One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Less than two weeks after fate (with help from the Israelis) dispensed a sorely-needed taste of justice by neatly eliminating terrorist extraordinaire Imad Mughniyeh, another prime example of the worst of humanity has apparently been set free.

Jaber Elbaneh is one of the FBI’s 26 “most wanted” terrorists. He showed up at court with body guards Saturday in Yemen, attending his trial with 22 warped cohorts. Later, according to witnesses, he walked out a free man.

Jaber had been sentenced to 10 years for his part in a series of attacks in Yemen in 2006. He and the aforementioned cohorts also broke out of jail earlier this month, digging a little rat hole to a nearby mosque.

Clearly, though, not Muggie. There was a pretty reprehensible guy. And his death came as a special reason for celebration as far as I am concerned. Watching the story run repeatedly on the news, I frequently saw a familiar image – that of an airline pilot leaning out of the cockpit, a gun to his head and a hand clapped over his mouth. And who planned and led that attack? You guessed it: Muggie.

That was probably Muggie’s most famous handiwork – the hijacking of TWA flight 847. Aside from 9/11, it’s the most vivid illustration of terrorism that resides in my memory. But it isn’t that particular photo I see in my mind’s eye. Instead, I see a photo of a young Navy Hero – SW-2 Robert Dean Stethem. On June 14th, 1985, Muggie and his friends beat the young Navy hero, shot him in the back of the head, and dumped his body out on the tarmac like so much garbage. He was 23. That is what I see when I hear Imad Mugniyeh’s name. And that is why I couldn’t be happier that the S.O.B. is dead. Blowing him up was probably way too good for him, but I’ll take it.

Sadly, Elbaneh isn’t dead; he’s free. Strange that Yemen would free him, considering the attacks he planned were in Yemen. There’s also the matter of a $5 million reward being offered by the FBI for information leading to his arrest. Odd that we’d throw around that kind of money to get a hold of someone who (according to Yemen, at least), doesn’t seem to be a threat. Elbaneh’s wanted here for “providing material support to a terrorist organization and conspiring to provide material support, specifically to Al-Qaeda.”

Not for nothing, but you’d think Yemen would know better. I seem to recall a little incident taking place there. You know, a ship, big hole blown in the side of it, seventeen brave U.S. military personnel killed… then again, you’d think we’d know better than to let it go. I thought we meant what we said when we said we’d hunt terrorists down wherever they were. I seem to recall our president further stating that if countries harbored terrorists, they were no better than terrorists. Apparently, to borrow a phrase from Roger Clemens, I am ‘misremembering.’

One of the biggest difficulties that we have had in this war on terror is that we’re finding few true allies. Either because of fear of reprisal, or because their government is already held hostage to political correctness, most other countries are refusing to fully confront the threat posed by Islamic extremism. Many are denying there is a threat – at least, to anyone other than the U.S.

At the same time, our politicians are allowing valuable terrorist surveillance venues to disappear, and continuing to advocate the nauseating irony of bestowing citizens’ rights on people who would just as soon kill us as look at us. Given that, why would any country want to stand with us against the terrorists? The terrorists prove on a daily basis that they will do what they say they will. We’re not so clear on that point.

We are steadily returning to an era of hiding under the covers, hoping that the bogeyman will just go away. But he won’t. We are looking more like we’re doomed to repeat, rather than learn from, the bloody lessons we’ve learned from terrorism.

This week, Serbian protesters attacked the U.S. embassy, setting it on fire. And the U.S. response was tepid at best.

Not too long ago, there was another embassy that got attacked by rowdy students. More than a year later, their hostages were released. The U.S. spent a year allowing it.

That time period had been marked by plane hijackings, bombings, and all sorts of mayhem at the hands of Islamic terrorists. Things eased up significantly when we taught them that angering the United States wasn’t such a great idea. We suffered under a man many believe was the worst president in American history. In the aftermath of the catastrophic wounds to American security and pride, we chose one widely regarded as one of the best – largely because America was tired of being kicked around. We started acting like a country that believed in freedom, and was not willing to compromise its principles for the false illusion of security.

Our current president did pretty well with confronting terrorism early in his first term. Now, though, he appears to have lost sight of that “bullhorn moment.” He seems to have lost the focus on fighting the terrorist threat anywhere it resides.

Our government is failing entirely to control the borders, despite numerous warnings about the threat posed to us from terrorists who can easily cross over. Yes, the ‘virtual fence’ is almost ready to go. But the ‘virtual fence’ isn’t going to cut it. For one, it doesn’t cover the entire southern border – not even close. And in case anyone’s forgotten (as our government apparently has), there’s a border to the north, too. Now, I’m not living in fear of hordes of Canadians coming down to wreak havoc. But Canada is a VERY large place, with a lot of remote areas. It’s a great venue for sneaking into this country.

I hope it brings a measure of comfort to Robert Dean Stethem’s family that one of his murderers is now facing his fate (I’m thinking that’s taking place somewhere REALLY warm). It’s a giant step forward. One more dead terrorist.

Then there’s Elbaneh. The fact that a country that is supposedly working with us to arrest terrorists just let Jaber Elbaneh go represents a significant step back.

We may very well be poised to take one giant step back in less than a year. We may elect a president that has the potential to make Carter look like a superstar. Barack Obama has said that he would ‘personally negotiate’ with Iran; a country sworn to the destruction of Israel and the west. One step forward, two steps back.

Too many more steps back and we may find we’ve just stepped off a cliff. The landing is likely to be brutal.

If we don’t start taking REAL steps to deal with the entire threat posed by radical Islam, I fear there may be whole lot more Robert Dean Stethems out there, and a whole lot more steps back into a part of history I don’t think we want to repeat.

Pamela Duffy
Pamela Duffy is an Awesome Milblogger, who honors and writes about military men and women.