As the constant drumbeat of the colossally stupid “fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here” and “we must be safer since we haven’t been attacked since 9/11” memes fail to fade from discourse, a consistent pattern has emerged with respect to the “terror plots” (and I use the quotes since some of these are absolutely absurd as far as true plots go) which we are hearing about.
The latest one being the “alleged plot to destroy JFK airport” - it is yet another reminder of a few very basic things:
- The ability of these plots to actually be “carried out” is generally negligible (remember the one about taking down the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch?);
- If we are to count instances of “true” domestic terrorism (you know, including suspicious packages at abortion clinics or school shootings or men driving around Maryland killing people at random), very few of these are linked to “those who we are fighting ‘over there’”;
- Even lending credence to these so called “plots” as bona fide plots that could or would do a tremendous amount of damage, we most certainly are “fighting them over here” (whomever “them” or “they” are); and
- Most importantly they are being uncovered or “foiled” with REAL terror fighting tools - intelligence and law enforcement, not the military and indiscriminate bombings.
Back during the 2004 Presidential campaign, John Kerry made a comment that the overwhelmingly whipped-into-a-frenzy part of this country was not ready to hear:
When I asked Kerry what it would take for Americans to feel safe again, he displayed a much less apocalyptic worldview. ''We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance,'' Kerry said. ''As a former law-enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life.''
Of course, this comment was as true as it was twisted out of context by the talking meatsticks and chest thumping chickenhawks. And just for the sake of argument, let’s just assume that all of the “terror plots” were valid and feasible – just to show how ass-backwards so many people still are when it comes to what is going on in the world since “9/11 changed everything”.
Just as the United Kingdom has been dealing with the IRA (and even recent terror plots), just as Spain has been dealing with ETA, just as other countries deal with “terrorism” within their borders - law enforcement, communication and cooperation between governmental agencies as well as good solid intelligence are what disrupts these “plots”. NOT bombing every country whose “citizen” happens to be here in the US and involved in the plot.
Take today’s Bergen Record story on the JFK “plot” as the latest perfect example:
"This terror plot is ... different in that it has distinct ties to the Caribbean, and this is an area in which we have growing concerns and requires more focus," New York Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said.
Officials said they had been monitoring the plot for more than a year. According to the criminal complaint, the four men allegedly began plotting around January 2006.
The investigation was conducted by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and investigators worked with e-mails, tapes and transcripts. An informant also infiltrated the group.
"This was the ultimate hand-and-glove operation between NYPD and FBI," said Rep. Peter King, R-Long Island, a member of the U.S. Homeland Security Committee.
Non al-Qaeda. Monitoring this for over a year. NYPD and the FBI working together. Life not disrupted and not the very fabric of everyone in the NY/NJ area’s life. What a novel concept. Maybe Kerry was onto something…..
What about the “notorious” Fort Dix Six – whose plot to attack a military base was held up as “chilling reminders” of terrorism here at home? Even republican NJ Representative Jim Saxton talked about how to “fight them over here”:
Our country was built on democratic values and freedoms, and has always been host to immigrants from all over the world. Who wants to live in a constant state of paranoia and suspicion toward our neighbors? We'd prefer to focus on our work, families, school and enjoying the things life has to offer. It's our nature to become complacent - but somehow we need to raise our level of awareness to terrorism.
We can do this by taking advantage of community-based programs such as those offered by law enforcement or neighborhood watch programs as well as initiatives such as the New Jersey-based Community Anti-Terrorism Training Institute. Becoming educated about the threat is a basic first step.
The first line of defense resides with our citizens and local law enforcement.
Wow – a terrorist sympathizing republican saying that we should just raise our awareness as we go about our lives. Kind of like being vigilant and make sure that terrorism doesn’t take over the very fabric of our lives. Praising law enforcement in its’ role.
And (ignoring the fact that they were called “wannabes”), there was the “homegrown” (meaning: fighting them over here) terrorists – five of whom were US citizens - who were “planning” (in the loosest sense possible) to take down the Sears Tower. How was this plot foiled?
Batiste met several times in December 2005 with a person purporting to be an al-Qaida member and asked for boots, uniforms, machine guns, radios, vehicles and $50,000 in cash to help him build an “‘Islamic Army’ to wage jihad’,” the indictment said. It said that Batiste said he would use his “soldiers” to destroy the Sears Tower.
Gonzales said “the individual they thought was a member of al-Qaida was present at their meetings and in actuality he was working with the South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force.”
Once again, local law enforcement.
I could go on and on. The plot to blow up the PATH train in NYC and flooding the tunnels - foiled by months long cooperation between law enforcement and foreign governments. Cyanide attacks in the NYC subway system “uncovered by the US” before being called “not credible” by Richard Clarke. “Threats to attack NYC by Iran” - illogical and only reported by the NY Post - yet being tracked by NYPD.
Again – many of these are as ridiculous as the blowtorch on the Brooklyn Bridge plot. But even if we are to take them seriously, especially if we are asked to take them seriously, it is worth reinforcing a few major points.
Many of these have absolutely NOTHING to do with Iraq, al Qaeda or 9/11. None of these would have been “foiled” by bombing or invading the countries where the “plotters” were from. And most of all, all of these were tracked and disrupted (regardless of the feasibility) by law enforcement and intelligence – while NOT being the major overriding focal point of our day to day lives.
Too bad Kerry was derided back in 2004 – he was right on the ball with this one. Who knows how much money and lives (and what little goodwill would have remained) could have been saved if more people listened to him in 2004.