Thursday, January 07, 2010

Obama on the 253 Investigation

“If you use pressure, we will deploy pressure and force. We know that you can harm us although we do not threaten you. But we too can harm you. Everyone can cause harm according to their ability and their size. We cannot come all the way to you in the United States, but individual Arabs may reach you.”
-Saddam Hussein comment to Ambassador April Glaspie before the first Gulf War in July 1990

Quite prescient. Indeed, individual Arabs have been causing havoc for America and our interests ever since we left Iraq in 1991.

But with a new president things are changing somewhat. We've had three attacks in the past seven months connected to Yemen in some form, but instead of individual Arabs we now have individual American Muslims with connections to Arabia in some form.

Obama ordered a quick public report on the flight 253 event and it was released today. One might think a report previewed as shocking might actually have some shock value, but instead we learned that a terror bomber found his way around the bureaucratic cylinders of excellence in Washington known as the intelligence apparatus and almost blew up an airplane full of people on the most reverent day in Christianity. Anyone shocked at such a thing has not been paying attention lately.

No, shocking would have been an explanation as to why the commander-in-chief spent all summer and fall trying to downplay an increasing connection between domestic attacks and Yemen, including immediately after the 253 attack itself. Shocking might be an explanation of why in the face of all that it's suddenly OK to mention things like war, terrorism and victory when talking about something other than health care reform.

The president and TOTUS came to the podium for a speech to lay out the findings of this report and no doubt spoke some good words. He formally took the buck, which was absolutely necessary in order to establish himself as a legitimate leader and gain the trust of the subordinates he was roasting. And this was a rather unequivocal statement in response to Dick Cheney:
We are at war. We are at war against al Qaeda, a far-reaching network of violence and hatred that attacked us on 9/11, that killed nearly 3,000 innocent people, and that is plotting to strike us again. And we will do whatever it takes to defeat them.
Needed. Technically of course we are at war with any terrorist group that wants to strike us not just AQ, but that's as clear as he's been so far. And there was some passion here:
Here at home, we will strengthen our defenses, but we will not succumb to a siege mentality that sacrifices the open society and liberties and values that we cherish as Americans, because great and proud nations don't hunker down and hide behind walls of suspicion and mistrust. That is exactly what our adversaries want. And so long as I am president, we will never hand them that victory.

We will define the character of our country, not some band of small men intent on killing innocent men, women and children.
Bravo. You get the feeling a limit is approaching in the security-liberty tradeoff that might actually bring a few liberals and conservatives together and he touched on it. We do need to come together on national security issues to the extent possible, although dissent remains patriotic no matter who's in power.

He also said we can't get them all, which is code for we can't get them all and innocent people may die but nothing in life is guaranteed and we're doing our best under the circumstances. He had to use code because admitting such things tends to crack the image of a super-competent government ready to take over 1/7th of the economy to give away health care. And of course there will be more risk if we're trying captured terrorists like common criminals in federal court rather than trying to squeeze info out of them. Traveling the road of higher risk requires the leader to sell it. He tried.

But Churchill he wasn't. Hell, he wasn't even Obama when Obama's talking about something he's passionate about, like global wealth equity or unilateral nuclear disarmament or anything else. It's just not his bailiwick. Clinton always sounded hollow trying to sound tough as well, and he loved to talk.

And wow, details are fine, but after an attack or near attack people won't remember a bunch of details in a speech, they want to see and hear emotion, courage and patriotism in the face of a threat. Save a few flashes the speech could have been one given to a think tank without questions at the end. He's getting better, but sometimes the situation calls for more. He was sold as more.

Finally, will this report supersede a Congressional investigation or was it designed to get out ahead of one? Rockefeller and Lieberman vowed to hold hearings and there's nothing to indicate they've been canceled, yet. It might be interesting to see if the Senators come to the same shocking findings as the administration when talking with the same people.

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