Sunday, December 30, 2007

My Interview with Front Page

FP: Jeffrey Denning, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Denning: I appreciate that you asked me. Thank you.

…FP: Understanding our enemy is obviously crucial in this terror war. Who is our enemy? Why are they our enemy?

Denning: Well, we’re not in a war against Islam. There are many Arabs and Muslims working for freedom, peace and good causes. The West, however, is waging a war against al Qaeda, and rightfully so. Obviously at some point Islam and the al Qaeda philosophy both merge. The interesting thing is the term al Qaeda; it’s a misnomer really. But to say something like a global Salafi movement bent on obliterating the West and cleansing Islamic societies of munafiq-traitors and Jewish/Crusader puppets is a mouth full.

Why are they our enemy? Well, it’s easy for them to hate us just as it’s easy for us to hate them. We’re separated by bi-polar planets. We dehumanize them by calling them things like ‘terrorist’ or ‘jihadists’ and they do the same to us by calling us ‘Jews and Infidels’. But clearly, as my friend and colleague Dr. Nancy Kobrin has shared with me, there are many terrorists who have no idea what a Jew is. They have grandiose and absurd thoughts about how a Jew looks, acts or behaves. The same could go for a Christian, a Buddhist or a Mormon, I suppose.

Here’s the part where I believe most people get it wrong. They do not hate us because we’re rich or free, or even because we might appear collectively arrogant. They don’t attack us today solely based on our foreign policy, the Christian Crusades, or in the case of Israel , because of a land dispute. Those things play a part, but when you really begin understanding Islamic terrorism, it goes much, much deeper than that.

FP: Ok, well we will get deeper into that in this discussion. Before we do that, let’s talk about our own self-defense. Is there an effective way of predicting and thwarting future attacks? What formula has the best chance of succeeding?

Denning: I believe there are ways to predict attacks. I’ve done it…

While trying to drum up business for my security consulting company, I met with a senior executive of a major U.S.-based hotel. I said, ‘Tom, we need to evaluate the security immediately on your hotels in Amman , Jordan ’—and I named two other countries. Then I went into tremendous detail of the most likely attack scenario. When an attack occurred there about two months later, it was exactly as I had said it would be. Three U.S. hotels were attacked simultaneously in Amman . Unfortunately, several people died.

In the summer of 2005 I met with several people in New York . I told them the next likely spectacular terrorist attack on America would be by suicide bombers in flying airplanes. Sure enough, the London Bomb Plot unfolded two weeks later. I didn’t know about that; I didn’t have any inside information. But you’ll remember the terrorists had planned on blowing up several U.S. airplanes over the Atlantic .

So is there a formula? Absolutely. One of the reasons ethically and civilly-minded societies will often fail in their approach to stop or predict terrorism at the tactical level is because we try to place our moral value system on an amoral enemy. It doesn’t work that way. You can’t do a proper threat assessment unless you can really get into the mind of the terrorist. These men and women aren’t superheroes; they are people. Sure, that sounds plainly obvious, but I believe most of the free world has a misconception of what a terrorist is and what one can do.

In short, though, there’s no de facto formula. And I only know of a small handful of guys who could actually, truly understand terrorists on a level that they could help create and shape real and workable counterterrorism measures. On the other hand, I have developed a program called SMART Leadership(tm) that helps any organization or person with wisdom in the management and decision-making process. Of course, I use it in my security assessments and threat management protocols.

FP: The Western media isn’t being very helpful, to say the least, in helping the West fight our enemy in this terror war. There is reluctance in the mainstream media to label the enemy – and to crystallize the evil of the enemy. How dangerous is this? If our media were to re-think and re-shape how they present terrorism, how in your view should it do this?

Denning: The terrorists use the media as their main source for spreading fear. In the mid-80s Benjamin Netanyahu accurately stated that “manipulation of public opinion is, in fact, central to the terrorist strategy.” He went on to say that because of this, their access to the media is indispensable.

