The Limits of Jihadi Nihilism

The West has committed many sins against the Muslim world, making moral pronouncements from Washington, London or Paris ring hollow, but more and more Muslims are recognizing that the violent nihilism of jihadi terror is morally reprehensible and must be stopped, says ex-CIA official Graham E. Fuller.

By Graham E. Fuller

It is hard to find even the smallest silver lining in the ongoing series of jihadist outrages that now proliferate with each daily news report. The immoral and cynical exploitation of religion (a constant of human history) is ultimately about power and intimidation. The phenomenon shows no signs of coming to an end and at this point in history happens to most dramatically center in the Muslim world.

We now have the murder of the Istanbul tourists, and Pakistan’s two terrible recent attacks on educational institutions as merely the latest. Boko Haram in Nigeria may even lead the pack in wanton killings by zombie packs.

The second plane about to crash into the World Trade Center towers in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.

The second plane about to crash into the World Trade Center towers in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.

Political violence has always existed. But what are its “natural limits?” We know about the negative legacies of colonialism and the impact of countless Western invasions and wars and the struggle to control developing world energy resources. We know about U.S. wars that have killed over a million Muslims over the past decade.

We understand that the sources of political, economic and social desperation and rage still exist. We understand the suffering of Palestinians, over half a century now, under harsh and unyielding Israeli occupation. We understand resistance by any peoples, in any country, to foreign invasion and occupation.

But not even the most militant political vision can justify the wanton killing of civilians simply for the sake of spectacle and show of power. Most moral ideas almost anywhere, religious or non-religious, can be pushed to levels of blind fanaticism that discredit the original moral concept. Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, yes, all do it.

And take socialism, the vision of an economically just society. In the Soviet Union under Stalin and in China under Mao abstract socialist principles ended up justifying the deaths of more than 40 million people, mainly in the quest for power.

The realities of those withering experiences forced Western socialists to acknowledge how even their own idealistic principles could be perverted into an orgy of death and brutality. In a different way the concept of sacrosanct free markets may be reaching the outer limits of economic and social tolerance in the U.S.

Is the tide of jihadi violence cresting in the Muslim world? Muslims themselves are of course the primary victims of these nihilistic acts today. And as the violence grows, there are lessons to be learned. Muslim declarations as well as anecdotal evidence makes it clear to that the vast majority of Muslims are horrified at what is being done in the name of their faith by these groups.

Still, in the end it will only be Muslims who are able to rein in such fanatical excesses within their own communities and mosques. They are the only ones with the moral and cultural credibility to pass judgment on the theology, ideology, and the acts of their fellows. U.S. government or Israeli interpretations of Islam count for nothing, and are seen only as self-serving.

“Why don’t Muslims ever condemn terrorism?” That is a refrain we regularly hear in the West. Yet try googling “muslim condemnation of terrorism” and look at the near half-a-million hits that come up.

When and how will Muslims be able to seize some degree of their own destiny in these developments? In many places Muslim communities, such as in Syria, are often pawns in a greater game beset by warring militias. Ditto in Iraq. Or Yemen, or Libya.

In large parts of the Muslim world today, it is dangerous for your health to speak out on issues of moral limits in implementing political Islam. As long as the Middle East is caught in domestic struggles and foreign wars, a high degree of religious, political and moral bravery is required to speak up, and risk assassination.

Muslims in the West, while safer, also pay for such jihadi-inspired terrorism: they are often held collectively responsible for any Muslim act of terror anywhere. It’s tough to be a Muslim in the West these days. We’ve all heard about FWM, Flying While Muslim, something akin to Driving While Black.

Still, for these Muslims in the West the relatively safe environment imposes new intellectual and moral responsibilities upon them to openly discuss the implications of the perversions of their faith that now seem to be probing the outer limits. Only they can do it.

In fact, it is highly likely that the greatest intellectual breakthroughs in the contemporary interpretation of Islam and condemnation of its current outrages will take place specifically among Muslims in the West, not in the tortured Middle East. But even here, Western Muslims can be accused by some as “failing to offer support to the Muslim cause.” (Just as many American Jews are deeply hesitant about public criticism of Israel even as they privately condemn Netanyahu’s policies.)

And let’s face it, “condemning terrorism” is not enough. Trying to define terrorism in some objective way agreeable to all has proven a near impossible task as each observer finds the political agenda of one group more “understandable” than others.

