Apropos Mark’s observations (here and here), I couldn’t help but be struck by this ambiguous passage in the Washington Post’s report this morning: “The incident marks the latest apparent attempt by terrorists to bring down a U.S. aircraft through the use of an improvised weapon, and set in motion urgent security measures that disrupted global air travel during the frenetic holiday weekend.” No doubt the Post means that “the incident” has “set in motion urgent security measures,” but it was just as clearly “an attempt by terrorists” — and a successful attempt, at that — to “set in motion urgent security measures.” It sounds trite but it’s worth repeating: The object of terrorism is to terrorize, and obviously the mission has been accomplished even if the plane was not brought down.
In Willful Blindness, I recount the debacle of repeated entries into the United States by, among others, the Blind Sheikh (Omar Abdel Rahman) and al-Qaeda operative Ali Mohammed — the former permitted free entrance, egress, and, finally, a green card (as a special religious worker) even though he was one of the world’s most famous jihadists and was on the terror watch lists for having authorized the murder of Anwar Sadat; the latter permitted to immigrate from Egypt and join the U.S. army despite having been caught trying to infiltrate the CIA. Now, nearly 20 years later — after 9/11, the 9/11 Commission, etc. – we have Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab: He was in the terrorist “database” because we were warned by his own influential father of his radical ties and proclivities, and he was evidently notorious among associates in Africa and Europe for his jihadist leanings; yet, he was issued a multiple-entry visa. And he claims to have been trained in Yemen — the al-Qaeda hub to which the administration has just sent a half-dozen trained jihadists previously detained in Gitmo, and where it hopes to send many more.
I wonder what the media would be saying if George Bush were still president.
Hadn’t Abdulmutallab heard that we are closing Gitmo? Hadn’t he heard that we’re phasing out military-commissions so we can show the world that we give even the worst mass-murderers civilian trials with all the rights of American citizens? Hadn’t he heard that President Obama has banned torture (yes, yes, I know, actually Congress banned it 15 years ago — details, details . . .)? Hadn’t he heard that the president has called for “a new beginning” in America’s relationship with the Muslim world? Hadn’t he heard that this is our new, smarter strategy to safeguard the nation from man-caused disasters?
I suspect he’s heard all those things.