JIHAD JOE: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam

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JIHAD JOE: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, J.M. Berger, Potomac Books, Inc., 2011, Washington, DC, 265 pages, $29.95.

In late July 2011, U.S. military authorities announced that it had an AWOL soldier, Private First Class Naser Abdo, in custody for planning an attack on the Fort Hood Army Base, the same installation where Major Nidal Hasan struck nearly two years earlier. Abdo's case illustrates the "homegrown" terrorism trend in America and Western Europe, small-scale, leaderless attacks carried out by jihadists operating on their own initiative. In Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, investigative journalist J.M. Berger explores the travails of numerous Americans who have committed themselves to a personal jihad.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 galvanized the jihadist movement, which extended its reach to America. Giving top priority to countering Soviet communism, the Reagan administration turned a blind eye to the radical Islamic clerics and Afghan fi ghters who toured America seeking support from Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Although they engaged in numerous attacks that targeted American interests overseas, Islamic extremists did not conduct any major attacks inside the United States until the early 1990s. On 26 February 1993, a small circle of Islamic extremists (under the direction of Pakistani Ramzi Yousef) attempted to topple the World Trade Center towers. It later transpired that Yousef was a member of Al-Qaeda, which had attracted several American recruits over the years.

Since 9/11, Americans have become visible representatives of Al-Qaeda in the media. Adam Gadahn (a.k.a. "Azzam the American") has emerged as a leading Al-Qaeda spokesperson on the Internet. Another important fi gure is Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemini- American cleric who grew up in New Mexico and played an important operational role for Al-Qaeda. Fluent in both Arabic and English, he had an encyclopedic knowledge of Islam and was a gifted speaker capable of moving men to action. Once characterized as the "bin Laden of the internet," Al-Awlaki's pronouncements were broadcast on jihadist websites and YouTube. (He was killed September 2011.)

According to Bergen, several traits exist among the American jihadists. …