Times Square Bomb Plot: Don't Rush to Judgment
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It may be that the Pakistan-based Taliban, the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has quietly established a Connecticut franchise while we weren't looking. That's possible. But it seems far more likely to me that the perpetrator of the bungled Times Square bomb plot was either a lone wolf or a member of some squirrely branch of the Tea Party, anti-government far right. Which actually exists in Connecticut, where, it seems, the car's licence plates were stolen.
It may be that the car bomb, which fizzled, could have wreaked havoc in Times Square. That's possible, too. But it seems very, very unlikely that a few cannisters of propane, a bunch of M-80 firecrackers, and some fertiliser that, police say, couldn't have exploded, would have "killed thousands of people", as CNN breathlessly reported yesterday.
Sensible analysts of the event point out, convincingly, that no branch of the Taliban, whether in Afghanistan or Pakistan, has demonstrated either the intention or the capability of striking in such as fashion. And the fact that the suspect, videotaped, is a white male in his 40s, hasn't deterred our vast team of terrorism talking heads from describing the operation as part of the jihad. Of course, it could be that some offshoot of the jihadist movement recruited a white bread American to do its bidding, and it could be that the man shown in the videotape is not the culprit at all.
But, as in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, when self-appointed experts blamed Muslims only to find out that it was a Gulf war veteran named Tim who did it, there has once again been an unseemly rush to judgment.
The Wall Street Journal is already editorialising in favour of stepped up racial profiling to catch evil doers, even though – in this case – such profiling would have more profitably sought out the editors of the Journal, who are mostly white men in their 40s: "After a succession of recent terrorist incidents inside the US, often involving so-called home-grown jihadists, it is evident that we should be willing to err on the side of being aggressive in surveilling and catching such people before their bombs begin to smolder."
The Washington Post loyally trots out one of the terrorism-industrial complex's leading consultants, Evan F Kohlmann, who says: "Over the past week or so, every faction, from al-Shabaab in Somalia on down the list, has issued statements mourning the deaths of these guys in Iraq, saying, 'We're going to avenge them, vengeance is coming.'"
Intelligently, Janet Napolitano says: "I caution against premature decisions one way or another … The last thing we want to do is draw premature conclusions … I'm not going to speculate on speculation."
As always, it is important to point out that even if the Times Square bombing turns out to be the work of jihadist zealots, it shows that as an enemy they rank about on a par with the guy who crashed his plane into the IRS building. President Obama took the opportunity to proclaim his vigilance and his determination to track down the perpetrator and to keep America safe.
And it is way past time for Obama to shift gears, and to start telling Americans that the only thing they have to fear is fear itself.