Handling Terror in 2009 - A New Perspective / DR.Israel Barnir

With the onset of a new year of President Obama’s term in the White House it is only natural to summarize the first year of Obama’s Presidency. I’ll leave it to the professional pundits, the maivins of the main stream media, and other spin meisters to fill the air with their wisdom. This article will focus on one subject - what happens or, to be precise, what’s new in the terror front.

Although it did not receive much attention in the media, 2009 has the “honor” of holding a record in the domain of terror - there were more terror incidents (12), including thwarted plots, on U.S. soil in 2009 than in any year since 2001 (which averaged 3 to 4 each). The question arises as to why these statistics receive so little coverage by the media? The answer lies in the ambivalent attitude to the issue of terror and its perpetrators adopted by liberal intellectuals, the media and the Obama administration. That attitude is best exemplified by an editorial in the NY Times of January 4, 2004, titled “An Uneasy Feeling” (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/05/opinion/05herbert.html). It starts with the statement Our collective consciousness tends to obsess indiscriminately over one or two issues — the would-be bomber on the flight into Detroit, the Tiger Woods saga — while enormous problems that should be engaged get short shrift and ends with Now we’re . . . falling back into panic mode over an attempted act of terror and squandering a golden opportunity to build a better society “obsess”? “panic mode”? Only through sheer luck was a mass murder of hundreds avoided, but the NY Times sees it as an obsession or a panic mode over an event lumped together with the sex shenanigans of a golf celebrity.

Who and What is a Terrorist?

Immediately after the 911 terror attack the Security Council of the UN appointed a Counter Terrorism Commission (CTC). Among others, that commission was assigned the task of defining the term “terror”. As of the end of 2009, the 15 members of that commission have not managed to move one step on the issue. The reason for this impasse? Despite all efforts the members of the commission have failed to find a wording that would define terror while at the same time legitimize terror attacks against Israel.

The 51 members of the Islamic bloc of nations in
the UN bear the full responsibility for this failure.

Of course it is not expressed in such a blunt manner. The official approach is a “positive” one. The Islamic nations demand that “wars of liberation” and/or “legitimate struggles against occupation” be excluded from the definition of terror. On paper it sounds nice, and one could even argue that it makes sense. Moreover, few among rank and file liberals will find fault with this requirement. Needless to say, it resonates well in the academia and among progressive enlightened intellectuals. However, “a war of liberation” and/or “a legitimate struggle against occupation” are euphemisms used in Islamo - Arab parlance when referring to the Israeli Arab conflict, which is in fact an on going attempt to annihilate the State of Israel. Rank and file liberals are not too concerned by this. They will never admit it, they will just close their eyes and gloss over this fact. In this context, Goldstone’s comments, on two different occasions where he was interviewed on TV, are typical examples of that attitude. It is worth noting here that wide circles among the “enlightened” Israeli left are also locked in a mind set that sees the terror campaign against Israel as “a war of liberation” and/or “a legitimate struggle against occupation”. Entrenched in the misguided belief that with such an attitude they gain the moral high ground, they opt to close their eyes to reality and stick to patterns of behavior that to all intents and purposes renders support to the terror organizations in talk and deeds.

Terror organizations and the states supporting them use the media coverage and the liberal support they enjoy, to the maximum effect. The Islamic countries approach falls on fertile ground among progressive liberals. The expression “One Man’s Terrorist is Another’s Freedom Fighter” has been ingrained into the liberal mind to a degree that no one questions its validity or whether it makes sense at all. It has become an icon. It is used to justify refraining from employing the adjective “terrorist” under all but the most extreme circumstances. Thus we encounter “militants”, “gunmen”, “armed men”, “insurgents” and so on and so forth - anything but the “T” word. “One Man’s Terrorist is Another’s Freedom Fighter” is but one member of a family of expressions that constitute the arsenal of the WMD - Weapons of Mass Distraction - the means terrorist organizations and their supporters employ to sway public opinion to their cause. The Goldstone report is a significant addition to that arsenal.

Liberals touting the expression “One Man’s Terrorist is Another’s Freedom Fighter” do not grasp that this expression is in fact meaningless, since the two are not mutually exclusive. Some of the most vile terrorists in history were “freedom fighters”. It should also be noted that the question as to “who or what is a freedom fighter” is worth a separate discussion. Suffice it to say that the expression “one man’s freedom is another’s oppression” is just as valid and certainly carries more wisdom.

