Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 29, 2009

IF THEY REALLY WANT TO POLITICIZE NATIONAL SECURITY.... A variety of congressional Republicans seem awfully anxious to play partisan games with the terrorist threat, and exploit the Abdulmutallab plot for electoral gain. The risk, of course, is that by starting the fight, the GOP attack dogs may be confronted with issues they're unprepared to deal with.

There is, for example, the fact that the nominated head of the TSA can't get confirmed because of Republican obstructionism. Then there's the fact that congressional Republicans also opposed funding for the TSA, including money for screening operations and explosives detection systems.

And then there's this unpleasant tidbit.

Two of the four leaders allegedly behind the al Qaeda plot to blow up a Northwest Airlines passenger jet over Detroit were released by the U.S. from the Guantanamo prison in November 2007, according to American officials and Department of Defense documents. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the Northwest bombing in a Monday statement that vowed more attacks on Americans.

American officials agreed to send the two terrorists from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia, where they entered into an "art therapy rehabilitation program" and were set free, according to U.S. and Saudi officials.

As Ron Chusid put it, "Just imagine the Republican response if Barack Obama or Bill Clinton had released prisoners to enter an 'art therapy rehabilitation program.' This sounds almost as silly as an American president sitting and reading a children's book while the country is under attack."

Now, just to be clear, I'm not suggesting Bush/Cheney are indirectly responsible for the attempted attack on Christmas. Sure, the Bush/Cheney administration released some of the alleged terrorists who plotted the attack into an "art therapy rehabilitation program" in Saudi Arabia, only to see them become terrorist leaders in Yemen. And sure, it was the Bush administration that gave Abdulmutallab a visa to enter the United States in the first place. But there was almost certainly no way for the former administration to know what would happen.

Let's be honest -- if Obama had released the attack's plotters into an "art therapy rehabilitation program" in Saudi Arabia, we would never hear the end of it. This would be the lead story on Fox News every day until the end of time. "Art therapy rehabilitation program" would become President Obama's middle name(s).

If Republicans really want to turn the attempted terrorist attack into a partisan fight, Democrats should welcome the opportunity.

Steve Benen 3:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (23)

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Comments

I dunno.

"Barack Hussein Art Therapy Rehab Program Obama" would be too wordy for even Rush to get out in one breath.

Though this story does make one wonder what other deals Bush cut with his 'hand-holding' friends over in Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: Gridlock on December 29, 2009 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

Torturing them in Guantanamo for a few years didn't work so they tried art therapy.

Wonder if any of their art is still around?

What do you think it looks like?

Posted by: cld on December 29, 2009 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

You know exactly what they'll say: Bush was trying to please those liberals who were complaining about all those people in Guantanamo. It's the liberals' fault, and it just goes to show that Bush didn't fail because he was a conservative, but because he wasn't conservative enough.

It shouldn't take more than a few seconds for them to cobble together a phony argument along those lines... They can do it in their sleep -- and get everything they need, e.g., respectful, prominent, unquestioning news coverage.

Or even easier, they'll say Bush "inherited" the problem from Clinton -- like Matalin said about the 9/11 attacks the other day.

Posted by: bcamarda on December 29, 2009 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

beautiful. thanks steve. brought a tear to my eye.

Posted by: lloydcarroll on December 29, 2009 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Well, this might be trouble for the Republicans if somebody other than you (say, an elected Democrat, or someone in the press) would mention it. I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by: David in NY on December 29, 2009 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Strike up another one for Dick "I Royally F'd Up So Now You can call me a National Security expert" Cheney

Posted by: John Henry on December 29, 2009 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

so the attempt on approach to Detroit was a piece of performance art?

Posted by: bdbd on December 29, 2009 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

You know no Democrat will have the stones to bring that up. And for sure the "liberal" media won't touch it. It's unseemly to try to blame Republicans for terror attacks. You can only do that to Democrats.

Posted by: JD Rhoades on December 29, 2009 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Howard Dean is the only Democrat I can think of who would call them on it. I think he needs a talk show...

Posted by: clar-z on December 29, 2009 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

Bush's process for determining which detainees to release seems to have been about as deep as the process which led to the Brown appointment at FEMA.

Posted by: doubtful on December 29, 2009 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

I'm waiting very patiently for ABC (or any other source) to report on the circumstances that caused the two 'leaders' to be sent to Guantanomo in the first place.
Such information would be very useful in determining whether we we released two cleary dangerous people or created two cleary dangerous people.

It seems like vital information to me, but it appears that I'm rather alone in my assessment. Smart money say ABC/Disney isn't persuing that particular angle.

Posted by: Paul Dirks on December 29, 2009 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Bush/Cheney probably released them because even after torturing them they couldn't come up with evidence that they'd been terrorists before they were taken prisoner. Trouble is that after you've tortured them and then release them, they certainly will BECOME terrorists, and take great pleasure in plotting to avenge themselves on the people who abused them. The math is really rather simple.

