Steven Emerson paid attention. Long before 9/11 he recognized the threat. Rather than surprising him, the atrocities probably confirmed his fears.
For the past decade Emerson has studied Islamic extremism and the terror network as they exist not only in Levantine villages and among the markets of Peshawar but in cities and suburbs in the United States. His 1994 television documentary, "Jihad in America," won awards for investigative excellence. Last year - post-9/11 - he addressed Richmond's World Affairs Council. His American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us elaborates on themes he discussed with the local audience. The book is thorough and audacious - and sobering. It opens with a 1988 statement by Abdullah Azzam, whose organization provided an opening to Osama bin Laden:
The Jihad, the fighting, is obligatory on you wherever you can perform it. And just as when you are in America you must fast - unless you are ill or on a voyage - so, too, must you wage Jihad. The word Jihad means fighting only, fighting with the sword.
The words were spoken in Oklahoma City.
Emerson gathered his information by attending conventions and rallies, listening to broadcasts and tapes, watching videos, reading papers and magazines, and talking with insiders who on occasion may have let him know more than they wanted him to know. The network relies on committed terrorists but also on the naive. Funds supposedly raised for charitable purposes are diverted by fronts to groups planning and carrying out terror. Dollars from America subsidize the spilling of innocent blood.
As the hijackers of 9/11 so vividly demonstrated, terrorists also exploit U.S. laws and customs, and the neighborly good cheer of the American people. Malevolents who despise the concept of civil liberties use constitutional protections and social practices as a burqa-like cover to disguise themselves as they plot mayhem and death. Homeland security has many implications. The U.S. has become a crucial link in a vicious chain.
The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon opened eyes to a reality Steven Emerson already had seen. American Jihad belongs on the required reading list.