You’ll recall that back then several hostage takers, particularly in the Middle East, made their demands and communiqués live over the news media channels. The terrorists were able to give their side of the story. They appeared human—that’s a key part. In some ways, when the terrorists were able to tell about all the ‘atrocities’ and ‘injustices’ they faced, although they were holding several hostages at gunpoint and under the threat of death by homemade explosives, it made some people actually sympathize with their so-called plight. Oh, the irony.

Of course, those of us who can step back and rationalize that situation wouldn’t agree; we wouldn’t sympathize. We may feel sad that they had a rough childhood and live under terrible socio-economic and geo-politico-military conditions, but that is no excuse to engage in or condone brutal acts of terror. Nevertheless, many people would sympathize with them, consciously or subconsciously. Otherwise good and civil people would recognize the grief, fear, sadness and frustration of these animals because they’d humanize them and feel somewhat connected with them. Why? Because we’ve all felt difficulties, stresses and trails. By our very natures we want to help and be kind. All of this, in turn, affects the will of the public to fight terrorism. And the will of the people plays a vital role in shaping counterterrorism policy.

Today we see more suicide terrorism rather than Islamically-motivated hostage takings. A suicide-homicide bomber recently drove a car into a crowd of Iraqis then blew himself up. About 22 people were injured. It was just another day. If the same thing happened in the U.S. or Canada, for instance, what could be the result? I submit 22 million people would suffer catastrophically. That’s the power of—and the nexus between—terrorism and the media.

I really enjoy 24-hour news media. I wish there were a news station that reported on nothing but terrorism. The challenge for the media is to report stories without helping the terrorists’ agenda. The word conundrum comes to mind. It may take 20 years or more to realize how to do this, but the bottom line is education. I’ll never forget seeing the first reports on the Columbine High School massacre. I was on a SWAT team then. Many reporters lack of understanding for SWAT teams and SWAT tactics made me nauseous. That’s the same thing with terrorism and terrorists. We need to understand them and have better strategic tactics than they do.

FP: Ok, so let’s get back to terrorism and go deeper into its causes, which you had referred to earlier.

Can you talk about the correlation between criminals and terrorists? And what are the links between domestic violence and the violence of political terrorism?

Denning: Dr. Kobrin, who is a psycho-analyst, Arabist and terrorism expert, really helped me see the correlation here. My practical experiences validate her theories. Actually, the more she and I talk and the more I learn about her theories, the more I’m convinced she has found the proverbial panacea for understanding Islamic suicide terrorism. I’ve amassed quite a library on terrorism and I’ve personally met terrorists. No one helps reveal the truth about suicide terror like she can. The subtitle of her book-manuscript couldn’t be more correct: The Sheikh’s New Clothes: The Naked Truth About Islamic Suicide Terror. It’s a shame that it isn’t published yet since the publisher got cold feet. It would add tremendous value to the field of counterterrorism study.

But to get to the point, one of my friends has said that terrorists are nothing but rascally criminals. I used to find that pithy and almost ignorant, but not anymore. The more we understand terrorists the greater their vulnerability becomes. They are strengthened by their own anonymity. And we give them power by labeling them as some difficult to understand entity. We empower them unintentionally by calling them terrorists. We mustn’t confuse a tactic with a vulnerable and angry human being with weaknesses. Words like jihadist, holy warrior—mujahideen or mujahidat—and al Qaeda don’t show who they really are. Abu Mushakil, literally the father of trouble, seems more accurate.

...If we made fun of them or occasionally taunted and humiliated them, that might help destroy the mystic of these criminals who use terror tactics. What, are they going to hate us more? I don’t think so. But joking a bit may ease our fear of them on some level. I could tell you some funny and totally stupid things terrorists have done. Most of them could be put in for the Darwin Awards or the world’s dumbest criminals. If we could really understand terrorists, if we could speak with them face to face and learn about them, we’d lose our sense of fear towards them entirely. And, it would shock us at how foolish we were to ever embolden them with any sort of power.

