March 2012

On Valentine’s Day, Salt Lake Tribune revisited the 2007 Valentine’s week massacre. And guess where the article starts in laying the foundation for the crime. It doesn’t blame the American victims, but neither does it blame the Bosniak perpetrator. It blames people who weren’t even there: Serbs, of course. This is five years after they’d tried it in 2007, when they (and other newspaper clones) at least waited until mid-article to fetch so far and lay blame where it’s politically and physically safe:

‘Shame and sorrow’ still mar life for Trolley Square killer’s father

Talovici, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Only a few families live in this village two decades after its homes were blasted to rubble by the Bosnian Serb army.

The remains of a mass grave are visible along the road, and, up a steep hill from his childhood home, Sulejman Talovic’s body is buried in a family cemetery.

It’s a landscape that Suljo Talovic, the father of the Trolley Square killer, longs for, even as he, his wife and four daughters live an hour away in another town, where he can find intermittent work.

Talovici and its bleak reminders, he said, would suit his life of “shame and sorrow.”

Five years later, the horror inflicted in Salt Lake City by his 18-year-old son continues to shadow Talovic. He has never learned his son’s motive. The FBI and Salt Lake City Police Department issued final reports a year after the massacre, but the answers weren’t there.

Here the man is, just waiting for the FBI to tell him what he already knows — jihad — but our government will give him no satisfaction.

“Only God knows why he did that, but if I could bring back my son and the five people he killed by burying myself alive, I would gladly do it,” said Talovic, 47, his shoulders hunched and eyes filled with tears.

“I keep replaying in my eyes the sadness, the tragedy of the parents of the 15-year-old girl he had killed,” Talovic said, speaking of Kirsten Hinckley, one of the people shot by Sulejman Talovic before police shot him dead.

“We carry on our soul the lost lives of the five people [Sulejman] killed in America.”

One certainly appreciates the man’s uncharacteristic-for-Muslims remorse, but at the same time one must address the family’s typical ’shocked’ reaction to their boy’s actions: I think that if my family and I were Muslim, by now I’d at least partially expect that people around me might start dying, possibly at the hands of at least one relative — especially if, on top of it, I had a problematic son. Further, maybe if Suljo Sr. weren’t fooling himself into believing the “Serbs started it” fiction that Bosnian and Western leaders spawned, he might have had a more objective view o his Bosniak family and expected some signs of aggression, especially given that he himself had been a fighter in the war. But back to blaming the Serbs:

The Talovic family had seen much suffering even before moving to Salt Lake City. They fled Talovici in 1993 as invading Bosnian Serb forces “cleansed’’ eastern and northern Bosnia of Muslims and Croats. The Talovics are Muslim; they and their neighbors hid in the hills and went without food for days at a time. [Here The Tribune neglects to mention that the men weren’t exactly “hiding” in the hills.]

The family, which had already lost an infant son, saw their baby girl die for lack of medicine during the war. They emigrated to Utah in 1998 because other family members had settled there.

Neighbors described them as a generous, devout family, even as they regarded the oldest child, Sulejman, as a loner.

Now wait a second. This is the first we’re hearing that the family was “devout.” In all the 2007 coverage and the 2008 follow-ups at the conclusion of the “inconclusive” investigation, no one ever mentioned that the family were devout. In fact, at the height of the coverage in 2007, the opposite impression was given. As we know, the more pious a Muslim family, the more likelihood for violence.

In the weeks after his son’s rampage, Suljo Talovic thanked Salt Lake City residents for their compassion; donations helped the family travel home to Bosnia to bury their son.

Indeed, at his son’s funeral in Talovici a month after the Trolley Square shootings, Suljo Talovic said he was so touched by Utahns’ support that he would never leave Salt Lake City.

Shame, grief and the never-ending public spotlight, however, led the family to move back to Bosnia in the spring of 2008. […]

So again, the article was written with the perpetrator counted among the victims; the only people mentioned in absolute terms, without sympathy or shades of gray, are Serbs — who weren’t even involved in the story. They’ve again been brought in so as to have an unequivocal villain at whom to direct any outrage. And never mind that Talovic relatives admitted at the time that toddler Talovic was too young during the war and exhibited no scars. (And never mind forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner’s expert assessment.)

