Headlines » Terry Moran http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines The latest Headlines, news and blog posts from ABC News contributors and bloggers. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 17:03:51 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Death, Mayhem in Central African Republic as UN Plans Next Move http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/death-mayhem-in-central-african-republic-as-un-plans-next-move/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/death-mayhem-in-central-african-republic-as-un-plans-next-move/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 22:13:31 +0000 Terry Moran http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=516724

ABC News’ Terry Moran reports:

BANGUI, Central African Republic – What has been unleashed here in the Central African Republic is terrifying.

Since December, about 4 million people have made war on each other across religious lines, Muslims attacking Christians, Christians responding with unspeakable ferocity.

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, visited today for the second time in an attempt to mobilize the world to prevent a genocide.

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            (Photo Credit: Jerome Delay/AP Photo)


Related: Top US officials fly to Central African Republic.

“I think it’s our job to, we hope, to raise the resources that we need to help the people facing this kind of peril,” she said.

The images are startling: a boy chasing a man with a machete, a woman weeping over the coffin containing a child, a man raising a club to beat an unseen victim.

No one knows the death toll because the killing is too frenzied and too widespread to count. In the heart of Africa, CAR is one of the poorest countries in the world.

Up to 700,000 people – almost 20 percent of the total population – have been driven from their homes by warring militias and nearly 100,000 innocent people have gathered at the main airport.

Conditions are deplorable. Families need food and water. People are sick and are stuck under the broiling sun. They have been forgotten by much of the world.

Across a barbed-wire fence – put there for their safety, officials say – people told ABC News, in French, how they fled for their lives the night the killers came, brandishing machetes and knives with glee.

There are several thousand international peacekeepers but they are overwhelmed, as 25 of them have been killed and others have allegedly joined in the mass killings.

The U.N. Security Council is expected to vote Thursday on expanding the African mission in the country into a U.N. peacekeeping operation.

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US Responds as al Qaeda Overruns Fallujah http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/01/us-responds-as-al-qaeda-overruns-fallujah/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/01/us-responds-as-al-qaeda-overruns-fallujah/#comments Tue, 07 Jan 2014 01:23:45 +0000 Terry Moran http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=505136 AP fallujah gunman conflict sk 140106 16x9 608 US Responds as al Qaeda Overruns Fallujah

AP Photo

A decade after the United States fought a war and bitter counter-insurgency to plant democracy, much of Fallujah has fallen to al Qaeda.

The terrorist group’s infamous black flag flies openly and its masked soldiers are everywhere, RPG launchers in hand.

Related: Iraq PM urges people of Fallujah to expel al Qaeda.

Fierce fighting has raged on in Fallujah’s outskirts as Iraqi troops blast their way down streets.

Today, Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said the U.S. remained committed to help Iraq fight al Qaeda elements. As part of the Foreign Military Sales program, the U.S. planned to send 100 Hellfire missiles, 10 small Scan Eagle drones and 48 small Raven drones to Iraq.

In December, 75 Hellfire missiles were delivered.

“We’re working closely with the Iraqis to develop a holistic strategy to isolate al Qaeda-affiliated groups so that tribes work with security forces to root them out of populated areas,” Warren said. “It’s still early however.”

He reiterated Secretary of State John Kerry’s comments this weekend that while the U.S. remained “very, very concerned” by the fighting, it would not be sending troops.

“We’re not contemplating putting boots on the ground,” Kerry said Sunday. “This is their fight.”

With U.S. troops out of Iraq, however, security has collapsed. According to the United Nations, 7,818 people were killed in 2013, the highest number in years.

The civil war in next-door Syria — where al Qaeda fighters continue to grow in strength and have taken the lead among rebel forces — has now spilled over freely into Iraq.

The fear is that al Qaeda might form its own state or power base within the chaos.

The takeover has brought bitter memories for Americans.

Related: Americans who fought in Fallujah watch al Qaeda make a comeback.

