Friday, January 1, 2010
War? What War?
War? What War?
Friday, January 01, 2010
WASHINGTON -- Janet Napolitano -- former Arizona governor, now overmatched secretary of homeland security -- will forever be remembered for having said of the attempt to bring down an airliner over Detroit: "The system worked." The attacker's concerned father had warned U.S. authorities about his son's jihadist tendencies. The would-be bomber paid cash and checked no luggage on a transoceanic flight. He was nonetheless allowed to fly, and would have killed 288 people in the air alone, save for a faulty detonator and quick actions by a few passengers.
Heck of a job, Brownie.
The reason the country is uneasy about the Obama administration's response to this attack is a distinct sense of not just incompetence but incomprehension. From the very beginning, President Obama has relentlessly tried to downplay and deny the nature of the terrorist threat we continue to face. Napolitano renames terrorism "man-caused disasters." Obama goes abroad and pledges to cleanse America of its post-9/11 counterterrorist sins. Hence, Guantanamo will close, CIA interrogators will face a special prosecutor, and Khalid Sheik Mohammed will bask in a civilian trial in New York -- a trifecta of political correctness and image management.
And just to make sure even the dimmest understand, Obama banishes the term "war on terror." It's over -- that is, if it ever existed.
Obama may have declared the war over. Unfortunately al-Qaeda has not. Which gives new meaning to the term "asymmetric warfare."
And produces linguistic -- and logical -- oddities that littered Obama's public pronouncements following the Christmas Day attack. In his first statement, Obama referred to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as "an isolated extremist." This is the same president who, after the Ford Hood shooting, warned us "against jumping to conclusions" -- code for daring to associate Nidal Hasan's mass murder with his Islamist ideology. Yet, with Abdulmutallab, Obama jumped immediately to the conclusion, against all existing evidence, that the bomber acted alone.
More jarring still were Obama's references to the terrorist as a "suspect" who "allegedly tried to ignite an explosive device." You can hear the echo of FDR: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- Japanese naval and air force suspects allegedly bombed Pearl Harbor."
Obama reassured the nation that this "suspect" had been charged. Reassurance? The president should be saying: We have captured an enemy combatant -- an illegal combatant under the laws of war: no uniform, direct attack on civilians -- and now to prevent future attacks, he is being interrogated regarding information he may have about al-Qaeda in Yemen.
Instead, Abdulmutallab is dispatched to some Detroit-area jail and immediately lawyered up. At which point -- surprise! -- he stops talking.
This absurdity renders hollow Obama's declaration that "we will not rest until we find all who were involved." Once we've given Abdulmutallab the right to remain silent, we have gratuitously forfeited our right to find out from him precisely who else was involved, namely those who trained, instructed, armed and sent him.
This is all quite mad even in Obama's terms. He sends 30,000 troops to fight terror overseas, yet if any terrorists come to attack us here, they are magically transformed from enemy into defendant.
The logic is perverse. If we find Abdulmutallab in an al-Qaeda training camp in Yemen, where he is merely preparing for a terror attack, we snuff him out with a Predator -- no judge, no jury, no qualms. But if we catch him in the United States in the very act of mass murder, he instantly acquires protection not just from execution by drone but even from interrogation.
The president said that this incident highlights "the nature of those who threaten our homeland." But the president is constantly denying the nature of those who threaten our homeland. On Tuesday, he referred five times to Abdulmutallab (and his terrorist ilk) as "extremist(s)."
A man who shoots abortion doctors is an extremist. An eco-fanatic who torches logging sites is an extremist. Abdulmutallab is not one of these. He is a jihadist. And unlike the guys who shoot abortion doctors, jihadists have cells all over the world; they blow up trains in London, nightclubs in Bali and airplanes over Detroit (if they can); and are openly pledged to war on America.
Any government can through laxity let someone slip through the cracks. But a government that refuses to admit that we are at war, indeed, refuses even to name the enemy -- jihadist is a word banished from the Obama lexicon -- turns laxity into a governing philosophy.