One also has to ask: How often after a mass shooting are the parents of the shooter checked in on five years later, to see how they’re doing and generate sympathy for the family of the offender? Off-hand, I can’t think of any. But then, we’re dealing with a Privileged Class in America and the West in general, Muslims. At least this Muslim family had enough shame to leave the country. The same can’t be said of Salt Lake Tribune. I believe the word I used for newspapers like The Tribune and Deseret News is fanaticism.

There were three notable comments at the bottom of the article:

by freewill2:

He does [know] his sons motive, dont even believe this guy’s sob story. Suljo is a Bosnian mojahadine fighter, which is anti-american, and his son Sulejman was shouting Allahu Akhar, which is a traditional Jihadist cry of war and Martydom. Sulejman often attended friday prayers at the All Noor Mosque about a block from the shootings. Suljeman was also Rumored to be in the KKK and had a Nazi Swastika tattoo and later cut it off himself. And there is a whole lot more to this story than what is being told, Just stay alert people and dont let your guard down. one thing they are right about. There is sleeper cells amongst us.

by paxsierra:

“Shame, grief and the never-ending public spotlight, however, led the family to move back to Bosnia in the spring of 2008.”

Good God. So the poor guy flees SLC because of the never-ending public spotlight…and now you’ve tracked him down in Bosnia. Way to go, Trib. Way to go.

Crap like this makes me ashamed to be a member of the media myself.

by utecougar:

Why is this on page A1? First we re-live our 10-year-old Olympic glory, now we wallow in our 5-year-old tragedy. Isn’t there any news?

And the three comments below were notable for the totality of the brainwashing that their authors have happily absorbed:

by bhayward:

Thanks Tribune. Excellent story. I feel sorry for that man. He doesn’t understand; we don’t understand. That was an extremely sad day for everyone. The victims are resting in peace; and I wish this father can find peace.

by laytonian:

Such sorrow crosses the world. There’s no answers for what happened, but the horrors seen by Sulejman Talovic may have evolved into PTSD as he grew up.The shame of his parents caused them to leave their safe haven in Utah.

Maybe our community needs to look at how we embrace others, of different ethnicities, religions, and languages. Look at how young people are treated in schools, if they are different.
AND most importantly, find ways to support mental health issues.

(We already do support Islam.)

by mugsyg:

It is impossible for me to not feel a strong sense of compassion for the Talovic family. We, who live here, have absolutely NO idea of the horrors families like this go through in their home countries. Then the horror continues when the are almost forced to live elsewhere in the world where they obviously feel ‘different’. We then make it hard for many of these people to feel comfortable. Then, due most likely to mental disorder because of memories and being treated differently, a child goes off the deep end. We blame it all on them, of course, because Americans are so perfect… right? Then the media relentlessly hounds the family into feeling forced to move back to the place where the horrors all began. And now… they can’t even let them alone from thousands of miles away. What must this family, and other families like them, do to find peace? Must we perfect Americans continue to destroy the lives of others for nothing more than our own self-gratification and monetary benefit? We are, in many ways, an absolutely horrid lot.

Yes, I read the story… because it is here and printed. It does re-address my feelings of compassion for the Talovics. BUT… if the story wasn’t here… and wasn’t printed I wouldn’t have missed it or felt a longing to be nosy about how the family is doing. AND the Talovics wouldn’t be feeling invaded about this subject once again. THAT should be the most important thing we could do for them. But alas, the media just can’t allow people to get on with their lives.

Rumah Terbalik

“Designer says there’s a message behind the fantasy home where everything is topsy-turvy.”

The backwardness of Islam?

L.A.-based filmmaker Sasha Knezev ( “Welcome to San Pedro” - 2002, “Fragments of Daniela” - 2006) has just published his book Through the Western Lens: Serbian Media Representation and the Politics of Identity in the Era of Globalization, available through Amazon.

