My problem with this latest terrorist attack

From its earliest creation, the no-fly list has been problematic at best. I don’t know how you get on this list. I also have no idea how you get off the list. It remains unclear who checks the list to make sure the people who are on this list should be on it. From my standpoint, I really don’t care who is in charge of the list and who maintains it just as long as the list is accurate. Five years ago, Yusef Islam, more commonly known as Cat Stevens, the guy who sang Peace Train was found to be on the no-fly watch list.

Now, five years later, we have a Nigerian student, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, whose name was on some list, but not the no-fly list. More than a month ago, this guy’s father went to the Nigerian embassy and told officials that he was worried about his son. I don’t know how often this happens. Maybe fathers go to embassies on a daily basis and state that their sons have joined radical sects of Islam. I think it probably happens rarely and would investigate it, but what does a trauma surgeon know about terrorism? American officials did little or nothing with the information. It seems to me that a rookie could take the information given by the father, a prominent businessman in Nigeria, and combine it with the fact that Umar Farouk was living in London, a place where we know several radical clerics live. It seems that that information, in and of itself, is enough to start an investigation.

This the same kind of problem we saw in 9/11. We saw the same lack of connecting the dots.

Abdulmutallab seems to have almost the exact same background as Osama bin Laden. Both have prominent fathers. Both grew up relatively well off compared to the rest of the population. Both went off to some foreign environment and got radicalized. This seems to be a pattern. I wonder if our intelligence officials have picked up on it.

Now I’m not a chemist. I did take two years of chemistry plus a year of organic chemistry. (I won’t mention the physical chemistry, since I really don’t remember any of it.) PETN is an explosive. It’s one of the key ingredients in Semtex, a plastic explosive. It is the exact same chemical that Richard Reid (the shoe bomber) tried to detonate. I have no idea how one would get his hands on something like this. I would figure that it is a relatively controlled substance. Can dogs smell the stuff? Can it be x-rayed? (If not, then why are we taking off our shoes?)

It seems to me that mob rule, which is what happened here when the passengers overpowered Abdulmutallab, isn’t a consistently effective way to control terrorism. Are we all going to have to learn karate before getting on our next flight?

Finally, Republicans are acting as expected. They are running around and pointing the finger at Barack Obama. Some have even stated that the Obama administration hasn’t taken the risk of terrorism seriously. This is of course utter nonsense. What the Bush administration could not achieve is now left for Obama to try to do — make the FBI and Homeland Security work for the American people. About two years, ago, I asked Richard Clarke if the CIA is working with the FBI in close harmony. His answer was “not really.” This is what we need.

0 Responses

  1. Well, when you eliminate the word “terrorism” from the vocabulary and call it “man-caused disasters,” and when you move a military matter (9/11 trial) to civilian courts, and when the terrorist from Christmas Day is held in civilian jail and has court-appointed defense, and when you take more than 3 days to respond to the terrorist attack (don’t tell me Obama was being “thoughtful”), and when terrorism is considered a law enforcement matter, and when too many folks are more concerned with offending someone’s feelings than profiling terrorists (such as this guy the other day and Maj. Hasan at Ft. Hood), and when Gitmo detainees can’t be waterboarded and instead are released and then given “art therapy programs” (which includes water colors), then that tells me the Obama administration is definitely not taking this seriously at all.

  2. Just admit it, you hate this man. It’s actually nothing that he could do to please you. If you walked on water, you would criticize him for not being able swim.

    The president was briefed immediately as soon as the story broke. As far as I know, he did not respond to his briefers with the classic phrase, “Okay, you’ve covered your ass.” This is what has been widely reported that President Bush said after getting his classic briefing — the August 6 PDB.

