After an embarrassing few days of obfuscations and denials about the import of the terrorist attack on Northwest Flight 253 — including Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ and Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano’s claim on the Sunday talk shows that the system was working perfectly — on Monday administration spokesmen tried to claim they meant that after the failed attack the system immediately took action by beefing up security. They also said that they responded at once by notifying all international airports as well as planes in the sky.
Finally, on Monday morning, President Barack Obama addressed the public from his vacation spot in Hawaii. The statement made by the president, however, inadvertently displayed the great problems with his approach towards the jihad waged by worldwide radical Islamist terrorists.
First, President Obama said the following: “As the plane made its final approach to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, a passenger allegedly tried to ignite an explosive device on his body, setting off a fire.” (my emphasis) The language is that of courtroom legalese, carefully indicating that a suspect is only “allegedly” guilty of anything, until such time as a jury is convinced by a trial that he was indeed the party responsible for the crime committed.
But as the world knows, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was indeed very guilty, and only because a Dutch filmmaker sitting near him interceded and subdued him, helping put out the fire at the same time, was the plot unsuccessful. Rather than treat the culprit as a foreign national who became converted in London to the doctrines of radical Islam by mullahs at his local mosque, evidently the decision has been made to treat him as a defendant in a criminal case, with a subsequent trial in which his guilt is not to be prejudged. Although he is a foreign national, evidently he will be treated as if he were an American citizen.
Perhaps that is why at present, the government has not been able to obtain necessary DNA samples from him, since Abdulmutallab clearly does not want to voluntarily acquiesce in giving a sample to the FBI. Coercion and rough treatment, including serious interrogation about the involvement of others, could be used against the government in any ensuing trial.
One might contrast this strongly with the decision made during the Second World War by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. When would-be Nazi saboteurs landed off Long Island in a sub ready to move throughout the country and engage in sabotage, the plot fell apart when one of their numbers surrendered and implicated his fellow plotters. They were all arrested and tried in a secret military tribunal, and duly executed. The public was not informed; there was no hesitancy in carrying out a tough sentence, and nothing at all said about treating them as criminal defendants in a New York City court.
President Obama did at least say the incident was “a serious reminder of the dangers that we face and the nature of those who threaten our homeland.” But he did not continue on to specify what the nature of the danger is, or describe those who subscribe to a violent interpretation of the Koran and who carry out their acts in the name of Allah.
Nor did he address the issue that the administration carefully seems to want to avoid: that Abdulmutallab did not act alone, and is a part of a conspiracy involving al-Qaeda directed out of Yemen. Indeed, reports tonight on the news networks played an interview with a passenger who was standing next to Abdulmutallab as he sought to let the airport team allow him to board the plane in Amsterdam, even though he did not hold a valid passport. According to the passenger whose statement was broadcast, Abdulmutallab was accompanied by an Indian man in his 50s, who spoke on his behalf. This unidentified man told the plane personnel that Sudanese regularly were allowed on international flights without a passport, and that hence Abdulmutallab too should be allowed to board. Given that al-Qaeda has already acknowledged that he was part of an operation they planned, everyone already knows that our culprit was part of an official al-Qaeda operation.
Yet later in his statement, President Obama, while pledging to “use every element of our national power to disrupt, to dismantle and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us,” continued to say that the quick action taken on the plane to disable the potentially dangerous bomb from detonating showed “that an alert and courageous citizenry are far more resilient than an isolated extremist.” (my emphasis)
This time we were lucky, and despite the bravery of the Dutch citizen who spontaneously and courageously rose to the occasion, his action showed nothing of the sort claimed by the President. Moreover, referring to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as only an “isolated extremist” reveals that even as all the facts are being disclosed and we have clarity that this was anything but the action of a man acting alone, the president persists in pretending otherwise.
Clearly, President Obama’s failure to identify our enemies as part of a worldwide radical Islamist movement pledged to permanent jihad against us, and his argument that the “alleged” suspect was doing this on his own, is a throwback to his earlier speeches in the Middle East. In those speeches, Obama held out the hand of engagement to Iran and tried to bend over backwards to assure the Islamic world that the United States is not implicating it in any way in what the administration once called “man-made acts” of violence.
We have all learned that despite the administration’s best hopes, changing the words to describe jihad from a Bush era “war on terrorism” (already inadequate since it should have then been a war against radical Islam) to that of stopping “man-made acts” has not in fact slowed or stopped al-Qaeda from continuing on its chosen path. Indeed, they have the effrontery to argue that this failed action was a response to U.S. efforts taken a few days ago to break apart some of their networks. To al-Qaeda, anything we do to protect ourselves is another example of U.S. aggression.
It is good that the administration might now seek to close the loopholes that allowed an al-Qaeda terrorist to board Northwest 253 on Christmas day. But until it faces the reality of the war we have to wage, it is not sufficient.