It was in Fallujah in 2004 that U.S. Marines fought a ferocious, house-to-house battle against Iraqi insurgents. More than 100 Marines died to pacify the city and hundreds more were injured.

Ross Caputi, a former Marine who fought in the second battle for the city and is now an outspoken critic of U.S. intervention in Iraq, told ABC News recently that he’d watched his friends die there “for the purposes of regime change and furthering business interests friendly to the Bush administration.”

“[Now] Iraqis will die there to further the interests of [Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki’s government,” he said.

ABC News’ Luis Martinez contributed to this report.

 

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Syria’s Response to Obama Speech: We Won http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/09/syrias-response-to-obama-speech-we-won/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/09/syrias-response-to-obama-speech-we-won/#comments Sun, 01 Sep 2013 20:46:58 +0000 Terry Moran http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=492185 AP turkey syria crisis protesters jt 130901 16x9 608 Syrias Response to Obama Speech: We Won

(Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Photo)

REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK

We won.

That’s the gist of reaction coming out of Damascus to President Obama’s decision to forgo an attack on Syria for now and seek congressional authorization for the use of military force.

Church bells rang out, prayers of gratitude sounded from minarets, ordinary Syrians exhaled in relief, according to media reports and word-of-mouth from Damascus.

Morning TV in Syria blared: “Syria Confronts the Aggressors.”

There is an unmistakable sense of triumph in the air throughout the Arab world for those who support Bashar al-Assad’s regime — and for many others who just want to see the U.S. stymied. And nothing enhances the stature of an Arab leader like defying the US.

“The Syrian army’s readiness is what warded off U.S. aggression against Syria,” Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadr Jamil declared in Damascus.

Syrian state TV went so far as to declare that Obama called off the attack because he could not prove the allegation that Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons.

On al Manar, Hezbollah’s TV network in Lebanon, an analyst claimed a “strategic victory” over America, saying that the joint stance of Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah frightened Obama into retreat.

On the other side of the Syrian civil war, however, there was crushing disappointment and disillusionment.

“The Syrian people feel more alone now than ever,” said Mouaz Mustafa, executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force. “This is absolutely a blow to many in the opposition on the ground who’ve suffered the brunt of the chemical attacks.”

A final observation: Obama framed his decision in ringing terms, drawing on the deepest American constitutional ideals. He made the case that the country’s true strength in the world flows from open democratic debate and decision-making, and there may be truth in that — in America. Not so much in this part of the world. Here, strength flows from strength — from the will, pride, ruthlessness and ferocity of a man, of a people. Democracy calls for a very different set of values. And for many in this ancient region, so alien in some ways to the culture of the West, those values — and leaders who turn to them instead of to force — are simply weak.

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Electing a Pope: Cardinal Describes Weight of Conclave Vote http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/03/electing-a-pope-cardinal-describes-weight-of-conclave-vote/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/03/electing-a-pope-cardinal-describes-weight-of-conclave-vote/#comments Tue, 12 Mar 2013 23:40:58 +0000 Terry Moran http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=471747

VATICAN CITY — Storm clouds gathered over St. Peter’s Basilica today, almost as if God Himself wanted a somber setting for a somber day in the history of the Catholic Church.

Inside, all of the 115 cardinals and, symbolically, all the faithful, gathered for one last mass. A reminder amid the mighty spaces of St. Peter’s that this papal election, in the belief of the Catholics, is a kind of worship, a kind of prayer to pick the next pope.

In the homily was a call for unity from the dean of the College of Cardinals, Angelo Sodano, who also praised the man who was not there: Benedict the Pope Emeritus, now in solitude outside of Rome.

Among the men who will make this conclave vote was Cardinal Justin Rigali, the former archbishop of Philadelphia. This will be his second conclave — he voted in Benedict’s election back in 2005 — so this time, Cardinal Rigali knew what to expect.

“It begins by singing in Latin to bring the Holy Spirit and this is the oath that is taken,” he said.

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Credit: ABC News

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The cardinals read the secrecy oath together. Rigali has been there before. He has taken the same oath and shouldered the same historic task. He recalled what it was like to be inside the Sistine Chapel during that moment.

