Flight 253 and Counterterror’s Epic Fail – by Robert Spencer


An attempted jihad attack on Christmas Day has revealed that Americans are much more vulnerable to such attacks than most have believed – while government officials whistle in the dark. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old son of a wealthy Nigerian banker, tried to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 just before it landed in Detroit. In response, Barack Obama chose not to cut short his golfing vacation in Hawaii; the White House announced that he would “likely” have something to say about this latest attempted jihad attack on U.S. soil “in the next few days.” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was ebullient, maintaining that “the system worked” and “everything happened that should have.”

Unless the “system” consisted of relying on passengers to tackle jihadists (as Jasper Schuringa, the Dutch passenger on Flight 253, subdued Abdulmutallab), and trusting that jihadis’ detonators will malfunction (as did Abdulmutallab’s), Napolitano’s statement couldn’t possibly be farther from the truth. In reality, nothing worked. Nothing at all, both in terms of security procedures for individual air passengers, and in terms of the larger strategy for dealing with jihad terrorism.

All the stupid and humiliating airport security procedures, all the little baggies for toothpaste and shampoo, all the padding through the security scanner in stocking feet, didn’t work. Abdulmutallab was able to board the plane with the makings of a bomb that would have destroyed the aircraft and killed everyone in it. The Transportation Security Administration has scrambled since Christmas Day to stiffen security procedures, but its effort is foredoomed: jihadis study these procedures carefully, always searching for ways to circumvent them. And such ways exist, even if every passenger were subjected to a full body cavity search – bomb ingredients can be separated and combined mid-flight, or spirited onboard in ways as yet unimagined by the most visionary TSA official.

Abdulmutallib was also on a terror watch list, although that fact, and the fact that he had been known to anti-terror officials for several years, did not prevent him from boarding Flight 253 – showing that such lists and even official scrutiny are as useless as taking off your shoes in the airport security line. What’s more, the jihadi’s father warned American officials about his son, who was being watched already. And still nothing was done to keep him from boarding the plane.

Abdulmutallab likewise demonstrates the failure of long-term anti-terror strategies. Educated at the British International School in Lome, Togo, he was a classic recipient of Western largesse designed to win over the loyalties of Muslims. Yet his encounter with kindly non-Muslim Westerners spending their lives to educate him and his peers did not blunt the fervor of his jihadist fanaticism. And as a rich man’s son, he once again gives the lie to the firmly and widely held assumption that poverty causes terrorism. All the aid programs based on the assumption that poverty does cause terrorism and that money for schools and roads and hospitals would win over Muslim hearts and minds have not worked, and will not work.

All the concerted efforts by the State Department and DHS to ignore the jihad doctrine and reach out to people they deemed to be “moderate Muslims” have likewise not worked. According to the Nigerian newspaper This Day, when Abdulmutallab was at the British International School, “he was known for preaching about Islam to his schoolmates and he was popularly called ‘Alfa,’ a local coinage for Islamic scholar.” This illustrates yet again that, contrary to the popular view, Islamic jihadists present themselves among their fellow Muslims as the exponents of authentic Islam, making their case from the Qur’an and Sunnah — and those Muslims who oppose jihadist violence and Islamic supremacism have never successfully refuted their arguments. Outreach to moderate Muslims has not aided in this effort, and has deceived the general public into thinking that the influence of peaceful Muslims over jihadists is much larger than it actually is.

As far as the DHS and Janet Napolitano are concerned, the Flight 253 incident is a massive and unmitigated disaster, showing the complete and abject failure of their anti-terror policies across the board. The Flight 253 attempted jihad attack shows that the American response to jihad terrorism has failed not just in one detail or a single area. Rather, the failure is massive, comprehensive, all-encompassing. The anti-terror approach adopted since 9/11 is not working, and is never going to work. Until it is scrapped, there will be many, many more incidents like the one on Flight 253. But rather than have the decency to admit the truth, the DHS chief is putting on a brave face and pretending that up is down and down is up. And the President keeps golfing.

Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of ten books, eleven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book, The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran, is available now from Regnery Publishing, and he is coauthor (with Pamela Geller) of the forthcoming book The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America (Simon and Schuster).

  • Lary9

    So did Serge Trifokic [sp?] in the DVD “Islam: What The West Needs To Know”. It's in the intros, right along with Robt. Spencer. I think I even heard Walid Shoebat use the phrase elsewhere. But he used 'peaceful' rather than 'moderate'. I encourage you to confirm this by viewing the DVD. I'm not surprised to encounter co-occuring quote sources. It happens.The point is: it's true. Thank you for your admonishment. Admittedly I was paraphrasing.

  • Lary9

    I am not at all convinced of what you just said. Do you honestly believe that the US intelligence community doesn't have extensive databases with 'ideological profiling' on suspects? They do. The problem is they don't share. Private property is a good thing but not with information among co-operating agencies.

  • Len Powder

    Hey Larry,

    I wasn't admonishing you but affirming your message. More important, I hope that you have abandoned your 'Leftie' position. If so, you have regained your sanity and objectivity and I welcome you to our side.

  • Lary9

    There's a big difference between the sensible affirmation of diversity and the idiotic toleration of societal brigands. I'm still OK with diversity but not when it gets mindlessly out of hand and permits cultural suicide.

  • Len Powder

    Great! Spoken like a true conservative!

  • Lary9

    I'm all for peaceful diversity which is constructive but not for violent divergence which is destructive,. These nuanced terms may sometimes seem similar to the impatient eye but they are distinctly different. One is guaranteed by the Constitution, the other is disallowed.

