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The Troubled Young Terrorist Next Door

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The Troubled Young Terrorist Next Door


The details about Mohammad Abdulazeez, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga grad accused of murdering four Marines and a sailor, dripped out in the familiar pattern. The first thing to come out of the shocking news is the name of the alleged attacker. Then there is speculation about what sick ideology may have inspired the horrendous act. And there are pictures of the comfy suburban nest the killer came from alongside interviews with baffled neighbors.

Finally comes the inside story bearing the inevitable headline, “Family Troubles Before Killings in Chattanooga.” Abdulazeez’s mother had tried to divorce the father in 2009, accusing him of abusing her and the children and planning to take a second wife, which he held would have been allowable under Islamic law. The parents reconciled, but that’s a lot of craziness.

As for Mohammad, he was facing a court date for drunken driving and illegal drug use and had been fired from a job at a nuclear plant. A family spokesman said the 24-year-old had been fighting depression, pointing to mental illness as a possible cause.

It takes an extremely twisted personality — twisted for whatever combination of reasons — to shoot unarmed strangers, which the Marines and sailor were. So the terrorist needs a larger cause to hide behind.

It appears that Abdulazeez chose radical Islam as a cover for his personal disintegration — though investigators do not yet know whether organized Mideast terrorist groups got to him during a visit to Jordan.

Look at the back stories of other young men who committed or are accused of committing acts of terrorism in this country. The similarities are hard to ignore.

Consider Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old charged with massacring worshippers at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina. His parents had gone through multiple divorces, and he had reportedly attended at least seven schools.

The kid was obviously unbalanced. He had previously dressed in black and asked creepy questions of workers at a mall. Police found drugs on him, and he was ordered to stay away from the shopping center.

Quite the mess, Roof found grandiosity among the fumes of white supremacist ideology.

Adam Lanza was the 20-year-old who shot up an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, murdering 26, mostly children. He was mentally ill, beyond a doubt. But even more craziness reigned behind his freshly painted suburban front door. Lanza’s mother was a gun nut who left weapons and ammunition lying around the house. He hadn’t seen his father in two years.

Neighbors saw Lanza as “a little weird” but not homicidal, according to a New Yorker article. But psychiatrists observed a deeply disturbed individual, his feelings of worthlessness alternating with flashes of self-importance.

And although Lanza didn’t seem glued to a particular ideology, the article did not hesitate to label him a terrorist: “Adam Lanza was a terrorist for an unknowable cause,” it said.

About half of mass murderers kill themselves at the end. As a Harvard psychiatrist noted, they want to “end life early surrounded by an (aura) of apocalyptic destruction.”

As such, Andreas Lubitz, the 27-year-old Germanwings co-pilot who crashed a planeload of passengers into a mountainside, could be called a terrorist, as well.

The question remains about what mix of toxic thinking and brain chemicals would motivate these people, all men in their 20s, to kill masses of unarmed innocents. And with that, we must wonder how much a role teachers of cracked belief systems play in causing such atrocities.

Do they create terrorists out of normal people, or do they provide the match that ignites walking tinderboxes of inner chaos? No easy answers are forthcoming.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

Photo: U.S. flag flies alongside a sign in honor of the four Marines killed in Chattanooga, Tennessee July 17, 2015. REUTERS/Tami Chappell

Froma Harrop

Froma Harrop’s nationally syndicated column appears in over 150 newspapers. Media Matters ranks her column 20th nationally in total readership and 14th in large newspaper concentration. Harrop has been a guest on PBS, MSNBC, Fox News and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and is a frequent voice on NPR and talk radio stations in every time zone as well.

A Loeb Award finalist for economic commentary in 2004 and again in 2011, Harrop was also a Scripps Howard Award finalist for commentary in 2010. She has been honored by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the New England Associated Press News Executives Association has given her five awards.

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  1. itsfun July 21, 2015

    Is this article a attempt to make the victims the villains? People know right from wrong. There is no excuse for any of these murderers. Some blame a flag for causing murders, others blame divorce for causing murder, some blame single mother homes for murder. The ones to blame and punish are the animals that commit the terrible crimes against mankind.

    1. cpbis July 21, 2015

      What? There is no attempt whatsoever to make the victims the villains. Read it again! The attempt is to determine what motivates these “killers” so we may find a way to stop them.

      1. tomtype July 22, 2015

        We could also slow them down by not making really murderous weapons so freely available. Yes, he could do a lot of damage with a butcher knife. There was such a group. Bu t it is easier to outrun a knife than a bullet. It is easier to gang up on a knife wielder than a gun holder. And a butcher knife range is arm length plus about a foot.
        But we can’t be that sensible because some one wants to be able to carry his own private cannon or machine gun, in case somebody goes on a murder spree. Of course as he is walking around, how do the rest of us know if he is that mild mannered protector, or actually a crazy about to open up. And how do we know, how does he know, that some crazy may rob him and then use his weapons against him and against us?

