The Symptom

Authors Note:  This was originally published on BlogCritics on Dec. 29, 2009.

It should be known by now that nearly 300 people could have died on Christmas day. Their lives weren’t saved by the TSA or by Janet Napolitano or “outstretched hands.” And despite the very heroic actions of those on the plane, heroes didn’t save the nearly 300 passengers and crew on flight 253. Instead, the only thing that stopped all reasoned and feeling human beings from waking up to a horrible tragedy on Christmas was the incompetence of the terrorist himself. Had his execution been a little bit better, we’d be talking about recovering black boxes right now instead of whether or not the system worked.

As Jennifer Rubin points out, the Obama administration’s handling of this occasion has been characterized by their typical bungling; the initial gaffe, followed by clarification, and then capped off by Obama’s own empty speechifying. Yet, after Obama’s incessant, near daily press conferences since his inauguration, it’s hard to understand why he’d dodge the cameras immediately following the attempted attack, at precisely the time when Americans would have liked to hear from him. In light of 8 years of My Pet Goat ing by the left of the Bush administration, it was pathetic to read lefties on the various blogs, and their media cohorts in the New York Times, and CBS try to explain away as part of some ninja-chessmaster strategy or worse, an inconvenient interruption of Obama’s holiday, the lack of any real response from the Commander-in-Chief following the attack . To have that followed up with Janet Napolitano’s and Robert Gibbs’ foolish comments Sunday morning that “the system worked” provides even more evidence, as if it were needed, that this administration is, horrifically, in way over its head, cheered on by a hyper-partisan left which will applaud any action or lack thereof, whether it’s ultimately good or bad for the country.

But it’s not the administration’s immediate response that is the problem. While this last experience emphasizes a particular incompetence at basic crisis management and communication skills, and while many of the questions being raised now about racial and behavioral profiling and other preventative tactics are good discussions, I think many people are missing the larger point.  Consider that, in the year since Obama has taken office, we are no longer fighting the Bush War on Terror. As one of her first actions as head of the DHS, and grabbing onto the mantle of change, Janet Napolitano revised the wording for the War on Terror as “Overseas Contingency Operations” and the attacks themselves as “Man-Caused Disasters.” And although it had no credible threats to support the concern, in April 2009 Napolitano’s own DHS warned law enforcement organizations throughout the country that they should be on the lookout for terrorists — not Islamic terrorists working in cahoots with, or in the spirit of, Al Qaeda, but rather terrorists following the supposed fatwah of radio personality Rush Limbaugh.

On the foreign policy front, the Obama administration has gone through pains to ingratiate itself with its enemies, including the likes of Iran, which actively sponsors terror and is directly responsible for killing American troops in Iraq. Meanwhile, our allies have been disenfranchised or even insulted outright in many cases. The total lack of American leadership, or at a minimum vocal support, for the burgeoning revolution in Iran was a hit on democracy and human rights, and boosted the proponents of tyranny and oppression across the globe. Our silence also directly hurt our interests in Iran, which incidentally continues its pursuit of nukes (and has now started rubbing it in our face).

On Afghanistan, the supposed “good war”: after taking months to respond to his appointed general’s pleas for more troops (this after already claiming to make the decision to fight in the spring), Obama begrudgingly agreed to send some, but not all, of the troops requested, along with an expiration date. This was the good war, the war we must fight. But only for about 18 months, of course.

Repeating the mistakes of 9/11, our government has gone back to treating terrorism primarily as a criminal matter. Note Obama’s decision to move terrorists to U.S. prisons, complete with (inexplicably), constitutional rights, at least in some situations. Also note his decision to try the main perpetrators of 9/11 in federal criminal courts in New York City as if these terrorists merely broke federal law, as opposed to attacking the country in an act of war. All the while, political correctness rather than concern for our nation colors the very lens through which the Obama administration sees the world, as we saw with their steadfast denial that the shootings at Ft Hood and other “lone wolf” attacks by sympathizers of Al Qaeda in the name of Islam were terrorism, and were instead just cases of individual mental illness. I suppose that Napolitano would have taken these attacks a bit more seriously had one of the dead in Ft. Hood been a practicing abortion doctor instead of mere military personnel enroute to fight our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Further demoralizing those heroic Americans who risk their lives every day so we can go about our day in ignorant safety, Obama’s AG Holder continues his investigation into the CIA’s methods used on captured terrorists in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. This, even though the methods were already investigated once before, used sparingly, and in spite of the fact that agents were operating under the counsel of government attorneys at the time, and in the best interests of the country. Rubbing salt into this gaping wound are the courts martial this year of three Navy Seals for punching in the stomach a captured terrorist described by CNN as an “alleged mastermind of one of the most notorious crimes against Americans in Iraq.”

While the debate rages over screening techniques and new carry-on luggage rules, the real story goes untold. Our enemies are emboldened by our President’s extremely inadequate foreign policy leadership and are undeterred by the threat of habeas corpus, Miranda rights and legal representation as punishment for their attacks. Those Americans who have volunteered to take on the responsibility of protecting us are slapped down and demonized at every turn by this administration, even while heroically doing their jobs in the aftermath of 9/11 and in the impossible warfare conditions of Iraq or Afghanistan today.

As the rapper Nas likes to say, “it ain’t hard to tell” this is how flight 253 happened, lives saved by the mercy of evil’s incompetence, not by the will of an America serious about protecting herself.