  • Lary9

    Like all good mutts, I'm a hybrid.

  • Lary9

    Good liberals never abandon things, especially puppies and ideologies. We
    morph. Didn't you get the memo?

  • Len Powder

    Got it. Just like we conservatives refuse to abandon God, country, liberty, the Constitution and Free Markets. We just cling to different things.

  • Lary9

    I'm down with all that. Deal 'em.

  • thomaswells

    “Jughead Janet” needs to resign as Sec. DHS and be sent to Yemen to study terrorist tactics.

  • Len Powder

    Obama has surrounded himself with losers and he doesn't want to get his own hands dirty so he will continue to be embarassed by them. Unfortunately we are the ones who get hurt. The antics of this administration and its imbecile characters would make for a hilarious sitcom or Keystone Cop movie. The comics and writers out there are missing a golden opportunity by being politically correct.

  • your brother and friend

    The source of terrorism is in ignorance and bigotry and the solution to terrorism is education. To the circles who feel sympathy with terror, it should be made clear that terror is utterly against Islam and that it only serves to harm Islam, Muslims and humanity at large.
    it would be wrong to form ideas about that religion by taking these people as an example. The best way of understanding a religion is to study its divine source.
    Murdering a person for no reason is one of the most obvious examples of mischief. God repeats in the Qur'an a command He formerly revealed to Jews in the Old Testament thus:

    …if someone kills another person – unless it is in retaliation for someone else or for causing corruption in the earth – it is as if he had murdered all mankind. And if anyone gives life to another person, it is as if he had given life to all mankind… (Qur'an, 5:32)

    A true muslim is the one who adopts a morality acceptable to God while he is in this world. The clearest manifestations of this morality are compassion, pity, justice, honesty, forgiveness, humility, sacrifice and patience. The believer will behave well towards people, try to perform good deeds and spread goodness. In His verse, God commands:
    Help one another in benevolence and piety. Do not help each other to wrongdoing and enmity. And fear God. God is severe in retribution. (Qur'an, 5:2)
    The prophet Mohamed never calls for killing innocent people or terrorise them.
    He said:
    “He who kills a non-Muslim (who has a peace treaty) shall not smell the fragrance of Paradise, and its smell is sensed from a distance as far as forty years journey.” [collected in Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim]
    let me conclude by these statements
    Shaykh Muhammed Sayyid al-Tantawi, imam of al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, Egypt:
    “Attacking innocent people is not courageous, it is stupid and will be punished on the day of judgement. … It’s not courageous to attack innocent children, women and civilians. It is courageous to protect freedom, it is courageous to defend oneself and not to attack.”
    Agence France Presse, September 14, 2001

    Abdel-Mo'tei Bayyoumi, al-Azhar Islamic Research Academy, Cairo, Egypt:
    “There is no terrorism or a threat to civilians in jihad [religious struggle].”

    League of Arab States:
    “The General-Secretariat of the League of Arab States shares with the people and government of the United States of America the feelings of revulsion, horror and shock over the terrorist attacks that ripped through the World Trade Centre and Pentagon, inflicting heavy damage and killing and wounding thousands of many nationalities. These terrorist crimes have been viewed by the League as inadmissible and deserving all condemnation. Divergence of views between the Arabs and the United States over the latter’s foreign policy on the Middle East crisis does in no way adversely affect the common Arab attitude of compassion with the people and government of the United States at such moments of facing the menace and ruthlessness of international terrorism. In more than one statement released since the horrendous attacks, the League has also expressed deep sympathy with the families of the victims. In remarks to newsmen immediately following the tragic events, Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa described the feelings of the Arab world as demonstrably sympathetic with the American people, particularly with families and individuals who lost their loved ones. “It is indeed tormenting that any country or people or city anywhere in the world be the scene of such disastrous attacks,” he added. While convinced that it is both inconceivable and lamentable that such a large-scale, organised terrorist campaign take place anywhere, anytime, the League believes that the dreadful attacks against WTC and the Pentagon unveil, time and again, that the cancer of terrorism can be extensively damaging if left unchecked. It follows that there is a pressing and urgent need to combat world terrorism. In this context, an earlier call by [Egyptian] President Hosni Mubarak for convening an international conference to draw up universal accord on ways and means to eradicate this phenomenon and demonstrate international solidarity is worthy of active consideration. The Arabs have walked a large distancein the fight against cross-border terrorism by concluding in April 1998 the Arab Agreement on Combating Terrorism.”
    September 17, 2001, http://www.leagueofarabstates.org/E_Perspective
    to read about the prophet mohamed visit pls

  • Len Powder

    Dear Brother & Friend,

    Citing passages from the Koran or the Bible, out of context, serves no one. Whether a person is Muslim or Christian what matters is not that they can site scripture but how they live and what they do. In both cases, it is our duty to denounce hatred, bigotry, murder, violence, abuse, injustice, etc. Where are the Muslims denouncing terrorism? Where are their voices? Why does CAIR not reject terrorism and terrorists by NAME? Why do other 'mainstream' Muslim organizations do the same? Why are so many mosques preaching 'death to the infidels'? Why are there terrorist training camps in the US learning to wage jihad?

    Changing our opinion of Islam is irrelevant. We can all read the Koran for ourselves. We need Muslims to be active and militant in rejecting the creed which is producing terrorists. They need to cite the peaceful verses of the Koran to the terrorists, not to victims!