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Right finger pointing over foiled terror plot is dead wrong

January 5, 2010

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab deserves his punishment but the right need to be aware that throwing stones in glass houses only highlights their own failings.

First all of Happy New Year to everyone that follows my blog. I hope you had a fantastic time. My apologies for being quiet over the past two weeks, but Christmas has been a real busy time for me, plus I have begun getting ready for my wedding in August.

So of course I missed the initial news reports on the Detroit Air Bomb plot, although I have been following this in the news since it happened. First off, I would like to say that god the device did not go off, and thank god the people on the plane have been able to go home, spend their holidays with their families.

Over the course of the past week of so, reading up on the events that have transpired since Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s ill fated attempt to blow up the Northwest airlines plane, many questions have formulated as to how, even though information was readily being gathered on Abdulmutallab, he was still missed and was able to get aboard a plane to the US with a device strapped to his groin.

At the same time, I have also watched disheartened at how quickly some within the Right wing Republican Party have used this event to capitalize on their stance against President Barack Obama and his policies on terror.

It was no surprise to see the patriach of the Bush administration, Darth Dick Cheney, return to his favourite networks and spin his rhetoric that Obama was somehow soft on terrorism and that this attempt was a direct result of that.

But first to some of Cheney’s other GOP collegues who have used this for political gain. As Politico points out:

Eight years ago, a terrorist bomber’s attempt to blow up a transatlantic airliner was thwarted by a group of passengers, an incident that revealed some gaping holes in airline security just a few months after the attacks of Sept. 11. But it was six days before President George W. Bush, then on vacation, made any public remarks about the so-called shoe bomber, Richard Reid, and there were virtually no complaints from the press or any opposition Democrats that his response was sluggish or inadequate.

That stands in sharp contrast to the withering criticism President Barack Obama has received from Republicans and some in the press for his reaction to Friday’s incident on a Northwest Airlines flight heading for Detroit. http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm?uuid=DD6A80A0-18FE-70B2-A82B1495320108EC

The accusers, Reps. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) and Peter King (R-N.Y.), rounded on Obama because it took him a few days to respond himself to the bombing, and instead leaving the initial responses to senior White House advisors. King told one broadcaster: “I’m disappointed it’s taken the president 72 hours to even address this issue. Basically nobody, the president, the vice president, the attorney general, nobody except [Homeland Security] Secretary [Janet] Napolitano has come out.” But then this only goes to show the predictable rewriting of history from the GOP that neglects to remember, the case of failed shoe bomber Richard Reid and President Dubya’s response to it. As Politico points out, Bush at that time remained low profile with his team telling the press that:

“Like the Obama White House, the Bush White House told reporters the president had been briefed on the incident and was following it closely. While the Obama White House issued a background statement through a senior administration official calling the incident an “attempted terrorist attack” on the same day it took place, the early official statements from Bush aides did not make the same explicit statement.

Bush did not address reporters about the Reid episode until December 28, after he had traveled from Camp David to his ranch in Texas.”

At that time it should also be noted that the Democrats never called Bush up on his supposed delayed response, unlike the GOP, instead the Democrats along with their fellow Americans, waited as their President analyzed the information and gathered all the details to be properly prepared for when he did make a statement. And at the only only one or two press agencies called Bush up on this delay.

How times have changed!

I remember that during the Bush years, advocates of that President said that people should criticize the President during a time of war (yes Hannity I’m talking about you) but here we have the exact opposite. Which shows the complete hypocrisy of the Right.

However I must point out in fairness, some former Bush White House advisors have stood by President Obama’s decision to measure his response to the attempted attack. For example, both former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and Matthew Dowd, a pollster for the Bush administration, have both said that Obama was right. Dowd said “Part of the problem here is that all the facts that you think are true at the beginning turn out not to be true as the days go on.” And of course as the days went on more and more information was gathered therefore meaning any initial response with Obama could have used information that was not fully vetted or gathered with full information.

I must also point out that the classy Republican Congressmen, Pete Hoekstra, not only used this opportunity to sound off to the Press, but:

“to rush out a fund raising appeal seeking donations up to $250, exploiting the botched terror attempt to fill his campaign coffers.” (Chattahbox)

You can read the complete text of Pete’s memo here, but here’s some juicy bits that for me got my blood boiling ta the blatant way this was used to almost rejoice on a little free publicity to gather campaign funds:

Dear Friend:

In the midst of enjoying Christmas with my family, we were quickly reminded that there is still a war against the American way of life; on Christmas morning, it came right here to Detroit.

