What Passes for “Expertise” in Terrorism Punditry

Some of the most inane commentary in the same Fox News story:

Bill Rosenau, a terror expert with RAND Corp, says that the death of Rahman is likely to raise his status to that of a martyr and refocus interest on the United States among radical Islamists. He says Rahman has been a lightning rod for years and his incarceration in the United States highlights the difficult problem of keeping terrorists incarcerated on American soil.  “Usama bin Laden has talked frequently about him and repeatedly expressed his interest in seeing him free. He has been a lightning rod for jihadists for a decade,” Rosenau said.

It was the presence of Rahman and other terrorists on U.S. soil, Rosenau says, that sparked the rendition program, in which terror suspects are kept and interrogated in foreign holding facilities.  “This is a good example of why that program was instituted,” he said referring to the specter of coming terror attacks.

Rahman’s death, he said, “may reawaken dormant memories” in the Jihadi movement.  “While Rahman disappeared long before the second attack on the World Trade Center, people forget what a central figure he was in Jihadi circles. He was the seminal figure for terror in the ’80s and ’90s and a real precursor of what was to come,” Rosenau said.

Steven Weber, Director of the Institute of International Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, says he doubts that the death of Rahman is likely to spark a terror attack.  “If Al Qaeda has significant assets in this country there is no reason to use them now. They can attack the U.S. in Iraq and they would conserve those assets they have here for another time. Rahman’s death woud not change that calculation.”

Me:  Sheesh!  The Sheik’s status as a martyr has been set in stone for a dozen years, which is why Zawahiri calls for his release and bin Laden relies on his 1996 fatwa as authority for the 9/11 attack. (The fatwa stated: “Muslims everywhere [should] dismember their nation, tear them apart, ruin their economy, provoke their corporations, destroy their embassies, attack their interests, sink their ships, . . . shoot down their planes, [and] kill them on land, at sea, and in the air. Kill them wherever you find them.”) 

To say the Sheik is responsible for the rendition program says nothing more than that he is in some ways responsible for all counterterrorism as it is practiced in the U.S. today.  It was he who first said America was “the head of the snake” that jihadists had to kill — and he said it with the authority of a singularly accomplished cleric.  That’s why they listen.

There are no “dormant memories” of the jihadi movement.  There are jihadists working night and day for our demise.

Finally, if al Qaeda has significant assets in this country, it will use them.  Period.  It is silly to suggest that using assets in the U.S. would compromise jihadi effectiveness in Iraq, or that al Qaeda — which exists primarily to wage existential war against the U.S. — would not take whatever action it is capable of taking in the U.S. regardless of what is going on in Iraq. 

In fact, a few months ago, bin Laden urged jihadists to go to Somalia — not Iraq — because that seemed to be the best place from which to make mayhem.  (On other occasions, Bin Laden has identified Iraq as a principal battlefield against the U.S. — there is no requirement that he be consistent, especially given that he is driven by a hate-ideology.)  When al Qaeda can hit us, they will hit us.  They will not delay.  They hit us when liberal Democrats were in office; they hit us when the current administration was in charge.  They want to destroy the United States — they are not biding their time for what our punditry might regard as more favorable conditions.  Will we ever get that?

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