RESCUED FROM ISIS: THE GRIPING TRUE STORY OF HOW A FATHER SAVED HIS SON by Dimitri Bontnick

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(the author)

As parents we worry about many things.  Over the last decade parents in western countries be they Muslim or Christian have a new source for concern – The Islamic State or ISIS. It seems many of their children have become vulnerable to ISIS’ slick online propaganda or the radicalization that is preached at a number of Mosques.  In Dimitri Bontnick’s new memoir the nightmare of losing a child to the “Caliphate” is real and destructive. In his book, RESCUED FROM ISIS: THE GRIPING TRUE STORY OF HOW A FATHER SAVED HIS SON he details the recruitment of his son, his physical return, and the temporary loss of his mind.  In addition, Bontnick is able to convey the stories of numerous other families who try and gain the freedom of their sons and daughters.

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(father and son, Jejoen)

After beginning the book with his own life story and how he raised his son Jejoen or Jay,  Bontnick seems confounded by what led up to his son joining ISIS.  He was raised in a bi-racial liberal Belgium family with few restrictions.  The author points out a number of factors that he thinks contributed to Jay’s recruitment.  First, he was forced to change schools; second, the breakup with his girlfriend of three years; and third, their home was on the edge of a neighborhood that was a hotbed of jihadism.  Throughout the book Bontnick tries to wrap his head around why his son and so many others have given up their families and lives to join what they hoped to be the Caliphate.  The author takes us through his son’s recruitment as well as many others as they make the decision to travel to Turkey and cross the border into Syria.  From there we learn of their training, brain washing, and existence as part of radical Islamists.

Bontnick describes in detail how he went about trying to save his son, who ostensibly had turned his back on him.  Jay’s actions destroyed his family and resulted in his parent’s divorce.  We travel with Bontnick on numerous occasions into Syria and the minefield of Aleppo and Raqqa in search of his son, and after finally gaining Jay’s freedom, the sons of many parents pleaded to him for help.  Bontnick conveys what he was up against, first Sharia4Belgium, an organization designed to bring Belgium under Sharia law and a member of the Caliphate; then he had to deal with a series of characters in Syria, many of which were very dangerous as he was captured, beaten, and released.  During his odyssey he did come across a number of journalists, Islamists, rebel fighters, and Syrian citizens who did their best to locate Jay and allow his father to bring him home.

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(Some of the contacts Bontnick made in Al-Hamraa, Syria that helped him locate his son)

The first question a parent asks is why did I not see this coming?  In retrospect the answer is they did, but did not want to admit that their child, as in the case of Jay was becoming a stranger.  Bontnick explores his parental errors and warns parents how not to behave if they want to protect their children.  The author points out the difficulties in navigating Syria due to the many factions, armies, and ideological groups.  Bontnick traveled to Kafr Hama, a very dangerous enclave where Belgium jihadis were located.  He did and said a number of things that he feels guilty about, but justifies his actions in trying to save his son.

As Bontnick tells his story he does briefly integrate the political and military history of the Syrian Civil War.  Once he is able to free his son he will return often to Syria to bring medical supplies and assist other distraught parents in trying to free their children.  These endeavors were rarely successful, but Bontnick should be praised for all of his efforts.  The greatest fears of the sons in returning home was being prosecuted and going to prison.  Bontnick’s attitude is based on the belief that they were brainwashed as teenagers by a predatory organization that recruited westerners in “the hope of rewriting the software in the heads of children” should be taken into account.  His argument that Belgium authorities have no programs or policies in place to deal with individuals who have given up on radicalization and want to return home is very sound.  His suggestion to use their experiences as intelligence or allow them to provide information from within the Islamic State is something authorities should consider.

Once Jay returns we learn of his trial, conviction, and suspended sentence.  But despite his freedom he informs an interviewer from New Yorker magazine that his recanting of his radicalization was a sham, breaking his father’s heart.  Later their relationship would improve and the author’s experience changed his outlook on life to that of helping others rather than chasing money and a career.  The book is a heart rendering journey of a father who is attempting to keep what remains of his family together, and a successful dismantling of a major terrorist network in Belgium.  It is also a handbook for parents who must confront the issues laid out in the narrative.  Bontnick offers a great deal of advice, some of which is naive, but overall it is a chilling tale that is part of the larger war being fought against terrorism by the west.

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(the author)

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“HAMILTON THE MUSICAL: HISTORICALLY ACCURATE OR NOT?” A MINI-COURSE

HAMILTON: THE MUSICAL, HISTORICALLY ACCURATE OR NOT

                             Steven Z. Freiberger, Ph.D

                                http://www.docs-books.com

                               szfreiberger@gmail.com

                                        603 580 5145

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The course is designed to explore America’s early history through the eyes of Alexander Hamilton.  The class will be provided a series of lectures/discussion geared toward; background to the American Revolution; Hamilton’s life story; a study of how the musical “Hamilton” was created: and a class analysis of whether the story and lyrics are historically accurate.

All students will be expected to purchase the “Hamilton: An American Musical” by Lin-Manuel Miranda that includes the 2 CDs and a pamphlet with lyrics.  This is a necessity if students are to engage each other in discussion concerning the historical validity of the musical.

