Carafano: Why the coming year could be tough for US 

Mass murder often begins with words.

Long before 9/11, Osama bin Laden attacked America with words. He wrote fatwas. A fatwa is a legal opinion issued by an Islamic scholar. They rule whether a given act is obligatory, permitted or forbidden.

In one of his many acts of apostasy, bin Laden appropriated fatwas to launch his attack on Western culture. Following the form of the fatwa, bin Laden combed religious texts like the Quran and the Hadith for anything to justify mass

“Fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them, seize them, and beleaguer them,” he wrote, “and lie in wait for them in every stratagem.” The head of al-Qaida vowed to fight as long as it took, never quit, and find any way he could to kill, humiliate and dishonor the people of America.

Not until after the Twin Towers fell did people start to take his words seriously.

The new year marks the end of the first decade of the long war. If the past 12 months are any measure, it seems like Washington, D.C., is again forgetting to take bin Laden’s words seriously.

Last year may have been the worst ever in America’s battle against bin Laden. That’s troubling news. Since 2001, there have been 28 failed terrorist attacks against the United States. That averages out to about three a year. In 2009, there were six failed attempts, the most in one year.

The fact that the numbers were up is not in and of itself a telling statistic. The numbers are still small. But, there are other facts to worry about.

In the last attempt — a Christmas Day attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound plane — the system failed.
The U.S. government had a number of red flags about the would-be attacker, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, but failed to revoke his visa, place him on the no-fly list or flag him for additional screening.

This isn’t the only time the system failed. Five youths from northern Virginia made it all way to Pakistan, where they were luckily picked up by local authorities before they could join al-Qaida and hurt anyone.

Others have been less lucky, such as youths from the Somali diaspora who have been recruited to join Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaida affiliate. Meanwhile, in the most tragic domestic terrorist attack since 9/11, in November, Nidal Malik Hasan killed a dozen of his fellow soldiers and shot up a score more.

These kinks in the armor are troubling, as are the mixed signals sent out by the White House.

Our president has shown terrible leadership on pushing for the renewal of key investigative authorities authorized under the
Patriot Act.

These tools are among law enforcement’s most effective means available for ferreting out terrorist conspiracies. Rather than pushing through renewal, the White House settled for a six-month extension tacked on to the defense appropriations bill.

That’s bad because those in Congress who want to weaken the law see the lack of administration commitment as another opportunity to undermine investigatory tools.

Likewise, President Barack Obama sent the wrong signal to al-Qaida when he declared a set date to start a withdrawal from Afghanistan and sent fewer troops than were required for a maximum military effort.

“Obama is sending more troops to Afghanistan and that means more Americans will die,” one Taliban leader told the BBC. Sensing a lack of resolve, the Taliban groups have vowed to join to together to renew their own efforts.

Other troubling indicators include refusing to even acknowledge the U.S. is in a war against al-Qaida. The White House substituted its own political agenda for dealing with the detention and trial of unlawful combatants, rather than deal with substantive issues. Merely changing the ZIP code of terrorists and war criminals is not a real policy.

Finally, the White House is planning on renewing a call for legislation that would provide a mass amnesty for illegal immigrants, a move that is sure to engulf the Department of Homeland Security in a highly charged and distracting political maelstrom — not to mention that amnesty will just attract more illegal border crossings and make the border even more unmanageable.

These decisions send the wrong signal to al-Qaida. If the administration doesn’t change its tone, 2010 could be worse.

Examiner columnist James Jay Carafano is a senior research fellow for national security at The Heritage Foundation (

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