How to get to Jihad?
Gregory Johnsen, a former Fulbright Fellow in Yemen, is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. Johnsen has written for a variety of publications on Yemen including, among others, Foreign Policy, The American Interest, The Independent, The Boston Globe, and The National. He is the co-founder of Waq al-Waq: Islam and Insurgency in Yemen Blog. In 2009, he was a member of the USAID's conflict assessment team for Yemen.
Well, if you are Ra'id al-Harbi, whose last will and testament was posted to jihadi forums over the weekend, you ride your camel nine hours across the border to Yemen.
That is only one of the many interesting tidbits that I have gleaned so far from the wills of al-Harbi and former Guantanamo Bay detainee Yusif al-Shihri. (Unfortunately, an on-going project means that I can't provide my full take here - but one day, hopefully sooner than later it will be published, and then all of my thoughts will be on the record.)
For the time being let me just say that the fact that there were wills drawn up for al-Shihri and al-Harbi confirms - at least to me - what I have been telling friends for weeks now, and that is that Saudi Arabia averted a big attack when it stumbled on al-Shihri and al-Harbi with a roaming police checkpoint. The two were disguised in women's clothes and only opened fire when a female officer approached them to check their identities.
I wrote a bit about their death here. I argued in a CTC Sentinel piece that came out before they were killed that AQAP was prioritizing attacks in Saudi Arabia. Now, some of the less generous among you could argue that I am massaging the knowns and the unknowns of the situation to fit my analysis, but I still believe - obviously - that I was correct. And I think the fact that they had left their wills with their comrades in Yemen and the fact that they traveled to Saudi Arabia strongly suggests they were in the final stages of planning an attack that the kingdom managed to derail. The third individual they were traveling with was arrested and subsequently gave up a cell in Saudi. Obviously, reasonable people can disagree here given how many unknowns there are, but for me the wills strongly suggest that they were in Saudi Arabia to carry out an attack.
Leaving wills on record, especially ones composed in the style that these two are, is a common mark of suicide bombers. So, in my calculation, score one - even if it was a lucky one - for Saudi Arabia's security services.
Swiss researchers identify new dangers of modern cocaine.
- Cocaine cut with anti-worming adulterant levamisole may cause brain damage.
- Levamisole can thin out the prefrontal cortex and affect cognitive skills.
- Government health programs should encourage testing of cocaine for purity.
Pfizer's partnerships strengthen their ability to deliver vaccines in developing countries.
- Pfizer is helping to drive the UN's sustainable development goals through partnerships.
Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In their findings the authors state:
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
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