Friday, May 30, 2008

Taking Nuclear Jihad Seriously

Nuclear Jihad

Earlier this week, major media outlets reported on recent intelligence warnings of a new Al Qaeda videotape calling for WMD attacks against civilians. It turns out that the threat, labeled "Nuclear Jihad, The Ultimate Terror," was bogus.

The political reactions to the reports reveal quite a bit about how those on the left and the right perceive the current war on terror.

Upon hearing of the reports, Shakesville wrote:

In a world, where fear can only be conquered by being more afraid ... A ragtag group of fear-mongering fascists will do their best to STOP YOU FROM NOT BEING AFRAID!!!!

The post is illustrated with drawings of blood-splattered zombies screaming "BrainSSSS...!!!!", and the entry also includes a photoshopped image of John McCain morphing into George W. Bush.

Note again that the entry does not mention the jihad web threat being bogus, and thus this type of mockery is being offered when constitutionally-legitimated governmental agencies are working to prevent an attack on the country.

The Shakesville reaction's frankly mind-boggling, and it's not just isolated extremists on the far-left who harbor this type of sentiment (it's not a leap from the whacked-out imagery of Shakesville to the "journalism" of Spencer Ackerman or to the acclaimed "liberal institutionalism" of Matthew Yglesias).

Rick Moran wrote about this on Wednesday:

We've heard this tune before from al-Qaeda before so I'm not sure about the real threat the message might contain. But along with other factors - including open talk on al-Qaeda websites of defeat in Iraq - it may be significant that we are hearing about terrorists using WMD's at this time....

There is the usual criticism on the left about "scare tactics" but frankly, I wish they'd give it a rest. They have the good fortune of knowing that if they are wrong and we are attacked, no one will remember them belittling the idea as they shift their attack from the Administration scaring people to blaming Bush for any disaster.

Not only that, were a genuine attack to occur, the administration would be smeared remorselessly by the left for failing to stop the next attack (through alleged incompetence, or by diverting resources to the fighting in Iraq, which is not the "real" terror war, etc., etc...).

Note further that the Daily Mail has published an apocalyptic story on the nuclear jihad, "
Al-Qaeda's Terrifying Vision of a Devastated America in the Wake of a Nuclear Attack."

The photo of Washington, D.C., in rubble, reproduced above, was distributed in the Al Qaeda video, as the Daily Mail reports:

Washington is laid to waste. The Capitol is a blackened, smoking ruin. The White House has been razed. Countless thousands are dead.

This is the apocalyptic scene terrorists hope to create if they ever get their hands on a nuclear bomb.

The computer-generated image ... was posted on an Islamic extremists' website yesterday.
It appeared as rumours swept the Internet that the FBI was warning that an Al Qaeda video was about to be released urging militants to use weapons of mass destruction to attack the West.

The information was said to be coming from 'groups that monitor Islamic militant websites'.

The FBI was quick to point out that it had not issued any warning and that the video was not an official Al Qaeda release through its media arm, Al Sahab, but simply an ' amateur' collection of old footage spliced together and posted on the Internet.

U.S. analysts said a lot of effort had been put into the video - entitled Nuclear Jihad, The Ultimate Terror - with graphics, music, and clips of different leaders and groups.

The same expertise seems to have gone into creating this image of a devastated Washington.

Al Sahab puts out more than 80 'officially sanctioned' videos a year to keep up the propaganda on the West. And the Internet shows how easy it is to stir up militancy. One message with the Washington picture said: 'The next strike's in the heart of America. When? When? When? And How?'

To ridicule conservative "wingnuts," the liberal blog "First Draft" wrote:

The Freepi froth over this story from the Daily Mail ... Most of the Freepi lose their minds ...
The "Freepi" is a macabre reference to the participants in a web forum at Free Republic.

"First Draft" hammers the "Freepi" for their ignorance, as according to the post, the radioactive image of the nation's capital flattened is said to be from a video game known as "Fallout." And after the proprietary nature is identified by commenters at the thread, "First Draft" slams the "Freepi" some more, noting that the commercial orginins of the image "does not deter the crazy in the slightest." The "crazy" reference" is to this comment from the thread:

Wherever it comes from, it looks like Muslim Jihadists love the picture. It’s their dream come true.

What's interesting is this last comment from the thread hits the nail on the head - and that's the point: It does not matter if the image of flattened Washington, D.C., was generated by Pakistani militants or some software programmers in Banglaore.

It's the intentions of the terrorists that matter. The global anti-American jihad would love nothing more than to level the United States in a flash of nuclear hell blessed by Allah himself.

But it's all a bunch of "fascist fear-mongering," to hear it from those at the barricades of the hard-left hordes.

The threat of catastrophic nuclear terror is not unreasonable to experts in security studies, however. As Harvard's Graham Allison has written:

If a terrorist nuclear attack did occur in the United States, the first questions asked would be who did it, and where did they get the bomb? Bin Laden would top the list of probable perpetrators. But the supplier would be less certain; it could be Russia, Pakistan, or North Korea, but it could also be Ukraine or Ghana. Russia would probably top the list not because of hostile intent but because of the enormity of its arsenal of nuclear material, much of it still vulnerable to insider theft. Pakistan would likely rank second due to the ongoing links between its security services and al Qaeda, and the uncertain chain of command over its nuclear weaponry. North Korea, the most promiscuous weapon proliferator on earth, has already sold missiles to Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia and so would merit suspicion. As would Ukraine and Ghana, which operate Soviet-supplied research reactors with enough heu for one or more nuclear weapons. Interestingly, Saddam-era Iraq would not have even made the top ten.

With so much left-wing criticism of the administration's handling of America's alliance relations with Pakistan - a state currently facing a political crisis of epic proportion - one would think that analysts and commentators on both sides of the partisan divide would take these jihadi terror reports seriously.

While this point may hold when it comes to professional experts, that's certainly not the case around the leftosphere - which is an unsettling prospect, given how much influence these folks are likely to have under a Democratic administration.