“It’s not just a question of talking or trying to make it into something political,” he said. “It’s a fact that the people of God are asking God to raise up a man that will remain with his human limitations and will be a worthy leader of the church. So that is what we are asking.”

Who’s Who in the Papal Conclave?

Rigali’s  journey to Rome began nearly two weeks ago from the small city of Knoxville, Tenn., where he has retired. Amid the faithful of Knoxville, a public prayer service was held in his honor, with 1,000 local Catholic high school students and community members in the pews.  At the airport he was cheered like a rock star as he headed to his plane.

At a layover in Atlanta, I met up with him.

Next stop: Rome.

After arriving, I asked him if he knew yet in his heart and mind whom he would vote for in the conclave.

“This is a very serious election that involved listening,” Rigali said. “It involves weighing different candidates and this cannot be done a priori. It can’t be done before you go in and you decide. You have to be open to the process that is taking place and we believe the Holy Spirit is with us.”

Last week, Rigali joined the other cardinals to say farewell to Pope Benedict XVI, and then they got down to the real work here: Meetings and more meetings, where the politics happen — and in coffee breaks too.

“The coffee breaks are a component,” Rigali said. “It gives us the opportunities to speak with the cardinals, some we know more, some we know less. It gives us the opportunity to exchange our thoughts.”

But this was a different reality today — a deeper reality, they believe. After their oath, after their prayers, the simple command was said: “Extra Omnes,” which means “outside all,” or colloquially, everybody out who is not a cardinal elector.

And they left. The staff, the priests, the cameras. The great doors to the Sistine Chapel were closed and the cardinals were alone inside.

Cardinal Rigali described the voting as a kind of fellowship in prayer.

“People are trying to listen to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “We are trying to hear the wisdom that is communicated in their brother cardinals.”

As a cold, damp evening fell on the Eternal City, thousands waited in St. Peter’s Square, straining to see the chimney atop the Sistine Chapel for the smoke that signifies a vote has been taken.

Suddenly, at precisely 7:42 p.m. local time, there it was.

Black smoke. An inconclusive vote.

There is no pope. Tonight.

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Children Among Seriously Injured in Damascus Explosion http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/02/children-among-seriously-injured-in-damascus-explosion/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/02/children-among-seriously-injured-in-damascus-explosion/#comments Thu, 21 Feb 2013 18:41:27 +0000 Terry Moran http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=469625

ABC News’ Terry Moran and his team take a rare and dangerous journey into the embattled Syrian capital of Damascus for the special reportInside Syria: The Battle for Damascus.

It’s dark here now. Downtown Damascus seems shaken to its core by today’s attacks.

At 11 a.m., at a crowded traffic circle near the city’s heart, a car bombing left not only a crater but charred hulks of cars, a truck and a city bus in its wake. Blood and burnt corpses littered the street.

As ABC News arrived on the scene, where a school stood close by, a small body bag was loaded into an ambulance.

At a military hospital, where more than 70 of the wounded had been taken, a little boy was being treated for injuries sustained when debris ripped through him. His father, who was walking beside him when the blast occurred, sat on the end of the bed in tears.

A woman, her legs badly injured, wept because she’d been separated from her 4-month-old baby girl when the blast hit them and she did not know where her child was. Doctors said the mother would likely lose both her legs.

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Image credit: SANA/AP Photo

A man with his head and face badly wounded and bandaged, cried out to God — and declared loyalty to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

An office building of the local Ba’ath Party — Assad’s ruling party — was blown out by the blast and may have been its intended target.

At the hospital, a weary doctor who had been working all day said America was to blame.

He was polite, but firm. A father of four, he said every time he approached one of the children hurt, he thought of his kids.

We have heard that more than 50 are dead and more than 200 are injured. The death toll is likely to rise.

Syrian law enforcement says that a second suicide bomber was arrested in the area after the blast, perhaps preparing to detonate a follow-on attack as emergency workers and others responded to the initial carnage.

