Review: United States of Jihad: Americans Fighting for Radical Islam–Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists–From Al-Qaeda to ISIS

cvr_united-states-of-jihad-americans-fighting-for-radical-islam-from-al-qaeda-to-isis-by-peter-bergenUnited States of Jihad: Americans Fighting for Radical Islam–Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists–From Al-Qaeda to ISIS by Peter Bergen

MY RATING: 5/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Purchased Book

REVIEW: Forget everything you think you know about radical Islam, Al-Qaeda, ISIS, et. al. Close your eyes and pretend for just a moment that you have never seen pictures of radicalized Islamic terrorists and the results of their destructive events. Now open your eyes, and read Peter Bergen’s book, “United States of Jihad: Americans Fighting for Radical Islam–Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists–From Al-Qaeda to ISIS;” and, prepare to have your mind blown. Not literally blown!!! I’m not a terrorist, and neither is the author; but, I’ve obviously got some explaining to do.

My husband was on a business trip in the Washington, D.C. Metro area. Each time he does this, he tries to stop by a place that is special to us: Coco Sala Restaurant and Chocolate Boutique. What what does chocolate have to do with “United States of Jihad?” One day he arrived before the chocolate boutique opened; so he walked to one of my other favorite places, “The International Spy Museum” and entered its bookstore. From there he called me and said, “Honey, have you read, “X” where “X” became a list of books that he was plucking from the shelves and hoping to bring home to me. How incredibly thoughtful and kind of him! When he mentioned, “United States of Jihad,” I became excited…and that’s how he knew to bring it home for me.
cvr_united-states-of-jihad_withcoversticker_intlspymuseum_signedcopy-by-peter-bergen cvr_united-states-of-jihad_insidecoverpg_signed-by-peter-bergenWhen I opened the museum store’s goody bag, I was delighted that my husband chose a hardcover copy of the book. It had a sticker on the upper corner, but all I noticed was “SPY” and thanked my husband with a big hug and a kiss. Then he said, “And its autographed, too.”  I took another look, saw the author’s signature, and couldn’t stop smiling.  My husband wanted to do something so special for me, and I could not hug him enough.  His night definitely had a happier ending than it did for people in Bergen’s work!  This book became one more addition to several works written by terrorism expert Peter Bergen, who has a long list of accomplishments to his name (Learn more by visiting his website: PeterBergen.com). His other books to-date include the following:

*Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden–from 9/11 to Abbottabad
*The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda
*Drone Wars: Transforming Conflict, Law, and Policy
*The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of Al-Qaeda’s Leader
*Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden
*Talibanistan

While I did not read this book while sitting in a place (real or imaginary) called “Talibanistan,” I was able to absorb the contents while resting in the comfort of my seemingly-safe home, in the Post-9/11 environment, of the United States of America. “Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, 330 people in the United States have been charged with some kind of jihadist terrorist crime ranging in seriousness from murder to sending small sums of money to a terrorist group.  An astonishing four out of five of them are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.  Moreover, more than one hundred American citizens or residents have been charged after traveling overseas to join a terrorist group, and further thirty-nine were arrested in the States while planning to do so” (10). In its simplest terms, this is a form of treason:  to join a group or accept an ideology whose goal is to kill Americans.  This book is an attempt to discern why these Americans made that choice, how U.S. institutions and the Muslim community in the United States have responded, and how a threat of terrorism on American soil has changed us” (10–11).

They are ordinary Americans” (15)…just like me…and my parents…and my children. Our children–America’s children! Every parent can attest to the feeling that our children are always our children until the day we die. Imagine the horror when the immigrated parents were so proud to be in this country and would not intentionally do anything to harm it…only to get a knock on the door or a special phone call from law enforcement (of any type). The kind you don’t want knocking at your door unless its to say they moved in next door and wanted to know if you had a cup of sugar.

But, this story had no sugary sweetness to it; no additives, no preservatives, no artificial anything. It was all truth that left me with quite a bit to think about post-read. Bergen shared interesting investigative elements about “America’s homegrown terrorists:”

*The religious conversion process and steps to achieving extremism.
*Terrorist organization recruitment efforts: targeted marketing with well-understood ideal candidate profiles that include demographics and psychographics.
*Islamist terrorism and its “relationship to the religion of Islam” (27).
*How political correctness contributed to ignoring or insufficiently investigating suspected radicals.
*Challenges in knowing when and how to legally acquire and use data.
*”The key role that families and communities played in preventing violent extremism was also overlooked in the effort to justify more exotic counterterrorism measures” (218).
*Entrapment and false arrests of non-jihadists to improve performance reporting.

United States of Jihad” proved itself to be an excellent, highly-recommendable read. Peter Bergen delivered on every one of his promises to the reader. This book challenged and overhauled the American belief system of what comprised a jihadist. The author’s writing style was clear, cohesive, and compelling…from start to finish, easily earning it a five-star rating.

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3 thoughts on “Review: United States of Jihad: Americans Fighting for Radical Islam–Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists–From Al-Qaeda to ISIS

    • Thank you, will do! I feel like I’ve got to read all of them now, like I’m trying to do with Kinzer and Kapuscinzki (author of “Imperium” and “Shah of Shahs” both of which were travelogues; reviews hopefully coming soon.)

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  1. Pingback: February 2017 Reading and Blogging Wrap-up | Streed's Reads

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