The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

One Woman's War

A relatively obscure online journal, The Middle East Quarterly, [hat tip, The Belmont Club] recently published an article by Shannen Rossmiller, a mother of three children, ex-municipal court judge, and now, a civil litigation specialist with the Montana attorney general's office. It’s a story that in any other context would get her interviewed by Oprah, Diane Sawyer or Matt Lauer. In fact, in a lot of ways, it’s a story that could become a movie (starring Julia Roberts, no doubt). But it won’t, because it's a story of an American woman who decided to fight Islamofascism in her own way, in her own time, and with success – and that’s something that doesn’t seem to interest the MSM.

Rossmiller begins her story:
Before 9-11, I had no experience with the Middle East or the Arabic language. I was a mother of three and a municipal judge in a small town in Montana. But the terrorist attacks affected me deeply. I wondered how it could happen. What kind of people could carry out such an atrocity and why? I began to read vociferously about Islam, terrorism, extremist groups, and Islamist ideology.[1] Some of the books satisfied; many did not.

In November 2001, I saw a news report about how terrorists and their sympathizers communicated on websites and Internet message boards and how limited government agencies were in their ability to monitor these web communications. This news report showed me how extensively Al-Qaeda used the Internet to orchestrate 9-11 and how out of touch our intelligence agencies were regarding this Internet activity. Apparently, there were not procedures in place for tracking communications and activity on the Al-Qaeda websites and Internet forums at the time.

The Internet address named in the news report was "" I wrote it down and proceeded to see for myself what all the fuss was about. I entered another world when I logged on to that site for the first time. I did not know Arabic, so I clicked away at random, looking at featured pictures depicting such things as dead bodies lying around in the aftermath of a car bombing and other atrocities.

Early in January 2002, I began taking an Arabic language course online for eight weeks from the Cairo-based Arab Academy,[2] which, that autumn, I supplemented with an intensive Arabic course at the State University of New York at Buffalo. As I learned more Arabic, the jihadi websites opened for me. Certain individuals stood out for either their radicalism or the information that they sent. I followed and tracked these individuals and kept notebooks detailing each website and person of interest.

Gradually, as I put to use the knowledge and skills I was developing of the Arabic language, I started posting messages on Internet forums and message boards. However, it was not until I was able to find an Arabic language translator through an online translation service[3] who was willing to assist me with constructing contextually accurate messages that I began to elicit responses from individuals at these Internet sites. As time went on, and through the process of trial and error, I eventually figured out what to say and how to say it to start the process of passing myself off as a jihadist sympathizer.

She proceeds to uncover a plot to sell stolen Stinger (anti-aircraft) missles and unearths an embedded Jihadist sympathizer within a National Guard unit tasked to Iraq. In both cases, her work disrupted dangerous terrorist activities.

Odd, isn’t it, that you haven’t heard about Shannen Rossmiller until now. It’s such a great human interest story –- almost too Hollywood to be real – and yet, it is.

But the MSM—broadcast, print, and film—looks the other way. To get their attention, she’d need to "save the world" from global warming like Al or stop starvation in Africa like Angelina and Brad, or negotiate a peace settlement in Darfur like, well … never mind. All wonderful goals, but very, very big problems that are easy to pontificate about, but extremely difficult to solve. So talk is cheap, and action is, well, just symbolic.

Shannon decided to address a much smaller problem set, one that she had a chance of solving. She took specific actions and got results that helped her country. In her own small way, Shannen Rossmiller is a bigger American hero than Al or Angelina will ever be.