As ABC News has been reporting for some time, and as NGOs like the International Crisis Group have been documenting, the armed rebellion here is being rapidly radicalized.

Jihadists — including those who self-identify as al Qaeda — play an increasingly important role on the frontlines of the fighting and so are increasingly determining the character of the civil war.

The increasing pace of mortar attacks, a notoriously inaccurate weapon almost guaranteed to cause “collateral damage”; kidnappings, executions and IEDs; and today’s massive blast suggest that the tactic of terror has become a weapon of choice on the Damascus battlefield.

And in fact it feels to Damascenes that the war is closing in on them, that their zone of safety is vanishing altogether and that terror will slowly choke life out of this diverse and tolerant city.

Finally, all day long, as if in anguished retaliation, the government’s artillery positions on the hills above town have been firing away at the rebels in the suburbs.

 

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An Attempt at Normalcy as Damascus Finds Itself Caught in the Crosshairs http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/02/an-attempt-at-normalcy-as-damascus-finds-itself-caught-in-the-crosshairs/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/02/an-attempt-at-normalcy-as-damascus-finds-itself-caught-in-the-crosshairs/#comments Wed, 20 Feb 2013 23:43:46 +0000 Terry Moran http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=469477 abc terry moran syria nt 130220 wblog An Attempt at Normalcy as Damascus Finds Itself Caught in the Crosshairs

Image credit: ABC News

ABC News’ Terry Moran and his team take a rare and dangerous journey into the embattled Syrian capital of Damascus for the special reportInside Syria: The Battle for Damascus.

It’s just an ordinary place in Damascus – a hostel for visiting sports teams near the stadium – but death paid a visit today.

A rebel mortar shell fired from the suburbs blasted out windows and scattered shrapnel into the building, killing a young soccer player.

His teammate was in the room when it happened.

“We couldn’t save him,” he said.

His friend’s phone kept ringing – it was his friend’s widow – but he couldn’t bring himself to answer.

“We’re just athletes,” he said. “We want them all to stop fighting.”

But this war, like all wars, is merciless.

In Hamouriyah, a suburb just a few miles from the hostel, at least 13 people were killed in an apparent government airstrike.

And a rebel group released a video today that, it said, shows members shooting down a Syrian jet fighter.

This afternoon, we went to the main military hospital in Damascus. Syrian forces are taking heavy casualties in this war. As many as 16,000 have been killed.

There, we met Gen. Nidal Ibrahim, whose legs were badly shot up but who remains defiant about the war and the tactics his troops have used, which international human rights groups said include possible war crimes, as well as crimes against humanity.

“You must use terror against terror. Unfortunately, civilians are killed,” he said.

But life somehow continues in Damascus. You can still stroll through the old markets. We bought some nuts from a very enthusiastic merchant.

“I am Hamoud Rasheen! Syria strong!” he yelled.

At dusk, you can still enter the splendid Ummayad Mosque – an ancient house of God and oasis of peace. The people pray and the children play on an endless carpet while, outside, their nation drowns in the blood of civil war.

For more on Terry Moran’s journey into Damascus, Syria, click here and here.

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Within Earshot of Syrian Civil War, Damascus Citizens Carry On http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/02/within-earshot-of-syrian-civil-war-damascus-citizens-carry-on/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/02/within-earshot-of-syrian-civil-war-damascus-citizens-carry-on/#comments Tue, 19 Feb 2013 22:50:04 +0000 Terry Moran http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=469331 abc terry moran mi 130219 wblog Within Earshot of Syrian Civil War, Damascus Citizens Carry On

Image: ABC News

ABC News’ Terry Moran and his team take a rare and dangerous journey into the embattled capital of Damascus for the special reportInside Syria: The Battle for Damascus.

Life in a city under siege is surreal.

Damascus, with its traffic jams and business deals, carries on while artillery fire and bombing raids punctuate the din and cover the city in a blanket of dread. It is Tuesday evening, and smoke billows from the suburbs. For now, the battleground appears to be on the outskirts of town.

