I didn't get this post published back in May when I first drafted it -- and now I don't think I can find the links and tweets referenced, but given "Omar and Me" and the awful Al-Shabab attack killing 39 people in Kenya in a shopping mall, and the discussion around J.M. Berger, I'm going to publish this now and hunt for the links later.
I also hope to take up a critique of what the new revised Registan management is doing now with a new study of the IMU which looks like -- just as under the old management of Joshua Foust and Nathan Hamm -- it also minimizes the terrorist movement and tells us all it won't be a problem.
BTW, Nathan Hamm is now in Portland, Oregon making leather goods or something to sell, and he may be the person from Portland, OR that heckles me on this blog anonymously. He's a creep.
So the old post:
I came across the news of the arrest of Fazliddin Kurbanov, a 30-year-old Uzbek emigre suspected of material aid to terrorists, by reading the snarky comments of two terrorism experts on Twitter.
Like Joshua Foust, Sarah Kendzior and the other authors at Registan. they were snickering at news that came out of Idaho -- Idaho! -- concerning a possible affiliation to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).
These two -- one is @intelwire (J.M. Berger) with many followers and highly respected -- smirked at the invocation of the IMU affiliate as people of this perspective do because they believe it doesn't exist anymore, or its activities are totally reduced, ever since the US killed its leader in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. They only exist outside of Uzbekistan! Or they don't even exist! They are just a Fig Newton of your imagination!
The pair of them joked and said the IOU was an offshoot of the IMU -- you know, like a debt? Harhar.
I interrupted and sent them the link to the story of a female suicide bomber who was said to be related to the IMU, in Pakistan. Her motiviation was said to be an attack on a religious school by Pakistanis.
Ten people were killed and at least 75 were injured, but the IMU doesn't exist, you see. It was just made up by Karimov to exercise his authoritarian powers....
Now, that may very well be true, and maybe some of it is made up and many of the people he has put in jail don't seem to deserve to be in jail.
But the case of Kurbanov, like the case of Muhtorov and his accomplice, seems to be one where these individuals have been properly arrested. It may turn out that the US government cannot make its case against them, but that it had grounds for arrest seems clear.
@intelwire and company can smirk so much at the very thought of IMU in part because it's a male bonding exercise (nearly all the terrorist experts are male) and it's part of establishing the pecking order that says "We're the smart ones, surrounded by idiots". But it also positions them as the savvy ground-breaking innovative thinkers who challenge the status quo of all those hidebound haters of Islam -- whoever and wherever they are. I actually never see them (I don't mean extreme bloggers like Pamela Geller; I mean people in think-tanks who are specialists on terrorism.) The derision about the IMU is nearly universal among those who follow this part of the world, yet none of those making the claims of its falseness ever seem to adequately challenge the FBI or State Department with their beliefs.
Foust went so far as accusing me of helping to put an innocent man in jail with my blog (!) merely because I legitimately researched and published the open-source information I could find on Muhtorov and tried to piece together why the human rights groups in Uzbekistan had rejected him for extremism; why refugee officials in Kyrgyzstan had him pegged as in fact cooperating with police; why some emigres believed he was in fact an agent of Uzbek intelligence (these types of beliefs are common and of course hard to prove) and how it came to be that he spent years in this country, became a conservative Muslim, and then began to plot to help an IMU-related group in Turkey, getting together funds and equipment and planning a trip to Turkey to deliver it (he was arrested at the airport). The case seems to have stalled, as he has been in pre-trial detention more than a year.
The Registanis base their disdain for these types of cases -- which they call "Interneting while Muslim," i.e. people arrested only because they watched extremist videos or any Islamic videos at all -- because they think they are all stings. Many of them are. The FBI offers to sell explosives or weapons to someone they've been tracking, and lo and behold, the person bites, and then is arrested. Sure, stings need to be questioned. But I think the public would probably prefer a sting to take someone like Tamerlan Tsarnaev off the street and prevent him killing and maiming people rather than some more ACLU-approved method waiting until first they helped terrorists with websites and Twitter accounts and translations and "Interneting while Muslim," then, it took deadly effect....
Yes, these are very real civil rights problems and they need to be debated. Debating them is not what these terrorist experts are doing, however; they are smugly delivering the same set pieces over and over.
This entire cast of mind of the "anti-anti" -- it's so much like the "anti-anti-communism" -- is one I can only condemn because I think it has no basis. I think it also represents a close-mindedness that means that these experts are not willing to take in fresh information, revise their hypotheses, and listen to something other than their own well-worn narratives.