Andy, you’re right to call out the president for taking refuge in discredited cliches about “crushing poverty” as a “root cause” of terrorism: Young Mr. Abdulmuttalab lived in a London flat worth £2.5 million — ie, 4 million bucks.
Still, it’s good to know the president has abandoned his laughable assurances that the Pantybomber was an “isolated extremist.” After all, when the leader of the global hyperpower says things that any reasonably informed person at home and abroad knows are complete twaddle, he makes his country look stupid to the world. But I think we’re still missing the larger point here.
So the president’s conceded Mr. Abdulmuttalab was in Yemen. Good. But, by the time a guy gets on the plane to Sana’a, he’s already on board for jihad. All they do in Yemen is the training. So where was he radicalized and recruited and when did he decide to embrace a life of terror?
Well, look at it this way while you’re standing in line at Atlanta or LAX. After 9/11, our pen-knives and other sharp implements were confiscated. After the Shoebomber, we began the shoeless shuffle. After the 2006 Heathrow plots, we had to restrict our liquids and gels and place them in small bags for separate scanning. And now, after the Pantybomber, we can’t use the toilet for the last hour or put a paperback on our lap or whatever the TSA’s idiocy du jour is.
Whom should the traveling public thank for these impositions? The 9/11 killers were mostly Saudi. But the Shoebomber was a British subject. So were the Heathrow plotters. And the Pantybomber was educated in British schools — first in Togo; then at University College, London — and there is plenty of evidence he was radicalized while in the U.K. So three of the four circles of homeland-security hell with which the public are tortured are British in origin.
That ought to prompt astonishment — and great shame in Britons. Yet Timothy Garton Ash, Hoover panjandrum and eminent British complacenik, wrote in the Guardian only three weeks ago:
Not all Muslims, all of the time, will be able to support all these minimum essentials of a modern free society. There is a real tension between some of the essentials (for instance, the equal rights and dignity of homosexuals) and what is habitually taught even in mainstream, conservative Muslim communities. But most British Muslims, most of the time, will support most of them.
Even if that’s true (and it’s by no means clear that it is), is that enough? I said a few years back that Britain had been so hollowed out by Islamic radicals that it was becoming Somalia with chip shops. Mr/ Abdulmuttalab supposedly got the ol’ jihad fever while at university. I see the New York Times reports the remarkable statistic that one-fifth of students at British universities are Muslim. As Prof. Garton Ash would say, most British Muslims most of the time will be most unlikely to self-detonate over most American cities. So that’s okay, right? Up to a point. A poll by the Centre for Social Cohesion found that one-third of Muslim students in Britain believe killing in the name of religion is justified and are in favor of a global caliphate. That’s a lot of potential airline tickets.
And perhaps the saddest comment of all on America’s principal supplier of transformative terrorist incidents is this — from my old colleagues at The Spectator in an aside on that New York Times story:
There is a lot in the article that is worth commenting on. But sadly Britain’s libel laws make discussion of the contents of this article almost impossible.
If you can’t even discuss a problem, what are the chances you can fix it?