An Amazon review by graduate student Lena Tobin gives us a sense of it:

I read this book and used it as a reference for my MA thesis. Focusing on global news media and its role in shaping public perceptions of “others,” I developed an interest in how Western information outlets represent “foreign” nations that come into conflict with world military powers, and how these generated representations influence public opinion on foreign policy. Having grown up during the ’90’s with the fall of communism and the violent disolution [sic] of Yugoslavia playing out on the television news, I was especially interested in the representations of eastern European nations and people during this crucial time…

My thesis analyzed a number of different global case studies from the 1970’s to the 1990’s; for the section on the Balkans, I used the author’s essay on prime time war coverage and its ability to set the moral perspective of a conflict to outside audiences. His reference is specific to the Yugoslav Civil War of the 1990’s, and presents a very clear example of how corporate media organizations used manipulated imagery, selective language, and questionable parallels to create the categories of enemy, victim, agressor [sic] and saviour, thus ultimately ignoring the details and nuance of a specific military and social conflict.

This collection of essays…focuses on culture, politics, and information systems in a good balance. I had a difficult time finding a source on mass media representation and the dissolution of Yugoslavia, but this book came through as a good find for that need.

Following up on today’s earlier blog post about the now-sentenced Betim Kaziu from “Former Yugoslavia,” Macedonia seems not to be averse to getting the point, if you notice the headline:

Another Kosovo Albanian Charged with Terrorism in USA (MINA, March 3)

A New York City man whose parents are Kosovo Albanians was sentenced to 27 years in prison Friday for traveling to the Middle East in a failed bid to join al-Qaida and avenge abuse of Muslims by killing American troops.

“I wish I had not gone down that path,” Betim Kaziu told U.S. District Judge John Gleason before hearing the sentence in federal court in Brooklyn. “I completely regret what I did in that phase of my life.”

But Gleason said it was first time he’d hear the defendant express remorse – and that it wasn’t convincing.

“You grew up in Brooklyn and you decided to murder your own country’s soldiers,” Gleason said. “There’s still an element of defiance in you. … You’re still way too proud of becoming a jihadist.”

Kaziu and star witness Sulejah Hadzovic were two U.S.-born sons of Islamic immigrants from Kosovo and Bosnia who met in sixth grade. By 2008, “they pursued a growing interest in radical Islam” and began searching the Internet for opportunities to take up arms against U.S. troops.

Here I thought I was finished with updates on Our Friends the Albanian Terrorists, but no sooner did I do that post — which included a flashback to the Brooklyn-based terrorist Betim Kaziu, caught in 2009 — than his name popped up in the news this weekend:

New Yorker who tried to join jihadists in Afghanistan so he could kill U.S. troops sentenced to 27 years in prison (March 3)

Guilty: Betim Kaziu was convicted of plotting to fight U.S. forces

An American-born jihadist was sentenced to 27 years in prison today for trying to join the mujaheddin in Afghanistan so he could kill U.S. troops.

The judge called Brooklyn-born Betim Kaziu, 23, a traitor when handing down the sentence.

Federal Judge John Gleeson said: ‘You grew up in Brooklyn and you decided to murder your own country’s soldiers.

‘You devoted your life to the cause of destroying this country and all it stands for.’

Kaziu was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, attempt to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, and conspiracy to use a firearm.

A jury found the 23-year-old guilty in July after just four hours [of] deliberation following his two-week trial.

The court heard he tried to join al-Qaeda groups in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans, but was arrested before he could make a trip to Pakistan.

For the first time today, Kaziu spoke to apologise for his actions, according to the New York Post.
He said: ‘I wish I never went down this path. I completely regret what I did in that phase of my life.’

He said he allowed himself to be influenced by others.

Judge Gleeson was not convinced by Kaziu’s last-minute, half-hearted apology, saying it projected an ‘element of defiance’.

Holy war: Kaziu was radicalised after watching internet videos of Osama Bin Laden

He was betrayed by his childhood friend Sulejmah Hadzovic - once an aspiring jihadist who changed sides to become the chief witness for the prosecution.

