The president said all the right things in his exercise of 07 January with regard to the “skivvies-bomber” affair of Christmas-day. Complete with teleprompters in place lest he slip up somehow, he summarized the reports he had received and, though the appearance fitted the milieu of a press conference during which he should answer questions, proceeded not to do that, leaving that thorny piece of business to top apparatchiks Napolitano and Brennan. He took total blame for the mess but “total” was not enough to require that he allow himself to be held accountable in explaining how and why he took total blame, or why that should be the case in light of his insistence that there was a “systemic failure,” i.e., that the total blame was not his.
One of the encouraging things he seems to understand is that this country is now “at war,” at least with al Qaeda. At first blush, this seems a dramatic departure from what the administration has seemed to be avoiding, i.e., the mention of “war” with any entity. Whoa! In a March 2009 interview with Spiegel, Homeland Security head honcho Janet Napolitano said this: “I presume there is always a threat from terrorism. In my speech, although I did not use the word ‘terrorism,’ I referred to ‘man-caused’ disasters. That is perhaps only a nuance, but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur.” In other words, Napolitano is a lost ball in the tall weeds – “man-caused disasters,” indeed! Man-caused disasters are car-wrecks and such like. And...there’s certainly nothing wrong with “fear,” a great motivator for self-preservation.
Therein may lie the main difference between Obama and George Bush. This is what Bush said to a joint session of Congress on 20 September 2001, just days after the carnage of 9/11: “Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated.” So...the question has to do with where and how Obama’s “war” is to be waged. Is it to be fought only against what he conceives of as al Qaeda, or is it to be fought against terrorism in all of its ugly forms everywhere?
George Bush has been maligned for the invasion of Iraq and, admittedly, there can be arguments about that; however, the most sadistic and notorious terrorist in the world in the 1980s and ’90s was Saddam Hussein, who managed to annihilate 400,000 of his own people and in the process wage chemical warfare against the Kurds in the North and the Shiites in the South, not to mention his use of chemicals against the Iranians in his bloody conflict with them in the 1980s. Saddam was not an al Qaeda hack. He was an accomplished and bloodthirsty terrorist, who, but for the actions of George H.W. Bush, would own practically all the Middle East oil today, after having butchered tens of thousands on the Arabian Peninsula alone. Bush stopped his attempted terrorism on a grand scale (invasion of Kuwait) in 1991, just as he was poised to invade and quickly conquer Saudi Arabia.
His allusion to “war” also brings up the obvious contradiction Obama faces with his bringing of the Gitmo detainees to the states to be tried in criminal courts. Prisoners of War are not tried in criminal courts, but in military courts, which has been the way prisoners captured elsewhere have been handled. Zacarias Moussaoui, though not a citizen, was arrested in Minnesota in August 2001 account of his connection to 9/11 and was granted a criminal trial (life sentence), but he was arrested while living on U.S. soil. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, both born in New York, were executed in 1953 as spies. The judge even blamed them for the deaths accruing to the Korean War. Moussaoui got off easy.
The Gitmo gang, as well as the “skivvies-bomber” of 25 December, were aliens operating outside the U.S., never mind that the latter was arrested on U.S. soil. His attempted murder/suicide was an act of terrorism imported from elsewhere, so by his own definition Obama should have insisted that he be treated as a POW, i.e., turned over to the military for interrogation as well as judgment. Indeed, Guantanamo, as much as folks want to close it, is the ideal detention center for the war on terrorism and should never be closed as long as operatives from outside the U.S. attempt terrorism. A good water-boarding – which neither injures nor kills – would have been made to order for finding out a great deal of information, especially since Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had been indoctrinated in Yemen, the current hotbed of terroristic activity. Those who feel like shedding some tears for him are invited to imagine nearly 300 passengers and no telling how many Detroiters smashed to bits on Christmas.
President Obama and Attorney General Holder need to re-think a lot of things, but nothing more important than the terrorism question and just how to handle its butchers.