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Lessons (for Obama) from Flight 253

The passengers who subdued the terrorist understand what the president apparently does not.

by
AWR Hawkins

Bio

December 28, 2009 - 8:24 am

Somewhere in between the highly publicized rounds of golf and strolls on the beach that President Obama is currently taking while on vacation in Hawaii, someone in his inner circle needs to tell him there’s an important lesson to be learned from the failed terrorist attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253. That lesson is that our posture towards terrorists (and terrorism) matters.

Let’s begin by agreeing that every successful terrorist attack against the United States doubles as a recruitment video for rabid jihadists, eager to spill the blood of infidels and strike terror in the heart of the “great Satan.”

We saw this after the Ft. Hood shootings on November 5, when militants Islamists took to American streets the very next day:

The message that should be taken from what took place yesterday at Ft. Hood … is that this war will be fought on American soil. That the blood of … American military personnel will run in the very streets they were raised in.

But when a terrorist attack is publicly thwarted, as was Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempt to ignite the incendiary material in his underwear on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day, militants aren’t as quick to take to the streets. In fact, they hastily distance themselves from the incompetent bomber by denying his ties to al-Qaeda (although we already knew he was tied to al-Qaeda).

Citizens understand this. Thus when passengers smelled the smoke Abdulmutallab created while trying to carry out his attack, they jumped him, subdued him, and dragged him to the front of the plane. As Fox News reported on December 26, 2009:

Experts say an aggressive response from passengers has become the common response [to attempted terror attacks] since … 9/11.

But where is Obama’s “aggressive response”? What do average everyday citizens know that he doesn’t?

For starters, they know that the militant Islamists are bent on killing Westerners, and Americans in particular. And although as recently as Sunday, December 27, NPR had not retracted its position that Abdulmutallab only had “possible ties to terrorism,” citizens aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 had enough common sense to know that Abdulmutallab was attempting a terrorist act whether NPR-type thinkers could ascertain it or not.

More importantly, they knew his actions required an overpowering reaction.

Yet while the actions of these citizens send a strong, resilient message to individual terrorists they may get the chance to tackle before an act of terror can be carried out, Obama’s actions toward a multitude of terrorists — like those currently held at Gitmo — send a weak, faltering one. A message which could be easily be confused with an appeasement approach that will likely cost more American lives before we finally wake and fight as those aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 fought.

Consider the contrasts here. Citizens choked and restrained Abdulmutallab to stop him from completing his attack; some citizens were even burned in the process. Yet Obama is so concerned with how the world views our handling of “suspected terrorists” — who are really actual terrorists captured on the battlefield — that he is moving them from Gitmo, in Cuba, to a maximum security prison in Illinois where they can be treated as well as the guy whose crime was twice violating his restraining order.

Moreover, when trials began for these “suspected terrorists” they will not be held in military courts but in a federal courtroom in New York City.

You remember what happened in New York City, don’t you? That’s where thousands of Americas were killed on September 11, 2001, when two airplanes were hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center by what NPR might still describe as men with “possible ties to terrorism.”

We must ditch this soft approach to terrorism. We need to understand that apprehending terrorists by whatever means necessary and then holding them somewhere where they cannot threaten the American people is the only sound approach to dealing with people bent on killing infidels (i.e., you and me).

This is the lesson the attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 teaches those who are willing to listen, and it’s one that President Obama needs to hear.

AWR Hawkins is a conservative writer who holds a Ph.D. in military history from Texas Tech University.
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