Indeed, while all killing is bad, human society has long created legal hierarchies of immorality (evil) even within the spectrum of killing. The state kills its own with near impunity. Internationally, war is war and “understandable.” Murder may be murder, but even murder is still ranked by first, second and third degrees, along with various shades of manslaughter and criminal negligence, all with differing legal and social responses and penalties.

Muslims and other observers may differ on which elements of terrorism or political violence are more justifiable than others. But the wanton acts of the Boko Haram, ISIS, Al Qaeda branches, and Taliban rogue groups (among others) have to rank near the top of the list for outright moral condemnation, whatever one’s views of politics. The first precondition in the Muslim world is to lower the heat whereby such discussions become permissible.

Sadly, we are going to witness many more horrors from these murderous jihadi groups even as these movements move towards the point of self-collapse. The clock would seem to be running out on them, their level of social acceptance exhausted; they have stretched their “principles” to the breaking point. The backlash from fellow Muslims, the only one that really counts in the long run, is underway. The West should “lead from behind” to the extent possible on rolling this stuff back.

As the Chinese say, “things that move to extremes must inevitably return to center.”

Graham E. Fuller is a former senior CIA official, author of numerous books on the Muslim World; his latest book is Breaking Faith: A novel of espionage and an American’s crisis of conscience in Pakistan. (Amazon, Kindle)

15 comments for “The Limits of Jihadi Nihilism

  1. rhsper
    January 28, 2016 at 12:38

    “The West should “lead from behind” to the extent possible on rolling this stuff back.”

    The west has done enough evil, thank you very much.

    If anything, order your minion (aka. Samson) to let the wretched Palestinians have their state.

  2. john francis lee
    January 28, 2016 at 02:25

    Don’t you think you ought at least to footnote the fact that Graham Fuller was involved in Iran Contra? That he is known as the Godfather of Al CIAduh? That he was the man responsible for importing the CIA terrorists who got away, the Tsarnaev brothers? I don’t believer the guy is ‘sincere’ at all. I don’t think anyone ‘retires’ from the CIA. I think he’s trying to draw attention from the CIAs responsibility for Wahabi terror all over the world, and is using you to do so.

    Honestly, sometimes you seem thick as a brick, and you’re lending credence to a member of one of if not the most evil institution on earth.

  3. john francis lee
    January 28, 2016 at 02:24

    Don’t you think you ought at least to footnote the fact that Graham Fuller was involved in Iran Contra? That he is known as the Godfather of Al CIAduh? That he was the man responsible for importing the CIA terrorists who got away, the Tsarnaev brothers? I don’t believer the guy is ‘sincere’ at all. I don’t think anyone ‘retires’ from the CIA. I think he’s trying to draw attention from the CIAs responsibility for Wahabi terror all over the world, and is using you to do so.

    Honestly, sometimes you seem thick as a brick, and you’re lending credence to a member of one of if not the most evil institution on earth.

  4. dahoit
    January 27, 2016 at 13:37

    If we could figure out just whom is funding all these terrorists that make Islam look bad,maybe we’d figure out that this Wof terror is a fraud,and the Israeli expansion project,which just expanded yesterday,with intl. opprobrium.HA.

  5. Peter Loeb
    January 27, 2016 at 06:32


    “(Just as many American Jews are deeply hesitant about public criticism
    of Israel even as they privately condemn Netanyahu’s policies.)” excerpt
    from article by Graham Fuller above.

    It is always too easy and incidentally profoundly misguided to confound
    personalities with policy. (See Gabriel Kolko, THE ROOTS OF AMERICAN
    FOREIGN POLICY…Epilogue, on “accidental” analyses.) This may be
    a peculiarly American tendency highlighted in a US election year.
    Change the person results in a change of policies etc

    As much as many detest Benyamin Netanyahu, he is not alone
    the problem. His removal would not alter the character of Israel,
    of Zionism, and inevitably of the Palestine-Zionist conflict. There
    is a history of Zionism itself rooted in pan-German ideology of
    the 19th century. There are also deep roots in Scripture
    (the Torah) by which Zionists claim exclusive title. These
    are examined in detail by Michael Prior CM in THE BIBLE AND
    COLONIALISM….As Prior points out in his landmark work,
    the basic characteristics of Zionist colonialism are not
    limited to Zionism but share many characteristics with non-Zionist
    colonial adventures.