However, the expression “One Man’s Terrorist is Another’s Freedom Fighter” goes deeper. It implies that the an act is deemed a crime not by the actual deed but by cause for which it had been perpetrated. By this logic, any crime, no matter how horrendous, when committed for a cause becomes legitimate. It is an elegant way of saying that the end justifies the means. By this logic, a crime - terror acts included - is not something absolute. What matters are the circumstances and/or the “root” causes. It is a logic by which any crime can be justified if it had been committed for a “worthy” cause.

The inability of the international community to reach clear definition of terror and/or terrorists acts like a boomerang. It creates a void which harms not only Israel but the whole free world (in fact, the number of Muslim victims of the Islamic terror exceeds the number of Israeli and other Western nations victims by several orders of magnitude, but that’s a subject for a separate discussion). At present the absence of a clear definition of against what or against whom the free world has to defend itself, stands in the way of developing effective counter measures. The existing law enforcement measures are just not up to the task. Addressing acts of terror as “ordinary crimes” is wrong from whatever point of view that one looks at it, since unlike ordinary crimes, acts of terror are not motivated by rational reasons. Acts of terror are carried out for one and only one reason. The Objective of Terror is to Terrorize - that adage is as true today as it was when first uttered by Lenin about a hundred years ago. Only a liberal intellectual can believe that a perpetrator of suicide bombing is driven by social injustice, poverty, “occupation” or any other form of deprivation. George Orwell, one of the greatest thinkers of the twentieth century, in an article written about 60 years ago “Notes on Nationalism”, put it succinctly: Some Ideas Are So Idiotic That Only Intellectuals Can Believe in Them. Ordinary Man Cannot Be So Foolish.

Neither of the two recent perpetrators of terror acts in the US - the officer who murdered 13 US soldiers in Fort Hood, Texas, and the Nigerian who attempted to bring down a passenger aircraft on Christmas, grew up in a poor environment, suffered from social injustice or from any other form of deprivation. Both were scions of well to do families, both were well educated and none of them acted in a momentary bout of loss of sanity (although that argument might be raised by whoever represents them in a court of law).

The Nigerian terrorist is charged with “attempting to bring down a US civilian aircraft”. Why not “attempted murder”? Good question. Don’t come to me for an answer. May be he should be charged with “an attempt to commit an act of terror”? Unlikely. “Acts of terror” belong to the Bush era. “Acts of terror” are figment of the imagination of Cheney. Acts of terror are not part of the Obama agenda.

The coverage by the media of the officer who had murdered 13 US soldiers in Fort Hood was a real experience. One had to watch it to believe it. With the exception of FOX news channel and a few articles in the Wall Street Journal, neither the term “terror” nor then term “terrorist” were even hinted at. There was no mention whatsoever of the Muslim background of the perpetrator, neither was any special significance attached to the perpetrator’s Al Qaida connections. Presentations given by the perpetrator to his fellow officers, in which he talked openly about the duty of Muslims to kill infidels, also failed to raise any concern. The perpetrator is currently undergoing an investigation to determine what were his “motives”. The perpetrator is charged with murder, but it is not at all obvious that “terror” will be mentioned during his trial.

Other attempts to commit acts of terror were foiled (more by luck than by design) and did not end with any one being killed, so they don’t count. No wonder that Obama’s first year in the White House appears “clean”.

It does not take a genius, however, to realize that the Christmas attempt clearly points at gross negligence in handling the issue of terror by the Obama administration. Obama has appointed to head the office of Homeland Security a second rate politician with little understanding of what she has to do. Her approach to handling acts of terror was to eliminate the term from the vocabulary. Thus we should be only concerned with man-made disasters. To head the CIA Obama appointed a politician who sees his goal in life “to cut the CIA down to its natural size”. His order of priorities are best illustrated by an article which appeared in the NY Times of January 5, 2010, which describes the efforts allocated by the CIA (in men power and resources) to monitor . . . climate change (!) (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/05/science/earth/05satellite.html?ref=us)

Only a last minute failure of the detonator prevented the Nigerian perpetrator from accomplishing his mission. The Homeland Security secretary, however, in an interview aired by CNN on December 27, told the public that “The thwarting of the attempt to blow up an Amsterdam-Detroit airline flight on Christmas Day demonstrated that 'the system worked,' " President Obama had a slightly different view on the events, but the White House counter terrorism czar, John Brennan, appeared to side with the secretary - in an interview aired by ABC on December 27, he said "Every other day the system has worked this year. . . .The system is working. It's just not working as well as it needs to constantly".