        1. S.J. Jolly July 22, 2015

          Classic question: “Who guards the guardians ?”

          1. tomtype July 23, 2015

            So far the best guards of the guardians found is the general population educated and concerned about everyone’s rights and not just their own privileges.
            Back in the early 70’s Canada had the Quebec crisis. And the average Canadian was shocked at what the government could legally do. Including using old laws passed during WW1 (yes one) during panics then. The average Canadian assumed they had all the rights of an American and of a British subject. So after the crisis, and we all give the government more leeway during a crisis, they made their own Constitution and Bill of Rights so they now do have all those rights and more.

        2. DEFENDER88 July 23, 2015

          In case you really are that naive, the bad guys(gang bangers, dopers(20yo male on drugs), terrorists, more) already have assault rifles.

          And will continue to have them for a long time to come. No law or rule you make will remove them from their hands.

          Prove to me they no longer have them and I will discuss future Rules of Engagement for mine.

          You must not get out, in the real world, much. Or apparently follow the news either.

          What would you prefer – say 10 conceal carry people returning fire or everyone in there being shot down like fish in a barrel?
          Like the 80 out of 100 in Aurora.

          As for someone taking my weapon from me, that is covered in one word – Training. And a “lot” of it. I may get shot but I am not going to cower in a corner waiting for my turn to be shot – like you want. As we have learned – A lot can happen, everyone killed, in the 5-10 min it takes the police to get there. 80 of 100 were shot down in the “Gun Free Zone” Aurora Theater – madness.
          Go ahead and be shot like a defenseless sheep if you want, but I simply refuse to be defenseless like you want.

          Actually I don’t carry my AR around but don’t want to be without one in these times.

          I DO carry a pistol(concealed/certified/permitted) and know how and when, or not, to use it. And neither you nor they will ever see it unless they try to kill me.

          My CC-certification/Permit (which I must have with me) lets you know I am certified, if you want to see it.
          My weekly Combat Pistol competition training, above 99% of police shooting training helps also.
          You would be damn lucky if I was there.

          1. tomtype July 23, 2015

            I’m glad for you concern and for your ongoing self training. I, on the other hand have chosen not to carry a gun. It would prevent me from either either working hard to anticiapate trouble and prevent it, or have made it harder for me to go some place and meet some people. Strangely unarmed people are perceived universally as less threatening.
            So, in my small way, I try to reduce those tensions, to get people to talk with each other first. To realize the real danger in shooting first. So, I’ll propose a deal, let me go first. I’m willing and fully rationally able to take that smaller risk, and you step up only if and when I fail. But I also don’t miss and hit innocent bystanders.

          2. DEFENDER88 July 23, 2015

            Sounds ok, you can join my Pastor at church.

            I do security over-watch at our church – they asked me too.

            One day passing the Pastor in the hall as he was about to enter the sanctuary to deliver his message, he stopped me and said – “I sure do feel a lot safer knowing you are out here”.

            As for not hitting innocents, that is an integral part of Combat Pistol Training(IDPA)-you can look it up.

            As for avoiding an incident – one of our mottos is “The best fight you can be in is the one you avoid”.

            In fact we have made a science of Conflict Avoidance. I can elaborate later if you want.

            Most police shoot maybe 50 rds/mo – target practice. SWAT maybe 200rds/mo Combat Pistol.

            I shoot 1,000 rds/mo – combat pistol training.

            It is the type pistol training the Seals use.

            More then even SWAT.

            Its like SWAT training on steroids.

            We compete every month in shooting real life scenarios.

            Right now there are about 20,000 like me in IDPA nation wide.

            We are fast, accurate, don’t miss much and specifically train on techniques not to hit innocents.

            In comparative defensive pistol shooting terms your standard Permit holder is at say Level 2, Standard Cops Level 5, Standard SWAT team “pistol” Level 7, we are at Level 9-10.

            We are average people from all walks of life – Nurse, teacher, carpenter, accountant …….

            Just 1 or 2 of us in that theater would likely have stopped the killing way short of what it was.

            If 3 of us had been there, I “know” the killing would have been stopped short even though he had body armor(we train for that also).

            I got into this(IDPA ie Combat Pistol) after having been shot at 2-3 times and me without a weapon.

          3. tomtype July 23, 2015

            I do recognize your training and devotion. It does take discipline. But statistically you are training for a single event which you will likely never witness. While I trained for that best fight you avoid. And how many of those will you likely see in your life? I just wish you had put more effort into helping us all avoid all those fights. We all know of daily incidents that need conflict reduction or conflict resolution.
            I remember writing to my daughter then in college, just after Colombine. Tell her how proud I was that the Ethnic Awareness Club she had started was still in existence. It focused on the disposessed at her high school, and had been recognized by the country government for its peace making and positive efforts at discrimiantion reduction. And I told her that we would never know if she had prevented a Colombine. We all know how hard it is to prove a negative.

