Unlike the show of unity in the political environment following September 11, conservatives, out of power and desperate for a line of attack that will actually stick against President Obama, have unleashed a barrage of criticism against the both the president and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, holding them directly responsible for the failure of any government agency to prevent Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from boarding Northwest Airlines Flight 253 this past Christmas Day and attempting to detonate the explosives hidden in his underwear. While examining what went wrong with the system and attempting to fix holes is an important part of security, calling for Napolitano’s head is simply a malicious political maneuver designed to score a political victory.
The main breakdown of American counterterrorism efforts was the failure to revoke Abdulmutallab’s visa after he was placed on a national security watch list. The only reason that he was on the American government’s radar at all was due to his father’s report that he had converted to an extremist form of Islam and that he had been to Yemen. Such vague information does not translate into a solid lead. Furthermore, no American agency is responsible for airport security in Nigeria, where Abdulmutallab’s flight plans originated, or in the Netherlands, where he boarded Flight 253. So although many in the government and the media continue to focus on airport security and counterintelligence failures, they continue to miss the fact that a determined terrorist will always be able to find a way to inflict harm on Americans and ignore the central role U.S. foreign policy continues to play in national security. It is impossible to point to government failure in the attempted Christmas bombing without also exposing the failure of the eight year “War on Terror.”
The attack on September 11, 2001, killed nearly 3000 Americans. Since that day, our government has spent roughly 950 billion dollars on two invasions that have so far taken 5,321 American lives, and yet is no closer to eliminating the threat posed by al-Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist organizations than it was a decade ago. The Bush administration, in declaring a worldwide “War on Terror” made a grave mistake in invading Iraq, an event that has had and will continue to have terrible consequences for American national security.