We're grateful for plain old cops. What a relief that Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who could be mistaken for Inspector Clouseau, was not in charge of the search for the Times Square bomber.
The mayor, he told NBC News, was looking for "a home-grown" someone protesting health care reform legislation. Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, was looking into "a man-caused disaster," not terrorism, and Attorney General Eric Holder was on the scout for someone to listen to his Miranda rights.
Everyone who hasn't slept through the past decade realizes that this is no time for euphemism and fudging the identities and motivations of the people who are trying to kill us all. We don't know exactly what went on in the head of Faisal Shahzad, but we can enjoy imagining a little of the terror he felt when the pilot of his Dubai-bound airliner announced that he was returning to the gate, where cops were waiting.
We can celebrate the excellent police work, but we must nevertheless acknowledge what such terrorists accomplish even when their schemes fail. When they can't ignite a bomb, they nevertheless undercut our sense of security and inspire us to do things that detract from who we are. Failed attempts at terrorism lead to self-censorship, and we give up a little more of our freedoms. Few of us complain any longer about confiscated cosmetics or shampoo at the airport. Long security lines are taken in stride.
But the Islamists keep pushing us to do more. In their primitive desire to impose law from the Stone Age, they succeed in increasing restrictions on the free and easy life we take for granted, and they despise. The network Comedy Central, infamous for its irreverent satire poking fun at (nearly) everybody, spiked an episode of "South Park" that took a soft poke at the late Prophet Muhammad after a little prophet named Abu Talhah Amrikee warned that the creators of "South Park" could meet the fate of Theo van Gogh, the Dutch director murdered by an Islamist terrorist over his movie about the Islamic abuse of women.
But you don't need a fatwa on your head to be scared. Fear stalks even the Pentagon. The Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the famous evangelist, was first invited to a prayer service at the Pentagon and then disinvited when certain Muslim officers at the Pentagon remembered that he had once described Islam as "an evil religion."
This was harsh, but no more than many other preachers have said from their pulpits, but you never know who might be carrying a beheading knife. The frightened generals submitted.