The dumbest thing you can do in response to a terrorist attack is further the goal of the terrorists by spreading more fear. My Congressman, Pete Hoekstra, couldn’t resist doing this yet again in hopes of obtaining political gain following yesterday’s terror attempt in Detroit.
A Nigerian man claiming ties to al Qaeda attempted to set off an explosion on an international flight arriving in Detroit yesterday. He had a powder and a fluid strapped to his leg which he mixed in an attempt to create an explosion as the plane descended into Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The attempt failed with only a minimal explosion and the man was subdued.
In response to this attack there needs to be an investigation as to why someone who was already on terrorist watch lists not only managed to get aboard the plane but to do so with potentially explosive substances strapped to his leg. We need to find out if he was really acting under orders of al Qaeda and what other plans they might have. This highlights a security problem I have long feared–we are vulnerable to the weakest link in screening anywhere in the world as once someone gets past security at one airport they can travel internationally with far less scrutiny.
This is a time for reasoned evaluation of our security systems, not to attempt to instill further panic for political gain as Hoekstra has. Hoekstra is the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee and is a candidate for the 2010 Republican nomination for Governor. Presumably he thinks that he improves his prospect among Republicans by making cheap political points such as this:
“It’s not surprising,” U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, a Holland Republican, said of the alleged terrorist attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight in Detroit. A Nigerian who authorities said had told them he was ordered by al-Qaida to detonate an explosive was in custody. Reports linked the explosives to Yemen.
“People have got to start connecting the dots here and maybe this is the thing that will connect the dots for the Obama administration,” said Hoekstra.
Such conduct is hardly new from Hoekstra. He has previously made discredited claims of finding WMD in Iraq. After having written an op-ed condemning others for divulging military secrets, he himself was found to have divulged secrets on Twitter. He previously resorted to scare tactics which have been criticized by several former national security officials when there was talk of moving prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to a maximum security prison in Michigan.
Besides commenting before we have much information and unnecessarily spreading fear, Hoekstra’s message makes little sense in trying to blame a Democratic administration. It was the Republican Congress which blocked attempts to fight al Qaeda under Bill Clinton. Other Democrats such as John Kerry were warning about the threat of terrorism well before 9/11.
The Clinton administration even left the Bush administration warnings about al Qaeda. The Bush administration not only ignored these warnings but lied about receiving them. Then there was that CIA briefing entitled “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” just before the attack which George Bush ignored. As Al Gore discussed in The Assault on Reason, paying attention to this warning should have led to a review of the State Department/INS watch list which already contained the names of many of the 9/11 terrorists. Others could have also been identified before the attack as they were using the same addresses or frequent flier numbers. In 2006 Keith Olbermann also reviewed the many warnings which were ignored. Barack Obama has spoken out several times about the need to respond to terrorism including his speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars back in 2007.
Playing politics with terrorism has also been commonplace from Republicans. After 9/11 we had a time of national unity when people of both parties were willing to support George Bush in taking reasonable action to respond. Instead the Republicans took advantage of 9/11 both for partisan gain and to push through their pre-9/11 agenda, including attacking Iraq, which has only acted to weaken the country and increase the risk of terrorist attacks.
There are many people in Michigan, including myself, who have family members who will be returning home from vacations on international flights through Detroit.I hope that rather than helping him politically, many more Michigan voters are repulsed by Peter Hoekstra’s irresponsible attempts to spread fear and seek personal political gain at a time when we need a serious review of the problem. Pete Hoekstra has demonstrated yet again that he is not fit to be Governor.