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The War Nerd / December 15, 2008
By Gary Brecher

We’re in trouble now, people. The Somalis of Minneapolis are joining the jihad. That’s according to a story that came out this weekend claiming that young Somali-Americans are flocking to dear old Somalia to join the jihad.

Sounds pretty scary, but if you read through the story with a cold eye, you start to get the feeling it’s mostly hype. This is good practice for you rookie war nerds, so I’ll quote the whole first paragraph and you tell me, what’s wrong with this picture?

“The funeral for Shirwa Ahmed last week in Burnsville, Minnesota, punctuated a growing national security threat metastasizing inside the U.S. — one Homeland Security and law enforcement authorities have quickly taken note of. Ahmed, who killed himself in a suicide bombing attack in Somalia in October, is just one of up to 40 men from the Twin Cities area who have disappeared and are feared to have returned to their homeland for training with the al-Shabaab terrorist group to wage jihad.”

You have to think about this story like you were an Al Qaeda Human-Resources manager. Here’s the situation: you’ve got this volunteer, Shirwa, who lives in Minneapolis and he’s ready to give his life for the global jihad. What a catch! He can probably speak American English, and if his family came here when he was 12 or younger he maybe even speaks without an accent. That means that he can pose as a black American, somebody whose family has been here for hundreds of years and has no connection to Al Q. If you’re from the Al Q. HR Department, you’re thanking Allah for a catch like that.
And you send him to Somalia as a suicide bomber?

See the problem here? It makes no friggin’ sense at all, in global jihad terms. For Osama and his friends, that’s like sending a billion-dollar-plus B-2 bomber on a kamikaze mission to blow up a stop sign. There just aren’t that many guys who speak American English who are willing to work with Al Q., and when you get one, you pamper him, groom him, fatten him up for some high-value mission that involves boarding passes and box cutters. You do not, repeat not, use him as human hamburger.

Especially in Somalia. What targets are left in that wasteland? There’s not a thing worth the life of a major asset like a Minnesota-raised Somali. I mean, if nothing else, just think of the comedy possibilities, with this skinny black smiling jihadi talking like the people in Fargo, sawing away at the pilot’s throat with a boxcutter but trying to be Minnesota nice about it: “Oh golly, gosh darn it, I’m gonna have ta cut your throat but I sure hope you have a nice day in the meantime!”

The article mentions a few Americans who’ve died fighting for al-Shahaab, but they’ve all died fighting in Somalia. Somalia ain’t worth shit. So either the connection between al-Shahaab and Al Qaeda is all hype, or—and this is where I’d put my money—they’re so damn stupid they can’t coordinate their personnel, don’t have the vision to see what use you could make of guys like Minnesota Shirwa, and send them off to die in the scrub like any ignorant Somali goat herder.

The only proof the article gives that al Shahaab looks so far like another loud-talking Islamist woof troop. By the way, “Shahaab” which means “meteor,” is also the name of a much more serious weapon, an Iranian ballistic missile based on a North Korean design. These Somali shouters are quoted telling America, “We’re coming for you! We’re going to exterminate you all!” Yeah. I seem to remember a hairy dead guy named Arafat who used to talk that way just before his puissant PLO guerrillas got splattered all over the floor again. Woofing doesn’t prove a thing. The quietest military power on earth is China.

As long as guys like Shirwa from Minneapolis are flying out of American airports to Somalia, they should get upgraded to first class and helped on their way. If they want to come back, that’s a different story. But here again, you gotta read smart, think it through, not just let the scare-stories get to you. If you were going to be a sleeper jihadi working against America, would you—I mean, for God’s sake—would you go to a terrorist training camp in Somalia that’s bound to be full of double agents? That’s the surest way on this planet to announce yourself as a terrorist suspect and make every no-fly list around, not to mention the very good chance of just getting quietly shot with no questions asked. If you were a real terrorist with a real organization, you’d convert to the Baptists, study electrical engineering in Alabama, blog on Free Republic about wiping out the Muzzies, and then, after a few years of living la vida un-loca, board a domestic flight with, say, a sharpened piece of plastic from the frame of your carry-on bag. Big, big difference between that and pulling your suicide string to blow up a roadblock in Puntland.

What’s probably happening with these Somali idiots is that they’re joining the long, long line of American kids who got bored with being rich and living the easy life and decided to go get themselves killed for a bunch of treacherous bandits fighting under a fancy name with “freedom” in it, off in some godforsaken part of the world where all the locals would sell their firstborn for the chance to live in the cushy American neighborhood these idiots left behind.

