Quoth Doctor Zero, “Has there ever been a moment of crisis in which both America’s citizens and enemies were less interested in what the President had to say?” My thoughts exactly. What could he say? He ordered a review of security procedures, he promised to get the bad guys, he wished everyone a happy new year. All the interesting stuff is going on behind the scenes and can’t be spoken of publicly for obvious security reasons: British cops claim 25 bombers are training in Yemen right now for similar attacks; the feds have a hot lead on Abdulmutallab’s network thanks to SIM cards found in his home; and, according to one passenger on the flight, there was a mysterious second man onboard who videotaped the entire thing. All fascinating and important, and all very much off limits for the official perfunctory presidential Statement of Concern. If people want to dump on him for taking vay-cay while this is going on as pure payback for the left pissing its pants about Bush’s golf game, fair enough; one good turn of political point-scoring deserves another. (I’ll start you off: Should a guy who just came from the beach be promising that we “will not rest” until the perpetrators are dealt with?) But on the merits, who cares?
AQ in Yemen issued a statement within the last hour claiming that it ordered the attack in response to U.S. airstrikes on their bases. To which the White House, in an unusually canny moment, replied thusly:
Or in their words, “The oneness of our belief and brotherhood in Islam is what protected our young Nigerian man, the mujahid brother Omar Al Farouq to directly respond to his oppressive American enemy’s attack on the Arab Peninsula.”
A senior administration official rejects this entirely, pointing out that Omar Abdulmutallab was in the field long before that airstrike.
“He had been deployed before December 17,” the official said. “They’d like to make this seem like retaliation, but the reason they tried to blow up the plane is because they have a hateful, murderous agenda. And that’s why we’re on the forward lean against them.”
Funny how clearly they see the way jihadis use pretexts to justify terrorism in this case but not in, say, this one.
As your companion reading for the clip, do take five minutes to read through the Times’s primer today on the growing importance of Yemen as a base for AQ. They have a weak central government, powerful internal insurrectionist movements capable of destabilizing the country, and lawless tribal areas where it’s safe for jihadis to hide out and plot. Sound familiar?