WHEN THE Daily News spoke this week with Wynnefield native Malcolm Nance, he'd gone a day or two without sleep - as often happens after a terrorist incident. Nance, one of the world's foremost experts on al Qaeda and ISIS, had been doing television interviews for some 24-straights in the wake of the Paris attacks.
TV networks are eager to draw upon his 30-plus years of experience in counterterrorism. Nance is a former Naval intelligence officer who has taught special forces how to deal with both ISIS and al Qaeda. He spent many years in Iraq studying the groups up close and personal.
He has written three books on the subject, and has another in the works, specifically about ISIS. The West Catholic Boys grad spoke with Gary Thompson about his Philly roots and his provocative new thinking on how to combat the terrorist organization.
Q It's a long way from Wynnefield and West Catholic to the Middle East. How'd you get there?
In high school I was vice president of the world affairs council. I'm just one of those guys who likes foreign languages and foreign cultures.
In fact, one of the best things that ever happened to me was taking advantage of the accelerated language program in eighth grade. I took Spanish and French. On Saturdays, the city offered free foreign language classes, and I took Russian and Chinese.
When I entered the military, I wanted to be a helicopter pilot, but the recruiter looked at my language skills and said, "You're going to be in intelligence."
So I spent two years in Monterey, Calif., and then it was straight to Beirut.
Q Why the military?
We're a military family. All my five brothers, my father.
My grandfather fought in World War I. We have served in Korea, Vietnam. My great-great grandfather served in the 111th Colored Infantry in the Civil War. Another Nance was in the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers.
Q Your books argue that we're losing the war of ideas with ISIS and al Qaeda, and we need to start winning.
The central question is how to disrupt their ideology. To this point, we haven't made a serious attempt. They are beating us on social media. They are more skilled at indoctrination. We need to offer a counter-ideology that goes after their cult variant of Islam.
Q You differ from other analysts in that you see ISIS as as much a death cult as a religious group. You've even likened them to the Manson Family.
You look at the way cults operate, cutting people off from the world, controlling the flow of information, and you clearly see elements of that. And their radical view of Islam is not really Islam.
ISIS says there are not five pillars of Islam but seven, and that the two new [ISIS] obligations are holy war forever your whole life - war with the West and anyone who is non-Muslim - and that you must die in this holy war.
Q How do we counter that?
We call it de-linking true Islam from their version of Islam by calling upon the Muslim to world to recognize that ISIS is not Islamic, but anti-Islam. And believe me, Muslims have no problem with this.
The cultural cleansing that [ISIS] is carrying out is something that horrifies Muslims. ISIS is not just destroying ancient Roman ruins, they're destroying mosques. All art. Their view is that any version of Islam that flourished after the 12th century is 100 percent corrupt. That's basically all culture, art and poetry.
Q But specifically, what tactics and strategies can we use?
Imagine a psy-op on the scale of the Cold War, like we used against the Soviets. Now, this would have to come from the Muslim world, but we could amplify it.
You could also drop 20 or 30 JDAMs [guided bombs] on ISIS targets in Raqqa, just to reinforce the point.
Q Should we take in Syrian refugees?
Here's some polling data for you: 61 percent of Americans don't think we should accept refugees, even children. The poll was taken in 1939, and was about European Jews. You don't put this stuff up to a popular vote.
Q You don't sound worried about potential dangers.
I've been trying to for six years to get my Iraqi bodyguard into the U.S. He would be a real asset to us. So would many of the Syrians.
They already have been. We had a wave of Syrian and Lebanese immigration starting in 1880s. Syrian and Lebanese immigrants are why there's Danny Thomas and Marlo Thomas. And Steve Jobs.