That’s been going on forever. Everybody knows about the American commies who volunteered for the Spanish Civil War, but there are dozens of other examples of Americans who should’ve minded their own business getting killed for people that washed about once a year.

Just on a hunch, I googled “American volunteer Greece Independence” because I just knew that the 1820s Greek war against the Turks was the sort of thing that would’ve drawn all the bleeding-heart trust fund brats on the East Coast to go waste their lives. And sure enough, look what I found:

“Another young American who fought in Greece was Jonathan Miller of Vermont. In July 1824, the Boston Greek Committee accepted his application to go to Greece. Boston, New York, and other big cities had committees gathering money, supplies, and offering political support for Greece. As aide-de-camp for General Jarvis, Miller was in the thick of things and wrote articles that were published and widely read in America. He saw action near Nafplion where he met the most famous of American volunteers, Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe.”

If you want proof how nothing ever frickin’ changes, just look at what this idiot Miller wrote about his big adventure: “With the Greeks I am willing to suffer for the cause of religion and freedom. Call me in America a crusader, or what you will, my life is devoted to the overturning of the Turkish Empire. God is on the side of the Greeks.”

So there you go. Vermont farmboys fighting Muzzies on behalf of sleazy Greek bandit chiefs, Brooklyn commies practicing their Madrid lisps for the proletariat and dear old Uncle Joe, or Somali immigrant kids quitting their jobs at Starbuck’s or Kinko’s to give their all for the noble cause of some khat-chewing gunslingerclan boss—there’s one born every minute. And luckily for everybody, there’s one dying every minute too, dying stupid.

Gary Brecher is the author of the War Nerd. Send your comments to

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Add your own

  • 1. Dave  |  December 15th, 2008 at 10:28 am

    Hell Gary, you overlooked the most famous bored rich kid to go off and get himself shot in the name of something pointless and you were even talking about Greece. Byron.

  • 2. Bjorn  |  December 15th, 2008 at 10:45 am

    I lived and worked in the Somali neighborhood in Minneapolis. I’ve heard from some of the Somalis there that there are WW2 vets still around there, ones that fought for the Italians, if I remember right.

  • 3. Bjorn  |  December 15th, 2008 at 10:47 am

    To clarify, Blackhawk down was disappointing because they should have and could have found real somali actors. To me it was like watch a movie about the battle of Midway with the Japs played by indonesians.

  • 4. Baked Dr. Luny  |  December 15th, 2008 at 10:47 am

    The U.S. Government is way too paranoid about the Somali islamists. If they have connections to Al Qaeda it’s because of Somali Mujahadeen volunteers and Osama bin Laden’s operations there in the 90’s. These guys aren’t about Jihad against America, they’re an Islamic nationalist movement trying to unite Somalia under the only thing the clans have in common. When these guys took over a few years ago they had a fucking PR guy bragging to the west about how enlightened and civilized they were going to be. Just recently they even offered to fight the Somali pirates! Then we found out that someone in the ICU might have known someone who knows someone from Al Qaeda and decided to sic the Ethiopian army on them.

    If you’re a Somali peasant you’ve got to be praying to Allah for some Taliban-style law and order. Who cares if you have to wear a Burkah(sp?) if it means you don’t get raped as often? Why don’t we just let these guys take over, they’d probably be at least as liberal and enlightened as the Saudis, and we get along with them just fine. The alternative is more the same which is fine if you’re a pirate or a warlord(who, by the way, make up the current “government”), but if you don’t want Somalia to be a failed state(not that a state really exists at all), the Islamic movement in Somalia is really your only hope.

  • 5. Bored Teenager  |  December 15th, 2008 at 11:11 am

    You state over and over again in your articles that getting blown up for no good reason is the most natural thing in the world for teenage boys. Then you shit on Americans that actually bother to do it. What’s the alternative, Fallujah? More power to them.

  • 6. Yul Brynner  |  December 15th, 2008 at 11:23 am

    Brecher you are a god.

  • 7. Scott  |  December 15th, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Don Cheadle looks more like a Somali than those dudes from BHD.

  • 8. Lance  |  December 15th, 2008 at 11:47 am

    You know, if the US intelligence community had even half a brain they would be all over these Somali communities in the US. For every two or three of the dumbass kids running off to die in the jihad, there’s probably one who could be crafted into a really excellent intelligence asset.

