SO I set out last night to write about this David Brooks column, and for some reason decided it might be "fun" to try something called "research", so I began combing his public record to find what he'd said about Afghanistan before he became America's most freshly-minted military strategist by crouching behind his bodyguards "in country", as they say, and before it became a Not-Republican war. And it turns out to be complicated. No, not what Brooks has said, which was predictable bullshit about "bringing democracy to the region", back when Brooks was at My Weekly Standard and a majority of Americans thought they understood what we were doing there, interrupted by six years at the Times, in which his attention was captured by Iraq, Edmund Burke, Howard Dean, John Kerry, Michael Moore, the perfidy of Democrats in general, except the ones who agree with him, the driving need to privatize Social Security (briefly), the perfidious Democrats who opposed privatizing Social Security by falsely claiming that financial markets are inhabited by malevolent rich guys waiting to prey on everyone else (also briefly), Edmund Burke, the natural, inherent American psyche, something at the center of which accepts robber baronage as a small price to pay for its potential personal capitalization on laissez-faire brigandage, Edmund Burke, and Edmund Burke. It's the research that's complicated, especially since My Weekly Standard imagines you want to read the old parts badly enough that you'll pony up for the privilege, which is nearly impossible to believe if you read the new parts. Look for all this later this weekend, unless it stops raining.
Instead, let's try to catch up with the news, or "news", on Najibullah Zazi, airport limo driver and alleged terrorist mastermind now charged with
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, senior government officials have announced dozens of terrorism cases that on closer examination seemed to diminish as legitimate threats.Okay, sorry to break the rhythm so quickly, but maybe this could serve as a lesson in why you--meaning your profession--should do the actual closer examination actually closer to the stenographic dispersal of the claims of senior government officials.
The accumulating evidence against a Denver airport shuttle driver suggests he may be different, with some investigators calling his case the most serious in years.Since the competition is the guys who were gonna takeover Camp Lejune disguised as pizza delivery men, and the guys (recently convicted!) who were gonna blow up the Sears Tower as soon as they contacted their local al-Qaeda rep and got him to spring for bus tickets and M-80s, it's not saying much.
If government allegations are to be believed,Urp. Oh, excuse me.
Mr. Zazi, a legal immigrant from Afghanistan, had carefully prepared for a terrorist attack. He attended a Qaeda training camp in Pakistan, received training in explosives and stored in his laptop computer nine pages of instructions for making bombs from the same kind of chemicals he had bought.Okay, again, maybe right now would be a good time to crack the window and let a breath of skepticism in. He's stocking up on acetone. He's not a chemist. He's not even an experienced bomb-maker. He's a guy who attended an al-Qaeda seminar, and he's got nine-pages of notes. To work with highly unstable chemical mixtures. Look, I've been baking for thirty-five years, and I still sometimes put the cake in the oven before I realize I've left out the baking powder.
And don't get me wrong: this sort of thing is worthwhile, even if the likelihood is that the only life we potentially saved was the night clerk's at whatever motel the guy was practicing in when he unintentionally blew himself up. And, sure, maybe it was much worse. The thanks of a grateful Nation, an' all that. And sure, the only kind of selling we seem to understand anymore is Overselling. Maybe I'm just on edge because a legal immigrant Afghani flies to Pakistan for Homecoming, returns and starts buying bomb-making materials from Beauty Supply houses, one of the two places where they're kept, and the whole investigation gets brought down by an imam informant. You're tapping every phone and email account in the country! You're watching every plane for swarthy, bearded guys (oh, sorry. you aren't). Big Telecom co-operated (except Qwest, which seems to have made up the difference the old-fashioned way, by bilking the market) without asking for warrants; hell, AT&T doesn't seem to have waited to be asked, or even waited for 9/11. You can't get Big Cosmetics on board? You can't even keep your informants in line? And you burn one out of pique? Roll the window back up, Dave, the skepticism's gettin' to me.
While many important facts remain unknown,Slow down, Chuck. It's just the fourth paragraph.
those allegations alone would distinguish Mr. Zazi from nearly all the other defendants in United States terrorism cases in recent years. More often than not the earlier suspects emerged as angry young men, inflamed by the rhetoric of Osama bin Laden or his associates. Some were serious in intent. More than a few seemed to be malcontents without the organization, technical skills and financing to be much of a threat. In some cases, the subjects appeared to be influenced by informants or undercover agents who pledged to provide the weapons or even do some of the planning.Yeah, do tell. Okay, look: in 2002 there were a series of mailbox bombings on the north-east side of Indianapolis. Typical punk kid stuff--by which we do not mean to excuse or minimize it; read on--but which apparently were pert' near lethal strength. And they finally nab a couple of suburban dickweeds, and they find, gosh, under our new anti-terror laws these guys can be sent up for Life. So guess what we did (hint: it didn't involve shipping them off to Bulgaria in the early morning hours in crates marked "White Castles--Keep Frozen")?
The decision to treat this as Youthful Folly took about twenty-four hours, officially, though you could pretty much hear it in the tone of voice when the cops were first asked about it. So, Standard Liberal Reply Mode, with a Point: darken their skins a few shades, and give one of 'em a hard-drive filled with the Osama bin-Laden Video Collection, Vols I and II. How many additional headline days would the thing have run? How much longer before, or if, someone decided it was Just An Ill-Considered Prank? For that matter, move it closer to Columbine and make 'em both Iron Maiden fans.
Justice may accessorize with that blindfold, but in the modern era Her Department is more likely to cover a different part of her anatomy. Let's just acknowledge that the Bureau, having bureaucratically rogered the poodle on 9/11, has been busy buffing its image on the Terra front ever since, provided that did not include solving the Anthrax mailings. And they've used every damn scrap that floated their way. Zazi may be guilty, innocent, or a kook, or some combination, but he's entitled to the presumption of one of those, the middle one. And readers, at long last, are entitled to a presumption of intelligence. Here's what we do know, for example: that if those "thousands of al-Qaeda sleeper cells" exist they've been napping for a long time, while what's left of the Islamofascist Division of SPECTRE sends evident amateurs off with complete bomb-assembly instructions of their laptops to purchase materials in a way that ought to have Uncle Leo following them while they're still in the store. Maybe we could save our declarations that we've finally foiled a Big One, at least until we've filled in all the blanks? And maybe the next time the FBI says, "And this time we mean it," it should be on a celebrity rehab show.