Jewish World Review July 9, 2002 / 29 Tamuz, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | At 11:29 a.m. local time on July 4, Hessan Mohammed Hadayat, a resident alien from Egypt, approached the ticket counter for El Al airlines at Los Angeles International Airport. He killed a woman behind the counter, then turned his guns on customers waiting in line, killing one and wounding four before he was shot by security guards.
The FBI thinks this was an isolated incident. Israeli officials are not so sure.
"It seems like a terrorist attack and it looks like a terrorist attack," said Yuval Rotem, the Israeli consul-general in Los Angeles.
If the FBI is right, then the Fourth of July came and went with no organized terror attacks on Americans. That's good news. If the Israelis are right, and Hadayat's attack was part of an internationally-planned campaign of terror, that's better news.
Constant terror warnings have had an impact on public opinion. A recent poll indicated only a third of Americans think we're winning the war on terror. But we're surely not losing. There have been no successful attacks on Americans at home or abroad since Sept. 11.
This may simply be because the terrorists are biding their time. There typically has been a lapse of a year or so between major al Qaida operations. The Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia was bombed on June 25, 1996. U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed on Aug 7, 1998. The USS Cole was attacked in the port of Aden on Oct 12, 2000.
But it may also be because the capacity of al Qaida to mount large scale operations has been crippled. Since Sept. 11 al Qaida has lost its base in Afghanistan. Pakistan has gone from supporting the Taliban to fighting terrorists...at least on alternate Tuesdays. And there has been a crackdown on al Qaida cells in Europe. This is significant, because the evidence suggests most of the major al Qaida operations were planned in Europe.
The United States has yet to capture Osama bin Laden or his top deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri. This is considered by many to be a "defeat" for America, especially since there is credible evidence to suggest bin Laden could have been captured at Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan in early December.
But neither bin Laden nor al Zawahiri have been heard from since early December. The Arabic Sahab website said last month bin Laden would release a video on July 4. He didn't.
Bin Laden is politically dead even if he isn't physically dead, argued Amir Taheri, who writes for the Arab News, an English-language daily in Saudi Arabia.
"With an ego the size of Mount Everest, Osama bin Laden would not have, could not have, remained silent for so long," Taheri wrote July 5. "He had always liked to take credit even for things he had nothing to do with. So, would he have remained silent for none months during which his illusions have been shattered one after another? If his adjutants can smuggle a video to al-Jazeera in Qatar, why couldn't he?"
We do know the whereabouts of the numbers three and four in al Qaida. Mohammed Atef is dead. Abu Zubaydah is in custody. So are hundreds of lesser fry.
Only two successful terrorist operations have been attributed to al Qaida since Sept. 11. Pakistan blames al Qaida for a car bombing outside a Karachi hotel May 7 that killed 10 French naval officers. Al Qaida has claimed responsibility for the bombing of a synogogue in Tunisia April 11 that killed 21, most of them German tourists.
These "successes" were counterproductive. No Americans or Israelis were hurt in these bombings, the effect of which was to cause France and Germany to cooperate more with the United States.
Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, was caught trying to blow up an airliner. Jose Padilla, aka Abdullah al-Muhajir, was nabbed scouting sites for a "dirty bomb" attack. Because neither of these guys are among the brightest bulbs in the chandelier, there was speculation they were being deliberately "dangled." But it could also be this is the best al Qaida has left.
This is why it would be good news if Hessan Hadayat turns out to be a member of an international terror group. If his attack is the most devastating al Qaida can muster these days, we're doing better than most of us imagine.
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