By now, just about everyone in the world who cares to know understands that a young man (23) of privilege (his father is one of richest men in his country) attempted to take his life and that of some 300 of his fellow passengers–and who knows how many on the ground.
Reversing her initial statement (and you are welcome to argue about whether or not it was taken out of context) Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano has now admitted that the system–which was established to prevent this type of act–did not work:
“Our system did not work in this instance,” she said Monday on NBC’s “Today” show. “No one is happy or satisfied with that. An extensive review is under way.”
Under our system of law Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is considered a suspect (though I suspect in his own mind he’s guilty of failing to complete the task to which he had set himself). By his family’s statement, his suspected behavior is in keeping with recent developments:
Prior to this incident, his father, having become concerned about his disappearance and stoppage of communication while schooling abroad, reported the matter to the Nigerian security agencies about two months ago, and to some foreign security agencies about a month and a half ago, then sought their assistance to find and return him home. We provided them with all the information required of us to enable them do this. We were hopeful that they would find and return him home. It was while we were waiting for the outcome of their investigation that we arose to the shocking news of that day.
The disappearance and cessation of communication which got his mother and father concerned to report to the security agencies are completely out of character and a very recent development, as before then, from very early childhood, Farouk, to the best of parental monitoring, had never shown any attitude, conduct or association that would give concern. As soon as concern arose, very recently, his parents reported it and sought help.
It would seem then, that despite a childhood and young adulthood of plenty, Umar chose death. For all who would say “But, we do not know what motivated him” I would agree. However, it is highly probable that his motivator was firmly rooted in the same ideology as Richard Reid, Mohammed Atta, et al.
The best thing coming of this affair? Well, I believe we should consider it a Christmas grace or Christmas mercy (pick the one you think most suited to where you stand). While many hundreds of people could have died, and yet another memorial could have been built, and another family could have grieved the actions of a son, and millions would have mourned, and pundits and newspeople would have had many opportunities for grave discussion of why this “tragedy” occurred–we have none of that. Oh, we will have the discussions about why it was not entirely prevented and why the system did/did not work, etc but we did not have the brutal reality of waking up on Christmas Day 2009 plus one to hear “Hundreds are dead in an airplane crash near Detroit . . .”
For that, I am grateful. Are there things which can and should be done to prevent a more successful attempt of a similar sort? Of a certainty. But we should not lose sight of the truth that we were given quite a gift this Christmas. May we not waste it.