But for the last minute failure of the detonator, we would have faced a major disaster with hundreds of victims. One can only speculate how Obama would have reacted had that been the case. My guess, and I don’t think that I am far off, is that he would finger point at Bush as the guilty party.

This point was nicely put in an editorial in the monthly Commentary of January: The president of the United States cannot pass the buck to his superior. In response to this frustration, President Obama has developed what systems people refer to as a "workaround": He passes the buck to his predecessor (http://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/obama-s-year-of-living...).

Somewhat belatedly, from his vacation in Hawaii, Obama issued a scathing criticism of the Homeland Security office performance - It's becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have. The carefully worded rebuke leaves little doubt as to who is responsible - the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date? Obviously the blame lies with him who had set it up. So far, no one in the Obama administration, was deemed accountable to what happened.

While this may resonate well in Bush hating liberal circles, it does not provide a satisfactory answer to the question as to how it could have happened. One does not have to go far. The Wall Street Journal of January 4, 2010, brings part of the testimony given by Timothy Healy, the head of the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center, to the Senate committee, in which he explained the unit's "reasonable suspicion" standard:

"Reasonable suspicion requires 'articulable' facts which, taken together with rational inferences, reasonably warrant a determination that an individual is known or suspected to be or has been engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to, terrorism and terrorist activities, and is based on the totality of the circumstances. Mere guesses or inarticulate 'hunches' are not enough to constitute reasonable suspicion." (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870406540457463613036183775...)

Sounds like legalistic mumbo jumbo? Well, it is. The wording is adapted from a Supreme Court case in 1968 that determined when Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches allows the police to frisk civilians or conduct traffic stops.

It can be viewed as a “globalization” of the US constitution whereby foreign terrorists enjoy the protection provided by the Fourth Amendment to American citizens against being searched by the local police.

This is how Abdulmutallab was allowed on the airplane with his explosives.

However, we can rest assured that the risk is no longer there – the State Department notified today (January 6, 2010) that “following a review of the procedures conducted in the wake of the December 25 attempt, the US visa of the Nigerian passenger has now been revoked”. No date was specified as to when exactly that visa was revoked.

Obama’s flippant approach is also exemplified in his public appearances where he addressed the issue. While talking about the murder in Fort Hood, an event where practically all the details were in the open, Obama called on the public not to rush to conclusions, yet when he talked about the Christmas attempt, before investigations even started, Obama already knew that we were dealing with an isolated extremist.

The liberal view that acts of terror are ordinary crimes and that as such they should be handled by the existing law enforcement system is a key theme in Obama’s approach to the issue of terror. Only this can explain his incomprehensible decision to bring inmates from Guantanamo to the US in order to have them judged in a civilian court. Our courts and our juries, our citizens, are tough enough to convict terrorists. The record makes that clear, Ramzi Yousef tried to blow up the World Trade Center. He was convicted in our courts and is serving a life sentence in U.S. prisons - President Obama stated in May 21, 2009. On June, 2009, the Justice Department added its support for handling terrorists in criminal courts: 1993 World Trade Center Bombing: After two trials, in 1993 and 1997, six defendants were convicted and sentenced principally to life in prison for detonating a truck bomb in the garage of the World Trade Center, killing six people and injuring hundreds more. One of the defendants convicted at the second trial was Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the attack. One can only speculate why the Obama administration deems it relevant to cite events that took place in the early nineties while “forgetting” about more recent events like the 911 attack.

The average liberal is incapable of envisaging a world where evil acts – crimes or terror acts – are committed for no reason. The liberal’s mind has a mental block preventing him from accepting the possibility that people can commit bad acts just for the sake of doing bad things. This rather naïve world view is further fueled by the Bush hatred syndrome which has become a cornerstone of the liberal mindset in the last years. A hate driven mind, however, is not the best environment for rational thinking. Thus, regardless of the consequences, decisions are made and courses of action are taken just for the sake of demonstrating a “departure” from the Bush era.

The liberal legalistic approach reflects a total obliviousness to the fact that the “rules of the game” have been changed - borrowing from the words of a famous ex vice President “The Bastards [Terrorists] Changed the Rules”. The laws which Obama counts on to do the job were written in a different world, as articulated by the Harvard law professor, Alan Dershowitz.

In the musical My Fair Lady, there is a lyric with a refrain that “with a little bit o’ luck” things will always be all right. This is a good description of Obama’s approach to the issue of terror. What is left is to wait and see if and how long Obama’s luck will hold.

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