Former CIA operative (and current wingnut) Michael Scheuer says that "The only chance we have as a country right now is" for bin Laden to "detonate a major weapon" inside the United States. Only then, he says, will our government do what is necessary to prevent bin Laden from . . . detonating a major weapon inside the United States. Glenn Beck nods appreciatively.
Let's be clear about this. Scheuer and Beck are expressly hoping for a mass casualty terror strike within the United States because that would further their political agenda. This batshit insanity now passes for mainstream discourse on the right. Somebody throw a net on these guys.
John Mueller argues that the threat from al Qaeda and the Taliban doesn't justify the war in Afghanistan. Observing that "the operational base for 9/11 was in Hamburg, Germany", Mueller argues that al Qaeda doesn't really need a protected base camp, and to the extent it does need a sanctuary it already has one in Pakistan. Of perhaps greater interest is his contention that we've massively overstated the threat we face from "al Qaeda Central":
At present, al Qaeda consists of a few hundred people running around in Pakistan, seeking to avoid detection and helping the Taliban when possible. It also has a disjointed network of fellow travelers around the globe who communicate over the Internet. Over the last decade, the group has almost completely discredited itself in the Muslim world due to the fallout from the 9/11 attacks and subsequent counterproductive terrorism, much of it directed against Muslims. No convincing evidence has been offered publicly to show that al Qaeda Central has put together a single full operation anywhere in the world since 9/11. And, outside of war zones, the violence perpetrated by al Qaeda affiliates, wannabes, and lookalikes combined has resulted in the deaths of some 200 to 300 people per year, and may be declining. That is 200 to 300 too many, of course, but it scarcely suggests that "the safety of people around the world is at stake," as Obama dramatically puts it.
In addition, al Qaeda has yet to establish a significant presence in the United States. In 2002, U.S. intelligence reports asserted that the number of trained al Qaeda operatives in the United States was between 2,000 and 5,000, and FBI Director Robert Mueller assured a Senate committee that al Qaeda had "developed a support infrastructure" in the country and achieved both "the ability and the intent to inflict significant casualties in the U.S. with little warning." However, after years of well funded sleuthing, the FBI and other investigative agencies have been unable to uncover a single true al Qaeda sleeper cell or operative within the country. Mueller's rallying cry has now been reduced to a comparatively bland formulation: "We believe al Qaeda is still seeking to infiltrate operatives into the U.S. from overseas."
Even that may not be true. Since 9/11, some two million foreigners have been admitted to the United States legally and many others, of course, have entered illegally. Even if border security has been so effective that 90 percent of al Qaeda’s operatives have been turned away or deterred from entering the United States, some should have made it in -- and some of those, it seems reasonable to suggest, would have been picked up by law enforcement by now. The lack of attacks inside the United States combined with the inability of the FBI to find any potential attackers suggests that the terrorists are either not trying very hard or are far less clever and capable than usually depicted.
Barack Obama has appropriately adopted much more modest goals for Afghanistan, but they may be too ambitious still. It's not at all clear that we possess the power, the wisdom, or the determination to produce a stable, centrally-governed Afghanistan, which in any event would not be possible unless the Taliban's sanctuaries in Pakistan are eliminated. If we don't have to do this to safeguard ourselves against another 9/11, then we ought to reconsider why we are doing it.
Osama Bin Laden has released an audio tape denouncing Somali President Shariff Sheikh Ahmed, and calling for Somalis to resist the new government's rule. Shariff Sheikh Ahmed is formerly the head of the Islamic Courts Union, which Ethiopia overthrew in 2006 with American assistance. The United States was concerned that the ICU was closely associated with Al Qaeda, and that it might harbor terrorists. Bin Laden's tape is either an elaborate ruse to make the Bush administration look incomparably stupid, or further evidence that the Bush administration was incomparably stupid.