    To be brief, it performs an analytical injustice to personalize

    The same conclusion obtains in other situations. If
    George W. Bush were only replaced by Barack
    Obama, some once believed (with a passion) , the
    results would be transformative for US and for US
    foreign policy in particular. That was never the case
    and whoever becomes the next US President
    must be seen in that light.

    Analyses and future progressive responses must be
    based on sound knowledge (such as provided by
    consortium news and other outlets not the specific

    —Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

  6. Abe
    January 26, 2016 at 23:17

    Gulen schools in Russian Chechnya and Dagestan regions, both locations of fanatical Jihadists since 1991, were ultimately banned by Putin. The Russian government has banned all Gulen schools and the activities of the Gulen-linked Nurcu sect in Russia. Over 20 Turkish followers of Gulen were deported from Russia in 2002-2004. In 1999 Uzbekistan closed all Gulens Madrasas and shortly afterward arrested eight journalists who were graduates of Gulen schools, and found them guilty of setting up an illegal religious group and of involvement in an extremist organization. In Turkmenistan, government authorities placed Gulens schools under close scrutiny […]

    Gulen-loyal police tied to Edrogans AKP have infiltrated the Turkish police, intelligence services and other key state institutions and are systematically arresting, purging or silencing all nationalist military, trade union and other secular figures opposed to creation of an Islamic Sharia state in Turkey, uprooting ninety or more years of Kemalist legal foundations. More than one hundred Turkish journalists have been arrested for writing critically about the actions of Gulens AKP.

    Gulen’s public profile is as a humble, deeply spiritual Imam of love and brotherhood. His record in practice is anything but. Gulen once stated, you must move in the arteries of the system without anyone noticing your existence, until you reach all the power centers, until the conditions are ripe.” Sounds a bit like Lenin in the old days. Certain networks in Washington including people in and around Fuller obviously have no problem with that.

    Why would the CIA and US agencies want Central Asia? As Obama adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, notes in his now-famous book, The Grand Chessboard, for America, the chief geopolitical prize is Eurasia… “America’s global primacy is directly dependent on how long and how effectively its preponderance on the Eurasian continent is sustained It follows that America’s primary interest is to help ensure that no single power comes to control this geopolitical space and that the global community has unhindered financial and economic access to it.”

    Washington has used Turkey and the AKP fundamentalist networks of Gulen to wreak havoc across the post-communist oil and mineral-rich regions of Central Asia. Graham Fullers foot prints are all over those covert operations as are Fethullah Gulens. In 2008 Fuller published a book titled, The New Turkish Republic: Turkey as a Pivotal State in the Muslim World. As Sibel Edmonds describes, the process involved using Turkey with assistance from ‘actors from Pakistan, and Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia’ as a proxy, which in turn used Bin Laden and the Taliban and others as a proxy terrorist army before 911.

    Edmonds notes regarding US operations in Central Asia, this started more than a decade-long illegal, covert operation in Central Asia by a small group in the US intent on furthering the oil industry and the Military Industrial Complex, using Turkish operatives, Saudi partners and Pakistani allies, furthering this objective in the name of Islam.

    What did Uncle Ruslan Tsarnaev, uncle of the Boston alleged bombers do when he was married to Graham Fullers daughter? Ruslan worked for companies connected to Halliburton, doing oil deals in the Caucasus and as consultant for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan. Russia barred USAID from its soil in late 2012, alleging USAID together with CIA was attempting to influence the internal political processes in the country.

    Some are beginning to ask whether the Boston bombing might have been a deception operation carried out by the Rogues associated with Graham Fuller and the network within the CIA and Pentagon, to make it appear Putin was behind the ghastly events. In any case, when Graham Fuller went to the press to publicly denounce CIA links to the Tsarnaevs he made what is likely to go down as one of the greatest snafus in US intelligence history. He lost his cool, and with it, has put the spotlight on the entire CIA-sponsored Islamic Jihadist operations run through Fethullah Gulen across Turkey into Central Asia and Russia and China.

    Boston and the CIA ‘Snafu’ Part II: CIA’s Graham Fuller- A Deep State Rogue
    By F. William Engdahl

  7. Abe
    January 26, 2016 at 22:53

    So-called “Jihadist nihilism” precisely has been “led from behind” by the West in order to fracture the resource-rich nations of the Muslim world.