[See this July 2011 Bloomberg article mentioning Hadzovic and Kaziu, and notice how nowhere in the entire piece is Hadzovic referred to as a Bosnian or Kaziu as an Albanian. Instead, we get only this predictable formulation: “Kaziu and Hadzovic were first-generation Americans whose parents came from the former Yugoslavia.”]

The New Yorkers grew up in neighbouring immigrant families from the former Yugoslavia. [There it is again!]

They forged a friendship at school, talked about video games and TV shows, but dropped out after high school.

Hadzovic told the jury they were radicalised by internet videos of Al Qaeda featuring Osama Bin Laden about picking up the torch of holy war.

The friends traveled to Cairo where Kaziu tried to join terrorists fighting to overthrow the government in Somalia and buy weapons, the court heard.

Kaziu was hoping to attack Nato troops in Kosovo where some U.S. troops were stationed, when he was arrested in August, 2009.

[Some people are just too impatient to wait for America to complete their dirty work for them.]

Defence lawyer Henry Steinglass suggested Kaziu’s behaviour was just rebellious role-playing and youthful hijinks. [Another familiar refrain.]

Kaziu and his friends recorded home movies, posing as drug dealers and Mafia gangsters in short films filled with adolescent humour.

Another report:

New York Man Who Touted Bin Laden on MySpace Gets 27 Years in Prison (Bloomberg, March 2)

A 24-year-old Brooklyn, New York, man who transcribed Osama bin Laden videos on his MySpace page was sentenced to 27 years in prison for conspiring to commit murder overseas and supporting terrorism.

U.S. District Judge John Gleeson in Brooklyn sentenced Betim Kaziu today. In July, a jury convicted him on four counts, including an attempt to provide support to a terrorist organization overseas.

“You grew up in Brooklyn and you decided to murder your own country’s soldiers,” Gleeson said. “You admired Osama bin Laden.”

Kaziu, a U.S. citizen, was arrested in Kosovo in 2009. While traveling in Cairo, Kaziu sought to join Al-Shabaab, a group fighting to overthrow the government in Somalia, U.S. prosecutors said. He tried to travel to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan and sought to buy an AK-47 on the black market, the U.S. said. He was also seeking to attack NATO troops in Kosovo, where some U.S. troops were stationed, according to prosecutors.

“I’m already changed — almost three years in jail is enough,” Kaziu told Gleeson before he was sentenced. “I regret a lot of things I did in the past and I just want to go back home.”

[The Albanian would-be terrorist is informing the judge of the appropriate sentence: Three years is enough.]

Kaziu, who has been in custody since his arrest, said that while he “may have had certain radical thoughts or opinions[,]” he never acted on them.

Kaziu had asked for a sentence “significantly below” the nonbinding guideline of life in prison, in part because no one was injured from his crimes and because of his “age and lack of sophistication.” Prosecutors said the punishment should be “at or near” life. The U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services System recommended 30 years, according to court papers.

“The only thing that stopped Mr. Kaziu was United States and Kosovo law enforcement,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Shreve Ariail told Gleeson today. [Really? It wasn’t his natural Albanian pro-Americanism that stopped him?] “There’s no indication that he’s anything but a committed jihadist.”

Kaziu and Hadzovic, neighbors in Brooklyn who met when Kaziu was in the sixth grade, were first-generation Americans whose parents came from the former Yugoslavia. [There it is again! The country we dismembered just keeps coming back to life when the narrative calls for it — it’s like a horror movie!]

Closing arguments in the trial focused on whether Kaziu’s MySpace page and his contacts and travel overseas were evidence of a conspiracy.

His avatar on the page, “Sayf-UL-iSLAM,” showed a figure in military fatigues with a saber. Under the alias Abdul Wahab Al-Albani, Kaziu’s postings included lines such as “Angry at the Kuffar,” or disbeliever.

He posted films including one of a crying U.S. soldier, and an interview with Osama bin Laden from 2008.

U.S. prosecutors said Kaziu had taken Osama Bin Laden’s words and rebroadcast them as his own and disseminated messages from Anwar al-Awlaki on his MySpace page. […]

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