This past Saturday night, there was yet another heinous Islamic terror attack in London. As I was walking my dogs the next morning, I passed the newspaper stand on my corner and noticed the New York Post.
The headline read: AGAIN!!!
Five, immense, boldfaced letters followed by three giant exclamation points that took up at least half the front page. And that single word screamed volumes. One word, many meanings, depending on who was looking; another bloody terror attack by Islamic extremists. More people dead. More people wounded. More lives shattered. More Western political weakness. More vulnerability. More fear.
While our collective intelligence services have thwarted many possible attacks, they can’t stop them all. We’re at risk every day, everywhere, year after year. New York 2001. Madrid 2004. London 2005. Texas 2009. Toulouse 2012. Boston 2013. Paris 2015. San Bernardino 2015. Ansbach 2016. Orlando 2016. Brussels 2016. London 2017. The list goes on. More broadly, in 2014, there were 32,763 people killed worldwide due to terrorism and 28,328 in 2015 according to Statista.com.
So, I have to wonder how many more deaths it will take before our politicians begin to approach this differently. Or better yet, until we start electing different politicians. Global leaders symbolically joining hands and singing Kumbaya after every attack isn’t going to change things. Our thinking has to change. I hardly agree with everything Donald Trump says or does these days. I’ve never agreed with everything any president did. But like him or not, there’s a reason Trump was elected. And there’s a reason the Brits voted for Brexit too.
Philosophically, “America First” is not wrong. No other country subordinates their sovereign interests to another’s. France doesn’t. Nor does Germany. Certainly, China and Russia don’t either. Trump is just trying to balance out an otherwise lopsided playing field. Should he - or even Hillary Clinton - have campaigned on the platform of “Other People First” or maybe “Globalization First” instead? Neither wouldn’t have garnered many votes if they did.
Right now, the world is a perilous place. On Saturday, eight people were killed in cold blood in three separate attacks in London. And there were forty-eight wounded too, some of which may sadly end up adding to the final death totals. So far, over the past three months, there have been three terror attacks in the U.K. These are just the most recent examples of Islamic extremism’s newest business model. Small, localized attacks. Trucks and cars. Stabbings and shootings. It can happen anywhere, anytime. Of course, living in a city with as big a target on its back as New York has, I worry how easy it would be to just walk into the subway at rush hour with a backpack of explosives, get on a train and detonate it. It would be impossible to stop. Neither great planning nor intelligence is required to carry out any of these kinds of attacks. Anyone can do it.
But for most of us, this has become just another part of the daily news cycle. Much of the time, people are home with their families, or at work, and then their iPhones start beeping and flashing with early reports of the most recent attack. Then the numbers start to come in: twenty-three dead and seventy-six wounded. One hundred thirty dead and fifty-four wounded. Sadly, as I was watching the coverage of the London attacks on CNN on Saturday, one of the anchors referred to it as the “new normal.” And London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, even said as much in his press conference afterward. It’s just part of the world we now live in.
But radicalized, lone-wolf jihadists are just the hors d’oeuvres. Not the main course. Something much worse is in the offing and it’s only a matter of time until another attack, the size and scale of September 11th, occurs again. But this time, it will be much uglier than the World Trade Center tragedy was in 2001, if you can even imagine that. Possibly nuclear or radiological.
And the West is worried. There have been many attempts made by nuclear smugglers to sell radioactive materials to Islamic extremists, including ISIS. In February of 2015, a smuggler tried to sell highly radioactive cesium to ISIS. It is feared they could try to detonate a dirty bomb in a major city like Washington or Brussels - where conventional explosives are used to disperse radioactive particles over a wide area. Back in the spring of 2011 a shadowy Russian named Alexandr Agheenco, tried to sell bomb-grade uranium, U-235, and blueprints for a dirty bomb, to a Sudanese man. And with bad state actors like Iran and North Korea, among others, willing to facilitate, it’s a question of when, not if.
So, what’s it going to take to stop the madness? Will it take the detonation of dirty bomb in Times Square or near the Capitol Building in Washington when Congress is in session? Or maybe a prominent world leader, or his or her family, being the target of a terror attack or brutal kidnapping? Imagine that for a second. A President or Prime Minister being targeted. Extreme? Maybe. Possible? Definitely.
I just hope it doesn’t take a major catastrophe for us to change course. Unfortunately, that’s human nature though. We usually respond the way we should only after the worst occurs. It’s like having a constant, throbbing pain in your head but waiting until you black out on the sidewalk before you go to the emergency room. And by then, it may be too late.
Terror is on the ballot this week in the U.K. as the Brits are set to go to the polls. Actually, it’s on the ballot everywhere now until Islamic extremism can be eradicated. Joining hands and singing Kumbaya isn’t going to do the trick. We may feel better for a while, but before long, another violent attack will occur and more people will die. And one day, it may be someone you know. I think the old saying may apply here; those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. It’s time to open the text books, folks. Otherwise, we just may fail the class altogether.