Are we safer today?
By Mark Alexander
This past Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of the 11 September 2001 attack on our nation by a terrorist cell of Islamic fascists. (If you were young and do not have a crystal-clear memory of that event, I suggest you link to our 9/11 retrospective page.)
It was a modern "date which will live in infamy" as Franklin Roosevelt said in regard to the attack on Pearl Harbor 60 years earlier. The two most significant similarities between Pearl and 9/11 are that we were wholly unprepared for both, and a like number of Americans were murdered.
After eight years of national security malfeasance under Bill Clinton's administration, and eight months of the newly installed George W. Bush administration's efforts to reorder national security priorities, only a handful of Americans were convinced that a deadly enemy had coalesced in our midst. Indeed, a well-organized terrorist cell had settled into American suburbs in the last years of Clinton's watch.
However, before noon on 9/11, it was tragically clear to all Americans that our vital national interests -- both the security of our homeland and the stability of our allies abroad -- were under assault. An enemy had declared war on the United States, and it was an asymmetric enemy better organized and more lethal than ever before.
Why were we so blatantly unprepared?
In 2001, the U.S military had been severely downsized with the Justice Department and CIA operating under very restrictive Clinton budgets and mandates. Clinton's final national security policy directive (in December 2000) did not mention "al-Qa'ida" once in its 45,000-word text, and mentioned "Osama bin Laden" only four times. The directive remains a self-incriminating document that lays bare the Clinton administration's "strategy" of swatting flies -- of lobbing the occasional cruise missile at a nearly empty building (excepting for poor janitors) and of treating terrorists as mere "fugitives" who should be extradited to "answer for their crimes."
Michael Scheuer, former CIA chief of the team responsible for hunting Sheik Osama bin Laden, confirmed with great disdain that SpecOps had not one but two opportunities to kill OBL before 9/11. With bin Laden literally in their sights, however, Clinton pulled the plug on both operations.
Fortunately, President George W. Bush was decisive both in identifying our enemy and in responding. "This nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation," the president said, in preparation for launching the Global War on Islamic Terrorism.
Global indeed. The Patriot Post coined the term "Jihadistan" to refer to the borderless nation of Islamic extremists that constitutes al-Qa'ida and other Muslim terrorist groups around the world.
Within days of 9/11, Bush specifically identified OBL and his Taliban support network as the perpetrators of the attack, and within three weeks, Operation Enduring Freedom - Afghanistan was underway. OEF-A was followed by OEF campaigns to capture or kill members of al-Qa'ida and other Islamic terrorist groups around the world, including operations in the Philippines, Horn of Africa, Pankisi Gorge, Trans-Sahara regions, Kyrgyzstan, the Caribbean and Central America.
Seventeen months and 17 toothless United Nations resolutions later, George Bush finally launched Operation Iraqi Freedom.
On 9/12, there had been grave doubts about whether our nation could prevent another catastrophic attack in the days and weeks ahead -- much less whether the Bush administration could keep the homeland free from major attack for the remaining seven-plus years of Bush's presidency. There were also questions about whether OEF and OIF would be sufficient to contain Jihadi elements.
As noted in The Patriot Post's five-part National Security Primer, our objective has been to keep the battle on our enemy's turf, and keep them off of ours. That was the central theme of the Bush Preemption Doctrine behind OEF and OIF.
Make no mistake: It is not for a lack of Islamo-Fascist will that we have avoided another massive attack; indeed, individual jihadists have, during the first 30 months of the Obama administration, launched a failed Christmas Day airline bombing and a failed Times Square bombing, as well as a successfully murderous assault on Fort Hood. Despite this -- and as affirmed by classified cable traffic regarding interdiction operations -- our Armed Forces, law enforcement and intelligence agencies have established an effective, though certainly not impenetrable, gauntlet against such an attack. We have dodged many bullets over the last decade.
Predictably, the most significant obstacles to our national security during the Bush years came in the form of opposition from bed-wetting pantywaists on the Left. Our enemies have been greatly emboldened by Leftist traitors in Congress and their efforts to undermine President Bush's re-election prospects by politicizing questions about the Iraqi WMD threat while thousands of American combat personnel were in harm's way.
