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What “Follow Us Here” Means

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Christopher Christie, the US Attorney for New Jersey, told PBS’ Gwen Ifill last night that the six men he described as “Islamic extremists” or “jihadists” who were arrested for plotting to kill American soldiers at Fort Dix were “inspired” by al Qaeda and al Qaeda writings. The FBI Agent in charge of the arrests told the nation we had just “dodged a bullet.” Maybe many bullets.

The major media predictably reported this as given to them by the government officials; except for KO’s raised eyebrow and a little snark, no one questioned whether this might be one of the many suspicious “coincidences” in which a new “terrorist threat” emerges just in time to divert attention from the latest White House scandal, such as the illegal use of political loyalty oaths in the hiring and firing of DoJ employees. The benefit of having a new scandal every week is that there are no timing coincidences any more. Any time is a good time for a diversion.

Because of men like Alberto Gonzales and Karl Rove, the American people have less confidence in the Department of Justice and the men and women who still remain US Attorneys. We cannot be certain that the DoJ would not time the announcement of “terrorist” arrests for political reasons, especially when these suspects had been under surveillance for 16 months and been infiltrated by the FBI. We don’t know whether the timing had anything to do with a need to revive the shattered reputation of the Attorney General or those who oversee or vetted the selection of the remaining crop of US Attorneys. And it may have been only a coincidence that Mr. Christie used his appearance on the Newshour to warn Americans that “the war on terror is real” and we should see this as a wake up call on the need to be vigilant about Islamic extremists operating right here in the US. He did not warn about any other types of fanatics or ask us to think about how this group came to want to kill Americans.

There is no doubt that Americans need to be protected from violent extremists, even if they are a group of barely literate men who think Osama bin Laden is an inspiration but who apparently had no coherent plan for invading Fort Dix beyond a desire to kill soldiers and a knowledge gained from watching internet videos and delivering pizzas. Officials claimed that this group was dumb enough to ask a video store to upgrade their training videos to DVDs, and they were hoping to arm a full company of jihadists who would then take on a whole army at Fort Dix. This sounds completely delusional, but delusional people can be dangerous if armed and committed.

According to Reuters, federal authorities claimed the men “had amassed semi-automatic assault rifles, shotguns and handguns while trying to acquire the more sophisticated weaponry,” such a rocket propelled grenades. Of course, any one of us could have acquired the same arsenal under US gun laws, and no one would notice. That tells me that the 2nd Amendment is working extremely well, because these and other dangerous weapons can be acquired as easily as the two pistols Seung Hui Cho used to murder over thirty students and faculty at Virginia Tech.

While I’m assured by the demonstrated vigilance of the Justice Department, I am a little concerned about Bush’s and Cheney’s prediction that if we withdraw our troops from Iraq, al Qaeda will follow us home. We’re still in Iraq, just as the White House demanded, but if Mr. Christie is correct, it seems the “jihadists” are here anyway. Moreover, these apparently weren’t those Iraqi or Afghani terrorists we’re fighting to keep over there:

The men, aged 22 to 28, included three brothers born in the former Yugoslavia who ran a roofing business. One Jordanian-born suspect was a Philadelphia taxi driver and a Turkish-born man worked as a convenience store clerk.

USA Christie claimed these men were not members of any known al Qaeda group or directed by al Qaeda. They just wanted to be like them. They were also a bunch of crazed fanatics who were willing to kill innocent civilians, US agents or soldiers, as were Jim Jones or Timothy McVeigh or the Branch Davidians. Or this little group of “patriots” from Alabama that TRex highlighted in the previous post.

All this reminds us there is something seriously wrong with the Bush/Cheney logic and their strategic assessment. All that rhetoric about “them” “following us home” — what Richard Clarke calls the White House’s “puppy dog theory” — sounds pretty ludicrous, because it’s exactly backwards. Instead of worrying about al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia following us home, American policy should stop breeding wannabe terrorists here by what we’re doing there. We should worry that this Administration has an incoherent, and dangerously delusional understanding of the threat to America that bears no relationship to reality. And that’s the real danger to the country.

Photo credit: John Randolph/Reuters

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley

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