Advertisements

Anniversaries and Anxiety

Today is September 11, a date filled with dread. No American can help looking back in horror at the terror attacks that occurred on this day in New York City and Washington, D.C., in 2001, or at an American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, nor nervously looking ahead for what might happen today. That nagging worry has occurred on this date for the past 14 years, but seems especially hard to shake this year.
The Islamist bloodlust that caused the past terror attacks is as impassioned as ever, and those afflicted with this ancient hatred have lately been conquering a large portion of the Middle East with beheadings and crucifixions, waging war against Israel with rockets lobbed into random civilians, committing the usual atrocities against one another, and issuing threats of mass murder against the west generally the United States specifically. It was once easy enough to dismiss such threats as mere Islamist bluster, but not now. Among the terrorist army rampaging through Middle East are hundreds of people with western passports that will get less scrutiny than the randomly selected businessman or tourist standing behind him at the airport, our  porous border with Mexico can’t keep out an illiterate and impoverished Guatemalan teenager much less an educated and well-funded terrorist, two Americans have been beheaded and others are being held awaiting the same fate, and the president’s prime time explanation of his hastily formulated strategy for dealing with the main Islamist threat on Wednesday offered no reassurance that our government is up to the challenge.
We’re not the only ones with this sense of foreboding. The United Kingdom has elevated its level of alertness in response to what the Prime Minister calls the “greatest terrorist threat in history,” Australia is considering doing the same, and a threatened king in Saudi Arabia has warned of attacks in the United States within months. A senior official at the Department of Homeland Security has told congress of Islamist plots to infiltrate the southern border, and although the agency quickly denied anything was currently afoot the brass at the Fort Bliss Army base near El Paso has been ordered to implement increased security measures. Polling data show that the public at large is lately more worried about the threat of terrorism, too, and the president’s appearing on prime television to admit that al-Qaeda is not on the run and the tide of war is not receding and our enemies are not a junior varsity team suggest that he at long last has the same necessary worry something big might happen.
He’s probably not yet so worried that he’ll reconsider his ban on detaining terrorists at Guantanamo Bay or using the harsh-interrogations that have successfully thwarted past terrorist plots, or his supposedly more moral preference for drone strikes that incinerate the terrorists and anyone who happens to be in the vicinity, or his instruction to Israel that even existential wars must be fought with the utmost politeness. Wednesday’s speech alternated tough talk about a “core principle” of his administration that “If you threaten America you will find no safe haven” with reassurances to his dwindling base of hippie peaceniks about the many things that he won’t do to the fight the enemy.
The president has recently described the country as “pretty safe,” a rather modest boast that he was obliged to admit he could make only because of all the national security apparatus created by his hated predecessor, and we’d like to believe it. Something about September 11 makes it difficult, though, so we’ll say a prayer, keep our fingers crossed and the radio on, and hope to be less anxious on September 12.

— Bud Norman

Advertisements

Another Vacation From History

Why did Nero fiddle as Rome burned? Because golf had not yet been invented.
That’s about the best joke we can come up with in these glum days of the republic, and of course it was inspired by President Barack Obama’s latest vacation. We don’t mean to begrudge the poor fellow some rest and relaxation, as he has a lot of responsibilities to dodge, but now does seem an odd to be heading off to the links. Not that we think it would do any good for him to be hanging around the White House during the ongoing crises, but even such supportive press pundits as the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank are thinking it makes for “bad optics,” as they say in the politics biz, and it leaves him wide open to cheap shots from less sympathetic pundits such as ourselves.
At least he was on the job right up to the very moment his helicopter whisked him away, dodging responsibility at a news conference for the current crucifixions-and-everything mess in Iraq. One of the reporters had the lese-majeste to ask if the current slaughter being inflicted on that unfortunate nation by the Islamic State in Levant gang that the president had recently dismissed as a “jayvee team” of terrorists had caused him to reconsider his decision in 2011 to remove all the American troops that had successfully been keeping a sort of peace there. “What I find it interesting is the degree to which this issue keeps on coming up,’ he replied, “as if this was my decision.”
We find it interesting that the president finds it interesting such an obvious question keeps coming up, and quite surprising that he would now claim it wasn’t his decision to bug out of the country. He ran for election on promise to do so, ran for re-election on the boast that he had kept that promise, and had cited the stable and peaceable Iraq that he had left behind as one of his administration’s greatest achievement. There was also some talk about the status of forces agreement that his predecessor had negotiated, although that always went unmentioned when he was boasting about the withdrawal, and some more talk about the impossibility of negotiating a new treaty that might have averted the present catastrophe, but it won’t make much difference except to the more dedicated people who voted for him because of the decision he now disavows.
Those die-hard fans will happily credit Obama with the decision to pull all of America’s troops from Iraq and simultaneously blame his predecessor for the catastrophic consequences, as is their wont. Back when the Solyndra company opened its shiny new factory Obama was eager to credit it to his stimulus bill, when it went belly-up he blamed it on a Bush-era program, and at both points his loyal fans nodded in agreement. The president tells the die-hard environmentalists that he’s fighting domestic coal and oil production tooth-and-nail, tells the rest of the country that he’s presided over an energy boom, and gets the same hearty applause on both occasions. He rails against the stingy Republican nay-sayers who won’t fund his transformative and expensive agenda, boasts about he’s halved the budget deficit since they took over from a rubber-stamp Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, and can count on none of his fans getting suspicious. Until recently he could also count on the major media to politely ignore the contradictions. He can even rail against income inequality in between opulent vacations on fashionable Martha’s Vineyard and golfs on a famed course with well-heeled ex-jocks without the utter hypocrisy being highlighted on the late night comedy shows.
None of this does any does any good for the Christians or Yazidis ofr the less fruitcake varieties of Muslims who have lately been slaughtered in the most archaic ways by that jayvee team that the president had laughingly dismissed as nothing to worry about, and at this point we don’t think it will do any better for the Democratic candidates trying to win congressional seats in the upcoming mid-term elections. The press is starting to notice that the world is unraveling from a lack of American leadership, not just in Iraq but in Syria and Libya and Gaza and Ukraine and the South China sea, and and that 99 percent that the president stands for is starting to notice that they’re not invited.

— Bud Norman