A Pretty Safe Bet
It seems after every disaster, whether natural,
man-made, or accidental, the spin-doctors come out of the gate with statements
ruling out terrorism. That terrorism was not the cause in the majority of cases
is true – but this has not been true in all of them.
The thinking behind these statements is understandable
and well-intentioned – no one wants mass panic. Yet I find them darkly
humorous; like the statement made shortly following the recent disaster at the
BP refinery in Texas.
Part of the headline from the Houston Chronicle of
March 25th illustrates this quite well – “Terrorism ruled out in
blast, but may take a year to find cause”. What I
would like explained is this; if it may take a year to
find the actual cause, then how can terrorism be immediately ruled out as a
possible cause before an investigation is even opened? Does this mean that even
the possibility of a terrorist act will be completely ignored in the
investigation? What if the investigation can not turn up any other causes;
leaving terrorism the only possibility left?
Less than 24 hours after the explosion, spokesmen from
BP, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) were already
discounting reported claims of responsibility by two Islamic terrorist groups –
the Al Qaeda Organization for Holy War in the United
States of America and the Jund al-Sham Organization
(Organization of Soldiers of the Levant). The
Jund al-Sham has also claimed responsibility for the suicide attack on March 19th
in Qatar that killed one and injured 12, as well as the attack in the Egyptian
resort of Taba in October that killed 34 and injured over 100 (an attack that
has also been claimed by at least three other Islamist groups).
It is not unusual for two or more groups to claim
responsibility for the same attack. It is also not unusual for Islamist groups
to claim responsibility for incidents that are, in fact, purely accidental.
While some claims are obviously far-fetched, enough people will still believe
them to achieve the atmosphere of fear and terror that is the goal of all
Jund al-Sham has vowed many times to carry out attacks
on oil installations, churches and Western military bases in the Middle East. Other groups have made similar threats – and
many have been carried out. Is it such a stretch to consider these threats in
any investigation; if for no other reason than to
officially and conclusively rule out a terror attack? I see nothing to be
gained by summarily dismissing any possibility before an investigation can
actually eliminate it.
It is irresponsible for federal officials to
immediately dismiss any possibility at all before even the most preliminary
investigation has begun. Statements like this are speculation or personal
opinion or, more likely, instructions from above.
It certainly does nothing to enhance the image or
credibility of our intelligence agencies, and those charged with our security,
when the result of an investigation does conclude it was a terrorist attack.
These agencies have already suffered some loss of credibility since 9/11.
Making statements like this, only to be proven wrong later, will certainly do
nothing to earn them the trust of the American people that is so necessary for
them to carry out their tasks effectively.
A little more honesty would not go amiss in situations
like the BP refinery explosion. Instead of dismissing the possibility of a
terror attack out-of-hand, then claiming the cause is unknown while
investigating for a cause other than terrorism, they should be up-front and
simply state they will not know the cause until the investigation is completed.
It is a pretty safe bet that the BP explosion was not
the result of terrorist action, but that is still not reason enough to simply
dismiss the possibility. I prefer to trust my safety and security, and that of
my family and this country, to the conclusive results of a thorough
investigation – not to “a pretty safe bet.”