Where is the Mourning for the Victims of the NYC Terrorist Attack?

NYC Terrorist Attack - memorial #2 (Andres Kudacki, AP photo)  (photo by Andres Kudacki, AP)

by Diane Rufino, November 3, 2017

On Halloween Day, October 31, an Islamic jihadist, a heavily- bearded 29-year-old Uzbekistan demon drove a rented pickup truck down a crowded bike path near the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, targeting, striking, crushing, and killing eight cyclists and pedestrians and injuring twelve.  Of the eight victims, six were foreign tourists and two were American. The incident is the deadliest terror attack that New Yorkers have seen since 9/11.

It has been four days and we still haven’t spent time learning about the victims and the families who are suffering from a senseless terrorist attack and from the political malfeasance of our government. They deserve our attention; they deserve for us to know who they were and what kind of individuals they were and how much they were loved by others.

Those killed in the terrorist attack have been identified as:  Darren Drake, 32, of New Milford, N.J.; Nicholas Cleves, 23, of New York; Anne Laure Decadt, 31, of Belgium; and Hernán Diego Mendoza, Diego Enrique Angelini, Alejandro Damián Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij and Hernán Ferruchi, all from Argentina and all aged 48-49.

Darren Drake worked at the World Trade Center, just blocks away from the attack. His father described him as “The most innocent, delicate kid in the world.”  At the hospital where he learned of his son’s death and had the heartbreaking task of identifying him, commented: “You don’t know how hard it is to see someone you’ve loved with your whole heart for 33 years lying dead.”

At 23, Nicholas Cleves was the youngest victim and only New Yorker to die in the attack. He lived near the site of the attack in Manhattan’s trendy West Village and worked as a software developer. He had just started his first job out of school. As his friend, Bahji Chancey, described: “He was a really, really kind, not heartless, intelligent and curious person. We always had conversations about what he was studying at school.”  His high school issued its condolences: “He was the most decent, kindest, human being, and just the nicest person to have around. He was kind, caring, curious, interested, and a great friend. He always had a kind word when you would pass him in the hall, and the biggest smile, and always offered to help, no matter the situation.”

After high school, Cleves enrolled in classes at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, where he majored in computer science and minored in physics. As a university student, Cleves studied Italian, worked as an IT assistant, and tutored students in astronomy.  Philip Glotzbach, the college’s president, said in a statement posted Wednesday on the college’s website: “An incident of terrorism that takes the lives of innocent people anywhere in the world touches each of us in our fundamental humanity. But the effect is more pronounced, and far more personal, when our community is directly linked to such a horrendous event.”

Anne Laure Decadt, who traveled to the US from Belgium, was married and a mom of two young sons – just three years old and three months old.

The 5 victims from Argentina were childhood friends and were visiting New York City in celebration of their 30th high school reunion. They had been planning the trip for years. As teenagers, they had bonded in the halls and classrooms of the Instituto Politécnico, a technical high school in Rosario, Argentina’s third largest city. They graduated from the school together in 1987, and on Saturday, October 28, eight of the former classmates gathered to fly to the United States to celebrate their milestone reunion. They were united in life and united in death.  Argentine President, Mauricio Macri, called the group “model citizens” and made clear that “there can be no place for gray areas in the fight against terrorism.”

My heart goes out to the people of New York City and to the families of those killed in cold blood by yet another Islamic terrorist.  As anyone knows who has lived or visited NYC, it is the truly the city that never sleeps. It never sleeps because its people are full of life and energy; they want to do things, see things, take part in things. It’s full of culture, entertainment, education, business, history, technology, architecture, excitement.  It’s the reason people all over the world travel to visit her. It is profoundly tragic and unacceptable that terrorists among us cannot and are not being flushed out and exiled. They are not Americans but enemies. It is unacceptable that radicalization and ideology-motivated violence upon one another is permitted in this country – a country that was once founded on Christian love, peaceful coexistence, unity, and service to one another.

In this Brave New World that America has become, the brave are ordinary citizens who take their lives in their own hand when they dare to venture out on our American streets, in our American cities, dare to take the subways or airplanes, or take part in celebrations and public holidays, or go to concerts or nightclubs. The brave are our first responders and our law enforcement.  This is not the country we want. We want the country we once enjoyed before these animals and barbarians came here to harm us.

To Senator Schumer, who’s ingenious mind thought to actively bring in individuals, without any merit-based assessment or background search, and all the other members of Congress who joined him…  You career politicians willingly put diversity before safety, and put politics before common sense. Your job is to keep the country safe and NOT to re-populate the United States and engineer our social fabric. This is what happens when self-important politicians re-define their roles and the role of the government in general.

Make no mistake, the evil perpetrator, the assassin of innocent Americans, Sayfullo Saipov, was plucked from Uzbekistan for no other reason than to represent a population from the Middle East that is under-represented here in the United States. This is called social engineering. Saipov became a legal US resident seven years ago, under Shumer’s program, the Diversity Lottery Program, that should have been repealed as terrorism began escalating in the Middle East towards the end of the 20th century (1990’s) and certainly in conjunction with the Patriot Act following 9/11. In their infinite wisdom, our legislators provided a beauty of a program that was able to bring potential and actual terrorists into our communities in the aftermath of the 9/11 NYC terrorist attack.

