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The Inconvenient Abdulmutallab

1:51 PM, Dec 27, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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The would-be bomber of Delta flight 253, Abdul Farouk Umar Abdulmutallab, appears to have been acting in concert with al Qaeda elements in Yemen. The Obama administration's plan to close Gitmo hinges on sending some 100 Yemeni terrorists back to their country of origin where they will be "rehabilitated," but opponents of the Gitmo closure have repeatedly pointed out that there couldn't be a worse place to send these detainees than Yemen. That case is now bolstered by the fact that the bomb Abdulmutallab detonated, and the plan to detonate it, were both put together in Yemen. It is an inconvenient fact for President Obama, but not the only inconvenient fact to emerge from this incident. How often we have been told to look at the "root causes" of terrorism, or as Obama put it in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks:

We must also engage, however, in the more difficult task of understanding the sources of such madness. The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others. Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence, and may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics. Most often, though, it grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.

But this act of terror wasn't born of poverty and ignorance. Abdulmutallab, like so many other al Qaeda terrorists, was born into great privilege, the son of the former economics minister of Nigeria who went so far as to warn the American embassy of the risk his radical son might pose. We've seen this over and over again. It isn't the poor and hungry who turn to international terrorism -- they're too busy trying to put food on the table for their families.

Unfortunately for President Obama, events are increasingly coming into conflict with his own views on Islamic terrorism and with the policies he has put forward to contain it. One can only hope that he draws the correct lesson from this latest attack and thinks better of sending 100 would-be Abdulmutallabs back to Yemen to rearm and rejoin the jihadist war against America.