in the face with a shotgun, do you also not “understand it.” of course not, because it’s insane to say that i’m going to attack this guy over here because of what someone else did. so after 9/11 perhaps america should have just rounded up ever saudi from any of the attackers’ tribes and put them under the knife, well just the men right. this is why people say that muslims are stuck in the 7th century.

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