Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Within hours of the attempted bombing of an airliner as it tried to land at Detroit Metro Airport, Rep. Pete Hoekstra reached for his trusty Blackberry and fired off a stern message to the Obama administration on his Twitter page:

Administration says attempted terrorist attack. No. It was a terrorist attack! Just not as successful as they (AQ) planned.


This is mostly a matter of semantics, of course. Yes, it was a terrorist attack; it was also an attempted terrorist attack because it failed. What is curious, however, is how differently Republicans, including Hoekstra, treat failed attacks that occurred during the Bush administration. It has become virtually a mantra among Republicans that the U.S. never suffered another terrorist attack after 9/11 on George W. Bush’s watch, a mantra that Hoekstra repeated just a few weeks ago on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks:

“It’s no accident that our homeland has not been attacked in the years since 9/11, nor has it been a lack of desire on al-Qaeda’s part, it’s because we have prevented it.”

But if a failed attack is an attack, as Hoekstra so adamantly claims now in an attempt to score political points against the Obama administration, why doesn’t the Richard Reid shoe bombing count as an attack? Because it happened during the Bush administration? Virtually every detail about that failed attack was identical to the one that took place a few days ago; it even involved the exact same substance, but in the bomber’s shoes rather than his underwear.

And in fact, Hoekstra himself has referred to the shoe bomber incident as an act of attempted terrorism in a speech to the Heritage Foundation last year:

Although America has not been subjected to an attack by radical Jihadists since 2001, this has not been for a lack of trying. The Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano wrote an excellent paper last November that lists 19 attempted terrorist attacks against the United States and U.S. citizens since 2001. These include:

An attempt by Richard Reid to detonate a shoe bomb on board an American Airlines flight flying from Paris to Miami in December 2001. A grand jury indictment of Reid found he had trained in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan.

So why doesn’t the attack on American Airlines Flight 63 in December, 2001 count as a terrorist attack for the Bush administration but an identical failed attack on a Northwest flight a few days ago count as one against the Obama administration?

By the way, there is another similarity as well. The Bush administration tried the shoe bomber in a federal civilian court in Boston, just as the Obama administration is going to try Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in federal civilian court in Detroit. Where was the wailing and gnashing of teeth over civilian trials for terrorists then?