Thursday, August 10, 2006

It's Law Enforcement, After All

Steve Soto comments on the arrest by British police of 21 men who were planning to blow up U.S.-bound planes in mid-flight:

Scotland Yard disrupted a major terrorist plot against trans-Atlantic flights inbound to the United States from Great Britain today, arresting 21 people who had planned to detonate carry-on items on as many as 10 inbound flights for America. As a result, both countries have increased their threat levels. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says that there is no indication that the plot involved attacks within the United States, which immediately makes me suspect the opposite.

Note that the suspects are all homegrown in Britain with ties to George W. Bush's favorite partner in the war on terror, Pakistan, a country that continues to harbor Osama Bin Laden and A. Q. Khan. Also note that the Washington Post never mentions the Pakistani connection to these suspects. The plot appears to several terrorism experts to be an Al Qaeda follow up operation to the 9/11 attacks on the fifth anniversary, and the plotters appear to have been at work on this for months, calling into question exactly how well we have disrupted their ability to carry out coordinated attacks. Looks like that war in Iraq was a winner, huh?

The right wing bedwetters today have already started wailing about how this crisis shows why the country needs Bush and Joe Lieberman, although Bush and DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff are doing nothing extraordinary that any other president of either party wouldn't have done also. But it blows a hole in that "we're fighting them over there to keep from fighting them over here" defense, especially when the suspects have links to Pakistan, calling into question Bush's unwavering support for a regime that, like Saudi Arabia, assists those who plan to harm us. And this was a plot hatched by Al Qaeda with Pakistani support, tracked and broken up by law enforcement using solid intelligence, impeded little if at all by a failed regime change and occupation of a sovereign state that had nothing to do with 9/11.

Of course, the fact that it was good old-fashioned police work that saved thousands of people from being blown up over the Atlantic Ocean hasn't fazed the fantasy bloggers at all. This is not proof of the competence, skill, and professionalism of British law enforcement. No. It's proof that Ned Lamont is going to hand us over to the terrorists.

Ace of Spades names every illegal, civil liberties-shredding program he can think of to explain the busting of this plot, with no evidence or support but his own wild imaginings; while he ignores the one explanation that is undeniably true: that it was local law enforcement in Britain that discovered and foiled this plot. It was not the war in Afghanistan, or the war in Iraq, or the Israeli bombing of Lebanon that discovered and foiled this plot. It was not the Patriot Act, or the NSA surveillance program. Pres. Bush had nothing to do with it. No, Bush was not reading "My Pet Goat" when these arrests were made. He was not in a Florida schoolroom. He was out on his ranch obsessively whacking plant undergrowth and screaming "Air assault!" while careening up hills on his bike.

Steve Benen has been thinking about this, and he seems to remember a few occasions when Pres. Bush publicly expressed doubt contempt for the notion that law enforcement could prevent terrorist attacks:

I had hoped to avoid discussing today's announcement about the thwarted terrorist plot in any kind of political context, but after seeing one too many far-right voices connect the plot with Ned Lamont's campaign, I'm afraid I can't help myself.

Will Bunch had the exact same reaction I did in response to today's news.

Makes you wonder, doesn't it? Most of the big victories in "the war on terror" have been racked up by cops, not by soldiers. Why, it's almost as if terrorism is a law-enforcement problem -- and less of a threat when it's handled well in that fashion.

Bingo. After reading more this morning about how British officials used an effective, "months-long investigation" that relied on meticulous intelligence-gathering and an efficient law enforcement operation, I kept thinking back to the 2004 presidential campaign and one of the president's favorite stump-speech moments.

To be sure, Bush bashed John Kerry relentlessly in his standard speech, but the president had an inordinate fondness for the derisive use of the phrase "law enforcement operation." Bush, for example, told a Florida audience on March 20:

"Kerry said, and I quote, 'The war on terror is far less of a military operation and far more of an intelligence-gathering law enforcement operation.' (Audience boos.) I disagree. I disagree. ... After the chaos and carnage of September the 11th, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers. With those attacks, the terrorists and supporters declared war on the United States of America -- and war is what they got. (Audience applauds.)

Bush, pleased with himself and the reaction, used almost the identical words again and again and again. Cheney used it a few times himself.

It was pretty easy to see the image Bush wanted the public to imagine. Bush believes in sending the most powerful military in the world to battle terrorists, Kerry was satisfied fighting al Queda with cops and lawyers.

Today, however, helps highlight exactly what Kerry was talking about, and what Bush derided as nonsense to considerable Republican applause.

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