Top Republican Myths about the Crotch Bomber Affair

I hear these on tv or from Reps. Pete Hoekstra and Peter King and Sen. Joe Lieberman.

1. President Obama did not speak publicly swiftly enough. In fact, Bush was silent for 9 days after the shoe bomber attack in 2001.

2. Bush would have tried Abdulmutallab as an enemy combatant. Well, he tried Richard Reid the shoe bomber in civilian courts.

3. Yemen is the issue. In fact, Yemen’s government is actively bombing al-Qaeda cells, and complains that the US never shared its info on Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab with Sanaa.

4. A US war on al-Qaeda in Yemen is next. This way of thinking is foolish. Yemen is not a cake walk, folks

Col. Pat Lang, former Defense Intelligence Agrency head for the Middle East, is an old Yemen hand and delivers a blunt warning against the US getting militarily involved there.

I have been to Yemen three times, before and after unification, and have traveled outside Sanaa. I’ve spoken publicly in Arabic in front of big audiences and interacted with Zaidis, Salafis, Sufis. It is an extremely complicated society with multiple ecological zones. It is an arid, tribal (segmentary-lineage) system. Most of the scholars I know who work on Yemen have been kidnapped by tribes or thrown in jail by the government at least once. People are either Arab nationalists or Muslim ones. They have very little use for outsiders. If the US tried to establish a big presence there, they would make the Iraqi resistance look half-hearted and weak-kneed.

Anybody who thinks they are going to dominate this has another think coming:

This is Maarib where al-Qaeda is said to be based:

CBS News has video on al-Qaeda in Yemen:

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10 Responses

  1. Good points. It's somewhat deceiving when looking at Yemen on a map- a tiny country wedged between Saudi Arabia and the sea. Start in SA and drive south to the beach. Piece of cake.

    Like Somalia, what matters is how they'll receive a foreign military.

  2. link to nytimes.com

    So, once again, the CIA had information that it did not share with the rest of the intelligence community?

    Accountability for that means:
    1. Firing the appropriate officials at CIA.
    2. Finally granting access to the CIA CT computer system to the rest of the US intelligence community that covers CT issues.

  3. Dear Professor Cole

    You are probably too late with your warning against getting involved in Yemen.

    There is a Ranger battalion in Djibouti who will be romping up and down hills by now.

    Yemen's problems are many

    Ginny Hill's paper here describes an aging government, a secession movement, a religious factional war, and a capital city that is running out of water.


    The Yemen Situation

    Deploying US combat troops in the Arabian Peninsula might just be folly.

  4. "4. A US war on al-Qaeda in Yemen is next. This way of thinking is foolish. Yemen is not a cake walk, folks"

    Are Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan "cakewalks"?

    As others keep pointing out, we're already in Yemen. Our involvement is not "alleged", it's confirmed. The only question concerns our level of direct involvement or whether this is mainly a war by proxy.

  5. NYTimes Madame Dowd unloads on the U.S. President… On Tuesday, Obama stepped up to the microphone to admit what Janet Napolitano had first tried to deny: that there had been "a systemic failure" and "a catastrophic breach of security." But in a mystifying moment that was not technically or emotionally reassuring, there was no live video and it looked as though the Obama operation was flying by the seat of its pants. Given that every utterance of the president is usually televised, it was a throwback to radio days — just at the moment we sought reassurance that our security has finally caught up to "Total Recall." All that TV viewers heard, broadcast from a Marine base in Kaneohe Bay, was the president’s disembodied voice, talking about deficiencies.

    …and Security Theatre :

    “Even before a Nigerian with Al Qaeda links tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet headed to Detroit, travelers could see we had made no progress toward a technologically wondrous Philip K. Dick universe. We seemed to still be behind the curve and reactive, patting down grannies and 5-year-olds, confiscating snow globes and lip glosses. Instead of modernity, we have airports where security is so retro that taking away pillows and blankies and bathroom breaks counts as a great leap forward.

    If we can’t catch a Nigerian with a powerful explosive powder in his oddly feminine-looking underpants, and a syringe full of acid — a man whose own father had alerted the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, a traveler whose ticket was paid for in cash and who didn’t check any bags, whose visa renewal had been denied by the British, who had studied Arabic in an Al Qaeda sanctuary in Yemen, whose name was on a counterterrorism watch list: who can we catch?

    We are headed toward the moment when screeners will watch watch-listers sashay through the security queue while we have to come to the airport in hospital gowns, flapping open in the back.”

  6. The topography of Yemen in the fotos reminds me of the malpais in New Mexico. I wouldn't want to try to conduct a war there (or here), against folks with local knowledge, and who might be almost as well-armed as I. Bad medicine…

  7. I read in the news that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is a blend of Yemen and Saudi participants. Is Saudi Arabia getting intentional deference by not being characterized as another hotbed of Muslim radicalism? Seems like Saudis have been major players from top, bin Ladin, to the bottom, 9/11 hijackers.

    The Nigerian proved that a complete amateur, with somewhat modified underwear, can get an explosive package on to an airliner. A trifle more cleverness could have brought the plane down.

    But if its so easy, why hasn't it happened before in the last eight years? Surely al Qaeda could have rounded up more competent operatives than the Nigerian. I can't recall any incident where airport security actually caught an operative, in possession of an explosive device with intent to use it, about to board an airliner.

    Since no bomber was caught (we'd have heard about it) and no plane was blown up, is it possible that no prior attempts were actually made? Maybe blowing up airliners was never a high priority for bin Ladin. He got more than his money's worth out of 9/11.

    And he'll get quite a boost from this latest episode – increased paranoia, more political warfare, enhancement of neocon demagogues, and a more clumsy, more expensive, and more ineffective US foreign policy. Obama has just been hogtied.

  8. This all sounds like the makings of a new recruitment poster for al Qaeda. "American Armed Forces on the Arabian Peninsula! They are coming to "protect" OUR OIL for THEIR Consumption– and sullying the Land of the Prophet!" oh, happy day… ^..^

  9. Herbert, that's sort of how Osama got started. He wanted to raise a Muslim army in 1990 as an alternative to the Coalition protecting Saudi Arabia.

  10. Why are some people hyperventilating over "Shoe-Bomber II"? Nuthin' Happened Folks!
    'Cept that a would-be terrorist neutered hisself, That's what!!

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