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THE HURT LOCKER: A New Kind of War Movie

The Review

Eric Randolph reviews Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, and notes a shift in film-making sensibilities from the war-as-heroics paradigm of earlier Hollywood, towards the everyman's war-as-hell model that has now lodged itself in Western cultural consciousness.


  • The Hurt Locker

    The Review

    Eric Randolph reviews Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, and notes a shift in film-making sensibilities from the war-as-heroics paradigm of earlier Hollywood, towards the everyman's war-as-hell model that has now lodged itself in Western cultural consciousness.


  • The Occidental Guerrilla

    Book Review

    Michael A. Innes reviews David Kilcullen's new book The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One. A timely and astute synthesis of experience, research and analysis, the author pinpoints the political shear between minority existential threats to US interests and the majority of the world's locally invested guerrillas who just want to be left alone.


  • Architecture & Biopolitics


    Berlin-based writer Daniel Miller's October 2008 interview with Swedish philosopher and SITE Magazine Editor-In-Chief Sven-Olov Wallenstein, on his new book Biopolitics and the Emergence of Modern Architecture (Princeton Architectural Press, 2009).


  • Wired For War


    The second symposium in CTlab's 2009 series, focused on Peter Singer's new book, Wired For War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century (Penguin Press: 2009), ran from 30 March to 2 April. Singer and half a dozen scholars from the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Austria debated the use and ethics of robots in war.


  • DEFCON 17

    Current Intelligence

    Tim Stevens reports back from the DEFCON 17 conference in Las Vegas: are hackers thinking meat isn't just meat anymore?



The Curious Case Of Daniel Boyd

The case of Daniel Boyd and his band of North Carolina jihadis is more interesting than the collective yawn that greeted the arrests last week (see the Google timeline of articles). It may end up being the most interesting case to emerge in the US since September 11th.

Most of the blog commentary revolved around the shocking fact that these men were, with one exception, US-citizens. It's a tiresome reaction, at least for this blogger. Eighties and 90s-era America was just as permissive an environment for radicalization as the UK during the same time period. When Abdullah Azzam traveled across the country raising money for the Afghan cause in the 1980s, he wasn't visiting ashrams. There were many masjid and community leaders here who celebrated and embraced his global cause, and many of them are still around.

Granted, Boyd is an unlikely Salafist-Jihadist, with his near-stereotypical southern white male American looks and the blue collar job. He looks like he'd be more likely to have one of those fantasy girl silhouettes on the back windshield of his pick up truck than a shalwar kameez in the closet. Take out the Salafist-Jihadism and you have a rather banal American story. However, it's clear there's much more to the story than the weak indictment and the initial -- mostly local -- news reports.

The initial Washington Post article this week provided the least lazy reporting, shedding the most light on Boyd's case. According to the article, Boyd spent his teen years in Northern Virginia. His step-father was a convert and a lawyer:

For Boyd, his arrest follows an unusual path from an Alexandria classroom to the dusty streets of Afghanistan, according to court filings and interviews with friends and neighbors.

In the 1980s, Boyd converted to Islam after being inspired by his stepfather, William Saddler, a Washington area lawyer and devout Muslim. Boyd journeyed after high school to Pakistan and Afghanistan to join Islamic resistance fighters battling the Soviet Union.

Boyd's Northern Virginia (NoVa) roots actually make his story more credible. The step-father's life, too, has the potential for shedding light on NoVa's radical community in the 80s and 90s. However, I searched several commercial databases under William Saddler's Christian name, but found nothing. I suspect that as a lawyer, Saddler, may have also published on Muslim issues, or left some other paper trail, but so far, nothing is obvious.

The Post has helpfully republished 1991 profile of Boyd by Steve Coll. Boyd, then a member of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-e-Islami party in Pakistan, was living there with his wife, brother and sister-in-law:

In Pakistan the Boyds shifted from house to house in Hyatabad, a suburb in the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains beneath the Khyber Pass, which leads to Afghanistan. After a year, Charles Boyd and his second wife, Debra, joined them.

The Post also returned to Pakistan to follow up on Coll's 1991 article later in the week.

I am curious about the extent of the Salafist-Jihadist influence in the Raleigh, North Carolina region. The Carolinas -- particularly North Carolina -- has been a region growing in population, and obviously a good place for a dry wall company to be located.  Raleigh is the anchor city of an region called the Research Triangle, that also includes Chapel Hill and Durham, and features many high tech research companies, institutes, and universities. No doubt there are few immigrants who have brought Salafist-Jihadist tendencies along with their high tech skills into the region. North Carolina (Charlotte -- 165 miles SW of Raleigh) is also home to the most well-known Salafist-Jihadist in the US -- Samir Khan.  I'm curious to know whether there is a nexus between the Khan and Boyd's circle.

But more than anything right now, I would love to know the truth about Boyd's relationship with the FBI. The most important claim to come out so far can be found deep in the first Post article above (third to last paragraph),

[A local mosque official] added that Daniel Boyd, whom he knew as Saifullah, or "sword of God," had dealt with the FBI for five years, discussing his militant activities in the 1980s but saying he was no longer interested in politics. The FBI "did come to him with pictures of terrorists killed in Afghanistan, and he did recognize some of them. They had worked together and established relationships," Osman said. "He was very aware that he was being watched [by the FBI] in everything he did. . . . He was never afraid."

If he was a source, why did they arrest him? There's a compelling story here that hasn't been told yet.

Reader Comments (2)

Very odd indeed. No comment from the President. No current pictures of Boyd....
Certainly more to this than we will probably ever know.

Aug 3, 2009 at 0:01 | Registered CommenterRose

"No comment from the President." You know, you're right, Rose. I didn't even consider that fact, Rose, thanks. This is stranger than the Vinas case. As I like to say, I guess we won't know until someone writes a book.

Aug 3, 2009 at 23:42 | Registered CommenterMarisa Urgo

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