Friday, February 13, 2004

The paths of extremism

Some of you may have read about the arrest in my neck of the woods yesterday that raised some headlines, like this one in the P-I:
Soldier accused of trying to aid al-Qaida

Federal agents yesterday arrested a member of the Washington National Guard days away from being sent to Iraq and accused him of trying to pass military intelligence to the terrorist group al-Qaida.

Spc. Ryan G. Anderson was arrested at Fort Lewis without incident, and was taken to the base's jail. His arrest came after a sting operation.

In his Everett high school, Anderson showed a strong interest in government. At Washington State University, he worried about his right to possess rifles on campus and inquired about converting to Islam. And later in Seattle, he tried to interest fellow Muslims in shooting.

Actually, this only begins to describe Ryan Anderson's tortuous political path -- which began as a right-wing extremist. If he was genuinely attracted to radical Islamism, it would likely be because it displayed the same kind of Manichean dualism as did the onetime objects of his admiration, the Montana Freemen.

Back in the 1990s, he was posting all the time on the Usenet's militia forums while studying at Washington State University in Pullman. He was all worked up about his Second Amendment rights on campus. At one point, he advertised his interest in joining a "Washington state militia." At other times, he commented sympathetically about the Freemen's standoff in Montana.

Finally, he appears to have dropped out of the militia forums (with a fond adieu to the "Patriots"), and shortly thereafter, advertised his interest in converting to Islam.

One has to wonder if this is someone who watched too many damn movies and thought he could infiltrate Muslim terrorist cells -- playing the hero's role in the big silver screen of his own mind. (I wouldn't be surprised if he had the same thing in mind when it came to joining a militia cell.) Certainly, he strikes me as unstable.

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