On the February day President Obama spoke at Ivy Tech, a Bosnian man was arrested on the Ronald Reagan Parkway in Plainfield and detained on terror-related charges of funneling money and guns to ISIS fighters in the Middle East. Early this month, ISIS allegedly hacked into several Indianapolis websites, prompting a Homeland Security investigation.
Mike Rogers, former U.S. House Intelligence Committee chairman, emphasized this point to me on Wednesday: Hoosiers are not immune to the war on terror and could, in fact, end up on the front lines. In a conversation at Loughmiller’s Pub under the famed photo of Vice President Nixon debating Soviet leader Khrushchev, Rogers was asked if the Cold War now seemed like the good old days. “Now they can touch you with a keyboard from 5,000 miles away or call you on the phone and tell you to kill a guard at the Capitol building,” the Michigan Republican said.
Aware of the ISIS website hacks in Indianapolis, Rogers observed, “They did one of the art websites. They are looking for opportunities. If something caught their eye on the Internet, they’ll put it on their target list. Maybe there was an event, maybe something in the press, maybe something drew their eye, but something clearly allowed them to get there. They can strike in the Midwest, they can strike in New York, in Los Angeles. This is part of a true terror campaign. That’s what makes them so dangerous.”
Since leaving Congress in December, Rogers has formed the Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security organization that will brief the 2016 Republican presidential candidates and voters designed to “educate and identify” issues related to national security. Just prior to my interview, Rogers huddled with Gov. Mike Pence at the Statehouse.
“On Jan. 21 that new president is going to face a world of hurt,” Rogers said. “No more is there a honeymoon of not dealing with foreign affairs in the first term. That’s gone. It’s going to be equally as bad and equally as complicated as it is today.”
Rogers was asked what message he wanted to convey to Hoosiers. “If you want to look and see what the world looks like without our engagement overseas, turn on your TV. When ISIS can attack an arts center cyberwise in Indianapolis, when the Chinese send a human spy here to steal Dow Agro secrets and send them back to China, Indianapolis should be as much engaged as the state of Indiana on national security issues as any other states. They are not immune here.
“If we don’t get the national security posture right, then all the other stuff we’ll never get right,” he continued. “It’s the peace-through-strength message. We’re trying to get the engagement message through. It’s not military adventurism.”
Is Rogers worried about loose nukes and biological weapons in the hands of ISIS death squads, or the proverbial lone wolf?
“The lone wolf is equally as bad,” Rogers began. “This is when ISIS changed. Maybe it was a year, a year and a half ago now. They had eight Australians who had self-radicalized, self-identified with each other, raised their own money, worked with an ISIS recruiter in Syria and said, ‘Hey, we’re ready to go.’ This is where the game changed, I think. The recruiter called back and said ‘We have enough people in Syria right now. What we want you to do, don’t plan this, but randomly drive out, grab a civilian off the street, cut their head off, video tape it and send it to us. We’ll use that for propaganda purposes.’
“The game changed,” Rogers said. “They wanted to strike in the Westernized countries.” Since then we’ve seen attacks at Parliament in Ottawa, the Charlie Hebdo and deli massacres in Paris, another in Copenhagen. “So they’ve decided to have this disruptive activity. I worry as much about a lone wolf or two or three who decide they want to take something into their own hands as I do a big organized event that might hit in Indianapolis or New York. Now, we worry about those too. It’s easier for them to try and coordinate and inspire these lone wolf attacks. Unfortunately, we’ve seen them happen.”
Is this a 25-year war? “We are going to have a long process,” the Michigan Republican said. “We’re going to have to deal with them. We have to do something about their structure in eastern Syria. We can’t do that with just an air campaign. And right now, when ISIS uses their social media, we’re thinking, ‘Gosh, we’re containing them.’ We’re not beating them. There’s a big difference.”
The message that Rogers is explaining to presidential contenders and American citizens alike is sobering. For an indepth analysis, you can read Graeme Wood’s “What ISIS Really Wants” on The Atlantic website.
This is a clash of civilization and Medieval mentality matched with sophisticated use of social media. While we here in Indiana celebrate the sanctity of life, for ISIS, this is a celebration of death and martyrdom and a preparation for what they see is the epic battle at Armageddon.
Brian Howey, a Peru native, is the publisher of The Howey Political Report. He can be reached at www.howeypolitics.com. Find him on Twitter @hwypol.