Second only to the Left's aiding and abetting the enemy is that of their Leftmedia sycophants.
Recall if you will these words, first reported by The Patriot Post: "I say to you: that we are in a battle, and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media." That quote is part of an intercepted and authenticated communiqué from Osama bin Laden's chief lieutenant, Sheikh Ayman Muhammad al-Zawahiri, to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, before the murderous Zarqawi's termination in June 2006.
A typical example of these enemy sympathizers in the MSM would be the Newsweek magazine cover story proclaiming "We're losing." On page three of that 2006 edition, Newsweek's subtext read: "Winning is no longer a question; it's about avoiding total defeat." The next page offered a teaser from the magazine's former editor, Jon Meacham, in which he asserted, "To say that America is losing in Iraq ... is not unpatriotic. Far from it."
On the infotainment front emerged media sensations like Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 and its long list of deceits.
At the end of George Bush's tenure as president, the greatest threat to U.S. national security emerged, a threat from both the enemies domestic and enemies foreign. That threat is in the person of an Islamic sympathizer, Barack Hussein Obama.
Since 9/11, though Western nations have avoided catastrophic attacks, we have certainly not avoided tactical assaults. There have been bloody Islamist assaults against civilians in Moscow, Bali, Spain and the UK. In the U.S., we foiled planned attacks against targets such as Fort Dix and the Manhattan subway, and we were lucky for the incompetence of the aforementioned Christmas Day "underwear" bomber and Times Square car bomber.
The most significant Jihadi assault against the U.S. occurred on 5 November 2009, when Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a U.S. Army psychiatrist, yelled "Allahu Akbar!" as he opened fire, murdering 14 and wounding 29 others at Fort Hood, Texas. That an out-and-out jihadist such as Hassan was allowed in uniform is a testament to political correctness run amok, and to the abject failure of "diversity" policies, especially in our military.
After years of slugging it out with jihadists in Iraq, August of 2011 became the first month since OIF's opening salvo that not a single American combat fatality was recorded there. However, last month in Afghanistan, in the wake of Barack Obama's announcement of his planned withdrawal, we recorded the highest number of combat fatalities there since the launch of OEF-A.
The killing of Osama bin Laden in May, and the subsequent termination of the latest of OBL's chief lieutenants to pop up, Atiyah al-Rahman, has created something of a false sense of security.
But the media tribulations proclaiming we have not been attacked in the 10 years since 9/11 should be tempered by the words of Mark Twain: "Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." Al-Qa'ida may be down, but Islamo-Fascism 2.0 is thriving. The threat of a catastrophic WMD attack on our nation remains very real, as does the threat of local and regional disruptive tactical terrorist assaults. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta may be accurate in his claim "that we have put al-Qa'ida on the path to defeat," but Islamo-Fascism is alive and well.
For an example of our current complacency, look no further than our continued porous southern border, or consider our Transportation Security Administration, which performs body searches on grandmothers and infants rather than conducting terrorist profiling.
We are in a Long War against a formidable enemy, yet our national security continues to be undermined by competing political agendas. Weak-kneed politicians continue to placate Islamists, even seriously considering the use of our tax dollars to build a mosque just two blocks from the 9/11 memorial.
Setting politics aside, it's instructive to note that terrorist threat vectors against the U.S. have two components: intention and operational capability. To that end, a colleague who is a senior ground ops command officer in Afghanistan sent me his opinion from enemy territory this morning: "Jihadi extremism is a virus, or maybe a genetic mutation. I'm not optimistic that we'll see it checked in our lifetimes. The odds of anyone pulling off another 9/11 are pretty slim, but they'll find something equally shocking to do soon enough. The path Pakistan is on should give us all pause. Jihadis have the will and I think it's a matter of when, not if, they will obtain the means (WMD). And they are determined to use it."
So are we safer today? Yes.
Are we safe today? No!
We must take concrete steps to overcome the bureaucratic impediments to effective national security, not the least of which is gutting the bloated Department of Homeland Security. Moreover, we need to remain vigilant as citizens -- and maintain a reasonable level of knowledge and individual preparedness in order to respond and recover from the next catastrophic attack -- and there is one in the plans just over the horizon.
Mark Alexander is the executive editor of the Patriot Post.