Damage can be seen at a hospital in the Christian quarter of town, caused by primitive mortars fired by rebels. Just another stop on our trip.

To visitors, the booms of warfare may be jarring, but residents have grown accustomed to the sounds of shelling and bombs. They hardly notice anymore. They are all too aware that it could be much worse, as is the case elsewhere in Syria.

In the Damascus suburb of Daraya, battle has gone on for months — with government air strikes reducing much of the area to rubble. In Aleppo, fighting continued between Assad’s forces and Syrian rebels on Tuesday, costing lives with the possibility that more bodies lay buried in the rubble.

Some, including Jordan’s King Abdullah, say the longer the conflict drags on, the greater the danger to the entire region. Adding to the growing concern is the alleged influence foreign jihadists are enjoying among the Syrian rebel forces.

“Al Qaeda is established in Syria,” King Abdullah told us.  “They’ve been there for about a year.”

The losses have been overwhelming and widespread. A wake was held Tuesday afternoon for a popular local politician in Damascus. He was kidnapped and burned to death in his car by jihadist rebels, who claimed credit on the Internet, sources told ABC News.

For the first time, rebel mortars were fired not far from one of Bashar Assad’s palaces late Tuesday, but there were no deaths and not much damage. In Damascus, the fear is real: the fear of what tomorrow may bring.

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Damascus Holds Its Breath as Syrian Civil War Reaches Its Door http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/02/damascus-holds-its-breath-as-syrian-civil-war-reaches-its-door/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/02/damascus-holds-its-breath-as-syrian-civil-war-reaches-its-door/#comments Mon, 18 Feb 2013 22:11:02 +0000 Terry Moran http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=469195

ABC News’ Terry Moran and his team take a rare and dangerous journey into the embattled capital of Damascus for the special report:  Inside Syria: The Battle for Damascus.

Damascus is quiet tonight — too quiet.

We arrived a few hours ago in this tense and troubled city — 5 million people hunkered down as the terrible war that is tearing this country apart has now arrived in major battles raging in the suburbs.

This war is far from over — and it is far from clear who will win — but we already know who the losers are: the people of this ancient land.

From Beirut, Lebanon, we drove into Syria along a heavily guarded route, passing checkpoint after checkpoint after checkpoint.

It is now a lifeline as Damascus — the stronghold of the government of President Bashar Assad — becomes a city under siege.

Tonight, just a few miles from here, the war raged on.

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Image credit: ABC News

It is a dirty war, in a crucial country.

The chaos engulfing Syria threatens to spill over into Iraq on one side, and Israel and Lebanon on the other. That is a nightmare scenario for the U.S.

The United Nations now estimates that 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting — but no one really knows.

A U.N. commission today called for war-crimes investigations of both sides: Assad’s government, which has sought to crush the rebellion by any means necessary; as well as the rebels, many of whom are increasingly seen by ordinary Syrians as warlords, gangsters and religious fanatics who regularly post videos of beheadings and other atrocities on YouTube.

Syria’s many minorities live in terror of a jihadist takeover of their country.

Before we came here, we visited Christian refugees from Syria who had fled to Beirut.

They said they’d been forced out of their villages by Muslim fundamentalists — ethnically cleansed. They’d supported the rebellion at first, but not now. They have lost their homes, their communities, their way of life.

“We lived freely as Christians,” said one man, putting up Christmas trees and decorations. “But now we are being targeted.”

It is a dirty war with no end in sight.

We have come to this country with the permission of the government, which wants the other side of the story here told.

There is no doubt the rebellion has changed.

Ordinary Syrians increasingly just want the war to stop and now dread the chaos that has been unleashed.

Assad himself seems to know this. The man that the U.S. government has said must go told a group of visitors today: “We are sure we will win.”

