KILKENNY -- While rummaging through some stuff prior to moving to a building site, I stumbled upon some things I hoarded from a travelogue that my dad kept from the late-40s. He began taking photos back then and he kept his film in an ammo box that was clipped to the side of his company car (an Army jeep) while he meandered around the ravaged countryside of Bavaria during the Marshall Plan days of Germany. Parts of his travelogue (a 50s-style blog) included pictures of the Muslim community in Munich.
Dad was in Germany to monitor the repatriation of soldiers after WWII. Ex-Nazi soldiers included some Muslims who deserted from the Soviet Red Army to Hitler's Wehrmacht. In the immediate aftermath of WWII, these soldiers were part of an intelligence operation run by the US Army because many of the Muslims had inside information about Russian military strength levels, deployment capabilities and weaponry. In fact, the American tax dollar help build the first Islamic Centre in Munich. It housed the Muslim Brotherhood--the most powerful force for political change throughout the Muslim World.
Twenty years ago, I met an Afghani from the Brotherhood on an airevac mission. I flew into Islamabad every month with an airevac crew and transported mujadeen holy warriors from Pakistan to surgery wards in the Philippines and Hawaii. These men fought the Soviets in Afghanistan. The US armed them, taught them how to fire surface-to-air missiles and dressed their wounds. This gracious assistance paved the way for the rise of Osama bin Laden, who turned on the States after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan.
Fifteen years ago, I ran with a team of accredited journalists in Munich who had one common denominator--their last job interview was with the CIA. They lived in quiet Bavarian estates selected because they would be within 300 metres of an active member of the Muslim Brotherhood. In the 90s, the US knew the Brotherhood had inspired some of the deadliest terrorist movements, including Hamas and later al Qaeda.
From dad's travelogue to the Radio Free Liberty's watchlist, you can track a recurring shortfall in American policy. For decades, Americans, Germans, and British analysts have cajoled Muslim activists in campaigns to defeat the evils of communism.
Stefan Meining, a Munich-based historian who is studying at the Islamic Centre, told the Wall Street Journal that "Munich is the origin of a network that now reaches around the world." As events of the past week suggest, the reach of that network's violent ideas extends into the London Underground.
I know you cannot draw meaningful conclusions just by glancing at 50-year old photos, reading 20-year old flight logs or thumbing through Munich photographs of sheep on the backyard barbeque spit. But as a graduate in the field of International Affairs, I feel there is some value to the anecdotal connection between each of these waypoints in my life. If only they could be put to use in the cause of peace.
Ian Johnson -- "How a Munich Mosque Became a Beachhead of Radical Islam in West" on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, July 12, 2005.