Monday, February 15, 2010


You probably know most of the story. Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab,. a Muslim Nigerian, attempted to detonate plastic explosives that he'd hidden in his underwear on board Northwest Airlines Flight 253, as it was hovering over Detroit.

He's been charged, and indicted on six criminal counts, including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted murder of 289 people. Awaiting further investigation and a trial, he's currently in a federal prison in Milan, Michigan.

He's 23 years-old.

It's painful for me to look at his now famous, young face. I can't help thinking of what he did to his parents and his brothers and sisters.

What he tried to do ended all the dreams he had, and irreparably damaged his family. He is the youngest of 16 children. His Yemeni mother is his father's second wife. His father is one of the most prominent, richest men in Africa.

Underneath Mutallab's pious, deeply religious Muslim beliefs, there must be a son's rage, a need to destroy his father.

Back and forth, government officials, Senators, Congressmen, police, the FBI are asking how did this happen? Why, with the red flags on his name, wasn't he on the watch list? Which agency is to blame? Who didn't inform whom? Was it negligence? Shouldn't someone be fired?

Was the arrest and interrogation handled properly? Could the police have found out more? Why was Mutallab read his Miranda rights? What about water-boarding him? Why did it take three days for Obama to comment? Is Obama's weak on terrorism?

On and on, the same questions. I know a person's politics by their answers. theories, and comments.

I keep thinking about that other guy -- when was it -- was it 2001 when were we aware of John Wallace Lindh, a young, rebellious American citizen who studied at an Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan,

Lindh was captured as an enemy combatant during a violent Taliban prison uprising during our 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. He was charged with 10 counts, including Conspiracy to Murder, Conspiracy to provide material support and resources to foreign terrorist organizations.

He's in prison, sentenced to 20 years. Lindh was 20, born in 1981. Abdul Mutallab was born in 1986. They're children of the eighties.

Over and over, I wonder what attracts these young men, and how to stop Al-Qaeda from recruiting young men like them. How to educate parents, friends, relatives, so that lost, seriously confused, adolescents, desperately needing attention, are noticed, and helped?

Comparing Mutallab's background with that of 9/11 plotters, and London and Madrid metro bombers, I wonder if we're defining the enemy incorrectly. It's not poverty -- it's a vision of God, an intensely philosophical religious concept, an inability to share it with others -- an intense passion to fix what's wrong in the world that's conceived of by educated young men, often college educated child-men, who seek fulfillment in the romanticism of revolution.

We need to educate our children, not protect them from learning all they can about who these child men are, and why they are wrong.

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