A False Martyr
10:30 AM, Apr 25, 2011 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
Hoffman is right. (Sageman’s “misreading” of the terror threat is discussed more fully below.)
Claims of expertise are not a substitute for sound analysis. And in this case, unlike Welner, Sageman didn’t interview Khadr. Instead, Sageman reviewed: (1) a transcript of Welner’s interview of Khadr, (2) a transcript of Welner’s testimony, and (3) Welner’s curriculum vitae. In other words, the sole purpose of Sageman’s letter was to take potshots at Welner, and not to do any real analysis of his own.
Ironically enough, the defense has consistently moved to exclude the transcript and videotape of Welner’s interview with Khadr from the proceedings. And the commission agreed not to introduce either of them as evidence. The prosecutors haven’t even seen them. Only now that Sageman wants to go on the offensive has the defense team sought to rely on the transcript, while still trying to keep the transcript out of the hands of the prosecutors. Such is the rank hypocrisy of Khadr’s defense team.
Before addressing some of the fatal flaws in Sageman’s letter, we should consider some startling omissions. Sageman has written about Omar Khadr and the Khadr family before, but in his letter there is no mention of his previous writings. It is easy to see why.
In his 2008 book, Leaderless Jihad, Sageman claims to have carefully analyzed his own database of jihadist recruits to see what makes them tick. “One major question is whether these potential recruits had any prior relationships with their future comrades before they joined the terrorist social movement,” Sageman writes. He concludes: “It turns out that joining the global Islamist terrorism social movement was based to a great degree on friendship and kinship.”
And, interestingly, the specific example he gives with respect to “kinship” is the Khadr family. Sageman writes:
Indeed, this jihadist kinship should be important for military authorities to understand. This family dynamic was even important enough to Sageman for him to mention it in his book. But for some unexplained reason Sageman didn’t think it was important enough to mention within the context of a military proceeding. This omission is especially curious since the issue at hand was the risk of Omar Khadr returning to terrorism. And it is possible that Khadr will rejoin his jihadist family in Canada in the not-so distant future.
There are few other factors Sageman highlighted or rejected in his book that he left out of his letter, but are relevant to Omar Khadr. Sageman rejected the theory that jihadists are “brainwashed” into committing violence. It is commonly, and incorrectly, claimed that Omar Khadr was himself “brainwashed.” Sageman did not note this in his letter.
In his letter, Sageman claims to have spoken with jihadists who are concerned about Omar Khadr because “he is the poster child of U.S. injustice and unfairness in the U.S. government attempt to unjustly punish a child soldier.” Sageman doesn’t say which jihadists he spoke with, or how he knows that they weren’t just repeating common anti-American talking points. The “child soldier” theme is a popular one, especially with the far left.
Moreover, in Leaderless Jihad, Sageman points to the case of twin 13-year-old girls who took up jihad. The “twins’ account shows that far from being passive recipients of brainwashing, they were active advocates of terrorism,” Sageman writes. Sageman concludes: “It is hard to see them as victims when they were shaping their lives even in prison.”
The same could be said for Omar Khadr, who was two years older than the twins when he killed Christopher Speer. According to the stipulation of fact agreed upon by the parties, Khadr refused to flee the firefight even after American soldiers asked for all women and children to evacuate the premises. (Al Qaeda’s terrorists are not as honorable in the way they fight.)