We know the story. A cowardly terrorist was allowed to board a flight bound for our state, and armed with explosives, attempted to murder countless passengers and potential victims on the ground.

My promise to you, as your governor, my first duty and most solemn responsibility is to keep Michigan safe!

But I need your help.

If you agree that we need a Governor who will stand up the Obama/Pelosi efforts to weaken our security please make a most generous contribution of $25, $50, $100 or even $250 to my campaign.

My particular favourite:

There should be no partisan rancor when it comes to keeping our citizens safe.

Unfortunately, as the Democrat party drifts further and further to the left, their leaders are making decisions that should frighten us all.

And to finish:

“Together, let’s stand up for America, and stand up for Michigan. Please, help me fight by making a most generous contribution of $25, $50, $100 or even $250, so that we can fight together to protect our families, our state, and our freedom!”

Got to love them old Republicans, they certainly know how to use a bit of free publicity. And this is one of the reasons why the Right is so wrong. this is not, as Pete so eloquently put about partisanship but about the protection of the American People as a priority, the difference being, no sooner had he said that Pete made it about partisanship by saying that the Democrats were unable to deal with this adequately, which is one of my pet hates about this – the Right’s constant assertion that they and only they are the ones able to properly protect the American population and that the Left is soft on terrorism and terrorist sympathizers.

Which is very wrong and I’ll show you why next that the Right are very wrong on President Obama.

Which also brings me back to my favorite GOP political gainer on this, Darth Cheney.

Over the past year, and as I have blogged on here a couple of times, Dick Cheney has been very vocal in his opposition of President Obama, and the current Democratic stance against the continuing war on terrorism.

And of course, predicatably, Cheney went out onto his favourite news programs and reiterated these views after the failed Christmas attack.

“As I’ve watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. He seems to think if he has a low key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if we bring the mastermind of 9/11 to New York, give him a lawyer and trial in civilian court, we won’t be at war.

He seems to think if he closes Guantanamo and releases the hard-core al Qaeda trained terrorists still there, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gets rid of the words, ‘war on terror,’ we won’t be at war. But we are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren’t, it makes us less safe.

Why doesn’t he want to admit we’re at war? It doesn’t fit with the view of the world he brought with him to the Oval Office. It doesn’t fit with what seems to be the goal of his presidency – social transformation—the restructuring of American society. President Obama’s first object and his highest responsibility must be to defend us against an enemy that knows we are at war.”

Now, where does one begin? Well first you step away and rant and fume and have a mini tourettes outbreak (no offence meant to any tourette sufferers), and then you begin to watch as once and for all people say, enough is enough when it comes to how Cheney is not only wrong but that he better start remembering that for all his lies and spin, he should not throw stones in glass houses.

Steve Benen of Washington Monthly, quickly pointed out that Abdulmutallab initially gained his US Visa during the Bush/Cheney years. Benen also points out that detainees released to Saudi Arabia, who then went on to Yemen had been released by Cheney.

But hey, this is not about the terrorist per say. As you have seen from Cheney’s response, he did not at any time condemn the actions of the potential terrorist but spent his time with the sole intent on undermining President Obama. Now for those that may accuse me of such, I am not saying that Cheney ergo, was supporting the terrorists but reiterating that this event was used solely by the Right to gain leverage and throw a verbal attack on the President just because they don;’ like him and want to grab at some perceived weakness.

Cheney’s assertion which echoes an oft used but very wrong idea, that President Obama is trying to downplay a terrorist threat 0n the US, was thoroughly debunked by Politico.

Vice President Cheney has been excoriating President Obama’s foreign policy approach of late, and Republican partisans reportedly sense an opportunity to portray yet another Democratic president as supposedly weak on national security in the coming months.

But in fact, Obama has had a solid first year in foreign policy matters. By one measure, comparison with other first-year presidents in modern history, Obama ranks with the three or four best since World War II by my estimation – and I write this as someone who opposed Obama during the Democratic primary process of 2007-2008 largely because of fears at the time that he would not be strong on national security.

