Sunday, September 18, 2005
As my colleague Mark Hosenball points out in the current Newsweek, Al Qaeda is using more English speakers in its videos, whether threatening the West from behind masks or, like Mohammad Sidique Khan, explaining their motives from beyond the grave. But let's not forget that Al Qaeda has been recruiting "Western" converts for years in Europe and the United States. My novels Innocent Blood (1997) and The Sleeper (2004) dealt with a fictional character who's an all-American boy turned terrorist, based on some real-life precedents. Among them is an African-American from Washington, D.C., named Clevin (or Kevin) Holt, who fought alongside Palestinians in Lebanon and with the muj in Afghanistan during the 1980s, and may have shown up in Bosnia in the 1990s, when U.S. forces were on the lookout for him. Since then, the middle-aged Holt seems to have disappeared completely. In France during the 1990s, a gang of French veterans from Bosnia, including Christophe Caze and Lionel Dumont, were accused of several robberies around the city of Roubaix. Caze was killed and the phone numbers in his captured agenda gave French investigators an invaluable key to the basic Al Qaeda infrastructure in Europe. Dumont, who was captured, escaped and recaptured as he moved around the Balkans, Japan and Germany, is due to go on trial in France later this year. And then there was John Walker Lindh, the "American Taliban," now serving 20 years in the slam. Remember him? An all-American boy from Marin county. What happens when someone like this falls prey to the spreading pathology of suicide bombing? Al Qaeda's English-language propaganda campaign suggests it may be preparing the way for some of these guys to move from talk to action.