The carnage carried out in London yesterday is not, unfortunately, the last of these types of terrorist attacks. In fact, the likelihood is we will see more of these kinds of attacks as time goes on.
Following the terror attacks of September 2001, the United States, partnering with allies around the world, thwarted any number of large-scale attacks and put a stranglehold on Al Qaeda’s money. Al Qaeda operates as a network with leaders who control various areas and the disbursement of money. The planning for the 9/11 attacks started in 1999. It was a sophisticated attack requiring a significant amount of planning and money. The United States and other nations have largely been free from large-scale attacks because there are direct lines for investigators and operatives to follow, allowing them to do the necessary work to prevent the attacks from being carried out.
Law enforcement and intelligence officials will find their work more difficult with the threat of homegrown terrorism. It’s nothing new. For example, three of the four terrorists who carried out the London subway attacks in 2005 were British-born, and the other was born in Jamaica. The dilemma is the frequency of these types of attacks are increasing with alarming speed, and we’re almost powerless to prevent them as they seemingly spring up out of nowhere. It’s only after the terrorist is captured or killed that we learn more about the perpetrator and any trips made to places such as Syria or Afghanistan or any alliances they made with radical organizations.
I was out with my kids when my son asked about the London terrorist attacks and by extension, the Manchester bombing.
He said, “What’s the deal with these terrorists being born in the countries they’re attacking?”
I said, “We see more and more of it. We’ve been so concerned about imported threats, we never thought too much about Islamic terrorists raised in Great Britain, France or other European nations.”
“Do you think we’re going to see more of that here in the United States?”
I think the way I casually responded caught him off guard because he was somewhat taken aback. Unfortunately, it’s already happened in the United States. Omar Mateen, who carried out shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people, was born in New York in 1986 and raised in Florida. His life experience and that of others we’ve seen carry out terrorist attacks belie the notion offered up by some people, including President Obama, that terrorism is an outgrowth of poverty. Mateen was raised in a household where neither his sisters or mother wore headscarves. The family was described as “moderate” and “all-American” to people who knew them. Mateen had a troubled history but nothing that might suggest he’d become a terrorist.
So that leads to the obvious question that needs to be asked: What is to stop these kinds of attacks from happening in the United States going forward?
More importantly, are we supposed to accept it as a way of life if it does happen? People argue life goes in in Israel and citizens there understand a way of life that includes the possibility of a terrorist attack. London Mayor Sadiq Khan back in March said it was “part and parcel” of living in a big city:
Mayor Sadiq Khan warned Londoners that terrorist attacks are “part and parcel” of living in a big city in the wake of the September bombing in New York City.
“It is a reality I’m afraid that London, New York, other major cities around the world have got to be prepared for these sorts of things,” Khan told the Evening Standard. “That means being vigilant, having a police force that is in touch with communities, it means the security services being ready, but also it means exchanging ideas and best practice,” he continued.
Is he right? How will a city such as New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles react if they get hit with a terrorist attack that uses unconventional methods such as mowing down people with automobiles and stabbing rampages?
I wish I had answers, but I don’t. As Americans, we get detached from events that don’t happen in our backyard. We sympathize with our British friends, but it’s human nature to not grapple with something until it hits closer to home.
All I know is the homegrown threat of Islamic terror is not going away anytime soon.