The war against the war on terror

Sadly, we may have to learn, again, the hard way, that Islamic extremism and the terror it foments are still a factor in our lives.

Pakistanis holding Bin Laden poster 370 (photo credit: Naseer Ahmed / Reuters)
Pakistanis holding Bin Laden poster 370
(photo credit: Naseer Ahmed / Reuters)
‘Is the War on terror over?” That question led off a three-page advertisement in The New York Times Magazine a few weeks ago. It was really a rhetorical query that reflects a view held at the highest levels of government, academia and media where even the terms “war on terror,” “radical Islam” and “Islamic terror” are rarely used.
For many of our governing elites, “the war on terror” is not a has-been, but more like a never-was. It was a blip that jumped up on the screen of history for a few months after 9-11 and has now receded beneath the waves – along with the earthly remains of Osama bin- Laden.
All that is left is a clean-up operation handled by remote-control drone air craft sent to deal with AQAP (al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula) or AQI (al Qaida in Iraq) or AQY (al Qaida in Yemen). For such analysts – including President Barack Obama –there is no broad-based Arab-Islamic terror threat, but only the alphabet soup remnants of al Qaida: AQAP, AQI and AQY.
It is easy, clean and almost passé, almost a game where terror leaders can be put on a deck of cards – like rival baseball players – not marked for defeat on the playing field but marked for death.
This is the kind of pastime enjoyed by those who examine the details on a fallen leaf but miss the tree, let alone the forest.
A similarly myopic view once reduced Western analysis of Palestinian terror to an abbreviated name-dropping exercise: PLO, PFLP, PFLP-GC, DFLP, Tanzeem, Black September.
There were always many journalists, CIA analysts and State Department officials who would swear that they could mark the organizational and ideological affiliation of the terrorists by neat unchanging categories. They claimed for example that Yasser Arafat of PLOFatah was dramatically different from Hamas or Tanzeem.
They often said Arafat was not really behind the Munich Olympics massacre in 1972, because that was “Black September,” or that Arafat did not order the murder of American diplomats in Sudan in 1974 because that, too, was Black September. They said Arafat was not for suicide bombing because that was Tanzeem or Hamas.
For many of our supposedly “best and brightest” the threat of Arab-Islamic terror was an exaggerated alarm, a “green menace” (according to a lampooning headline in The New York Times a few months before the 9-11 catastrophe). Unfortunately, “The Green Menace” is real.
When the buildings fell on 9-11, so did the network of lies and prevarications that America and the West were not really threatened by Arab-Islamic terror, but much more quickly than the buildings could be re-built, the structure of deception has been re-erected, and it is bigger than ever.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to justify the building of a mosque near the 9-11 site by claiming that many Muslims were killed on 9-11 and that many Muslims grieved over the attack. This is true, but it is irrelevant, because many Muslims – many, many Muslims – rejoiced at the 9-11 attack.
Polls by the Pew organization and by Gallup show that significant parts of the Muslim community around the world still justify attacking the West with suicide terror and also justify trying to impose Islam on the world.
To build a mosque near the World Trade Center site is legal, of course, but is anti-historical, act of willful denial of the facts and their symbolic significance.
This same kind of willful denial of the facts occurred after the Fort Hood massacre and after the nearly successful Christmas Day bombing (“The Underwear Bomber”) when President Obama and his aides first tried to ignore the events and then characterized them as actions by lone gunmen or lone lunatics.
Obama has done the best he could to weaken Western efforts to gather intelligence (through surveillance, interrogation, bank transfer monitoring) by revealing details of these programs and shutting them down whenever possible. This cripples the human intelligence aspect of fighting terror.
The Obama administration is the symbolic representative of a whole elite – in media, academia and government – that would like to ignore the fact that Islamic terror is not only not dead but establishing new ways to operate through second-generation terrorists who were born and educated in the West.
Obama and his aides would also like to pretend that the Muslim Brotherhood, which fathered al Qaida and Hamas, is really moderate. Obama would like to have us believe that the Brotherhood – which has grabbed power in Egypt quickly and efficiently, and which may seize power in Syria – can be bought off by American aid.
Sadly, we may have to learn, again, the hard way, that Islamic extremism and the terror it foments are still a factor in our lives.
The writer, an expert on Arab politics and communications, is the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat published by Threshold/Simon and Schuster. He was Strategic Affairs Advisor in Israel’s Ministry of Public Security and teaches at Bar-Ilan University.