Thomas Friedman, in the New York Times:
Surely, the most important, interesting — and, yes, heroic — figure in the whole Christmas Day Northwest airliner affair was the would-be bomber’s father, the Nigerian banker Alhaji Umaru Mutallab.
Actually, surely the most “heroic” figure was the Dutch passenger who was the first to vault over seats and try to subdue that man’s would-be bomber son, who was trying to blow up that airplane, in an attempt to kill himself and all aboard.
Mutallab did something that, as far as we know, no other parent of a suicide bomber has done: He went to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria and warned us that text messages from his son revealed that he was in Yemen and had become a fervent, and possibly dangerous, radical.
We are turning ourselves inside out over how our system broke down — and surely it did — in allowing Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the would-be suicide bomber, to board that airliner. But his father, in effect, told us something else: “My family system, our village system, broke down. My own son fell under the influence of a jihadist version of Islam that I do not recognize and have reason to fear.”
The Times, quoting a cousin, said the son had sent the father a text message from Yemen in which he declared that “he had found a new religion, the real Islam” and that he was never coming home again. A Feb. 20, 2005, Internet posting attributed to the son and quoted by The Associated Press said: “I imagine how the great jihad will take place, how the Muslims will win … and rule the whole world, and establish the greatest empire once again!!!”…
We know of the chain of events now, but Mr Friedman allows for no possibility how, for instance, the father might also have had some grudge against the son — perhaps the father opposed the son going to the U.S.? — and so tried to enlist U.S. embassy staff into unknowingly involving themselves in doing helpful “dirty work” on his (the father’s) behalf? U.S. consular officials politely daily listen to LOADS of nonsense from foreigners, and hear every story imaginable, everywhere in the world. So Mr Friedman’s unabashed recourse to hindsight here is disturbing: everyone is, after all, totally eagle-eyed after the fact.
And the son’s “radical” views? That those messages displayed pretty much the sort of worldview one hears all too commonly voiced by many another Muslim? And, indeed, is treated also to regularly on the likes of the Guardian’s “Comment is Free?”
In addition, had the son been banned from Flight 253 due to opinions offered in text messages? True, we probably never would have heard of him. But had a banning on that basis surfaced in media somehow eventually, Mr Friedman would undoubtedly have been among the first to raise the Stars and Stripes and decry the Obama administration’s continuing the appallingly dangerous Bush administration policies aimed at curtailing free speech, and disgracefully criminalizing young Muslims based solely on their religion and no other evidence whatsoever.
Moreover, as for most of Mr Friedman’s commenters’ opinions? They move far beyond the scope of Mr Friedman’s column. Attempt to wade through at least some of them.
Why that outlook from the son, and tens of millions of his co-religionists worldwide? “It” is owing to American “imperialism.” Or “it” is because of U.S. foreign policy in southwestern Asia. Or “it” is because “we” are fostering “anger.” Or “it” is just like the “anger” one sees in non-Muslims in the U.S. who stupidly subscribe to Christian forms. Or “it” is because “we” view Muslims as “the other.” Or “it” should be treated best as crime, because “we” should not be making criminals look “heroic.”
“It” is because…because “we” have done… something to create “it.” The idea that “it” might have NOTHING to do with what “we” have done? That “it” is infinitely more civilizationally complex, and pre-dates the very United States “we” inhabit?
That “it” has always been there, but owing to air-travel that now puts every destination on this planet cheaply within 24 hours of anywhere else, a mobility without precedent in all of history, “we” have just never seen “it” to the extent “we” have in this jet-setting generation of ours? Such has almost no place in Mr Friedman’s trenchant analysis:
…Yes, we need to fix our intelligence. Yes, we absolutely must live up to our own ideals, as President Obama is trying to do in banning torture and closing Guantánamo Bay. We can’t let this “war on terrorism” consume us. We can’t let our country become just The United States of Fighting Terrorism and nothing more. We are the people of July 4th — not Sept. 11th…
Thus Mr Friedman. So many have absolutely determined the correct response is found in how “we” position matters. Even a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist.
If only “it” were so simple. Which itself is off-putting in its own way, because “it” is not about America’s being a “July 4th” country or a “Sept. 11th” one and “it” has never been. Until “we” seriously begin to grasp that, “we” are never going to get anywhere in trying better to deal with “it.”
UPDATE: January 8. A Dirty Martini:
The Islamic Decade
A scary review. So much so that one hopes “it” lasts but a single decade. History, however, demonstrates that to be unlikely; and “we” seem utterly intellectually underprepared to cope with that reality.