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December 9 2019

Investigating the Pensacola Shooter

by Charlotte Hays

Saudi authorities, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal, are investigating whether the Saudi national being trained at the U.S. Naval base in Pensacola, where he took the lives of three young Americans in the Navy, was “radicalized” on his recent trip home.

It’s hard to figure out from the report exactly how long Mohammed Alshamrani was back home in Saudi Arabia.

It looks like it was from sometime late last year until February of this year.

Wow! That means the radicalizers work awfuly fast, doesn't it? 

Closely allied with the worldview that a perfectly normal and decent person can be quickly radicalized by a few masterminds is the faith we put in the idea that potential terrorists just need a well-intentioned deradicalization program, and we'll be all safe. 

The knife-wielding jihadist who took the lives of Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones on London Bridge shortly before the Pensacola shootings had feigned an interest in such a course. It was helpful in paving his way to London Bridge.

As Giulio Meotti of Gatestone writes:

It was a tragedy of good intentions. "Jack Merritt died in the London Bridge attack. Don't forget what he stood for", Emma Goldberg wrote in The New York Times. Merritt was one of the two victims of Usman Khan, an Islamic terrorist who struck on London Bridge on November 29. The other victim was Saskia Jones, a student at the conference targeted by the jihadist. They both dreamed of working to save and protect their murderer.

Merritt knew Khan from his work with the rehabilitation program that was hosting the event Khan and his two victims were attending.  Gatestone adds:

The latest attack in London was a lethal mix of religious dissimulation and Western naïveté. It also, one hopes, buries all the British illusions of deradicalizing jihadists. As the Times reported, the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), the so-called "nudge unit" formerly part of the Cabinet Office, examined 33 deradicalization programs across the UK and found that only two were supposedly successful. The British criminologist Simon Cottee has blamed "liberal professors' deadly delusions about curing terrorists".

So-called deradicalization programs have been an abysmal failure in Europe:

All over Europe, none of the deradicalization programs has proven effective. "There are not enough reliable data to reach definitive conclusions about the short-term, let alone the long-term, effectiveness of most existing deradicalization programs," a RAND report concluded. It might be beyond the reach of Western states to deradicalize people who, like the London Bridge terrorist, wore a fake suicide vest to invite being killed by the police and becoming a "martyr".

So what does one do with these jihadists? Trusting them can be deadly, as in London. Leaving them in prison might means keeping them as part of "one of the most important places of radicalization". Europe does not have a Guantanamo Bay, a legal limbo which, after 9/11, was useful for the US war on terror. Gitmo could also be useful now, when Europe is dealing with the return en masse of ISIS's foreign fighters.

While the Pensacola shootings are being investigated, I hope the focus won’t be entirely on the slip of time he spent at home between training stints in the U.S. I hope the investigation will also evaluate the vetting process that let him into the country and ultimately may have allowed the murder of three people. Were we too trusting? 

Americans, to our credit, want to be trusthing and believe in second chances and rehabilitation. 

That is another reason that terrorism is so difficult for us to address.

 

 





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