2009: Tipping Point for Domestic Terror?
This past year is simply without precedent in terms of the number of terror plots and cells exposed and disrupted. For those of us who closely monitor terrorism trends and have consistently warned of the escalating pace of Islamic radicalization -- only to be ignored and attacked by Islamic apologists and their allies -- 2009 has proven to be a cold and uncomfortable vindication of our concerns. As we move into a new year, we very well may look back at this past year as a tipping point for domestic terror.
The year began with bad harbingers with the November 2008 terror attack in Mumbai -- demonstrating the success of a new terror tactic, swarm attacks -- and the beginnings of a nationwide investigation here at home into the operations of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Somali al-Shabaab networks (after Shirwa Ahmed, a Minneapolis resident, conducted a suicide bombing in Somalia and became the first ever successful American suicide bomber). That investigation expanded after news of the disappearance of at least a dozen young Somali-American men armed with U.S. passports who turned up in Somalia training with al-Shabaab. The fear remains that some of these individuals may return home determined to wage jihad on these shores.
What 2009 has demonstrated is that the pace and scope of radicalization in the American Islamic community have increased dramatically. From the attempted bombing of Jewish centers in the Bronx in June, to the indictment of seven North Carolina men determined to wage “violent jihad” in July, and most recently to the five Muslim-American men intent on waging jihad who were arrested in Pakistan in November, we see that domestic terror plots are in full bloom. With the increased extremist rhetoric being preached in American mosques, there is no reason to believe that this radicalization and jihadization will diminish in 2010.
This past year also saw two deadly “lone wolf” attacks directed at our military, demonstrating both the external and internal domestic terror threat to our armed forces. In June, Muslim convert Abdulhakim Muhammad shot two soldiers standing outside a Little Rock Army recruiting center, killing Pvt. William Andrew Long, who had just graduated from basic training. Muhammad later defending the attack in an interview with the Associated Press, saying that it was “an act, for the sake of God, for the sake of Allah, the Lord of all the world, and also a retaliation on U.S. military.” And in November, Army Maj. Nidal Hasan entered the Soldier Readiness Center at Ft. Hood and opened fire, killing fourteen and wounding nearly three dozen others.
As I noted here at Pajamas Media after the Ft. Hood massacre, we can expect more of these domestic attacks on the military. One reason is a perverse paradox at work. The success of our military in Iraq and increased troop levels in Afghanistan dramatically increase the risks for would-be jihadists to attack U.S. military targets overseas, while the successful Little Rock and Ft. Hood incidents demonstrate how vulnerable our military personnel are right here at home. No doubt many jihadists observing these incidents are encouraged by their apparent success and the added benefit of waging “legal jihad” in the court system afterwards, appealing to all the rights and protections afforded them by the very same U.S. Constitution they seek to subvert.
Meanwhile, the investigations into the Ft. Hood incident and the attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253 last week have exposed the woeful inadequacy and fundamental incompetence of our homeland security infrastructure. In the Ft. Hood case, the FBI was aware of Maj. Hasan’s email communications with al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, but failed to inform DOD authorities, believing the emails represented legitimate religious inquiries associated with his military duties. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey afterwards expressed his astonishing sentiment that diversity should trump dead soldiers, saying: “As horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.”
And even though the father of the would-be bomber of Flight 253 had informed the U.S. embassy in Nigeria of his fears that his son was being radicalized in Yemen and his name had been placed on a terrorism watch list, the State Department failed to revoke Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s entry visa.
Remember that one of the first acts of the Department of Homeland Security under the Obama administration was to issue a report warning of “right-wing extremism” and the looming terrorist threat of military veterans, pro-lifers, and opponents of illegal immigration. That threat didn’t pan out, while Islamic terrorism has flourished notwithstanding Obama’s “Blame America First” world tour and groveling outreach to the Muslim world.
What 2009 has taught us is how rapidly the nature of the threat from Islamic jihadists is evolving and how utterly unable our government is to recognize and respond to that threat. Sadly, I predict that the coming year will show us how bold, aggressive, and inventive our enemies have become and how little we have learned from the events of the past year. Let’s all hope that prediction doesn’t prove true.