[Editor’s note: Make sure to read Robert Spencer’s masterpiece contributions in Jamie Glazov’s new book: Barack Obama’s True Legacy: How He Transformed America.]
There wasn’t any reason to think Cole James Bridges was anything more than an average young American. After he graduated from high school, he worked at a Papa John’s pizza shop in Stow, Ohio, for a while, and then, in Sept. 2019, joined the U.S. Army. He got sent to Fort Stewart in Georgia, where he became a cavalry scout. Thousands of young Americans have followed paths similar to the one Bridges embarked upon, but then he took a sharp turn no one expected: on Wednesday, Cole James Bridges pleaded guilty to trying to aid ISIS’ efforts to kill American soldiers.
It’s not clear exactly when Bridges, who also sometimes went by his mother’s maiden name and called himself Cole Gonzales, converted to Islam. He may have done so before he entered the army, or by Christmas Day 2019, when he searched the Internet for “us soldier shooting,” “ak 47 downsight,” and “badass jihadi.” Less than a year after that, in Oct. 2020, Bridges began communicating with an FBI agent whom he thought was an Islamic State (ISIS) operative.
The Justice Department reported Wednesday that Bridges is now looking at spending the next forty years in prison for “attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and attempting to murder U.S. military service members.” There is abundant reason to give him the maximum sentence: in his conversations with the deceptive fed, Bridges “expressed his frustration with the U.S. military and his desire to aid ISIS.” He also “provided training and guidance to purported ISIS fighters who were planning attacks, including advice about potential targets in New York City.” He even gave the person he thought was his ISIS contact “portions of a U.S. Army training manual and guidance about military combat tactics, for use by ISIS.”
That wasn’t all. Around Dec. 2020, Bridges gave his ISIS contact “instructions for the purported ISIS fighters on how to attack U.S. forces in the Middle East.” He “diagrammed specific military maneuvers intended to help ISIS fighters maximize the lethality of attacks on U.S. troops.” He also “provided advice about the best way to fortify an ISIS encampment to repel an attack by U.S. Special Forces, including by wiring certain buildings with explosives to kill the U.S. troops.” Warming to his role, Bridge made a video of himself, which he passed on to his contact, in which he wears army body armor while “standing in front of a flag often used by ISIS fighters and making a gesture symbolic of support for ISIS.” He also sent along “a propaganda speech in support of the anticipated ambush by ISIS on U.S. troops.”
It’s good that he got caught, but the most important question is the one no one is asking: what got into this kid? The reason why no one is asking this question is that there are two answers, both of which involve hard truths that no one wants to hear. The first and most obvious answer is that Bridges went from U.S. soldier to traitor because of Islam. Pointing it out will get you swift charges of “Islamophobia,” which is why no one dares discuss such matters, but Islamic theology includes the concept of the umma, the supranational community of believers to whom every Muslim theoretically owes an allegiance that is above all other allegiances except to Allah himself.
Thus when Cole Bridges became a Muslim, he was likely told that his identity as an American came second to his identity as a Muslim. That is not necessarily problematic; innumerable Christians think the same thing about Christianity. But he was also probably informed that America, by attacking Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq, and by supporting Israel, had become an enemy of Islam, such that it was his duty as a Muslim to wage jihad against it. Despite the large numbers of converts to Islam who turn to terrorism, authorities have never shown any interest in this phenomenon or made any effort to counter it. This will just ensure that there will be many more young men like Cole James Bridges.
The second answer to the question of what got into Cole Bridges is just as unwelcome: America got into him. Our Leftist-dominated, rootless, materialistic, narcissistic, self-obsessed, reality-denying society is leading increasing numbers of young people to think that something, anything, that provides some standards and expectations will be better. With the churches all too often hanging up Pride flags and aping the secular culture, many are finding Islam’s absolute unwillingness to compromise with the spirit of the age refreshing. The only problem is that part of Islam’s rejection of the values of our society is an aggressive and supremacist impulse that leads many believers to want to do violence to unbelievers in order to compel them to convert or submit as inferiors to Islamic hegemony. If our culture had any sane values, this might not appear so attractive. In the meantime, however, we will see many more young men like Cole James Bridges.