Jewish World Review April 15, 2004 / 25 Nissan, 5764

Michael Graham

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Consumer Reports

Memo-mania | A flight of fancy for my Bush-bashing friends:

Imagine for a moment that you, and not the evil hate-monger George W. Bush, are President of the United States. You've asked the FBI to present you with a "For the President Only" briefing on the likelihood of a terror attack right here on American soil.

You are given a two-page Presidential Daily Briefing on the matter, and your jaw drops as you read:

Clandestine, foreign government and media reports indicate that since 2002 the Chechen resistance movement has been plotting to "bring the fight to America" by launching terror attacks here in the United States. Chechen leaders like Akhmed Zakayev are recruiting Muslim American youth for an attack on American targets, according to one unidentified nation's intelligence service. Another reports that Chechen sympathizers are among America's 2 million Russian immigrant community.

Last month, apparently after intercepting the conversations of Chechen Muslims in the U.S., the FBI warned that Arab jihadists envisioned "hijacking a commercial airliner using Muslim extremists of non-Arabic appearance," such as Africans or Central-Asian Chechens, to avoid scrutiny by security personnel.

We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as one uncorroborated report that the Chechen Muslims want to use nerve agent obtained from the old Soviet Union in an attack on trains or subways in the U.S.

OK, my Richard-Clarke-loving friend, what do you do? You're the president: Make your decision.

Investigate? Send in spies? That will take months. This attack could happen tomorrow. Are you prepared to see American citizens lying on the floor of Union Station, bleeding from their eyes? Come on, stop dithering! You've got to act!

I know — you could go to the UN, build an "international coalition" to send troops into Russia and take out the Chechen training camps and terrorists. Why, when I think of swift, decisive military action, the first organization that comes to mind is the UN. And they'll have no problem with the idea of invading a sovereign nation based on nothing more than a single, two-page memo.

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So not the UN. America will just have to take care of this problem ourselves, you say? Great idea! Go ahead, invade Russia. I'm sure the Russian Army won't mind. Why don't you have the Fourth I.D. swing through China while you're at it?

Come on, you're wasting time! Haven't you gotten the message of the Democrats on the 9/11 Commission? President Bush got a memo in August 2001 that mentioned vague, potential threats and he should have acted! Not knowing where, when or how these attack would occur is no excuse. So come on, you John Kerry supporter you, stop stalling!

You'll step up homeland security, of course! You're lucky. When President Bush got his infamous Al Qaeda memo, he didn't even have a Department of Homeland Security. But today, thanks to the "Halliburton Hack" himself, you do. So pick up the phone, call Tom Ridge and tell him to…uh, what, exactly?

Round up the Russians, that's a good start. Order the FBI and INS to pick up anyone with a Russian passport and bring them in for questioning. Some of those people are Jewish, most of them are law-abiding, but hey — a president's gotta do what a president's gotta do, right? If only President Bush had rounded up every Arab national back in 2001 — boy, I bet Richard Ben-Veniste and Bob Kerrey would be praising him today!

But that's not enough. After all, it's easier to sneak across the American border than it is to sneak into a movie matinee. If we're going to protect our trains and subways from "Muslim extremists of non-Arab appearance such as Africans or Central Asians," we'll have to stop and question every black or Asian passenger. Oh, man, the NAACP is going to love that, I guarantee!

And if they ask any questions, just show them the memo! Show them that some people in some country told us that some Muslims might be planning some attack in America somewhere, sometime in some way that may involve black people, Asians and mass transit. Unless it involves Russians, airplanes and explosives. Unless it doesn't.

Oh, and since we have no idea when (or if) this attack will actually occur, we'll have to continue to profile these possible terrorists indefinitely. All of this, from a memo.

So tell me again what it is President Bush was supposed to do about Al Qaeda and didn't?

The memo above, while adapted directly from the "smoking gun" memo Democrats are bashing Bush with, is based on actual intelligence reports. The FBI really has intercepted messages from Chechen Muslims looking for non-Arab allies in the US. In August 2001, French intelligence did tell the FBI that Zacharias Moussaoui had recruited European Muslims to fight with the Chechens.

In other words, Chechen terror in the US is a potential, if relatively unlikely, danger the President must handle. So is terrorism from the next Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph, the Unibomber and dozens of other whackjob political or political zealots we haven't even heard of yet.

Which is, perhaps, why President Bush didn't invade Afghanistan his first month in office. Instead, he did what a president has to do. He met every day with his CIA director to talk security. He told the FBI to keep him updated on a possible attack against America (it was Bush who asked for the August memo, remember?). He sent out alerts to the FAA and local law enforcement about the terror threat. And then he went back to work on the economy, job creation, health care and the dozen or so other crises facing America that are part of his job.

That's what President Bush did in the long-forgotten America before September 11th. And until the whining Richard Clarkes of the world can tell me what they would have done differently, they need to sit down and shut up.

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JWR contributor Michael Graham is a talk show host and author of the highly acclaimed "Redneck Nation: How the South Really Won the War." To comment, please click here.


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06/16/03: DEAR HIL—
06/11/03: Madame Hillary's Lessons for Young Ladies
06/03/03: War games
05/28/03: A few small reparations
05/22/03: Springtime for Hitler?

© 2003, Michael Graham