Posted by: T-Rex on December 29, 2009 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

FWIW, I do know how to spell 'clearly'

Posted by: Paul Dirks on December 29, 2009 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

Before long, conservatives will accuse liberals of "wanting to send terrorists to art therapy classes in Saudi Arabia."

It won't matter that George Bush's administration actually sent terrorists to art therapy classes in Saudi Arabia or that no liberal is actually calling for Obama to send terrorists to art therapy classes in Saudi Arabia.

Facts are secondary to impressions and stereotypes.

Posted by: danimal on December 29, 2009 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

But there was almost certainly no way for the former administration to know what would happen.

Of course they should have known. When you lock human beings up in cages like dogs, physically abuse them and deny them basic human rights, you shouldn't be surprised when they strike out against their former captors once they've gained their freedom. Mistreated dogs have a way of doing that, and so do human beings.

Posted by: Screamin' Demon on December 29, 2009 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

You know exactly what they'll say: Bush was trying to please those liberals who were complaining about all those people in Guantanamo.

No, they'll say that anything that happened in November 2007 was Clinton's fault.

Posted by: qwerty on December 29, 2009 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if any of it is true? How much of the story is corroborated using independent sources (non-intelligence, non-military, non-government sources)?

Someone somewhere doesn't want to give Guantanamo prisoners trials? Just claim some event was perpetrated by released Guantanamo prisoners.

If documents showing that Iran was behind the attempt were "discovered," would we Democrats catapult that, as long as we could spin it into the narrative that Bush's Iraq war distracted us from the "real threat" in Iran (or similar bullshit)?

Attacking Republicans from a "hawkier" perspective, a "more competent hawk" position, leaves you open to manipulation from neocon disinformation.

Posted by: flubber on December 29, 2009 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

"Trouble is that after you've tortured them and then release them, they certainly will BECOME terrorists"

This is very true. Say what you will about the Khmer Rouge, but at least they were smart enough to kill people after torturing them. They knew they were creating enemies, but they chose to create dead enemies rather than live ones. There was a certain logic to what they did. But in the end, a system that relies on exterminating your population cannot succeed. Strangely enough, the Bush approach had a certain logic to it as well. Their intent was to keep military contractors flush with money. To do that, you need to create enemies so you can fight them. Thus, the torture and release program. The weird thing about this is the intent. The Khmer Rouge eventually wanted to stop fighting, the Republicans seek only eternal war.

Posted by: fostert on December 29, 2009 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, Steve, Steve. You just don't understand the Right Wing mind. Bush and Cheney were forced to release these guys from Gitmo, who then went on to plot another terrorist attacks, because liberal ACLU types had created such a politically correct stink about terrorists not getting their Miranda rights blah, blah, blah, that it was just impossible to keep them locked up forever. It's the same mentality that was in play when the House Minority Leader can blame Speaker Pelosi for "forcing" him to vote against the troops when he turned down a military appropriations bill because the bill contained some rider that was ideologically offensive to him. Don't you see how the game is played. The Right never takes responsibility for anything it does.

Posted by: Ted Frier on December 29, 2009 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe you also noticed how the incident in which some immature crackpot tried to light what was essentially a glorified firecracker squib in his pants - thereby setting himself on fire - is slowly morphing into a "bombing". You've quoted it here yourself. It wasn't a bombing, and there should be a great deal of doubt whether what he carried would have had the explosive punch to even seriously damage the plane, never mind down it.

What it IS doing, however, is scaring people and enabling more security crackdowns, which is what it was meant to do. Therefore, it was successful. All the political grandstanding is just the usual hot-air blowing that attaches to every such opportunity.

Posted by: Mark on December 29, 2009 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

Mark, I think if that stuff had been properly confined it could have blow out a door or piece of the cabin.

Posted by: neil b, on December 29, 2009 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

"Now, just to be clear, I'm not suggesting Bush/Cheney are indirectly responsible for the attempted attack on Christmas."

Gawd forbid. Not distancing yourself from such a suggestion would get you thrown out of the hem-hawers international. The readers aren't smart enough to figure it out, and you would not be the balanced and nuanced person you are if you just made a point without making clear that you are not serious about it.

Yet another reason that conservative nuts despise "liberals" and hippies as worthless pussies.

Posted by: razor on December 29, 2009 at 8:54 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe so - I'm not an explosives expert. But then, neither are a lot of the uninformed journalists, who are merely speculating. If the information provided is accurate, it was a quantity of explosive powder, sufficiently small that it wouldn't make a large enough lump to arouse suspicion. Given that most of the explosive force would have been absorbed by his body if he'd been successful, I still doubt he'd have done serious damage to the plane, regardless what other sources say. It had less explosive potential than a hand grenade, and who hasn't heard of some heroic GI throwing himself on a grenade to save his buddies?

Generally speaking, people are way paranoid about aircraft bombings, and have little idea of the structural strength implicit in a design that can withstand the buffeting of harsh weather. I realize planes are not designed to absorb a powerful punch from inside, but they will take a lot more than featherbrained talking heads give them credit for. A lot of people just look for an excuse to be frightened.

Posted by: Mark on December 30, 2009 at 12:53 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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