He repeatedly insisted he wanted to kill Americans. Bloody carnage was his explicit goal, and a crowd of 12,000 Oregonians in downtown Portland provided the human targets.
His targets -- men, women and children -- gathered in the city's Pioneer Courthouse Square last Friday to light a public Christmas tree. Attacking this infidel ceremony, with its hint of pagan tree worship, would give his murderous act iconic stature. Militant Islamists around the globe would appreciate the religious symbolism.
He positioned the bomb for maximum casualties, slipped away, then called a cell phone rigged as a detonator.
He waited. No blast. No dead Americans. Moments later, 19-year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud, nominally of Corvallis, Ore., was arrested by the FBI. The bomb was a fake, supplied by FBI agents who had been tracking the Wannabe Terrorist for months.
Of course, Mohamud's attorney now suggests he was "entrapped" by diabolically clever G-men. However, based on the FBI affidavit filed in federal court, entrapment will be tough to prove. Mohamud bragged to agents that he had been "thinking of committing some form of violent jihad since the age of 15." Like an experienced al-Qaida plotter, he saw his mass murder as global information warfare. The Portland bloodbath was "gonna be a fireworks show," and The "New York Times will give it two thumbs up."
Portland, with its oh-so-left-wing politics, and the Willamette Valley, with it wonderful wineries, do not look like battlefields, but for al-Qaida terrorists they definitely are. Unfortunately, they will continue to be for four or five decades, as the global struggle between militant Islamists and practically everyone else on the planet continues.
I realize Global War on Terror (GWOT) is no longer the official name of this multi-dimensional struggle. One of the first things President Barack Obama did after he became president was dispense with the name GWOT, in favor of his preferred name, OCO -- overseas contingency operation. Since Obama declared OCO, the Christmas Terrorist tried to bring down a jetliner over Detroit, Maj. Nidal Hasan murdered fellow soldiers at Ft. Hood and a would-be terrorist tried to bomb New York's Times Square. Like Portland, none of these places is overseas.
America's terrorist enemies, despite our preferences and druthers, target American soil just as they target Americans wherever they may live or travel on the planet. These killers attempt to wage war Over There and Back Here and in between, and there is nothing contingent about it. The fight is global -- and local.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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