Politico goes on to say that Obama has made the right calls when it comes to the current wars that the USA is engaged in, aided Pakistan in it’s own front against insurgents, in Politico’s view “adopted a general approach to homeland security that is rather similar to Bush’s”. Praise is also heaped on Obama’s commitment to Afghanistan and the troops already out there and his stance of rebuilding relations with international communities.

To see how far this is from Politico, you have to remember, it is to Politico that Cheney made his statement which I posted above. And of course, as Politico points out, Obama has a long way to go, btu he is certainly not weak on this issue and has certainly not tried to downplay America’s continuing efforts abroad.

However my favourite response to Cheney and the Right, was MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow who on 31st December 2009 delivered a speech which I think summed up best what a lot of people I know were saying in regards to Cheney et al:

“Republicans left to their own devices have in this case excitedly launched a series of obviously baseless, factually incorrect, demonstrably untrue, hypocritical attacks. Dick Cheney comments today probably the worst among them.”

Rachel continues factchecking Cheney’s statement producing a litany of names and events that happened under the Bush-Cheney watch, including Richard Reid and Zacharias Moussaoui and Guantanamo.

The full transcript from The Daily Kos, which I believe needs circulating, read and spread onwards:

MADDOW: After days of essentially unanswered Republican political attacks against the Obama administration, finally, today, we got the big kahuna. The white whale of Republican politics, former Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney, involved in this.

After five days of Republicans owning the airwaves on this issue, doubling and then tripling down on politicizing this thwarted terrorist attack, with almost no opposition from the Democrats, the maestro of terror politics, Mr. Cheney, gave a statement to Politico.com today. Not decrying the terrorist incident itself, but instead using that attack as an opportunity to bash the president, to accuse the president of not keeping America safe.

Now, as is often the case in politics, when attacks from one side go unanswered for a long time, when one side gets the platform all to themselves, that side can sometimes get over-exuberant. They can overplay their hand. Republicans, left to their own devices, have in this case excitedly launched a series of obviously baseless, factually incorrect, demonstrably untrue and hypocritical attacks.

Dick Cheney’s comments today probably the worst among them. He said, quote, “He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won’t be at war.”

Remember Richard Reid, the so-called “shoe bomber”? Richard Reid was arrested December 2001, when a man named Dick Cheney was vice president. The Bush Justice Department let him, as they say, “lawyer up,” and Mr. Reid later pled guilty in federal court.

Remember 9/11 co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui? Same deal. Given American rights, tried in the federal courts and convicted, all while a man named Dick Cheney was vice president.

What President Obama is doing right now with this case is the same thing that was done with the same type of cases while Dick Cheney was vice president. But Dick Cheney isn’t letting anything like that hold him back, saying, quote, “Why doesn’t he want to admit we’re at war? President Obama’s first object and his highest responsibility must be to defend us against an enemy that knows we are at war.”

According to Dick Cheney, see, this has to be seen as a military issue. This has to be seen as a war. This can’t be seen as law enforcement. This is something — according to Dick Cheney — this is something that you handle with the Department of Defense, right? Like Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld did.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Mr. Secretary, do you have any insights you can share with us about Richard Reid, the American Airlines shoe bomber?

DONALD RUMSFELD, THEN-U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: That’s a matter that’s in the hands of the law enforcement people and not the Department of Defense.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Nothing you can share?

RUMSFELD: And I don’t have anything I would want to add.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Where was Dick Cheney and his outrage when his administration was treating terrorism as a law enforcement issue?

But, wait, there’s more. Quote, “He seems to think if he closes Guantanamo and releases the hard-core al Qaeda-trained terrorists still there, we won’t be at war.”

Like, for example, do you mean the Guantanamo prisoners your administration released to go to Saudi Arabia to be put in art therapy? The guys who then became leaders of the al Qaeda chapter in Yemen that is reportedly behind the plot to blow up that flight on Christmas Day? Did Mr. Cheney think that we weren’t at war when that decision was made by his administration? Where was his outrage over his own decision then?

We’re hearing over and over and over again from Republicans how President Obama waited too long to comment on the Christmas bombing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Disappointed it’s taken the president 72 hours to even address this issue.

REP. PETE HOEKSTRA (R), MICHIGAN: The president has decided to stay silent for 72 hours. That — he needs to explain that.