April 24, 2017  Life in Colonial America

May 1, 2017 Alexander Hamilton: A Life

May 8, 2017 Hamilton: An American Musical

May 15, 2017 Class discussion on the historical validity of the musical

Bibliography of some of the major players:

Appleby, Joyce THOMAS JEFFERSON

Beeman, Richard PLAIN, HONEST MEN: THE MAKING OF THE AMERICAN

CONSTITUTION

Brookhiser, Richard ALEXANDER HAMILTON: AMERICAN

Burns, James MacGregor; Susan Dunn GEORGE WASHINGTON

Bustein, Andrew; Nancy Isenberg MADISON AND JEFERSON

Cheney, Lynne JAMES MADISON: A LIFE RECONSIDERED

Chernow, Ron ALEXANDER HAMILTON

Chernow, Ron GEORGE WASHINGTON: A LIFE

Diggins, John Patrick JOHN ADAMS

Ellis, Joseph FOUNDING BROTHERS

Ellis, Joseph THE QUARTET

Ellis, Joseph HIS EXCELLENCY: GEORGE WASHINGTON

Ellis, Joseph AMERICAN SPHINX: THE CHARACTER OF THOMAS JEFFERSON

Ferling, John JEFFERSON AND HAMILTON: THE RIVALRY THAT FORGED A NATION

Ferling, John JOHN ADAMS: A LIFE

Ferling, John ADAMS VERSUS JEFFERSON: THE TUMULTUOUS ELECTION OF

1800

Ferling, John THE ASCENT OF GEORGE WASHINGTON

Flexner, James GEORGE WASHINGTON 4 VOLUMES

Hart, Gary JAMES MONROE

Hayes, Kevin THE ROAD TO MONTICELLO

Isenberg, Nancy FALLEN FOUNDER: THE LIFE OF AARON BURR

Ketchum, Ralph JAMES MADISON

Lomansk, Milton AARON BURR 2 VOLUMES

Maier, Pauline RATIFICATION: THE PEOPLE DEBATE THE CONSTITUTION 1787-

1788

Malone, Dumas THOMAS JEFFERSON 4 VOLUMES

McDonald, Forrest ALEXANDER HAMILTON: A BIOGRAPHY

McCullough, David JOHN ADAMS

McCullough, David 1776

Meacham, Jon THOMAS JEFFERSON: THE ART OF POWER

Miller, John C. ALEXANDER HAMILTON

Miranda, Lin-Manuel; McCarter, Jeremy

Stewart, David O. JAMES MADISON

Stewart, David O. THE SUMMER OF 1787: THE MEN WHO INVENTED THE

CONSTITUTION

Wills, Gary JAMES MADISON

Unger, Harlow Giles THE LAST FOUNDING FATHER

Vidal, Gore BURR

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THE CRYPT THIEF by Mark Pryor

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(Paris’s Pere Lachaise Cemetery)

Paris, a late summer evening when two unsuspecting tourists in search of Jim Morrison’s grave site in the Pere Lachaise cemetery are murdered.  So begins Mark Pryor’s second installment of his Hugo Marston series, THE CRYPT THIEF.  Marston, a former FBI profiler and chief of security at the American embassy in Paris is called into the ambassador’s office and told that one of the murder victims is Maxwell Holmes, the son of a US senator who was about to begin an internship at the embassy; the other is an Egyptian woman named Hanna Elserdi.  Later the action shifts to another cemetery, nine hours from Paris in the small town of Castet where the night watchman, named Duguay is murdered.  It seems that all three murders were committed by the same man.

It turns out that the Egyptian girl is Pakistani, from Karachi and her real name is Abida Kiam.  She had traveled to Paris with Mohammad Al-Zakiri, the son of a prominent mullah in Pakistan whose views were pro-al-Qaeda and Taliban.  His alias was Pierre Labor, an Egyptian-Frenchman.  Marston argues that the murders might all be a coincidence and not acts of terrorism, something that Senator Norris Holmes cannot accept.

The author does a nice job reintegrating characters from his first novel, THE BOOKSELLER.  We become reacquainted with Tom Green, Marston’ wisecracking and unpredictable former CIA operative who still consults for the American intelligence agency.  Capitale Raul Garcia of the Paris Police Department returns to renew his relationship with Marston when they worked on solving the murder of Max, a poor bookseller who sold books from his kiosk along the Siene River.  Marston’s former lover/girlfriend, Claudia, a newspaper reporter reenters his life as she covers the cemetery murders.  Soon, Marston will learn that in addition to the murders, a crypt has been robbed of the skeletal remains of the famous dancer, Jane Avril who had been buried over seventy years ago.

Early in the novel a number of questions confront Marston.  First, what is the relationship between the murdered American and the woman who accompanied him and the crypt robber?  Second, what role does international terrorism play in his investigation, if any.  Further, when a number of crypts are broken into to steal the bones of dead can-can girls, is it related to the overall investigation or is it something even more bizarre occurring, particularly when the killer is leaving an Egyptian scarab beetle at each murder scene.  It becomes a race to the next cemetery to prevent what seems to be a serial killer from taking more lives, and “bones.”

