When you are alone in a dark alley, you whistle a happy tune, because you don’t want a potential attacker to know you are scared.
Frances Fragos Townsend, President George Bush’s homeland security adviser, whistled just a tune like that when she declared to TV channels like the CNN that Osama bin Laden was “virtually impotent”.
These kind of statements maybe sound good in the run up to the US presidential election, and reassure some people. It is true that the US has not suffered any major attacks in recent years. But it would be a big mistake to get complacent, and even arrogant about it.
Let us not overlook that only recently the UK was under attack by doctors in cars packed with explosives. That the terrorist plan didn’t pan out had very little to do with anti-terrorism measures, and more with the fact that the doctors goofed in their violent mission.
More recently terrorist suspects were arrested in Germany – their targets said to be Frankfurt airport and US installations in Germany. And in India, Islamic terrorists killed large number of people in bomb blasts in Hyderabad.
There is hence no room for smugness ! Bin Laden and Al Qaeda continue to be dangerous, and the armies of the US and its allies have failed to bring him in.
The rub of the matter is that the world has changed dramatically since 9/11. Nobody is secure anymore, any where in the world.
Europe learnt it during the menace of the leftist Baader Meinhof gang, that nobody was safe even if a single oddball was at large. The Baader Meinhof gang was a small operation, that wore out by attrition, killings, and peelers.
But the Islamic jihad draws its number from thousands of people who have a solid enough grievance to go out and kill, even if they are themselves killed in the bargain.
As long as America and its allies, and we as civil society, don’t address these grievances, there will always be some jihadis willing to take a shot. With the Internet, the instruments of violence can be cooked up in a garage or kitchen.
These days as I go to work, or am in public places, I am terribly scared. Death, at the hands of an anonymous terrorist, who only cares for you as a statistic in the death toll the next day in the newspapers, lurks everywhere.
I refuse to join Townsend in whistling in the dark about Bin Laden’s or Al Qaeda’s impotence.
The only impotence I see today is American – a super-power paralyzed, yet blundering into more corners by its thoughtless arrogance. I also see a ham fisted attempt to cover it up by clinging to tenuous victories.