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Andrew Breitbart: The Vandal and the Crusader http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/03/andrew-breitbart-the-vandal-and-the-crusader/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/03/andrew-breitbart-the-vandal-and-the-crusader/#comments Thu, 01 Mar 2012 21:16:20 +0000 Terry Moran http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=247942
 

Whatever else he was — and he was many things — Andrew Breitbart was God’s gift to interviewers.

The guy was a walking polemic, a sound-bite machine, spewing out hot sentences of furious — and sometimes spurious — commentary and controversy. Breitbart was filled with an enormous passion for pugilistic public debate; he didn’t want to convince those who disagreed with him as much as he wanted to smite them, obliterate them, cast them into a civic Gehenna from which they would never return and where they would rot in a stinking pit of what he believed was liberal error.

It sounds ugly, and it often was.

But there was something else, and it’s what made him such good company and good copy for so many journalists: Andrew Breitbart was full of joy, too.

That’s the only word for it. He was full of mischief and he took an infectious delight at the whole human comedy, at himself not least. One minute, he’d be boiling over at you, red-faced and crazed with righteous indignation at the crimes you were perpetrating on behalf of the hated mainstream media, and in an instant a smile would start making its way across his ham face, and the smile would become a chuckle, and the chuckle a cackle, and you saw the genuine good cheer that was mixed in such a strange alloy with all that rage. I liked him very much.

But it must be said — if for no other reason than to keep the debate he loved going — that Breitbart  vandalized American journalism and civic discourse, even as he helped to change them, hauling them into a hyperlinked, hyper-partisan future. Some of his shenanigans — the tarring of Shirley Sherrod, the attacks on Ted Kennedy the day he died, for instance — were downright deceptive or downright vicious. Scoring points was often more important than anything else to him, and his excesses stemmed from that zeal.

More important, Breitbart’s preferred mode of addressing his opponents — piling up the insults, pouring on the vitriol — was symptomatic of something gone wrong in our national conversation, a destructive force he fueled. More and more frequently, on the left and the right, especially online, the first recourse of debate seems to be hyperbolic hate, epithets aimed at silencing conversation rather than deepening it: “Fascist!” “Criminal!” “Pervert!”  ”Nazi!” “Idiot!” “Racist!”

Conversation is the most important human practice; it’s what has made our pragmatic American politics work for two centuries. We can talk to one another. But that — that’s not talking; that’s performing. And Breitbart was a great performer, perfectly in sync with the tenor of these times –for better and worse.

That was one of his gifts. He got us, he got the national moment, he sensed who we were becoming and leapt out in front to lead a hugely entertaining dance of destruction — creative destruction, he’d argue, the destruction of what he deeply believed was mainstream media complacency and bias and liberal bigotry and corruption.

You may think him right, or wrong. But maybe, whatever one thinks of the substance of his politics, and the tactics he used to advance them, there is a gift for all of us in the example of Andrew Breitbart’s too-brief life: He danced his dance with joy.

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What makes a terrorist? http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2007/07/what-makes-a-te/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2007/07/what-makes-a-te/#comments Thu, 05 Jul 2007 18:39:52 +0000 Terry Moran http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2007/07/what-makes-a-te/ I’ve just returned from London, where I was covering what some people are calling "the doctors’ plot"–the botched terror attacks last week on London’s West End and Glasgow’s airport. Investigators say the perpetrators were doctors, medical students and other health-care professionals, and among the many worrying concerns such a plot raises, there is a broader question sparked by the diabolical imaginative leap of turning doctors into bombs: What makes a terrorist?

It is a fact of our times that every once in a not-so-long while you will pick up your morning paper, or log on, or tune in to your morning show and discover some atrocity somewhere in the world–young people torn to shreds at a nightclub, a plane blown out of the sky, commuters incinerated in a subway–all done in the name of a viciously distorted understanding of Islam. Most people’s first thought on hearing of such bloodthirsty mayhem will be, "Muslim terrorists again." And while that reaction will be wrong on occasion (remember Oklahoma City), and while you may find that it verges on bigotry, you simply cannot deny that most of the time it is an empirical fact of our age that the hunch will be spot-on correct. It will be "Muslim terrorists again."

