By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
So you have seen the numerous reports of US state governors saying they don’t want Syrian refugees. US Presidential candidate Ben Carson compared the presence of terrorists among them to having rabid dogs in a pack of other dogs. On the reasonable side of this dialogue are statement such as those by the Orthodox Union, “We cannot be naive in our assessment of the determination of terrorists to exploit the refugee crisis. And we should limit immigration to those individuals who share our American ideals and aspirations.”
Let’s talk about terrorism in the United States. A lot of Syrian suspects involved? Actually, it seems, basically none.
1993 World Trade Center bombing: Carried out by Ramzi Yousef who was born in Kuwait to Pakistani parents, studied in the UK, returned to Pakistan and then went to the US in 1992. Yousef attempted to receive political asylum. Iyad Ismoil, a Jordanian citizen, assisted Yousef. Ismoil entered the US on a student visa in 1989. Mohammed A. Salameh, a Palestinian born in Jordan, moved to the US in 1988 on a tourist visa. Ahmed Ajaj, another co-conspirator, was a Palestinian born in the West Bank and moved to the US in 1992, attempting to get asylum. Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, who was suspected of involvement was from Saudi Arabia and only briefly in the US. El Sayyid Nosair, who was also involved in the killing of Meir Kahane, was from Egypt but came to the US in 1981. The ‘blind sheikh’ Omar Abdel Rahman was born in Egypt where he was involved with Islamists, but had no trouble coming the US on a tourist visa. Mahmoud Abouhalima, another Egyptian, came to the US on a tourist visa but then claimed “amnesty” under the immigration reform of that year. Wadih el-Hage, who was convicted for involvement in the 1998 embassy bombings, was born to a Christian family in Lebanon and came to the US in 1986.
1994 Brooklyn Bridge shooting: Carried out by Lebanese born Rashid Baz. Baz shot at a bus full of Yeshiva students and later claimed the Lebanese Civil War led to his vicious hatred of Jews, he was merely “reacting” to Middle East events.
1997 Empire State Building attack: Carried out by Ali Hassan Abu Kamal, a 69-year-old Palestinian who had been a successful teacher in Gaza (he was born in Jaffa and was a refugee due to the 1948 war). He moved his family to the US in 1995. His daughter later claimed “His goal was patriotic. He wanted to take revenge from the Americans, the British, the French and the Israelis.”
2001 World Trade Center and Pentagon: Carried out by 19 hijackers of which 15 were from Saudi Arabia, 2 from UAE, 1 from Lebanon and 1 from Egypt.
2002 Los Angeles Airport Shooting: Carried out by Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, a 41 year old from Egypt who had been a member of Gema’a Islamiya and had received political asylum in the US in 1992. Oddly, despite being a radical Islamist in Egypt, he was considered fit for asylum due to being “persecuted” in Egypt. In 2002 he attacked the El Al ticket counter, supposedly to take revenge on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
2002 Buffalo Six plot: Six Yemeni-Americans, most of whom were either born in the US or moved to the US at a very early age, grew up in what seemed like normal integrated home, before going to Afghanistan to support Al-Qaeda.
2002 Jose Padilla arrest: Born in New York, Padilla converted to Islam in prison and was later found guilty of conspiring to kill Americans, for which he is serving a 21 year sentence.
2006 Seattle Jewish Federation shooting: Carried out by Naveed Haq. Haw’s parents were Pakistani and were successful in the US, but Haq converted to Christianity in 2005, then returned to his Islamic faith apparently in 2006, and for some unclear reason decided to attack the Jewish Federation.
2006 UNC vehicular attack: Carried out by Iranian-born Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, came to the US at the age of 2. Seemingly a successful and integrated student, he decided to “follow in the footsteps of 9/11” and tried to run people over at UNC, harming 9 people.
2007 Fort Dix plot: Carried out by several Albanians some of whom came to the US illegally via Mexico in 1984. One of those involved was Palestinian, have married a sister of the other perpetrators.
2009 Little Rock Recruiting Center attack: carried out by American-born Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, who was originally born Carlos Leon Bledsoe in Memphis Tennessee, converting to Islam in 2004,travelled to Yemen, returned home and carried out his attack.
2009 Fort Hood shooting: carried out by Major Nidal Hasan, who was born in Arlington Country, Virginia. His parents were Palestinian immigrants. Hasan lived a relaxed life and was promoted in the military, despite his radicalization that began in 2008 with email exchanges with Anwar Awlaki.
Anwar Awlaki was born in New Mexico to parents from Yemen. His father had been successful in the US, and even though Awlaki had a respected position at a mosque and was even consulted by US government officials after 9/11, he became increasingly radicalized, leaving the US in 2002 and ending up in Yemen in 2004, where he planned killings in the country that had given him so much. He was killed in 2011.
2013 Boston bombing: Carried out by Tsarneav brothers, both from Central Asia but of Chechan background. They received asylum in the US in 2004.
2013 sentencing of David Headley: Born Daood Gilani to a Pakistani father and American mother in Washington D.C, his Pakistani family were well connected diplomats and he grew up in comfort. He was convicted in 2013 of involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
2015 Chattanooga shootings were carried out by a Jordanian-Palestinian born in Kuwait. He moved to the US in 1996 and became a US citizen. His motive was ‘violent extremism’, which evidently means he was radicalized at some point before going on his shooting spree.
2015 Texas ‘cartoons’ shooting: Carried out by Elton Simpson, an Illinois born convert to Islam and Nadir Soofi, who was born in Texas to a Pakistani father and American mother.
2015 death of Adam Gadahn: Born in Oregon he grew up in an eccentric way among various relatives, some of whom were Jewish, although he was raised Christian. He converted to Islam in 1995 and went to Pakistan in 1998 where he became a close associate of Bin Laden. He was killed in a drone strike in 2015.
John Walker Lindh: Born in Washington D.C, he was raised Catholic but converted to Islam in 1997 and went to Yemen and then Pakistan in 2000. He was captured by US forces in 2001 he eventually received a 20 year prison sentence.
The only Syrian apparently convicted of terrorism charges in the US has been Enaam Arnaot, who was convicted of providing aid for fighters in Bosnia in 2003. He was released in 2011.
There are patterns to terrorism in the US. The one that stands out is converts to Islam. There is a preponderance of perpetrators of Palestinian origin. Most were radicalized later in life or were shiftless men who couldn’t find work. Syrian refugees are of course a new phenomenon, but there is no reason to suspect them more than many other sources of radicalization in the US. Many Somali immigrants for instance have travelled to Somalia to join al-Shabab.