    Fuller’s screed about “nihilism” echoes the rhetoric of CIA-backed ideologue Fethullah Gülen.

    Geopolitical analyst F. William Engdahl and others have investigated Gülen and his BFF, Graham E. Fuller:

    “all evidence suggests that NATO Turkish Gladio networks picked up Gülen as a potentially useful asset years ago. As their agenda changed with the collapse of the Soviet Union, their role for Gülen changed as well and doors were opened for him to play that role.

    “So in a true sense we can say that the Gülen Cemaat is the nothing more than the projection of an idea from Langley Virginia CIA headquarters, an idea from essentially stupid people there who believed they could use him and they could abuse religion as a cover to advance their design for global control, what David Rockefeller calls One World Government.

    “Unlike the CIA’s Mujahideen Jihadists like Hekmatyar in Afghanistan or Naser Oric in Bosnia, the CIA decided to give Fethullah Gülen a radically different image. No blood-curdling, head-severing, human-heart-eating Jihadist. No, Fethullah Gülen was presented to the world as a man of ‘peace, love and brotherhood,’ even managing to grab a photo Op with Pope John Paul II, which Gülen featured prominently on his website. The Gülen organization in the US hired one of Washington’s highest-paid Public Relations image experts, George W. Bush’s former campaign director, Karen Hughes, to massage his ‘moderate’ Islam image.

    “[…] very knowledgeable Turkish analysts and even the former Turkish MIT senior figure, Osman Nuri Gundes, former FBI Turkish-American translator Sibel Edmonds, and others have documented his deep links to very senior CIA people such as Graham Fuller. When Gülen fled Turkey to avoid prosecution for treason in 1998, he chose not to go to any of perhaps a dozen Islamic countries which could have offered him asylum. He chose instead the United States. He did so with the help of the CIA. The US State Department tried to block a special ‘preference visa as an alien of extraordinary ability in the field of education’ permanent visa status for Gülen, arguing he was basically a fraud with a fifth grade education and no special Islam scholar. Over the objections of the FBI, of the US State Department and of the US Department of Homeland Security, three former CIA operatives intervened and managed to secure a Green Card and permanent US residency for Gülen.

    “Intervention by three current or “former” CIA people–George Fidas, who was US Ambassador to Turkey and an ex CIA Deputy Director; Morton Abramowitz who was described as at least “informal” CIA, and CIA career man who spent time in Turkey, Graham E. Fuller. They got Gülen asylum in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania […]

    “For the Gülen Cemaat it enabled a vast business empire to be created which gained more and more influence by placing its people inside the police, the courts and education ministry. He could build his recruiting schools across Central Asia with CIA support. In the USA and Europe, CIA-influenced media like CNN gave him beautiful free publicity to overcome opposition to open his schools across America. For the CIA it was one more tool to destroy not only an independent secular Kemalist Turkey, but to advance their Afghan drug trade worldwide and to use Gülen’s people to destabilize opponent regimes that CIA network in Washington, the ‘deep state’ wanted to get rid of.

    “Sibel Edmonds, former FBI Turkish translator and ‘whistleblower,’ named Abramowitz, along with Graham E. Fuller, as part of a dark cabal within the US Government that she discovered were using networks out of Turkey to advance a criminal ‘deep state’ agenda across the Turkic world, from Istanbul into China. The network that she documented included significant involvement in heroin trafficking out of Afghanistan.

    “On retiring from the State Department, Abramowitz served on the board of the US Congress-financed National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and was a co-founder with George Soros of the International Crisis Group. Both the NED and International Crisis Group were implicated in various US Government-backed “color revolutions” since the 1990’s collapse of the Soviet Union, from Otpor in Serbia to the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the 2013-14 coup in Ukraine, to the 2009 Green Revolution in Iran, to the 2011 Lotus Revolution in Tahrir Square in Egypt.

    “Graham E. Fuller had been immersed in the CIA’s activities in steering Mujahideen and other political Islamic organizations since the 1980’s. He spent 20 years as CIA operations officer in Turkey, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Afghanistan, and was one of the CIA’s early advocates of using the Muslim Brotherhood and similar Islamist organizations like Gülen Cemaat to advance US foreign policy.”


    • Brendan
      January 27, 2016 at 06:20

      Very interesting. It would also be interesting to know if anyone can offer a denial of those allegations, or an alternative version of what happened.

