Wake Up Call

The near tragic bomb attempt on Christmas Day starkly illustrated the dilemma that those of us who support President Obama face all too often. Only the near-satanic dumbness of that documented draft dodging fake warrior Dick Cheney could arrive at the conclusion that the current Administration was responsible for the potential deaths of close to 300 airline passengers on what was almost a fateful Christmas.
On the other hand, we have learned that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, tragically now the most famous Nigerian in America, employed the same basic method as the 9/11 conspirators!! Note that he bought a one way ticket to the United States for cash. Note that he had almost no luggage. Note that various aspects of the U.S. intelligence (the term is broadly used in this case) were aware that Mr. Abdulmutallab might be engaged in terrorist activity. Note that other aspects of the U.S. intelligence were aware that al Qaeda might be planning an attack on the United States towards the end of 2009.
Sound familiar? It should. The noted items are so similar to the fact pattern of the infamous 9/11 attacks that no self-respecting pulp fiction writer would dare to place such a fact pattern before even the most gullible editor. All of the 9/11 terrorists bought one way tickets. All of them paid cash. All had little or no luggage. Aspects of the U.S. intelligence community were aware of, and in some cases monitoring, several of the eventual perpetrators. And, once again, aspects of the U.S. intelligence apparatus were aware of an impending al Qaeda attack.
Is it possible that eight years September 11, 2001 attacks that terrorists can use the exact same methods and not be thwarted or deterred by billions of dollars of technology, thousands upon thousands of personnel and the mantra-like commitment of the United States government to a war against terrorism and terrorist tactics? In point of fact, nothing worked in the Abdulmutallab incident worked. No screening. No intelligence. No surveillance. Nothing worked.
In point of fact a young man from Nigeria, with no military training or espionage expertise was able to board an airliner headed to the United States with a bomb in his underwear. That the bomb did not kill hundreds of innocent men and women was due solely to a stroke of outrageous good fortune. Not even the intrepid actions of a few brave passengers stopped the would-be bomber as they were alerted only by a loud noise that, but for the grace of God, would have been the last sound that they every heard in this life.
Even if bureaucratic inertia and creatively challenged aspects of eight years of the Bush-Cheney administration had been exorcised by President Obama in 11 months, it would naïve and preposterous to suggest that we all would be safe from potential attacks. Terrorism has a very close relationship to infinite creativity and bottomless depravity.
However, it would be reasonable to suggest that employing a realpolitik perspective, the Obama administration would comprehend the need to attend to all aspects of national security, including appointing the head of the Transportation Security Administration as soon as the confetti from the inauguration had been swept away. Instead, it was eight months before a nominee (a seemingly excellent nominee, by the way) was submitted to Congress for confirmation. And for the last three months that nomination has been held up by the inane antics of one single solitary Republican Senator Jim Demint of South Carolina. And it was only after the Christmas fiasco that the administration and the Democratic leadership in Congress have decided to put some muscle behind this stalled nomination.
And all this time the Transportation Security Administration has been a holdover from the Bush-Cheney team. For eleven months the Obama administration has not had its team in charge of one of the most vulnerable aspects of this country’s infrastructure. All this time, all the time knowing that national security is also one of this administration’s perceived area of vulnerability and that innovation, creativity and true intelligence are sorely needed and have been needed for the past eight years.
At this time President Obama needs support and constructive suggestions. Having seen the clouds of disaster dissipate this time, we must be certain that our support for true change, the support that was expressed loudly and clearly on November 4, 2008, results in innovation, creativity and true intelligence and a departure from business as usual.
It is our collective good fortune and the particular good fortune of the administration that the hand of tragedy passed us by. We cannot continue to depend on good fortune to always protect us.


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