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April 22, 2013


Eric Chen

Professor Nacos,

A disclaimer doesn't dispell the 3 paragraph rush to judgement that "this is a climate similar to the post-Waco years in the early 1990s."

Your judgement was based on a false equivalence between an episode from the 1990s and the Islamic terrorist trend that pre-dates the Ruby Ridge/Waco/Oklahoma City sequence and has escalated through the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s.

Moreover, your extrapolation of a nearly 20-year-old episode to a present-day "climate" was laid on a weak foundation. If I didn't read it on your blog, I would have thought the post was by a partisan hack. Since I know you are a Columbia political science professor speaking from her area of expertise and not a partisan hack, I can only think politically correct bias led you astray.

Should we keep track of libertarian militia? Sure, the Oklahoma City attack happened - one rotten apple and all that. But as yet, there's no trend there. Whereas there is a clear and lively trend of Islamic terrorism.

If, as you did, the FBI is also assessing potential Islamic terrorist threats by the same standard for assessing libertarian militia threats, that's a mistake. A double standard for Islamic terrorism is earned, reasonable, and prudent.

"Well, we all learned a bitter lesson."

That's particularly jarring coming from you. You're not a lay person without expectation and responsibility. You're a Columbia political science professor in her area of expertise. Whether in person or by reference, you teach our front-line protectors how to protect us from Islamic terrorism. You of all people should not be learning a "bitter lesson" that you ought already know.

As an undergrad, I took Professor Gottlieb's class on terrorism, so I know it's not news that the Chechen separatist struggle has been co-opted by radical Islamists. According to accounts, the FBI investigated Tsarnaev's link to radical Islam, not merely Chechen nationalism. It's not news that Chechens have fought under the Islamist flag on battlefields unrelated to the Chechen-Russian conflict, except for their common cause of a new world order.

Even the comedy 'Team America: World Police' used Chechens to represent Islamic terrorists - in 2004. Given that comedians understood the Chechen-Islamic terrorist link a decade ago, the notion that it comes as a "bitter lesson" to homeland security officials in 2013 is worrisome.

Again, I know you know better - you're not less knowledgeable on terrorism than Professor Gottlieb. So, what compelled you to obscure the Islamist threat with a blatantly false equivalence with libertarian militia? What is behind the cognitive dissonance pulling the FBI away from what it knows about Islamic terrorism?

If the disconnect between knowledge and practice is not due to politically correct bias, then what is it from?


Eric, in my previous post I wanted to and did emphasize that we must not rush to judgment but rather consider all types of perpetrators. I wrote,
"No, I am not suggesting that the perpetrator or perpetrators come from this milieu—but I think this is just as likely as a Jihadist link or as a deranged individual like the Newtown shooter who last December killed 20 children and 6 adults in a senseless shooting spree without any imaginable political agenda."

And I am not sure that "political correctness" kept the FBI from revisiting the older Tsarnaev after he returned from his visit in Dagestan. So far we thought of Chechen extremists as attackers of targets in Russia--not abroad.

Well, we all learned a bitter lesson.

Eric Chen

Dzhokhar's case is especially disturbing because he was better than ordinary. His history was a model American immigrant success story, which I appreciate as a 1st generation American.

The worst thing that's been said about him is he smoked marijuana, which is not abnormal. Certainly, more than a few high-achieving Columbia students share the same habit. Dzhokar, by all accounts, was no misfit or bullied outcast. He's athletic, smart, and handsome. He seemed well adjusted and assimilated, had friends, and was popular, well liked by peers and adults, and successful at everything he did. He profiles as a golden boy or big man on campus type, a young man who might have been elected mayor of Boston someday as a native son, not an Islamic terrorist who kills and maims Boston Marathon spectators as though he were a foreign enemy.

The compassionate, empathic reflex is to ask what America did wrong by the Tsarnaev brothers. (They also have 2 sisters.) Except, at least in Dzokhar's case, it appears America - and Boston - did everything right and he was on his way to fulfilling the American dream.

Yet radical Islam was more powerful than the American dream and Dzokhar's Boston roots.

If Nidal Hassan, who as an Army officer and medical doctor possessed a double ethos that should have stopped any inkling of hurting soldiers, and a popular, friendly, high-achiever like Dzokhar Tsarnaev can be radicalized sufficiently to attempt mass murder within their own communities, then we have a problem that we have yet to appreciate enough.

"For the intelligence community, for everyone involved in homeland security efforts, there are many remaining questions that need to be answered."

How can terrorist attacks be carried out by people that the FBI investigated and cleared? To begin answering that question, look at your previous post.

You're an academic expert in the field, yet even your reflexive reaction to the Boston Marathon bombing was a politically correct deflection of the Islamist danger.

I know you know better. It's revealing. If someone with your expertise can make that kind of mistake, I can understand the FBI is handicapped by the same politically correct bias when assessing potential Islamic terrorists.

When it comes to the Islamist threat, political correctness by our protectors risks lives. People have died. Given your position, I hope you will help train our authorities to save lives by curing them of politically correct bias so they can see the enemy clearly.

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