As one reads on one gets the sense of Pryor’s views of terrorist threats and how they germinate.  The treatment of Al-Zakiri by CIA operatives, who act first, then investigate thoroughly is important as it provides evidence as to why the United States is seen so negatively in the Islamic world.  Marston’s measured approach is one that the author believes the US should take when dealing with a possible terrorist threat.  Pryor also raises the issue of a free press during an investigation that could lead to a terrorist attack.  What role should journalists play, particularly when their actions could endanger people?  It is a tough call, but common sense should prevail, but at times that is not the case.

Pryor provides a well-crafted story, though his character development is weaker than his first Marston novel.  But the intrigue created by the grave robber/murderer will keep the reader’s attention.  The story is complex and eerie at times and should not be read right before you go to sleep, however despite what seems to be a predictable ending, the book is worth the read.

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(Paris’ Pere Lachaise Cemetery)

An Ode To Books

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This morning when I checked the weather forecast it called for another 18-24 inches on top of the 12 plus we got on Friday.  For me it calls for snuggling up with the New York Times and New York Post (let no one think I am one of those liberals) and reading the book review and sports sections.  In the NYT BOOK REVIEW I came across a wonderful article by James Atlas entitled, “Headed for the Graveyard of Books.”  In it I found one of the best answers to a question I have thought about for decades.  Three years ago my wife Ronni and I moved from the Hanover, NH area down to the seacoast.  I faced a major crisis, how do I move a personal library of over 8000 books.  After careful consideration and much prodding by the love of my life I gave 2000 away.  Today I am left with the remaining items, a blend of historical monographs, historical fiction, biography, literature, mysteries, and sports.  When people visit or hear about my collection the question always comes up, “have you read them all?”  Of course the answer is no, as there are only 24 hours in a day, and you must sleep for a significant block of that time.  The next question that arises is “why not go the library and/or why do you have so many?”

In Atlas’ article he quotes Anatole France, who is “asked if he has read all of the books in his library, [he] is said to have replied: “not one-tenth of them.  I don’t suppose you use your Sevres china every day?”*  This is the answer I have been searching for.  Friends will show off their Kindles or Nooks and say why not them?  Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately I cannot adjust to the backlighting on these consumer items, and as a wanna be Luddite I will not use them.  I realize that my addiction to books whether it is their texture, the snap of their spines, or the type of print presented it is something I cannot or will not try and cure myself of.  I realize that when I travel or go to a doctor’s office or any number of places I carry extra pounds, but I do not question the wisdom of carrying a laptop, I pad, smart phone, large purses, attaché cases, and backpacks, so why should people question me?    Choosing a book from your own “stacks” or sharing them with friends, neighbors, and students is a behavior that never gets old.  So the next time someone asks the question, “have you read them all?” I will smile inwardly and contemplate my next journey that presents itself on the written page, because people continue to write wonderful books!

 

*https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/10/books/review/headed-for-the-graveyard-of-books.

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“I have difficulty looking at the news lately, among other areas of political and social conversation……”

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Last night I had the pleasure of going to the Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and being entertained by the “Capitol Steps,” a satirical group of entertainers and political commentators.  They were funny, talented and iconoclastic.  I went with friends who do not always agree politically, but it was an enjoyable evening.  All spectrums of of the political world were lampooned, left, right, and middle.  Imitations of Hillary, Bernie, Obama, Schumer, McConnell, “W,” and the Donald were all presented.  After almost two hours of laughing, it dawned on me that this is not just comedy, but serious, especially when they did their skit on “The Supremes,” reflecting the upcoming debate in the Senate.  What is scary is that this is where we are as a nation, where the “truth does not set us free.”  We need to grow up as a people, especially those who supposedly represent us in government.  If all we want is to pass our agendas and make points against our opposition then we are in trouble.  Damn it America, grow up, from the President, Congress, down to the general public.  Because unless we do we will become the laughing stock of the world, if we haven’t done so already.  If we continue on our path the “art of the deal” will become “the art of the steal” as America’s reputation is demeaned and stolen, and rides off into insignificance, with everything that possible contemplation will bring.

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Maybe Trump and Clinton, and whoever else may affect our lives should read this

The Art of War (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

“In the art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy’s country whole and in tact; to shatter and destroy is not good.”  Sun Tzu, THE ART OF WAR

I guess Donald Rumsfeld and the rest of the neo-conservatives didn’t read much during their corporate careers.  Therefore it is not surprising that Iraq remains a quagmire.  Even Robert McNamara apologized for his mistakes in Vietnam.  Rumsfeld and former Vice President Cheney continue to maintain they were correct….UGH!

In this political season when a candidate praises Vladimir Putin, a man who probably is well aware of Sun Tzu’s teaching, it might be important for certain people to become a bit more educated when it comes to our national security.

P.S.  “When one receives a confidential national security briefing, the operative word is confidential.” Could be attributed to Thomas Paine, COMMON SENSE!!!!!

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