One expects political candidates to make the most of current events to press their case to the electorate. As such, the series of bombs Ahmad Khan Rahami tried to set off last weekend were fodder for the campaign trail. What is bizarre is when the editorial board of a major newspaper tells you that a few dozen Americans getting killed by terrorists is no big deal because otherwise they might listen to a candidate opposed by that editorial board.
FIRST THE San Bernardino shooting, then the Pulse nightclub massacre, and now the Chelsea bombings: A recent spate of attacks by homegrown terrorists threatens to erode the country’s trust in the nation’s anti-terrorism efforts and push national-security law out of the careful balance Congress has recently struck. That’s not to mention the opportunity for demagogues such as Donald Trump to sell dangerous non-solutions to fearful Americans.
The Chelsea episode in particular appears to have been another near-miss on the part of the FBI, which looked into the alleged bomber, Ahmad Khan Rahami, in 2014. Mr. Rahami returned from spending several months in and around the terrorist haven of Quetta, Pakistan, that year. Then, following an episode of domestic violence, the FBI got word that Mr. Rahami may have radical leanings. Mr. Rahami’s father claims he raised red flags in interviews with federal law enforcement officers. But government officials have challenged his account in conversations with reporters, maintaining that officers could not discern meaningful ties to terrorism or radicalization.
Yet Mr. Rahami was radicalizing. The results were not nearly as bloody as those of the gruesome 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. But in both cases government agents appeared to have some warning.
This in nonsense. We aren’t talking about one guy who slipped through the crack. Most of the terror attacks carried out in the United States since Barack Obama became president were carried out by men who had been approached and questioned by the FBI. In the case of the San Bernardino shooters there was ample evidence, revealed after the fact, that should have brought one or both of them to the attention of counterterrorism officials… not the least of which was her fraudulent marriage visa application.
What the Washington Post is doing is blaming Americans for being afraid of terror attacks because our law enforcement agencies apparently are reluctant to actually investigate Muslim extremists. For years the FBI has been beating the drum of “home grown” (read that as white) terrorist based in militias (hey, the 1990s called and they want their bogeymen back) and the “sovereign citizen” movement. To date, none of these groups have shot up a recruiting office or an Army base or blown up runners in a marathon or slaughtered a holiday party but we are supposed to be grateful to the FBI for having thwarted these non-events.
Donald Trump’s rhetoric is an attack of failure. He offers moonshine solutions that are only plausible because the professionals have failed so catastrophically that no one believes the professionals. That is where we are at with terrorism. We see these failures time and again. No one is punished. No one even dares speak the name of the enemy. The professionals tell us “suck it up.” The media basically says that if a few of us get killed, so what? We need to keep our eye on the bigger picture. And they just don’t understand why people don’t listen to them.