This editorial by Prof. Bowen was published in the News Leader (Staunton VA: January 30, 2010): A9.
by Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D.
Professor, Depts. of Political Science and of International Relations, Mary Baldwin College, Staunton VA 24401
Since it sometimes is difficult to read every word of a scanned article (as above), here is a clear copy of the original version of this editorial for readers' reference:
Why does the Obama Administration Hide its Counter-Terrorism Successes?
Burdened by declining poll numbers and diminishing chances for passage of significant legislative changes in domestic health insurance and banking regulation, the Obama Administration badly needs to show some successes in other areas. Earlier this month, a U.S. drone airstrike in Pakistan seems to have delivered just this, but thus far very little has been heard of the event: why? Unraveling this mystery should open some eyes.
On January 9, 2010, Jamal Saeed Abdul Rahim was reported to have been killed by a U.S. missile fired into North Waziristan, Pakistan. A Lebanese-Palestinian, Mr. Rahim had eluded U.S. authorities for nearly 24 years since his participation in the attempted 1986 hijacking of Pan Am flight 73 in Karachi. Two Americans were among the 20 passengers who died then after Rahim and several others of the notorious Abu Nidal organization seized the plane as it refueled while making a scheduled stop on its way from Mumbai, India, then to Germany, and finally on to the States. One hundred twenty others were injured as these terrorists first sought out Americans to humiliate and murder, then tossed grenades and fired machine guns at random once it was clear that no pilot would be sent aboard to put the plane back into the air.
For these crimes, Rahim and his accomplices have merited inclusion on F.B.I. Most Wanted lists, and a $5 million reward for him still is posted on the F.B.I. website. But, for many years, little was done to bring them to American justice: Pakistan jailed him for 22 years, but it released all of the Flight 73 terrorists in January 2008. The ringleader, Zayd Safarini, let go earlier by Pakistan, was captured separately in Malaysia in late September 2001, was brought to the U.S. for trial, was convicted, and is serving a 160 year sentence at the SuperMax prison in Florence, Colorado.
In 2001-2, when the U.S. administration understood all murdering terrorists to be our enemy, we fought some (e.g., the Taliban and Al Qaeda) and we used criminal trials for some (e.g., Sarafini, and the “shoe bomber,” Richard Reid). Today, under the Obama Administration we also shoot some terrorists (e.g., Mr. Rahim, and the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, who perished in August 2009), and we hold trials for some (e.g., 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed). For all the posing about a sea change in policy toward the Muslim world, at bottom much of what Obama’s team has been doing resembles the Bush era.
Except that we are told by the White House no longer to call all this a “war on terrorism.” No, it is now a struggle with “extremists.” Outside Iraq and Afghanistan, the two theaters in which official wars are admitted to be occurring, we may be killing “extremists” in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. But, the wordsmiths of official Washington don’t want those events seen as war news.
Of course, few locals in these places are confused by this rhetorical flim-flam; it’s the American public that is being waltzed down the primrose path. It may be convenient now to claim that “old” terrorism is just history, that most contemporary Islamist terrorists are just criminals to be arrested and tried, and that our war –even in Afghanistan— is just against “Al Qaeda and its affiliates.” But the facts occasionally cut through this cloud of minimizing rhetoric.
The killing of Jamal Rahim demonstrates that a clear line connects 1980’s anti-American terrorism to the jihadist fighters in Afghanistan-Pakistan today. All did not begin on September 11, 2001. The animosity toward America felt by hundreds of millions of Muslims today will not evaporate simply because Pres. Obama says we only are at war with Al Qaeda and its affiliates. The sooner we stop denying plain facts, the sooner we will be able to recognize the threat on the planes, and elsewhere.
Written on January 18, 2010
Gordon L. Bowen
News report about the killing of Rahim, see: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2010/01/wanted_palestinian_r.php
FBI wanted poster, accessed Jan. 18, 2010: http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/terrorists/terrahim.htm
The preference for "extremist" over terrorist to describe the enemy: See Obama's speech on Afghanistan, Dec. 1, 2009: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-address-nation-way-forward-afghanistan-and-pakistan
The official avoidance of the use of the phrase "war on terrorism," see White House counter-terrorism chief John Brennan: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-John-Brennan-at-the-Center-for-Strategic-and-International-Studies/
The statement that hundreds of millions of Muslims have strong animosity toward Americans and the U.S., see my chapter "Measuring the Enemy," in Terrorism's Unanswered Questions , editors Adam Lowther and Beverley Lindsay (Praeger Security International, 2009): 32-59.
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