Anyway, there are huge correlations between terrorists and criminals. When I was a cop in Dallas, Texas , we helped out a lady once whose ex-boyfriend said he was going to “cut her head off and kick it down the street” if he ever saw her again. We walked up to the door with her and, sure enough, he was serious. We nearly had to shoot him for our own safety. Come to find out he had been in prison for aggravated sexual assault and some other serious violent crimes.

Paul Johnson and Nick Berg were beheaded. The Chechens terrorists often decapitate the heads of the Russian soldiers they take hostage. The morbid thing is they have let their own kids kick the severed heads around like soccer balls. Now doesn’t that sound like this sexually violent criminal I just described? Sure it does. The truth is there’s a huge similarity between domestic violence, misogyny and terrorism on a bigger scale. Interestingly, I have read letters from stalkers who want to kill their victims. Not a few read like this: “If I can’t have you on earth, we’ll both be in heaven together.” These stalkers, like many terrorists, have a homicide-suicide type mentality. The allure of an Islamic terrorist seeking intimate relations in the afterlife is also evident.

Moreover, when a female is murdered in a domestic abuse relationship, she is often left naked and exposed—almost like a sadistic sexual punishment. And when it comes to these so-called terrorists, sex crimes and their associated terror acts seem united.

FP: Let’s talk about misogyny, sex crimes and Islamic terror. The more Islamic extremists strike out against the West, the more they are vicious with their own women and vice-versa. Give us your wisdom on this paradigm.

Denning: I don’t think that Islamic extremists have begun hating their own women more in recent years. I think we may have just uncovered some of the irregular abuses and horrible atrocities that have been occurring for years. Since 9/11 we’ve tended to speak up a little more and shed some light in the dark corner. Like abusive relationships are often done in secret, the same could be said of the abuses against women within Islam. Generally speaking, all of them are debased and devalued. Devaluing women is a cultural thing with them. It’s terrible and horrible. It’s sad.

Consider the recent ruling in the Saudi Arabian court system where a 19-year-old gang rape victim was sentenced to several lashings and six months in prison. After she went to the media her sentence was raised to 200 lashings. Why was she sentenced as a victim? Because she broke the strict separation of the sexes by riding in a car with a man she wasn’t related to. That’s absurd. No gang rape victim should be punished; she’s already been punished enough.

Just the other day I overheard a co-worker and good friend of mine talk about his experiences as a corrections officer and policeman. He was telling someone about the many transsexual men in prison. He said that when they get confused about their own sexuality they often become engaged in violent and bizarre crimes.

That encapsulates much of the reasons why Islamic terrorist-criminals do what they do; they’re confused. Many of them are homosexual. They hate women and yet they wish for 72 black-eyed virgins? As Dr. Kobrin teaches, “for Islamic male dominated terrorist groups, the female is sexually terrifying.” She’s absolutely right. Moreover, she teaches that they subconsciously hate their own mothers and that’s one of the reasons they act out…

Years ago, I learned about the highly unstable but favored terrorist explosive, TATP. It’s very sensitive to heat, shock and friction. In Arabic, the male terrorists refer to it as ‘the mother of Satan.’ Why would someone debase their mother like that? Because in Islam the women are dirty.

On one hand these would-be terrorists yearn for a relationship, but they can’t have one—not a wholesome one. The love-hate dichotomy confuses them. They hate women. They hate their own mothers, but at the same time need their nurture and love. Moreover, they are sexually confused and full of testosterone and angst. I’ve never considered it until now, but they don’t even get the pheromones and the tranquil feelings that are experienced from a healthy socio-sexual relationship. So, are they always on edge—hyped up on anger and testosterone? Maybe. Coupled with a few other issues, they turn into criminal sadists. They kidnap, cut heads off and mutilate people by powerful homemade explosives. As an interesting side note, male homosexual domestic homicides are by far the most gruesome and brutal. Can you see the psycho-dynamic link between crime and terror? I can.

One last very important point; I recently learned something from my experiences that has never been made publicly available until now. One terrorist made an improvised explosive device he called a Jumana bomb. Jumana in colloquial Arabic means beautiful girl. The unique bombs are described as pretty. But, in a twisted sense of comparing a lethal bomb to a woman, the terrorists would openly admit that if you get too close, both bombs and girls will destroy you. To me, things like this only add merit to Dr. Kobrin’s overall theory.

