Terrorist suspect caught after bombings
The man charged with setting off bombs in New York City and New Jersey wrote in a journal that he was inspired by Osama bin Laden and other al Qaida leaders and hoped to kill “non-believers,” prosecutors said this week. Ahmad Khan Rahami, a 28-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen from Afghanistan, began his terrorism spree in Seaside Park, N.J., last week, when a pipe bomb exploded in a trash can along the route of a Marine Corps charity race. Eleven hours later, a bomb packed with shrapnel blew apart a dumpster in Manhattan’s bustling Chelsea neighborhood, injuring 31 people. Four blocks away, police safely removed a pressure cooker bomb rigged to a cellphone; later, more devices were discovered at the train station in Rahami’s hometown of Elizabeth, N.J. The suspect was arrested after he was shot and wounded in a gunfight with police in Linden, N.J. Friends said Rahami, who came to the U.S. at age 7, had become markedly more religious in recent years after visiting Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The bombings came the same day a Kenyan-born, ethnic Somali security guard stabbed and wounded nine people in a St. Cloud, Minn., shopping mall. Shot dead by an off-duty police officer, Dahir Adan, 22, was proclaimed “a soldier” of ISIS by a propaganda outfit linked to the group. The attacks immediately became part of the presidential campaign. Republican Donald Trump called for the profiling of Muslims—“They’re trying to be politically correct in our country, and this is only going to get worse”—while Democrat Hillary Clinton said her opponent’s rhetoric played into the hands of jihadists seeking “a religious conflict.”
What the editorials said
“Clinton acted like leader. Trump did not,” said The Washington Post. Before authorities had even figured out the cause of the Chelsea explosion, the Republican proclaimed at a rally in Colorado that a bomb had gone off. “He may have guessed right, but that would be a reckless way to do business in the Oval Office.” By contrast, Clinton wanted to know the facts and called for the support of first responders and the injured. “It was the kind of calm and caution one naturally expects from a leader.”“It’s long past time for a coherent, coordinated, aggressive strategy” to prevent jihadist attacks, said National Review.com. We should start by tightening our immigration laws and getting rid of inane edicts, such as the yearslong ban on reviewing the social media accounts of would-be immigrants. “Those seeking entry to the U.S. should face serious scrutiny. It’s not xenophobic to prefer applicants who embrace American ideals.”
What the columnists said
These attacks don’t prove “that immigrants are terrorist threats,” said Zack Beauchamp in Vox.com. For one thing, Rahami came to the U.S. as a child, so was radicalized after he became an American. That fits the profile of the typical domestic ISIS supporter: most are U.S. born or have lived here a long time. The average American has only a 1 in 3.6 million chance of being killed in terrorist attack involving an immigrant in any given year. You’re more likely to get hit by a train.
There are a couple of important lessons we can take from last week’s bombings and stabbings, said Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal. Firstly, it’s clear that there is a benefit to allowing “competent and responsible adults” to carry guns, like the off-duty officer who shot the jihadist in Minnesota. Another is that surveillance can help keep us safe—a black-and-white image of Rahami near the Chelsea bomb site caught by one of New York City’s 8,000 cameras helped identify him as the culprit. These are lessons the political left doesn’t want to hear, because they’re so convinced that “guns can only cause violence, not stop it, and that security is the antithesis of, not a precondition to, civil liberty.”
Let’s not act like we’re under siege, said Jack Shafer in Politico.com. “The clumsy bombing and misfire, and the speedy apprehension of the suspect’’ shows that the actual threat from terrorism “is low. Very low.’’ But our psyches are so scarred by 9/11 that even botched attempts by lone-wolf losers feel “like a dire assault on the homeland,” with media and the likes of Trump happily fanning the flames. Perhaps the next generation, with no memory of 9/11, “can guide us out of our paranoia.”