On December 26, two days after Nigerian Omar Abdulmutallaballegedly attempted to use underwear packed with plastic explosives to blow up the Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight he was on, and as it became clear internally that the Administration had suffered perhaps its most embarrassing failure in the area of national security, senior Obama White House aides, including chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrodand new White House counsel Robert Bauer, ordered staff to begin researching similar breakdowns -- if any -- from the Bush Administration.
"The idea was that we'd show that the Bush Administration had had far worse missteps than we ever could," says a staffer in the counsel's office. "We were told that classified material involving anything related to al Qaeda operating in Yemen or Nigeria was fair game and that we'd declassify it if necessary."
The White House, according to the source, is in full defensive spin mode. Other administration sources also say a flurry of memos were generated on December 26th, 27th, and 28th, which developed talking points about how Obama's decision to effectively shut down the Homeland Security Council (it was merged earlier this year into the National Security Council, run by National Security Adviser James Jones) had nothing to do with what Obama called a "catastrophic" failure on Christmas Day.
"This White House doesn't view the Northwest [Airlines] failure as one of national security, it's a political issue," says the White House source. "That's why Axelrod and Emanuel are driving the issue."
Axelrod, who has no foreign policy or national security experience beyond occasionally consulting with liberal or progressive candidates running for political office in foreign countries, has been actively participating in national security briefings from the beginning of the administration. He has also sat in on Obama's "war council" meetings, providing Obama with suggestions in both venues based on what he knows about polling and public opinion data, say several White House sources.
It's nice to know the Obama administration has its priorities straight.
Obama knows that what the public really needs right now is to hear that a catastrophic security breach one year into Obama's term was the previous president's fault.
I suffer from a motor neuron disorder, in my case a variant of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS): Lou Gehrig's disease. Motor neuron disorders are far from rare: Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and a variety of lesser diseases all come under that heading. What is distinctive about ALS—the least common of this family of neuro-muscular illnesses—is firstly that there is no loss of sensation (a mixed blessing) and secondly that there is no pain. In contrast to almost every other serious or deadly disease, one is thus left free to contemplate at leisure and in minimal discomfort the catastrophic progress of one's own deterioration.
In effect, ALS constitutes progressive imprisonment without parole. First you lose the use of a digit or two; then a limb; then and almost inevitably, all four. The muscles of the torso decline into near torpor, a practical problem from the digestive point of view but also life-threatening, in that breathing becomes at first difficult and eventually impossible without external assistance in the form of a tube-and-pump apparatus. In the more extreme variants of the disease, associated with dysfunction of the upper motor neurons (the rest of the body is driven by the so-called lower motor neurons), swallowing, speaking, and even controlling the jaw and head become impossible. I do not (yet) suffer from this aspect of the disease, or else I could not dictate this text.
By my present stage of decline, I am thus effectively quadriplegic. With extraordinary effort I can move my right hand a little and can adduct my left arm some six inches across my chest. My legs, although they will lock when upright long enough to allow a nurse to transfer me from one chair to another, cannot bear my weight and only one of them has any autonomous movement left in it. Thus when legs or arms are set in a given position, there they remain until someone moves them for me. The same is true of my torso, with the result that backache from inertia and pressure is a chronic irritation. Having no use of my arms, I cannot scratch an itch, adjust my spectacles, remove food particles from my teeth, or anything else that—as a moment's reflection will confirm—we all do dozens of times a day. To say the least, I am utterly and completely dependent upon the kindness of strangers (and anyone else).
Clifford D. May highlights some lessons from the Christmas Day terror attack on Flight 253
Here are the main points (read it all):
1. Real security means looking for terrorists — not for weapons.
2. Terrorism is not a criminal justice matter; it is a weapon of asymmetric warfare.
3. We can’t make ourselves inoffensive to militant Islamists.
The first point is rapidly becoming conventional wisdom. The second point is understood by sophisticated observers of the criminal justice system.
The final point -- that we will never reach a the moment in which terrorists are appeased and no longer want to kill us -- is still a difficult concept for many in the West to wrap their brains around. Here's May's way of putting it:
President Obama’s Cairo speech, his respectful outreach to Iran’s radical mullahs, his pledge to close Guantanamo, his ban on coercive interrogations, his multicultural family history and his middle name — none of this has had the slightest impact on those dedicated to waging holy war against what they see as the “Satanic” West.
Our enemies have many grievances — from our support of Israel to our interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen to our laissez-faire attitudes toward women and homosexuals. Nothing we do to appease them will be enough because what they really want is to humiliate, defeat, and dominate us; to force us to live under sharia law, embrace their religion as they interpret it, or suffer the consequences due arrogant infidels. We know this because they tell us.
I add this: It's their worldview or ours that will prevail, and our worldview will ultimately win because it is better, stronger, and nobler. Freedom, mercy, kindness, and equal opportunity will always win in the long run over tryanny and ruthlessness, for those traits bear the seeds of their own eventual destruction.
Yet today Islamists are still attacking, injuring and killing hundreds and thousands of innocents around the world, month by month, year by year. Collectively, jihadists demand -- they insist on -- a death match, and they reject the hand of mercy.
Their sickness is spiritual and moral, and it runs deep. The jihadist is so spirtually sick at heart that he needs a reason to kill. If no reason exists, he will invent one.
Law enforcement agencies all over the world employ highly skilled professionals to create detailed "profiles" for suspects in the most heinous of crimes. Creating a profile saves time, money, and other resources by focusing an investigation on as small a subset of the general population as possible. In the name of political correctness and in order to placate agitator "victim" groups like CAIR, the TSA, airline employees and security agencies at airports around the world routinely ignore those who fit the profile for potential airline terrorists: Middle Eastern or North African Muslim men between the ages of 18 and 40.
Unfortunately, the current U.S. administration lives and breathes on political correctness. As a result, it will be extremely difficult for it to make a 180 degree turn and begin giving special screening attention to male Muslims.
Even if that's a logical and necessary thing to do.
[T]he administration doesn’t even have a name for what it is purportedly fighting against. Is the Detroit jihadist a criminal, an isolated extremist, an alleged attacker, a suspect, or an individual? I’m only asking because President Obama has used all of the above to describe Abdul Mutallab, the TERRORIST who attempted to destroy the plane.
And yet, in listening to the President since his first comments on the thwarted attack, not once did he use the term terrorist (or jihadist, or Islamic extremist, or enemy combatant, for that matter) when describing Mutallab. What kind of message are we sending to our enemy? They have declared perpetual war on us, when we can’t even bring ourselves to accurately describe them for fear of offending them?
What does that extreme reluctance to focus energy on those who fit the profile for Islamic terrorism -- or even to call terrorism by it name -- mean for practical purposes?
It means that somewhere, someday, innocent civilians on a plane are going to have to die.
Gina Cobb: "As the year draws to a close . . . let's remember the real Man of the Year: General David Petraeus, for turning possible defeat into likely victory in Iraq. Thank you, General. Thank you, Commander-in-Chief. Thank you, America's troops. Well done!"
Gina Cobb: Was Saddam more or less afraid than his innocent victims who were thrown off buildings in handcuffs, killed in meat grinders, killed with nitric acid, detonated with explosives, or otherwise tortured to death?