Friday, January 01, 2010
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Thank God for wardrobe malfunctions. On Dec. 22, 2001, Richard Reid failed in an attempt to blow up American Airlines Flight 63 using 50 grams of the explosive PETN and became known as "the shoe-bomber." Since then, we have all had to remove our footwear prior to boarding commercial aircraft bound for U.S. airports.
On Christmas Day eight years later, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, wearing a bomb made from 80 grams of the same explosive, attempted to bring down Northwest Flight 253 en route from Amsterdam to Detroit. Had this 23-year-old Nigerian-born, Yemini-trained al-Qaida terrorist succeeded, he might have revived Detroit's economy through casket sales alone. He hid the device in his crotch and is now infamous as "the underpants bomber." One can only imagine what items of clothing we will have to remove in order to fly in the future.
A day after the attempted murder of 288 passengers and crewmembers in the skies over Michigan, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano claimed Abdulmutallab failed because "when it came right down to it, the system worked." Two days later, Napolitano apparently received new "guidance" from the vacation White House in Hawaii.
On Dec. 28, she reversed course and said, "Our system did not work in this instance," and added, "An extensive review is underway." She has yet to recant her bald assertion that there is "no indication" the incident is connected to a "larger plot." This is of course the same secretary of homeland security who warned us in April last year that the "greatest threat to U.S. security" is from "right-wing extremists" and "disgruntled military veterans."
After three days of silence -- and scores of finger-pointing leaks about how an individual known to U.S. intelligence services and already on a "terror watch list" could board a commercial airliner with a bomb in his pants -- Barack Obama roused himself to comment on the matter. Though his administration previously barred using the term "war on terror," the president referred to the incident as an "attempted act of terrorism" and claimed, "The United States will do more than simply strengthen our defenses." He also acknowledged that "there was a mix of human and systemic failures that contributed to this potential catastrophic breach of security."
Unfortunately, neither Obama's nor Napolitano's words are particularly reassuring. Both refer to "systems" -- as though they can "fix it." But the "system" for securing commercial aviation isn't broken -- it doesn't exist -- and radical Islamic terrorists know it.
U.S. civil aviation has been the Islamic radical-Jihadist weapon of choice since the 1980s. Efforts by successive administrations to put defensive security measures in place -- from air marshals to government-employee airport screeners to high-tech passenger and baggage-scanning equipment -- have been marginally effective at best. Changes in intelligence policies and procedures -- and the creation of whole new bureaucracies ostensibly devoted to sharing "threat-warnings" -- have proven to be anything but foolproof. Inevitably, solutions to the problem come down to "How much does it cost?" and "Is it too intrusive?"
The technology to detect explosive residue has been around for decades. A safe apparatus that can see through clothing has been available for nearly as long. Trained operators using either of these devices could have prevented Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from boarding Flight 63. On Dec. 30, Dutch authorities announced that such equipment will be used to screen all passengers heading for U.S. airports. Apparently, objections raised by the American Civil Liberties Union don't carry as much weight in The Hague as they do in Washington.
The Obama administration -- wedded to "Rule one: Never allow a crisis to go to waste" -- will undoubtedly find a way to undertake major "reforms" in the "system." These "repairs" will most certainly be expensive. But there is one "fix" that that will actually save money and very likely American lives: halt transfers of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen -- where Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was apparently trained by al-Qaida operatives on how to use the bomb he carried aboard Flight 63.
The day after the abortive attack, Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, Yemen's foreign minister said al-Qaida in his country may be planning more "attacks like the one we have just had in Detroit" and pleaded for help "to expand our counterterrorism units." Instead, the Obama administration has been sending Gitmo detainees to Yemen.
Since Oct. 1, 2009, Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., has written six official letters to the White House demanding that the administration cease sending detainees from Guantanamo to Yemen. In his Dec. 29 missive, Wolf notes the connections among known al-Qaida operatives; terrorist detainees released in Yemen; the accused Ford Hood killer, Maj. Nidal Hasan; and now Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Wolf concludes his letter, "Please stop these releases."
It's smart, timely advice -- far better than Obama receives from Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano. She should be sent to Yemen.
Posted by Brett at 3:58 PM