  • 9. Squitters  |  December 15th, 2008 at 11:54 am

    You massively overestimate the American education system if you think that the Somali inhabitants of Minnesota speak or act in a Fargo-esque manner.

  • 10. GhostShip  |  December 15th, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    I normally agree with what War Nerd writes; however, I think he is wrong in this case. Many of these Somali immigrants are recent imports courtesy of the U.S. State Dept and the U.S. Dept of H&HS Refugee Resettlement program. These are not second generation immigrants who grew up in America and most can barely speck any English.

  • 11. vise guy  |  December 15th, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    What you forget is that this magazine YOU are WRITING IN is written by people who RAN FROM AMERICA.

    Mark Ames and Matt Taibbi both ran from the US to Russia. This paper they founded is called the Exile.

    So I would expect some sympathy from people like you for people who ran from America, Starbucks and Kinko’s.

  • 12. Mark  |  December 15th, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    War Nerd,

    You have to help your readers here. You once wrote that people will fight and die for what they believe in. Now you’re telling us that many of these people are dumb suckers. Does this story arc have a conclusion? Will you tell us what is worth fighting and dying for?

  • 13. CB  |  December 15th, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    There’s a third option you know, other than the Al Q connection being fake or their HR people being idiots. Maybe their HR dept were thinking in terms of some kind of serious use for the boy, but soon realized that American education hadn’t prepared him for something sophisticated any better than a lifetime of memorizing the Quran. I mean, maybe he just wasn’t very bright.

    And hey, this article seems mostly consistent for Gary. Fighting is one thing, fighting stupid is, well, stupid, and wasting a unique asset like that as a suicide bomber is stupid. That’s classic War Nerd thinking.

    The other side of “mostly”, though, is the slam against Miller. I don’t get what was so stupid from the quote. Sounds like he got to see some action, and become a kind of celebrity back here in America, probably returned with the equivalent of a hundred “Get into your panties for free” cards.

  • 14. CB  |  December 15th, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    Mark, maybe I can help. People will fight and die for what they believe in. That’s just human nature. It’s perfectly understandable, and if I know what articles you’re talking about, that’s the context — “understanding” why people would do it. It’s not crazy or incomprehensible, it’s just about the most natural thing in the world.

    That doesn’t make it “worth” it.

    The two things aren’t the same, so it’s not a contradiction.

  • 15. Pilgrim  |  December 15th, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    Going overseas to fight for a bunch of idiots that bath once a year or less is a vice that the american youth share with a lot of other peoples around the world.

    For example, a lot of europeans traveled overseas to fight for some rebel scum in North America, around 1775. Like if XVIII century Europe lacked enough wars to have fun in.

    Looking retrospectively, they should have looked for some other place to die, or even better, they should have joined their european fellows, the redcoats. Should they had, the world would be a better place now, wouldn’t it?

  • 16. johnsmith4  |  December 15th, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    #5, 11, 12, and 13, I believe that Brecher is all in favor of teenage boys following their God-given desire to die honorably, but wishes they would choose smarter commanders to follow, like Ataturk or Patton, instead of some treacherous bandit or warlord whose very name will be forgotten immediately.

  • 17. five to one  |  December 15th, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    as for the article; i’ll restate my opinion, good read nice observations except the fact #1 already stated which is that dr Dolans hero Lord Byron (whom he wrote a well thought out inspired column about) died in that same greek war of malaria (backpackers disease) and wrote one of his best poems about it

    i’ll quote the article for you but I think you remember, so I’ll just quote the poem

    “When a man hath no freedom to fight for at home;
    Let him combat for that of his neighbours;
    Let him think of the glories of Greece and of Rome;
    And get knock’d on the head for his labours”

  • 18. Colin  |  December 16th, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    Did we forget the Soviets who went off and fought in the Spanish Civil War? I mean, if you’re going to go on about people dying in senseless ways, there were far more Ivans over there than American commies.

    To piggy-back on the previous comment about Miller, all you have to do is look at Hemingway with the S.C.W. and can easily equate the two.

    I do, however, feel that Gary is right in the sense that the US has little to worry about with this and that AQ has either really shoddy HR, or the people they’re recruiting from over here are about as bright as a pile of pig intestines.

