Eye on the Middle East May/Jun 2004
We have known for years that Islamist terrorist cells have been operating in the United States and North America. In 1994 investigative reporter Steven Emerson produced a one-hour documentary, Jihad in America, that aired on PBS. The video featured never-before-seen terrorist conferences and documented the operation of a terrorist network in the United States. Emerson used footage shot by the terrorists themselves, often in meetings where Islamic leaders exhorted their followers to commit violence against Jewish people, Christians, and moderate Muslims.
The Washington Times reported that if the World Trade Center bombing was a wake-up call to the very real threat of Middle East terrorism coming to the United States, the PBS documentary “ought to be a call to serious action.”
But that was nearly a decade before September 11, 2001. And in the mid-1990s, few people, in or out of the government, were paying attention. The pervasive belief was, “It couldn’t happen here.”
On 9/11 that delusion was shattered in a single, dreadful morning. Before the attacks in New York and Washington, most were of the opinion that the Islamic terrorist cells located in major cities across the country were nothing more than isolated bands of radicals with bad intentions but little power.
Now an article by Jerry Seper in the February 10 Washington Times describes how terrorists are increasing their efforts to infiltrate the United States: “Islamic radicals are being trained at terrorist camps in Pakistan and Kashmir as part of a conspiracy to send hundreds of operatives to ‘sleeper cells’ in the United States, according to U.S. and foreign officials.”
According to the report, law-enforcement officials believe dozens of Islamic extremists have been routed into the U.S. through Europe and resettled in Muslim communities. Intelligence officials state that, despite denials by Pakistani officials, as many as four hundred terrorists have been and are being trained in the camps in Pakistan and Kashmir. And the funding, they say, is coming from al-Qaeda and sources in Saudi Arabia.
Already al-Qaeda sleeper cells are in forty states, according to the FBI and other federal authorities. And what are these terrorist operatives doing? “Awaiting orders and funding for new attacks in the United States. Financed in part by millions of dollars solicited by an extensive network of bogus charities and foundations, the cells use Muslim communities as cover and places to raise cash and recruit sympathizers,” writes Seper.
All of which brings us to the question of how much the average American citizen knows, or even cares to know, about such potentially deadly activity. According to columnist Cal Thomas, not much. In a piece titled “The Threat Among Us,” Thomas writes,
One of the advantages the United States has had over its enemies is that they openly state their goals. One of the advantages our enemies have over the United States is that too many Americans don’t take them seriously. We prefer the short-term comfort that denial brings. We fear being labeled “bigots” more than we fear the intentions of those who hate us, and so we are reluctant to speak ill of another person’s faith, unless it is the majority faith.
We watch events in the Middle East from a distance and the comfort of our living rooms. It is a violent and bloody region of the world. And we must realize that the worst perpetrators of violence are on a global quest. Israel and other freedom-loving people on the other side of the planet are not the last intended victims. Europe and North America are engaged, like it or not, in a conflict that will surface with fury if the denizens of
the “sleeper cells” have their way. The lesson from 9/11 is that we probably didn’t learn much from that terrible episode. The fact is, our enemies have plans for us. The issue is, What plans do we have for them?