KARL ROVE, FMR. BUSH WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR: It’s over 72 hours from the time from the incident until the time the president spoke today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Seventy-two hours. How could President Obama possibly wait so long to comment?

For the record, after the Richard Reid shoe bombing incident in 2001, President Bush was not seen or heard from for six days. Count ‘em, six days.

Like President Obama, Mr. Bush was on vacation at the time of that incident. He apparently did not see fit to comment on the situation until almost a full week after it happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, THEN-U.S. PRESIDENT: The shoe bomber was a case in point where the country has been on alert. I’m grateful for the flight attendant’s response, as I’m sure the passengers on that airplane, but we’ve got to be aware that there are still enemies to the country. And our government is responding accordingly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Where was the Republican criticism of President Bush back then, for taking so long to make those comments? Perhaps President Bush dodged criticism on matters of terrorism, because of the language he used to talk about the war on terror. Remember, smoke ‘em out of their caves, bring ‘em on. That was the type of language that President Bush chose to use when talking about terrorism.

Mr. Obama does it differently. He has a distinctly non-cowboy rhetorical approach to this issue. And that is one of the things that’s also most rankling Republicans right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The important thing now, Harry, is that the president has downplayed the threat of terrorists since he took office. He doesn’t even use the word anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: He doesn’t even use the word anymore. That is true, only in Jim DeMint’s mind.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Terror and extremism that threatens the world’s stability. Extremists sowing terror in pockets of the world. Suffering and civil wars that breed instability and terror. New acts of terror.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: He never says the word “terror.”

Why let a 30-second Google search get in the way of your good sound bite, Senator?

But, you know, Senator DeMint is doing the country a service here — at least by clarifying things, by getting at the core of the conservative attack on President Obama. It was the whole point of Dick Cheney’s opportunistic statement today. The whole point was that President Obama ought to talk more about war.

Vice President Cheney said, quote, “He seems to think if he gets rid of the words “war on terror,” we won’t be at war. Why doesn’t he want to admit we’re at war?”

Keep in mind — this is coming from the former vice president of the administration whose record of talking about war includes dandies like these.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Thanks to the United States and our fine allies. Afghanistan is no longer a haven for terror. The Taliban is history. And the Afghan people are free!

Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.

DICK CHENEY, THEN-U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: You know, talking about war incessantly, beating your chest about it, acting like a cowboy, making premature declarations of victory over and over and over again might feel good, but those things don’t actually translate into effectively waging war, Mr. Chatty Cathy former vice president.

For the most part, Democrats are letting these charges from Dick Cheney and the rest of the Republicans go unanswered, even though these are charges that collapse very quickly in the face of even rudimentary fact- checking.

But even if you step back from the specific, ridiculous claims that they are making, consider what Republicans are trying to do here. Republicans apparently think they can survive the fact-checking problems they will have here if anybody ever decides to look into these things they’re saying. They think they can survive the fact-checking because they imagine they have this transcendent credibility on national security matters. A credibility on national security that, what, transcends the facts of their record?

The Bush/Cheney administration created the terror watch list system that theoretically should have flagged the Christmas bomber this past Friday. As has been noted, this is a list that has more than 500,000 names on it. That’s handy.

It’s a list that’s full of so much noise, so much useless, incoherent junk that random people like the late Senator Ted Kennedy and the former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens’ wife would get hassled at airports all the time because of their position on the list, even though that list could not function properly to keep actual terrorists off of actual planes.

That’s their list. It hasn’t been changed since then. Maybe the problem is that we haven’t cleaned up after the Bush/Cheney administration fast enough.

The Bush-Cheney administration is, inconveniently enough, also on whose watch 9/11 happened — unless, of course, you ask them about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA PERINO, FMR. BUSH PRESS SECRETARY: You know, we did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush’s term.

MARY MATALIN, FMR. BUSH ASSISTANT: I was there. We inherited a recession from President Clinton and we inherited the most tragic attack on our own soil in our nation’s history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Yes, remember how no terrorist attacks happened when Bush and Cheney were in office? Remember when the nation inherited 9/11 from that incompetent Democratic administration that was in place in September in 2001 — in the Bush administration’s own minds?