  • 19. Health IT Nerd  |  December 17th, 2008 at 1:39 am

    > Did we forget the Soviets who went off and fought in the Spanish Civil War?
    > I mean, if you’re going to go on about people dying in senseless ways,

    What, as opposed to staying at home and dying in senseless ways? At least in Spain there was a chance of meeting a young spanish lady for a deep and meaningful relationship.

  • 20. geo8rge  |  December 17th, 2008 at 4:43 am

    1) You assume by Jihad they mean jihad against the USA. They might mean jihad against Ethiopia, or other locals. In the extreme attacks on the US in Iraq, although I doubt that.

    2) With the government in Somalia collapsing maybe American Somalies are thinking they can get a piece of the spoils, if they get in early on the government ponzi scheme. Didn’t Obama Sr. rush back to Kenya just as soon as the Mau Mau thing ended to snag a government job and a few extra wives. The next phone call mom gets is ‘hi mom I’m in Washington, I’m the new cultural attache to the ambassador of Somalia’.

    3) I suspect that an American kid with a couple of thou saved up from Mikey D work could get some top shelf females (including well educated) in Somalia. Trust me one of those Somali kids could come back with the best of the best. Compare with what he would end up with in a Minn. ghetto. Somalia may actually be less dangerous than what those Somali kids face in black America.

  • 21. ibid  |  December 18th, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    Quick correction. The group is quoted as being named ‘al-Shabaab’ not ‘al-Shahaab’, which simply means young people instead of meteor.

  • 22. Not  |  February 18th, 2009 at 2:13 am

    “Did we forget the Soviets who went off and fought in the Spanish Civil War? I mean, if you’re going to go on about people dying in senseless ways, there were far more Ivans over there than American commies.”

    On the contrary, the Soviets were not dying for senseless things, just like the Germans over there.

    If you look at it from the Soviet and German point of view, Spain gave them the chanse to test their military in work. Both countries learned good military lessons that were put to use(Germans learned a lot more than Soviets as history shows).

    While the american commies went the as nobodys and either died or returned as nobodys without any benefit for America. Truly useless deaths.

  • 23. H.D. Price  |  March 23rd, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    “Don Cheadle looks more like a Somali than those dudes from BHD.”

    Who gives a shit? I don’t care if it’s Somalis, Indonesians or Maori.

    As for voluneers in the Spanish Civil War, yeah a lot were communists, but a lot weren’t. Some people may not want to consider the differences between communists, socialists, or just anti-fascists and those who didn’t want to see any land reform wiped out (the church being one of the biggest land owners); but the differences are pretty measureable. Not everyone who fought on the Republican side was a Stalinist.

    There were also a lot of anti-communists and Catholics who volunteered for the Nationalist side, but Franco’s people wanted the image of anti-communist solidarity without the substance. They turned away white Russian forces that saw this as a stepping stone to kicking the reds out of Russia, an Irish brigade, French volunteers, some individual British and Americans and a Romanian unit; among others.

    But the Soviets, Germans, Italians and Portugese were sent by their governments, they weren’t volunteers like Americans and others.

    And you could look at the war that so-called historians like to call the “American Civil War”, which was no such thing but rather a war by the USA against the CSA. Many men from various countries fought on both sides; Irish, British, even some Canadians and Mexicans (and other countries). Even American Indians got involved, especially with the Confederacy.

  • 24. A Lazy Brit Writes  |  March 27th, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Re Comment 23.

    Don’t forget the King of Siam offered to send Lincoln war elephants!

  • 25. BUSTER  |  October 28th, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    muslim mystery: Solved!

    everyone seems to be wondering why muslim terrorists are so quick to commit suicide.

    Lets see now.

    No beer, no booze, no bars, no television, no cheerleaders, no baseball, no football, no basketball, no hockey, and no tailgate parties.

    No pork bbq, no hot-dogs, no burgers, no lobster, no shellfish, or even freakin’ frozen fish sticks!

    Rags for clothes, towels for hats. Constant wailing from the guy next door because he is sick and there are no doctors. 24 hour wailing from a guy in the tower.

    You can’t shave. Your wife can’t shave. You can’t shower to wash off the smell of donkey cooked over burning camel dung.

    The women have to wear baggy dresses, and veils at all times.

    Your bride is picked by someone else. She smells just like your donkey,but your donkey has a better disposition.

    Then they tell you: it all gets better when you die!

    “no mystery here”

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