- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 13, 2007

Most terrorists seem like bumbling losers if they’re caught before the act: That’s certainly true of the Fort Dix, N.J., jihadists who took their terrorist training DVD to the local audio store to be copied.

It was also true of the Islamists arrested in Toronto last year for plotting to behead the prime minister, one of whose cell members had a bride who wanted him to sign a pre-nuptial agreement committing him to jihad. The Heathrow plotters arrested while planning to blow up U.S.-bound airliners included a Muslim convert who had started out as the son of a British Conservative Party official with a P.G. Wodehouse double-barreled name and a sister who was a Victoria’s Secret model and former wife of tennis champ Yanick Noah.

But then Mohamed Atta and the September 11, 2001, gang would have seemed pretty funny if you had run into them in that lap-dance club they went to before the big day. The club girls remembered them only as very small tippers. Most terrorists are jokes until the bomb goes off.

So, when we’re fortunate enough to catch them in advance, it’s worth pausing to consider what they tell us about the broader threat we face. According to the genius headline writers at the New York Times, “Religion guided three held In Fort Dix plot.” You don’t say. Any religion in particular?

Well, the trio were Muslims, but Albanian Muslims — i.e., they weren’t Arabs and they didn’t have names like Muhammad and Abdullah (though their accomplices did). Even if America were minded to profile, it is harder to profile successfully against chaps with names like “Shain Duka” (Fort Dix) or “Richard Reid” (the shoebomber) or “Jermaine Lindsay” (a July 7 London subway bomber) or “Muriel Degauque” (a Belgian lady who self-detonated in a suicide attack on U.S. forces in Iraq) or “Jack Roche” (an Australian arrested for plotting to blow up the Israeli Embassy in Canberra).

Second, the young Duka brothers are “radical Muslim” sons in a family of otherwise “moderate Muslim” oldsters. That, too, fits a pattern of de-assimilation, of young Western Muslims far more implacable and hostile than their parents and grandparents. The London bombers were British subjects born and bred, radicalized in the vacuum of contemporary multiculturalism.

The father-in-law of one of the Toronto plotters was the pharmacist at the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry base. The Princess Pats have done sterling work in Afghanistan, and pop supports their mission. But his daughter doesn’t, and she named his grandchild after a Chechen terrorist killed by the Russians.

Third, what then radicalized so many Western Muslims? Answer: In many cases, the Balkans. When Yugoslavia collapsed 15 years ago, Jacques Poos told the Americans to butt out: “The hour of Europe has come,” he declared confidently. Mr. Poos was foreign minister of Luxembourg, a country as big as your hot tub, but he held the European Union’s rotating “presidency” at the time and, as it happened, the Americans were very happy to butt out. “We don’t have a dog in this fight,” said then Secretary of State, James Baker.

Well, the hour of Europe came and went, and a couple of hundred thousand corpses later the EU was only too happy for the Americans to butt back in again. So NATO bombed the Christian Serbs in defense of the Albanian Muslims, and a fat lot of good it did if the Duka brothers are any indication.

In theory, Mr. Baker was right. But out there in the Balkans, if you’re one of the dogs in the fight, great-power evenhandedness can seem pretty one-handed by the time you get to hear about it. Don’t take my word for it. Here’s Osama bin Laden: “The British are responsible for destroying the Caliphate system. They are the ones who created the Palestinian problem. They are the ones who created the Kashmiri problem. They are the ones who put the arms embargo on the Muslims of Bosnia so that 2 million Muslims were killed.”

Whoa, whoa, hold up there: How come a list of imperial interventions wound up with a bit of nonimperial nonintervention? Because, for serious nations, even not taking sides is seen as, in effect, taking sides. What was the single biggest factor in the radicalization of British Muslims? Omar Sheikh, convicted in Karachi for the kidnapping and beheading of Daniel Pearl, is British — a Westernized nonobservant chess-playing pop-listening beer-drinking London School of Economics student, until he was fired up by the massacres of Bosnian Muslims.

And, while Europe dithered as the mountain of corpses piled up, Saudi money poured in, transforming the relatively mild Balkan Islam into something far more virulent. Look at the change in Muslim architecture in the region over the last 15 years: They build Wahhabist mosques now. Unlike the State Department complaceniks, the Islamists understand there is no stability.

Tough, you say. So what? Washington still has no dog in these fights. It’s time to hunker down in Fortress America. That brings me to the fourth lesson: What fortress? The three Duka brothers were (if you’ll forgive the expression) illegal immigrants. They were not meant to be here. Yet they graduated from a New Jersey high school and operated two roofing companies and a pizzeria.

Think of how often you have to produce your driver’s license or Social Security number. But, nearly six years after September 11, this is still one of the world’s easiest countries in which to establish a functioning but fraudulent identity.

Consider, for example, the post-September 11 ritual of airline security. You have to produce government-issued picture ID to the Transportation Security official. Does that make you feel safer? On that Tuesday morning in September, four of the killers got on board by using picture ID they had acquired through the “undocumented worker” network in Falls Church, Va.

Half the jurisdictions in the United States issue picture IDs to people who shouldn’t even be in the country, and they are issued as a matter of policy. The Fort Dix boys were pulled over for 19 traffic violations, but because they were in “sanctuary cities” any cop who suspected they were illegals was unable to report them to immigration authorities. Again, as a matter of policy.

On the one hand, America creates a vast federal security bureaucracy to prevent another September 11. On the other hand, American politicians and bureaucrats create a parallel system of education and welfare and health-care entitlements by contriving in maintaining and expanding a vast network of fraudulent identity that corrupts the integrity of almost all state databases.

Even though that fraud played a part in the killing of about 3,000 people on U.S. soil, leaders of both parties insist nothing can be done to stop it. All we can do is give the Duka brothers “a fast track to citizenship.”

The Iranians already operate in the Tri-Border area of South America. Is it the nothing-can-be-done crowd’s assumption that the fellows who run the armies of the “undocumented” from Mexico into America are just kindhearted human smugglers who would have nothing to do with jihad even if the price was right? If you don’t have borders, you won’t have a nation. And you may find “the jobs Americans won’t do” covers a multitude of sins.

Mark Steyn is the senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc. Publications, senior North American columnist for Britain’s Telegraph Group, North American editor for the Spectator, and a nationally syndicated columnist.

© Mark Steyn, 2005

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