QUITE SIMPLY, THIS ATTACK WAS A SUCCESS
By Micah Halpern
Wednesday May 5, 2010
The terrorist suspected of planting the car bomb in Times Square has been apprehended. Now is time for us to look carefully at what was really going on.
Thankfully the bomb did not ignite. That was providence. The rest was hard work well done.
The fifty three hours it took from the time a potential bomb was discovered to the time Faisal Shazhad was taken off the Emirates Airline jet is collaborative police and federal agent work at its best. As New York City Police Chief Ray Kelly said, it was a scene right out of the wildly popular TV series "24." Even Jack Bauer, he of the cell phone battery that never runs out, would have required a few more hours to collar this bad guy before he disappeared into the protective, collective, cocoon of the Muslim Middle East.
Let's get down to basics:
The bomb. The bomb was large but very crude. It was technically flawed. It was the kind of bomb that is unlikely to cause the massive damage that one would expect from Taliban-trained bomb makers and operatives.
So why even engage in such a sloppy operation? There are several good reasons for that.
# 1: Quite simply, to terrify and terrorize. Even a dud in Times Square is a success from the point of view of Taliban and al Qaeda.
# 2: To use as a research tool, to allow Taliban and al Qaeda to check the emergency response time for such an attack.
# 3: To prove to Taliban and al Qaeda adherents around the world that they can strike at the very heart of the US at will.
The attack: This was not a suicide attack. Suicide attacks tend to have higher efficiency because the bomber gets right into the center of the target. In this case the bomber, who was also the engineer, walked away. That small item made a very big difference in the effectiveness of the operation.
So why was this not a suicide terrorist attack? It is harder to successfully recruit a suicide bomber here in the States than it is in Muslim countries. Few Americans are willing to kill themselves. They might make the bomb, plant the bomb even help the bomber, they may engage in a terror attack where the possibility exists that they will be killed in the act - but intentionally blowing themselves up along with defenseless others, not yet. The commitment it takes to be an American home grown suicide bomber has not yet crossed the ocean from the other side.
The success of the operation: From the point of view of the terrorist and his handlers in Pakistan and in al Qaeda, this botched operation was a resounding success. It could have been more successful but it was great.
So what makes a botched attack with a bomb that did not explode and a terrorist who was dramatically apprehended a success? More than anything else, the Pakistani branch of Taliban is now on the map. Shazhad already admitted in the charge sheet to being trained in Pakistan.
Now for some background and perspective:
This is not the first car bomb in NYC planted. In 1993 al Qaeda planted a bomb in the basement of the World Trade Center. The attack was a dud. The intent was to kill tens of thousands of people and while 1,042 people were injured, only six were killed. That attack used 1500 lbs of urea nitrate hydrogen and was lit by a 20 foot fuse. It blew a hole through four floors of the World Trade Center.
And it set the stage for 9-11.
This attack is Times Square was successful. This attack in Times Square was not a one-time event. It is essential that we understand that. Not to glorify al Qaeda. It is essential that we understand what this attack was and what it truly represents so that we can better protect ourselves.
They will not stop trying. Neither can we.
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