          4. DEFENDER88 July 23, 2015

            All the groups you mention can be usually be reasoned with. I am talking about those among us that cannot be reasoned with.
            I have already been attacked by them and don’t plan to be unarmed next time.
            Your quote – “But statistically you are training for a single event which you will likely never witness.”
            Well I have already been shot at 3 times and me without a gun, and survived but got lucky – figure my luck has run out on that. I spent a lot of time in the mountains. And no I did not do anything whatsoever to deserve it.

            Also (fueled by the drug problems) there are a lot of home invasions now, I will not be held hostage, beaten, killed in my own home. Dopers looking for drugs or goods to steal so they can sell to buy drugs.

            Then we have more and more the Gang bangers.
            And now the Terrorists.
            And the young white men on anti-depressants shooting up schools, movies, etc.

            And – I think there is a reasonable chance the whole system could crash some day.

            So the chances are getting better and better and considering I have already been attacked 3-4 times I am not willing to be a victim again.

            If you don’t feel the need or want to be armed, I have no problem with that.
            But don’t dis-arm me. My circumstances, problems, needs may be very different from yours.

            I will help you to disarm the bad guys but don’t make laws that end-up disarming the good guys.
            But Again, the Bad guys will “always” have access to guns.

          5. tomtype July 24, 2015

            Apparently even even the young man Roof, could be reasoned with.The report of some of the survivors, was that they did try and he appeared to hesitate, but then regained his killing mental stance. And we do have already a force trained to deal with exactly that rare occurance, and they are deployed across the nation, called the police. And in fact, to date all such spree folk have either been killed by themselves, or killed or captured by the police. I know, you say, that big if. If I happen to be there… I am only saying that if you would devote that same time and effort to intercepting, to creating better justice, to defusing the person before he reaches that extreme state, our nation would be further ahead.
            In fact, this morning I heard a new report. There are currently, on average, about one mass killing every two weeks. Far more than are reported. (Mass killing being defined as 4 or more killed, not counting the shooter). Almost half are within families. that is mothers killing chidlren, fathers killing children (almost 30% of mass killings are of children). And in almost 60% of the cases, the mass killer is known to at least some of his victims. State and Federal authorities were not even aware of the nature of the problem. This is a special study group bringing together all reports from across the country We all need to be aware, because we are losing a lot of people to this phenomenon. But we are often looking the the wrong place.
            Because of long time interest in the Middle East, I have noted that currently the Chatanooga killer has suddenly stirred a whole bunch of denunciation of Islam as a killing religion, even among some ME scholars. And we don’t even yet know what his influences were. But everyone rides his own hobby horse, and they really rock that horse in a crisis.

    2. Karen Bille-Golden July 21, 2015

      I assume what you are saying then is that society’s attitudes or parental influence have no bearing on our young? You might want to think a little deeper for a change.

  2. Karen Bille-Golden July 21, 2015

    I think the article is raising an age old question. Are humans the product of nature or nurture? Or both?

  3. stsintl July 21, 2015

    If the killer has an Arabic name, he/she is a Muslim Terrorist.
    If the killer is Black or Latino, he/she is a Criminal.
    If the killer is a White Cop, he is doing his job.
    If the killer is a White Judeo/Christian, he/she is mentally disturbed and should be treated for his/her illness.

    1. CrankyToo July 21, 2015

      Shame on you for leaking the answers to the final exam at Republican Academy.

  4. DEFENDER88 July 21, 2015

    This is just the beginning, they are already among us and have been and will continue to be.
    1st the Gangs, then the nut jobs on anti-depressants, now the Jihadies. Now all of them and more.
    I have been saying this in here for a long time now, and criticized for it as being a “gun nut”.
    YOUR(Many in here) solution has been Gun Free Zones.
    Can we finally agree now these “Gun Free Zones” are not working as designed?
    Oh they are working alright – As Gun Free Kill Zones.
    And I mean All Gun Free Zones, not just military recruiting.
    Some famous Gun Free Zones – Sandy Hook School, VT, Aurora Theater, Ft. Hood Admin Areas, Charleston Church, Chattanooga Recruiting Stations, on and on. How many more will it take?
    Most all those killed are dead because of it.
    Why is this so hard to understand? Oh, I forget, no-one wants to be responsible or pay for it.
    I don’t like “Open Carry” either but we need to have some common sense and allow permitted, concealed carry in these places – most all of them. Unless you are going to provide *adequate*(“armed & trained in combat pistol/rifle” security, and not just one)(Not your standard rental Security with an old, little used, revolver on his hip)(They are not currently trained to this level). I am talking “serious, gun fight level, security”. That is a whole different level.
    We need some new rules – If you create a Gun Free Zone then you are specifically responsible for “Adequate armed/trained” security(as above) and liable for whatever happens therein.
    “I” avoid Gun Free Kill Zones like the plague.


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