    • Philip LaFrance
      January 28, 2016 at 13:45

      Excellent information and link. Another attempt to distract us from the truth regarding the war on terror and what the real goal of the deep state is.

  8. Erik
    January 26, 2016 at 21:15

    I see little hope that moderate Muslim condemnation of jihad will have much effect. The causes are almost entirely external, not a lack of condemnation by those unaffected by the causes. At this point, only elimination of the causes can be practically sought, after which two or three generations will be needed to bring radicalized factions into communication.
    Would the US Civil War have ended sooner if moderates on both sides had condemned the fighting? How about WWI or WWII? How well did it work in Korea or Vietnam, US Iraq I & II, of Afghanistan? Voices for moderation are good, but get nowhere once war is begun. Moderate voices are needed to prevent war, but even then they achieve little when the right wing of the aggressor(s) controls the mass media and elections, because the right wing needs foreign wars to demand power as protectors and accuse moderates of disloyalty.
    The simplest and quickest way to demobilize military forces is to remove the immediate causes of militarism, the need for defend or desire to expand territory. Then the fixed territory must be governed, and after a few generations war rhetoric is seen as pointless, and the citizenry demand better government. It has lately emerged that the US has long planned an Islamic State in E Syria if not W Iraq. If that were now surrounded by UN DMZs isolating it from Turkey and N&W Syria, enforced by strong neutral forces and without harassment of the jihadist territory (ie, not like N Korea), time would isolate them. Saudi Arabia could moderate the extremes via carrot and stick if it shared a border. But the US right wing is incapable of letting well enough alone.
    International peace starts at home, the home of right wing imperialism, and it starts by defeating the right wing warmongers by all means as traitors against the US and against humanity, and then maintaining vigilance against the right wing’s ancient and perennial designs to defeat democracy for private gain. They are not conservatives, but revolutionaries against democracy, and they have nearly won. Oust them and you have a path to peace, otherwise all else will fail.

  9. Brendan
    January 26, 2016 at 18:03

    “Still, in the end it will only be Muslims who are able to rein in such fanatical excesses within their own communities and mosques.”

    Nope, not as long as those fanatical excesses are being fuelled from outside with huge amounts of money, weapons and training. Those have been provided to Islamist extremists for decades, mainly by western governments and Saudi Arabia. As a former CIA official, Mr Fuller should know that.

    It doesn’t matter how many Muslims oppose it, the terrorism will continue as long as it gets enough funding.

    • John Kilcher
      January 27, 2016 at 11:51

      It will continue as long as the west’s thirst for oil continues.

  10. Abe
    January 26, 2016 at 15:58

    Stephen Colbert recently interviewed Donald Rumsfeld

    Rumsfeld served as the 13th Secretary of Defense from 1975 to 1977 under President Gerald Ford, and as the 21st Secretary of Defense from 2001 to 2006 under President George W. Bush.

    “That leads me to your most famous saying,” says Colbert, “That there are known-knowns, things we know we know—and tell me if I get this wrong, because I know this is your baby. There are known-unknowns, things we know that we don’t know. And there are also unknown-unknowns—”

    “They’re the ones that get you,” Rumsfeld says.

    “But in this case,” Colbert continues, “Isn’t the one that got us something that—there’s a fourth option, that no one ever talks about, which is the unknown-knowns. Which is the things that we know, and then we choose not to know them, or not let other people know we know.”

    “The president had available to him intelligence from all elements of the government. And the national security council members had that information. It was all shared, it was all supplied. And it’s never certain. If it were a fact, it wouldn’t be called intelligence.”

    • Joe Wallace
      January 26, 2016 at 22:44

      “there’s a fourth option, that no one ever talks about, which is the unknown-knowns. Which is the things that we know, and then we choose not to know them, or not let other people know we know.”

      Locked as he is into the known/unknown framing, Colbert does the best he can, but if we free ourselves from this framing, and think out of this logical “box,” isn’t there a better way of saying this? If you know something, and choose not to know it, aren’t you, in fact, ignoring it? And if you don’t “let other people know we know,” aren’t you suppressing or withholding it?

  11. Joe Tedesky
    January 26, 2016 at 15:20

    While the Muslims take care of their own, should not us Americans also correct our fellow countrymen’s wrongs?

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