    You might be willing to throw away over 200 years of military tradition. I’m not. George Washington and form his troops that we were going to treat the British with dignity and respect. This is in spite of the fact that the British treated our soldiers worse than slaves. During World War II, we treated German soldiers with dignity and respect in spite of the atrocities that the German government inflicted on the peoples of the world. This included Death Marches in which Americans were forced to march with insufficient food or water. In case you’re wondering, this is a form of torture. Yet, as a government, we never gave in. We never became our enemy. We still prevailed.

    I will continue to oppose torture and all of its forms. It is not what makes us great. Our compassion, our creativity and ingenuity has made us a great country for over 200 years. My God, the Judeo-Christian God teaches compassion and humility. I will treat my enemies with dignity and respect. Yet, when the time comes, I will not hesitate to focus my laser sight right between their eyes and fire — twice. Just as we incarcerated the blind Sheik, Salameh, Nidal Ayyad, Mahmud Abouhalima, Ahmad Ajaj and Ramzi Yousef. All of these terrorists are sitting behind bars. All these terrorists have had their day in court. They all had a chance to stand up and say whatever it is they wanted to say and it changed nothing. No Muslims got radicalized by their rantings in court. They like the other hundreds of thousands of other prisoners that we have in our court systems are being taken care of. They will die and almost nobody will notice.

  3. The military industrial complex needs an enemy.  The soviet “evil” empire has been replaced with ‘evil’ terrorists.  The competitive natures of these policing agencies imply no common goal in stopping attacks. We won’t ever have peace from terror attacks until we stop teaching war and aggression as solutions to disagreements over resource allocations.

  4. Let’s see … the 1993 WTC bombing was handled entirely in federal court and concluded in the conviction of two suspects in 1997.

    Terrorists are not comic-book supervillains. Investing them with vast numbers and legions of the faithful willing to strap explosive devices to their nuts only serves their goals, not our security.

    The tools to detect PETN exist, but were not being used at the Amsterdam airport.

    The information about Abdulmutallab was there, but not being shared and/or acted upon.

    It is, as President Obama stated, a systemic failure which we keep repeating.

    And, in the end, when it comes down to it, there’s this FAILED attempt on Obama’s watch … and 9/11 on Bush’s watch. Never forget that we’re in this mess because Bush wasn’t TAKING IT SERIOUSLY.

  5. “Homeland Securtity” is just a fancy name for “secret police”. It shold be dismantled along with the euphmistic “Patriot Act” before they cause any lasting harm to this country.

    And the real terrorists are the ones appearing on “Fox News & “Talk Radio”.

  6. IMHO, good security requires being fundamentally honest with yourself, and this is something the whole Homeland Security/USA PATRIOT train wreck lacks in abundance.

  7. Okay, I’m curious … how would additional military spending have prevented the oversights/lapses of airport security and intelligence gathering/sharing that keep recurring in situations like this?

  8. I suppose cat stevens name is still there because he’s yet to refute his call for murdering a writer who was erroneously accused of defaming Allah.

  9. oh well, he explained that he was only ‘kidding’. Well yes, THAT explains it.

    some jokester, yuk yuk

    Perfectly ok to joke about murdering someone, right?

    he’s so funny that my sides hurt from laughing…..

    ….or maybe because it makes me want to vomit

  10. On the opposite side, the military does not supply security, it responds to armed threats from outside forces. Maybe if we spent some of our vast military budget on screening, scanners, and puffers it would really provide us with greater security. But many of the deep thinkers on the right seem to think that increased military activity around the world will make us safer. If we keep killing them, they will keep hating us. Maybe we should consider a little different course of action. These wars for resources will end our country. Why not learn to provide all can for ourselves and not leave ourselves exposed to the black mail of large corporations, OPEC, and other criminal regemes.

  11. I’m not sure that that is the answer. Spending more money cannot be the answer. We spent tons of money. We need to spend our money more wisely. I do agree that the military is not the answer.

  12. stop that. This is supposed to be a logic free zone. It is one of the rules of the Internet. All political discussions will be filled with rhetoric an ideological slogans. No logic allowed.  😀

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.


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