Make no mistake: "We are safer, but not safe." So said Fmr. Gov. Thomas Kean (R-NJ), co-chair of the 9/11 Commission, on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday. Last week's thwarted terror plot in London, he said, "is a wake-up call." This view was shared by the commission's vice-chair, Fmr. Rep. Lee Hamilton D-IN) who said of al Qaeda, "They're still out there. They're still plotting. Their intent is very clear...There isn't any doubt that they're coming at us." Chilling words indeed.
It's hard to believe that five years after the horrific 9/11 attacks we're still living under conditions of imminent threat from Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the attacks who, incredibly, remains free, and al Qaeda, the terrorist organization we can't seem to kill off.
Both Kean and Hamilton attribute the continued and growing terrorist threat to a "radicalization of Muslims" that has gotten worse since 9/11. Kean said this is due to the Iraq war, America's unwaivering support for Israel, and continued joblessness, poverty and despair among young Arab men who see martyrdom as an acceptable alternative. "It's a culture of death," not life, he said.
On Iraq, Hamilton asked, "Does it feed terrorism? Does America's policy toward Iraq motivate a lot of these radicalized Muslims? I think there's not much doubt about that. It does"...and it points to the overall disaffection with American foreign policy.
Hamilton added incredulously, "It's an amazing thing that five years after this event we're still struggling with the whole question of developing detection devices for all kinds of explosives. Five years after this event...Development has very slow."
To make airline travel truly safer, for example, Kean cited the need for a unified watch list, more puffer machines that detect traces of explosives, and better bagging screening. "Until they're done we're not as safe as we could be."