The rallying cry now from Republicans is that we shouldn’t try the Christmas bomber in civilian court — that, instead, he should be tried in a military tribunal, declared an enemy combatant. I mean, what’s the value of a military tribunal here, other than trying to make political hay out of this case? Really, what’s the justice, anti-terrorist, counterterrorist value on this?

You really think this kid can’t be convicted? You really think we don’t have enough evidence beyond the — beyond the, I don’t know, 300 or so eyewitnesses who were on the plane? The fact that we have the weapon that he tried to use? The fact that he confessed? You think that’s not enough to get this kid convicted?

You have that little faith in our criminal justice system? That little faith in the rule of law? You don’t believe that a supermax federal American prison is capable of holding this kid? You think it might be cool, instead, to martyr this kid as some impressive soldier, instead of some idiot confused rich kid who couldn’t even handle blowing up his own junk with a bomb that was secreted in his own underpants?

We’re supposed to take national security advice from you guys? Really?

Republican Congressman Pete Hoekstra is still the captain of the team on this one, now raising money off of a terrorist attack on Americans, the attempted murder of 300 Americans — politicizing this issue by soliciting campaign donations for his run for governor of Michigan on the occasion of this terrorist attack.

We contacted Pete Hoekstra’s campaign today. They told us, we should expect to see more of this type of exploitive solicitation from them. They told us that Congressman Hoekstra himself personally signed of on the “using a terrorist attack on Americans to raise money” effort, proudly saying they think they’ve gotten a significant spike in donations as a result of it. Though it’s too early to tell, fingers crossed, maybe something else horrible will happen.

This is the Republican response to this terrorist attack at the end of 2009.

Again, my friends and colleagues in the media have two choices in covering this. You can just copy down what the Republicans and Vice President Cheney are saying, and click “send,” call it journalism, or you can actually fact-check those comments and put them into context. Your choice. It’s your country.

Obama has never pretended that the US is not at war, you only have to listen to his inaugural speech or his speech when receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Yes there is a lot that needs to be done to ensure that this kind of attempt and any others can never happen again. It is plainly obvious that some severe mistakes have been made. And this includes the fact that despite the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, intelligence agencies are still not adequately talking to one another. And it’s obvious that Janet Napolitano, needs to be a lot more careful before asserting that “the system worked” because that is very far from the truth. As you will no doubt remember Abdulmutallab’s father warned the American and Nigerian authorities that his son was planning something, and Umar was on a watchlist that should in my view have seen him pulled aside and searched long before he got on that plane.

But there is no way I can stand by and watch people like Cheney grin in glee and scream that Obama is soft on terrorism or ignoring terrorism, for pure political gain, when in fact a lot of the things mentioned above are by products of HIS (Cheney’s) system.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 6, 2010 5:03 pm

    Just adding this this, found a great Think Progress Article which points out that Conservatives Should Learn To Google Before Claiming Obama Doesn’t Use The Words ‘Terror’ Or ‘Terrorism’: http://thinkprogress.org/2010/01/04/conservatives-google-terror/

    As the article says:

    Indeed, in Obama’s address at West Point announcing his escalation in Afghanistan on Dec. 1, he used variations of the word “terror” six times:

    – “America, our allies and the world were acting as one to destroy al Qaeda’s terrorist network and to protect our common security.”

    – “Gradually, the Taliban has begun to control additional swaths of territory in Afghanistan, while engaging in increasingly brazen and devastating attacks of terrorism against the Pakistani people.”

    – “Years of debate over Iraq and terrorism have left our unity on national security issues in tatters, and created a highly polarized and partisan backdrop for this effort.”

    – “In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror.”

    – “We will strengthen Pakistan’s capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries, and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known and whose intentions are clear.”

    – “And that’s why I’ve made it a central pillar of my foreign policy to secure loose nuclear materials from terrorists, to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.”

    But of course don’t let a few facts get in the way:

    http://thinkprogress.org/2010/01/06/conservatives-word-terror/

    On Monday, ThinkProgress pointed out how conservatives like Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) were complaining that President Obama and his administration are not “willing to use the word” terror — a claim that is refuted by Obama’s own statements and speeches. But the right-wing meme persists.

    In response to Obama’s remarks yesterday on the Christmas Day plot, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) whined that “he still refuses to use the word ‘terrorism.’” Fox and Friends this morning featured two chyrons claiming that the administration avoids the word “terror”:

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