Posted Sept. 11, 2007 – Six years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are Americans safer, or are we even bigger targets on terrorists’ radars?
The answer may seem obvious, but the question is a bit more complicated and confusing.
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Since Muslim extremists hijacked U.S. jumbo jets and crashed them in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania – causing the deaths of some 2,974 Americans – there haven’t been any successful terrorist assaults on U.S. soil.
And, as Bush administration officials have been quick to point out, the U.S. government and several foreign allies have stopped would-be terrorists on more than one occasion. For example:
• Most recently, little over a week ago, German officials arrested three suspects linked to al-Qaeda who were plotting the biggest terror attacks against Americans since 9/11. The targets were places where Americans congregate, like Germany’s Frankfurt Airport, the U.S. Base in Hanau and the huge U.S. Ramstein Air Base. The wannabe killers had purchased 1,500 pounds of explosive chemicals to carry out their goal, German intelligence officials said, noting that their motivation was “their intense hatred of Americans.”
• In June, federal authorities foiled a plot by a retired airport worker, a former member of the Guyanese Parliament and several religious extremists to jam explosives into several fuel channels at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, which would likely have caused innumerable casualties and economic chaos. The three men who were arrested allegedly bragged that the act would be worse than 9/11 and would leave “the whole country mourning.”
• In May, six men were arrested before they could use automatic weapons to enter Fort Dix and kill as many soldiers as they could at the N.J. base, according to investigators. The would-be terrorists were from Albania and Yugoslavia but had spent many years in the United States; they had been targeting other U.S. installations, such as Dover Air base, Fort Monmouth and several Coast Guard stations before deciding on Fort Dix, counter-intelligence officials said. The suspects allegedly put their savings together to pay for the planned destruction.
• In June 2006, FBI informants stopped another plot to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and the FBI building in Miami.
• In August 2006, British authorities thwarted a terrorist plot to simultaneously blow up 10 aircraft heading to the United States by using explosives smuggled in carry-on luggage, barely averting “mass murder on an unimaginable scale,” as police described it. Two dozen people were arrested, but the mastermind of the plot and at least three of his henchmen were never caught.
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But, as many critics of U.S. foreign policy note, it’s a matter of intense debate as to whether the numerous examples of upstaged terrorist plots exemplify the Bush administration’s prowess at intelligence or its ineptitude at fostering friends around the world.
Many lawmakers, defense experts and others contend that U.S. Military intervention in Iraq and other parts of the world has only made America more vulnerable to foreign resentment. Resentment, they argue, breeds terrorism, which is why there are so many attempts to kill Americans.
In this era of the Internet and high-speed global communications, the United States appears to be losing the propaganda war, according to scholars and counter-terrorism experts. As examples, they cite the numerous Islamic Web sites that denounce “American Imperialism” and note the rapid rise in recruitment among terrorist groups like al-Qaeda.
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, who has been a consistent public opponent of the war, warned early on that an Iraq invasion would, “lead to an occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.”
Although she initially voted to endow President Bush with the authority to invade Iraq, Sen. Hillary Clinton, another Democratic presidential candidate, said recently that “the president’s go-it-alone attitude has diminished our position in the region and around the world.”
And America’s military aggressive position abroad has also made her allies more vulnerable, some say. In a 2005 report by the Chatham House, also known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs, two noted British scholars concluded that the British government "has been conducting counter-terrorism policy 'shoulder to shoulder' with the U.S., not in the sense of being an equal decision-maker, but rather as pillion [back-seat] passenger compelled to leave the steering to the ally in the driving seat…, [which] has proved costly in terms of British and U.S. military lives, Iraqi lives, military expenditure and the damage caused to the counter-terrorism campaign."
What do you think? Are the numerous failed attempts to blow up Americans a sign that the Bush administration is doing a pretty good job of protecting us. Or are they a sign that the Bush administration has made more people hate us the world over?