Why? That’s a critical strategic question in the struggle against a barbarism that threatens to define our lives. It’s also a very complicated question, but let’s focus on one thing that is almost certainly not driving Islamist terrorism and one thing that is.

It’s not poverty. Poor people in Muslim societies are not more likely to become terrorists. They are not more vulnerable to the stew of theology, resentment, and fanaticism that forms the mentality of Islamist terror. In fact, the opposite is true–but you wouldn’t know this from listening to many politicians and activists.

As David Wessel points out in The Wall Street Journal today(subscription required), President Bush and others are given to fatuous utterances like, "We fight against poverty because hope is an answer to terror." So, if we write a big enough check to fight Third World poverty, we’ll defeat terrorism? This is a self-regarding, morally vain and dangerous notion. In most of the world’s fifty poorest countries, there is little or no terrorism. It is simply an insult to say that a poor young man in Haiti is a potential terrorist simply because he’s poor. As people have demonstrated throughout human history, poverty is not a moral handicap.

Islamist terrorists and their supporters are shown by study after study to be better-off, better-educated, and have better opportunities than most others in their societies. Perhaps the most chilling findings come from the work of forensic psychiatrist and former CIA case officer Marc Sageman, who studied 400 Al Qaeda members and found that "the vast majority–90 percent–came from caring, intact families. Sixty-three percent had gone to college, as compared with the 5-6 percent that’s usual for the third world. These are the best and brightest of their societies in many ways." So Al Qaeda and other violent jihadist movements are not best understood in the Marxian discourse of class struggle. The question isn’t money. It’s identity.

To be a modern person is to be an insecure person. By that I mean insecure in one’s identity in relation to others. Rootlessness, anonymity, transience–these are the conditions that make many of us who we are in the modern world. And that in turn makes the construction of our identities–our personalities–an active endeavor, a matter of choice and struggle and reflection. This is the condition of a free mind in a free world–liberated, but in a fundamental sense, alone as our forebears were not.

Because for most of human history, the question "Who am I in this society?" was simply unimaginable. Family, ancestors, clan, tribal networks, geography, faith and ties to the land made one’s identity a given–a fact defined extrinsically by seemingly immutable social forces. There is great comfort in this; we are social creatures, and a deep, dense social network can provide a rich sense of identity. But it is a truth of our time that as the world moves rapidly from the country to the city (more than half the human population now lives in cities–a staggering social change in our species), fewer and fewer people will live amid the old certainties, and more and more will experience the dizzying possibilities of life as an individual set adrift in the human sea of the great city.

And they will be insecure in who they are. Not all, perhaps–the poor are insulated, to an extent, by the sheer magnitude of their physical struggle to survive, by their continued reliance on each other and on an older faith that focuses its promises on the next world, and by their isolation. But take a few steps up the social ladder in an immigrant community, or in the sprawling new cities in the Muslim world, and it’s a different story. Doctors, engineers, architects and other professionals are in the vanguard of the movement into modernity. They are immersed in a world of transnational practices, standards, collegial networks and ethics that can be corrosive of their old allegiances. They can get lost, especially if they have migrated to the west, with all of our societies’ temptations, blasphemies, materialism and skepticism.

So they go home. Not literally–no, they return to a country of the mind, an Islamist fantasyland of certainty, dignity and power. In that world, they know who they are. And they know who we are–infidels whose life of freedom and radical individuality and anonymity confused them for a time, threatened them with annihilation. They will not be annihilated. They have decided they will annihilate us.

The question of identity does not by a long shot explain what makes a terrorist. There’s the issue of why British and European Muslims seem more vulnerable to the terrorist worldview than American Muslims do; I’ll take that up in my next post. There’s also the question of theology–is there something in Islam itself that has been activated by the pressures of modernity? Perhaps. But for now, I think it’s important, as we try to understand things like the "doctors’ plot," to refocus our attention from poverty and explore instead the psychological experience–the inner lives–of those who are so determined to kill us. That way lies victory.

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