Jewish World Review June 21, 2002 / 11 Tamuz, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | The Department of Agriculture official says she spent hours face to face with Sept. 11 ringleader Mohamed Atta -- a terrifying thought in itself. No surprise, then, that Johnelle Bryant's recollection of that 2000 encounter with the Al Qaeda operative, as told to ABC, is shocking.
And it's shocking not just because the "very, very scary-looking" terrorist asked Bryant what would prevent him from cutting her throat after she failed to pony up a loan of $650,000 to finance his "dream" of a charter-cum-crop-dusting business; quizzed her about security at the World Trade Center; tried to buy an aerial photograph of Washington, D.C., right off her wall; or because he suddenly broached the topic of recruiting this all-too-sweet-natured official for "Akeda" -- which is how she remembered him pronouncing Al Qaeda.
Bryant failed miserably to "connect the dots," as they tediously say these days, but that's not it, either. Back in 2000, mixing "Mohamed" with "crop duster" just didn't flutter the average pulse; "Akeda" still, Ms. Bryant put it, sounded "like a woman's name"; and Osama bin Laden "could have been a character on Star Wars." All of which sounds practically Edenic.
Still, there's something else that should give pause about what happened -- and didn't happen -- when the terrorist met the bureaucrat. First, Atta didn't get the loan, and he darn well should have -- an extended loan to the loony bin. That Bryant, in the face of Atta's threats and uncontrolled tirades, "tried to talk very nicely [to] calm him back down," instead of excusing herself to call in nets and stun guns is astonishing -- although possibly understandable. (More on that below.)
The second shockeroo is how very, very ignorant, even primitive, Atta was. We knew that, of course, but the interview underscores that these Al Qaeda killers are nothing like the twisted aesthetes who pop up in Bond thrillers. As Bryant discovered, Atta was simple enough to believe a federal loan office would instantly spew cash for the asking. He thought public monuments were off limits to tourists. He found the Yellow Pages to be a revelation. He took TV advertising quite literally. Displaying a decidedly medieval turn of mind, he assumed Bryant, who works for the federal government in Florida, had been "banished" from the nation's capital, where, of course, the American "parliament" is. Besides being an Islamist mass-murderer, the man was a yokel.
But while he may have made an easy mark for three-card monte, he knew enough to play a kind of race card against Bryant. After she turned him down for a loan, she recalled, "He kind of jumped back in his chair and started accusing me of discriminating against him because he was not a United States citizen, and he was from a foreign country."
Interesting how he knew to say that.
It didn't work. Our dear Bryant patiently explained to the lunatic in the office that her agency didn't fund his sort of operation. End of story -- at least, this particular chapter of it. But I have to wonder whether some fear on Bryant's part, conscious or not, of appearing to "discriminate" against a Middle Easterner might have affected her decision not to act in any way on Atta's extremely menacing behavior. Such hesitation, such suspension of disbelief, is the corollary of the lessons of political correctness that teach us to see things not as they are but as its acolytes think they should be. I can't help relating this, for example, to the $25,000 in charity money raised by the New York Times 9/11 Neediest Fund that has been earmarked for the Jewish Museum to teach tolerance for Islam at two high schools near Ground Zero.
It would seem to be no accident that Atta was able to seize on a race card in his attempt to bully an American bureaucrat. That is, America may now be more famous for its decrees against "discrimination" (and discrimination's kissing cousin "profiling") than for its "parliament." And such decrees, it must be said, display an allegiance to dogma no less fanatical than any ayatollah's fatwa. Consider the senseless pledge of FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, who, while acknowledging that a sub rosa fear of engaging in racial profiling had paralyzed his agency's terrorism investigations in the past, vowed to the Senate Judiciary Committee this month that his agents would never engage in the practice in the future.
It looks like some people never learn -- or, perhaps, have learned too well. Which has to make us wonder what happens the next time the terrorist knocks on the door.
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JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.
06/18/02: Terrorism at the United Nations