Following on the previous post about CIA-murderer Hammam Khalil Abu Mallal al‐Balawi’s path to radicalization, I see that Evan Kohlmann has translated and posted a September 2009 interview he gave to the Taliban publication Vanguards of Khorasan. There are some choice moments, as in his declaration that after the path of the Knight Under The Prophet’s Banner has been opened to a dude, “If he looks upon his wife, then he will only begin imagining the beauties who have been waiting for their martyr husbands on silk furnishings.” Sounded better when 2 Live Crew sang it.
Anyhow, here’s the part on Gaza:

Regarding the general dimension in responding to the question [of what radicalized him], this is related to the suffering of the Islamic Nation from defeats and catastrophes which make even the sternest eyes tear up and cause even hearts of stone to bleed. These images and stories which reach our eyes and ears cannot be borne by a stone, so imagine a human being— imagine a Muslim whose parents believe him to be a man? [What about] the images of naked Zionists with binoculars watching the city of Gaza burning with everyone inside of it like watching a comic film or a natural phenomenon!! The images of the corpses of children lined up there in the hallways of hospitals, and upon their faces pure innocence is drawn, not disfigured by the ugliness of the crime, until we ceased being able to recognize if they were sleeping or dead! And before that, there was what happened at the Red Mosque, and how the female students of Shaykh Abdelrashid Ghazi, may Allah have mercy on him, were killed when they chose determination. They have not left any excuse for any Muslim with a hint of honor to remain hesitant and accept the shame of staying away from the honor of participating in jihad. After all that, people want us to hold flower bouquets and wear holiday clothes! No, by Allah we will not carry anything but the weapon, and we will not wear anything but military uniforms and explosive belts…”

So religious fanaticism is the powder keg and the spark is Gaza or the Pakistani raid on the Red Mosque in 2007. Or, for that matter, Fallujah:

Regarding my journey: my original base was the proud al‐Hesbah [forum]. One day I wrote an essay about the failure of plans for Baghdad in comparison to battle for Fallujah, and I added facts and evidence, so one of the administrators there confirmed my contribution, and that motivated me to continue participation. The truth is, and should be stated here: the administrators there put huge efforts in following the discussions and they selected the most useful as if they were selecting from the most juicy of fruits.

There he sounds like he was fisking some AQI strategy and that led to the recognition that he was a good blogger. The broader point is pretty clear: Gaza or Fallujah or whatever didn’t in any sense “make” Balawi go from well-adjusted man to psychopath. But that’s the wrong question. It’s what motivates someone to go from pissed-off individual to pissed-off-individual-with-a-gun-ready-to-do-some-shit. And there policy clearly plays a huge role. Just like policy plays some role — not a monocausal role, but a significant one — in making them pissed in the first place. People may be irrational, but they still react to things that happen.