Like many young politicos, Obama’s oratory skills eventually won me over, too. More than that, it made me believe that what this politician had to offer was going to be different. And yes, that somehow “change was going to come to Washington.” Things were meant to be a little bit different at the very least, right?
The frustration people are feeling with Obama’s still very young Administration has less to do with their inability to magically make all the world’s major problems disappear (global economic meltdown, two wars, joblessness, mortgage crisis), and more to do with that fact that Obama has not really delivered on anything. This is a big problem for someone who got voted into the White House on the back a lot of big promises.
In the past few days the message which has been repeatedly reenforced in the minds of people, both in America and abroad, is that this Administration is not capable of handling security. At the end of the day, people need to feel safe and Obama’s inability to give people that sense of security could be his downfall. Your public, your supporters will be patient with you to deliver on a whole host of other issues, but not with the safety of their lives.
There are countless security blunders over the past few days. The one I just can’t seem to get over is that the suspect, 23 yr old Nigerian Abdulmutallab, was already on a watch list, but still was able to not only get a US visa, but get onto a US bound flight.
For anyone who has ever applied for a visa, (as a Bangladeshi I am a specialist), this is one point that is very hard to get past. I mean, how could that happen? Even at the basic level, with the amount of screenings and background checks a regular person has to go through during the visa application process, you would think that being on the terror watch list would set off some kind of red flag! At the very least, the system should be able to immediately place someone who is on the terror watch list on the no fly list. That is just basic security common sense.
And this is just one aspect of this whole debacle. Add to it the issue of clearly nonexistent inter-agency communication, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano’s retraction of her statement that the “system worked,” and you have many red flags. They all point to this Administration’s incompetency in dealing with security.
Now officials are finding ties between the failed Christmas Day attack and former Guantanamo detainees, probably spelling the end for one of Obama’s biggest campaign promises- closing Guantanamo. In fact, now that the public knows that the possibility of former detainees rejoining terror groups has actually happened, it is highly unlikely that the detention center will be shut anytime soon.
This is a slap in the face of the Obama Administration. It goes beyond security and begins to question credibility. I read that two of the former Guantanamo detainees who were released went to art rehab in Saudi Arabia before crossing the border into nearby Yemen where the attack on Flight 253 was plotted. I wonder if they drew any clues to that in their art class!
In the process of all of this by the way, the Administration has quietly let the public know what they have known for months: There is a new front on the War on Terror and it is in Yemen.
We have learnt in the past few days that we have actually been living under a false sense of security. You can call it a “security mirage”. I, like many other people, really believed that a massive security overhaul had taken place after 9-11. Now we have all been shown that you can be on a terror watch list, get denied a British visa, have your father come to the Nigerian Embassy in the US to warn them about you, but still get a US visa, buy a one-way ticket to the US, and get on the flight with explosives in your underwear. And I had to throw away all my liquid toiletries before boarding a flight for what?
This story is still developing and to be fair, the Administration still has some time, not very much but some, to clean up the massive blunder they have on their hands. How they handle it could spell out the destiny of Obama and his team. Because the one thing that we do know for sure is that when it comes to the issue of security, people like to feel safe and they need to know more than anyone, their President can handle that responsibility.
*This post of mine was also published on The Huffington Post.