FP: How would you explain the high rate of suicide terror among Muslims?

Denning: Every society has criminals, but they only make up a small percentage of the population. Of the 1.3 billion Muslims, there are only a small percentage of them who are the terrorists. I’m talking about the one’s who are involved in cutting off heads, taking hostages and detonating bombs. A good number of the rest of them are ardent supporters though. Those were the ones, for instance, shown on TV cheering after the towers crumbled on 9/11.

There are bad neighborhoods that breed crime. Radical Islam is like a rough neighborhood. It breeds contempt. It produces suicidal terrorists. Children can’t really escape it; in fact, they often grow up to become part of the corruption, just like in any bad neighborhood. Furthermore, those communities that are isolated from Jews, Christians or kafirs, teach false things in their madrasahs about Dar al Harb or the world outside of Islam ruled by infidels.

Lastly, they dehumanize us. That’s one of the reasons it was so easy for the mob in Fallujah , Iraq to mutilate, and then hang from the bridge, the immolated carcasses of the three U.S. government contractors in March 2003. Remember, they danced and cheered and smiled? I can’t even imagine the worst of all neighborhoods doing that. But, then again, I can because I’ve seen the evil that people are capable of.

FP: Let’s talk about future threats. What do you think some of the greatest future threats are? For instance, is it inevitable that there will be a WMD attack in the U.S. or in the West in general? What must we do? Are you optimistic or pessimistic about whether we will be able to face/stop these future threats?

Denning: Will we get attacked? Undoubtedly. It’s just a matter of time. And then it will happen again and again over time. Islamic terrorists might very well use chemical weapons. But the chemical attack in the Japanese subway in 1995 wasn’t that spectacular. I mean, it didn’t yield multiple deaths. Islamic terrorists want the spectacular. They could use some other kind of weapon of mass destruction, like a radiological dispersal device, or dirty bomb, but for the most part I believe they’ll stick to what works. High explosives have worked well for years. They’ll keep using them.

In the areas where terrorists can do it, I believe they’ll use truck bombs. It would be too easy to blow up big buildings. Changes in security aren’t usually made until after the fact, unfortunately. In other words, there are not enough preventive measures in place to stop that right now. I’m not talking about more government eavesdropping and intelligence; I’m talking about physically stopping a semi-tractor trailer from driving downtown and into or near a building then blowing it up.

There are a couple other targets they’ll focus on. Commercial airplanes are still a big target, and a pretty easy target, unfortunately. There are many things that can be done to improve security there. Unfortunately we’re very vulnerable. Airplanes are an attractive psychological, economic and tactical target. Plus, what could be more spectacular than a plane being blown from the sky?
Shopping malls are an incredibly vulnerable target—and anywhere else there’s a big gathering.

We know that terrorists have done surveillance on schools in America and no doubt in other Western countries too. When I think about the Beslan, Russia school massacre, I get pretty nervous. We are not prepared to do what it will take to keep the casualties down should Islamic suicidal terrorists attack our schools. Education and policy change is badly needed.

Unfortunately, there’s a great lack of urgency here. And frankly, some policies simply won’t change until after something bad happens and people die. Then everyone who didn’t stop it will get blamed. We need to be proactive. Who can I call? Who’ll listen?

There are other things that may soon happen, like a strategic attack—a tertiary or three-prong attack, for instance. I won’t go into detail, but this could be disastrous.

The bottom line is like what happened after I warned the hotel executive. If people don’t listen, aren’t proactive and don’t have a real sense of urgency, people will die. Period. It’s impossible to stop every attack. Terrorists have the tactical advantage, but we can curb the casualties if we change our approach and exploit the weaknesses of terrorists. At the end of the day though, saying ‘I told you so’ doesn’t make anything better.

FP: Jeffrey Denning, thank you for joining us.

Denning: Thank you.

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