We will see more and more attacks on American soil unless the White House changes its terror strategy in the fight against homegrown terror.
Is the threat from homegrown terror rising at a rapid rate?
That's a major question arising in media reports and in Congress with the unexpected rise in jihadi activities within our borders this year. Statistics confirm that concern about the growing threat is warranted.
For example, we know that, between 2001 and 2008, U.S. agencies prevented roughly one or two terror cases (either by individuals or cells) a year. But since the beginning of 2009, the United States has stopped one attack a month. And during the past few months, we're learning about one jihadi operation every two to three weeks!
As I have been warning since June, this has become the single most active year, since 9/11, for attempts by the domestic jihadists to strike us on American soil. Worse, by my standards, since 2002 this is the first time these attacks have resulted in bloodshed.
Most notable, of course, is the case in Fort Hood, Texas, that many contend is jihad related, in which 13 were killed and dozens wounded. In Arkansas, two members of the U.S. military were targeted, and one wound up dead.
If you add the various other plots thwarted this year — including threats in North Carolina, New York, Dallas, Illinois and other locations — and then combine them with the news about the young jihadists from Minnesota and Virginia who traveled to join the mother ship overseas, you can see the big picture. It's not pretty.
Unfortunately, the picture is very close to the predictions I made in my 2005 book, "Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies Against America." In short, an army of indoctrinated jihadists is expanding among us and will be striking again and again here in the United States.
But why is homegrown terror mushrooming in 2009? In fact, the jihadi penetration of America is old, and it certainly was well under way even before 9/11. But it has reached a critical mass, after which what any administration does or doesn't do can trigger a higher pace of activities. The Bush administration succeeding in keeping a tight lid on jihadi activities in the United States but in the end it didn't (or wasn't allowed to) go after the indoctrination process, what I call the "jihadi factory."
The Internet has become a mass distributor of the violent ideology behind terrorism, and it is acting as a multiplier of cyber-readers who then mutate into urban combatants and suicide bombers. Cyberspace is not to blame, but the legitimization of these ideas creates the interest in Web sites that is the root cause of such interest and incitement. Ideas (bad ones) push recruits to feed on them anywhere they can find them, including online.
The Obama administration unwittingly has helped speed the process of radicalization, and its actions have helped lead to a paralysis in discovering and rooting out jihadists here at home.
First, the White House issued a memo that bans the use of every single term useful for analysts to catch the indoctrination process. Thus, the administration has rendered our ideological radars useless
Second, Washington has been sending an unintentional message to jihadi recruits —in both presidential and congressional speeches — that blames the United States for the rise of incitement instead of identifying the ideology that provokes the latter. Such rhetoric basically tells the recruits that they were right to behave as they did. Apology invites radicalization, and we are witnessing it live.
My prediction is that the factory will continue to produce terrorists unless the administration and Congress adopt a sharp strategy change to counter the jihadists with a program designed to isolate their ideology.
And 2009 will be just the beginning of new, more violent cycle of terror instead of its apex.
Dr. Walid Phares is the author of "The Confrontation: Winning the War Against Future Jihad" and a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
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