You're probably aware of this:
... a man with a rifle shot a soldier standing guard at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa, before seizing a car and driving to the doors of Parliament Hill's Centre Block nearby.This follows an incident in Quebec in which a man rammed a car carrying two Canadian soldiers, one of whom later died. The assailant, who was shot dead by police after he reportedly approached them brandishing a knife following a high-speed chase, was a convert to Islam who'd begun expressing radical Islamist views and had tried leaving Canada for Turkey. (Early this month, Canadian authorities were expressing concern about ISIS-inspired "knife and gun" attacks.)
MPs and other witnesses reported several shots fired inside Parliament, and a gunman has been confirmed dead inside the building, shot by the House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms, according to MPs' eyewitness accounts....
Ottawa Civic Hospital confirmed two people have been taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, one with a gunshot wound.
Ottawa police confirmed shots were also fired in three locations: the war memorial, inside Centre Block and near the Rideau Centre east of Parliament Hill, although earlier reports of shots inside the shopping mall have been denied by police. The downtown area remains in police lockdown....
Now, we've been told by a lot of blowhards in America -- hello, Scott Brown -- that ISIS members are going to attack Americans after crossing into the country via the Mexican border. We've also been told that the reason we need to fear Americans traveling to ISIS-held territory is that Americans are likely to acquire fighting skills they'll subsequently use against Americans.
We don't know who's responsible for the shootings in Ottawa today. We do know that the car attack on the soldiers wasn't by someone who slipped into Canada illegally, and wasn't by someone with "battlefield experience" -- the assailant was a Canadian national named Martin Couture-Rouleau, who owned a pressure-washing company that was struggling. He wasn't a soldier, and he seems to have been prevented from fighting with ISIS.
Maybe the assailants today have military experience -- but it isn't necessary if you want to do some harm. Nor is sneaking over a border. The ISIS message crosses borders digitally. We fear the wrong things.
I wonder how we can quell the desire of at least some young people to fight for ISIS, overseas or in their own countries, as long as ISIS (at least in some people's eyes) offers an idealistic, optimistic vision of a better life, and possibly a materially better life. I'm absolutely not saying that I believe that message -- I'm saying that some people find it plausible. You can blame them for falling for this message, but I'm not sure you can blame them for wanting to think there's a better life somewhere. Apart from the global rich, how many people right now, anywhere on earth, are satisfied with their lives? How many people like their governments? Who are the admirable political leaders right now?
The New York Times has a story today about Tunisians who are disillusioned with their government four years after the Arab Spring. Large numbers of them -- many unemployed or underemployed -- are leaving to go to ISIS-held territory. They seem to think the streets are paved with gold there:
In interviews at cafes in and around Ettadhamen, dozens of young unemployed or working-class men expressed support for the extremists or saw the appeal of joining their ranks -- convinced that it could offer a higher standard of living, a chance to erase arbitrary borders that have divided the Arab world for a century, or perhaps even the fulfillment of Quranic prophecies that Armageddon will begin with a battle in Syria....Some are coming back disillusioned after experiencing the reality of life under ISIS:
Mourad, 28, who said he held a master’s degree in technology but could find work only in construction, called the Islamic State the only hope for "social justice," because he said it would absorb the oil-rich Persian Gulf monarchies and redistribute their wealth. "It is the only way to give the people back their true rights, by giving the natural resources back to the people,” he said. “It is an obligation for every Muslim."
Many insisted that friends who had joined the Islamic State had sent back reports over the Internet of their homes, salaries and even wives. "They live better than us!" said Walid, 24.
Wissam, 22, said a friend who left four months ago had told him that he was "leading a truly nice, comfortable life" under the Islamic State.
"I said: 'Are there some pretty girls? Maybe I will go there and settle down,'" he recalled.
Imen Triki, a lawyer at a nonprofit that has represented more than 70 returning Tunisians, ... estimated that as many as 60 percent of those who come back profess disappointment at the strife between the Islamic State and its former partner, the Nusra Front, the Qaeda-affiliated Syrian rebel group. "They never thought there would a fight between Muslims," she said. "They find that they have been deceived and sold like mercenaries."But they want a better life. Who else, in a sink-or-swim post-crash world, offers any reason for optimism? ISIS is awful, but to some people it's the only ray of hope. You want to beat ISIS? Offer a real ray of hope.
Charfeddine Hasni, 30, an information technology worker who said he backed the Islamic State, acknowledged that friends had returned dismayed. "They thought it would be like joining the side of the Prophet Muhammad, but they found it was divided into these small groups with a lot of transgressions they did not expect, like forcing people to fight," he said, recalling one friend killed by his own fellows in the Nusra Front. "But they are not a real army, so they are hard to control, and these are personal mistakes," he added.
UPDATE: The shooter in Ottawa today was Not a border-crosser, apparently:
Law enforcement and U.S. government sources tell CBS News the dead shooting suspect is Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, born 1982, and he is believed to be Canadian-born.
AND: The shooter is a Canadian convert to Islam who (like Couture-Rouleau) had his passport seized by the Canadian government, which regarded him as a "high-risk traveler." So no border-crossing and no "battlefield experience" in this case, either.