As the government knows, or should have known, Uzbekistan exports a high percent of terrorists, jihadists, and ISIS sympathizers and there is a good reason for it. First of all, Uzbekistan borders on Afghanistan, a hotbed of jihadist activity and radicalization. Second, although the temptation and the recruitment for radicalization is all-too present, the country has a long and notorious record of restricting the religious practices of its majority Muslim population. For example, all clerics are government vetted; all madrassas are government controlled and infiltrated by undercover informants, and until recently, children under 18 were banned from attending mosques.  Pilgrims to Mecca have to go through a rigorous government vetting process and are then accompanied on the journey by government minders. Uzbekistan’s post-Soviet ruler, Islam Karimov, who died last year, outlawed Islamist political parties and imprisoned and tortured dozens of religious activists. The government keeps a “black list” of people it has decided are religious extremists – including Islamic jihadists and ISIS-sympathizers. According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch, “Those on the list are barred from obtaining various jobs and travel, and must report regularly for police interrogations.” Until the country’s new president shortened the list back in August, it contained some 18,000 names.  [See Julia Ioffe’s article]  Yet Uzbekistan continued to be a country included in the government’s masterful “diversity program.”  The lack of concern for America’s safety is incomprehensible.

How bad of a monster is Saipov?  As he lay recovering in his comfortable hospital bed, supported in his medical treatment by the American taxpayers, he continued to profess that he was proud of what he had done. He even requested to display the Islamic State flag in his hospital room. He was motivated to carry out the ISIS-inspired attack (carried out to the T according to its “playbook”) after watching a video of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in which he questioned what Muslims in the United States were doing to respond to the killing of other members of their faith in Iraq.  I ask, which individuals are most likely to respond to recruitment such as that?  Christians? Protestants? Baptists? Jews?  The common sense answer is that it would be those from the very region pouring out such radicalized individuals, stemming from an interpretation of the religion of that region.

As if that isn’t bad enough, Saipov was on a Homeland Security watchlist but somehow he slipped through the cracks. How did that happen?  Even more, how often do we hear that happen?  We talk about a vetting policy when it comes to immigration, but we know that a policy, like our federal immigration laws, are merely words. It takes enforcement to give meaning to them. Without enforcement or even the competence to carry it out, the laws and policies are merely talking points.  It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode when Jerry schools a Rental Car agent:

Jerry:  I don’t understand. Do you have my reservation?

Rental Car Agent:  We have your reservation, we just ran out of cars.

Jerry:  But the reservation keeps the car here. That’s why you have the reservation.

Rental Car Agent:  I think I know why we have reservations.

Jerry:  I don’t think you do. You see, you know how to ‘take’ the reservation, you just don’t know how to ‘hold’ the reservation. And that’s really the most important part of the reservation: the holding. Anybody can just take them.

The most important part of an immigration program is its enforcement. Supremely delegated to the federal government, Americans expect its enforcement to be diligent, judicious, and efficient. Otherwise, amend the Constitution to leave the task to the individual states.

In light of the string of terrorist attacks here in the United States and the on-going recruitment and radicalization of Muslims by terrorist groups, and in light of the diversity-related disfunction that is dividing our communities and college campuses, eroding our First Amendment guarantee of Free Speech, inciting endless meritless protests and civic disruptions, and posing safety risks, is it so hard to institute a common-sense policy when it comes to immigration criteria:  In deciding who comes into the country, why don’t we look for individuals (no matter what their background is) who WANT to be Americans rather than look for individuals simply to BE Americans.

 

References:

Julia Ioffe, “Why Does Uzbekistan Export So Many Terrorists,” The Atlantic, November 1, 2017.  Referenced at:  https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/11/uzbekistan-terrorism-new-york-sayfullo-saipov/544649/

Max Radwin, Anthony Faiola, Samantha Schmidt and Amy B Wang, “Old Friends from Argentina Reunited in New York; They Died Together in a Terrorist Attack,” The Washington Post, November 1, 2017.  Referenced at:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/11/01/five-old-friends-from-argentina-reunited-in-new-york-they-died-together-in-a-terrorist-attack/?utm_term=.649373933dea

Renae Merle and Marwa Eltagouri, “New York software engineer killed in terrorist attack had a ‘rare capacity for emotional IQ’,” The Washington Post, November 2, 2017.  Referenced at:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/11/01/of-the-eight-killed-in-new-york-only-nicholas-cleves-called-it-home/?utm_term=.a67173a074c7

The Taliban Trade: The Trade of the Century

Taliban swap - Dos Equis guy      by Diane Rufino

“Obama admits that Taliban prisoner swap for Bergdahl could put Americans in danger.  He also acknowledged that the Taliban fighters could once again engage in efforts that are detrimental to U.S. security.”

The 21st century began with a massacre.  Almost thirteen years ago, terrorists based in Afghanistan plotted and planned the massive attack on the United States that would shatter our security and test the value of our freedom.  As a consequence of the events of 9/11, President George Bush vowed to hunt terrorists down. As he promised: “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.” Since terrorism claims no unique nationality, the United States would engage any county that sponsors terrorism or harbors its agents.  On September 14, 2001, the US Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which authorized the use of US armed forces against those responsible for the attacks on September 11, 2001. The authorization granted the President the authority to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against those whom he determined “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the September 11th attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups. The AUMF was signed by President Bush four days later. [Note: The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, NDAA, which authorizes $662 billion for national security programs (“for the defense of the United States and its interests abroad”), includes a section on counter-terrorism within the United States. Two of the most controversial provisions of the counter-terrorism section are contained in subsections 1021 and 1022. These sections permit the indefinite detention of American citizens who the executive department identifies as “belligerents” against the United States. Congress cited the AUMF for its authority to target American citizens, although it is almost impossible to understand how].

In any case, the events of 9/11 plunged the United States into an undefined “war” on terrorism.  Never before has the United States waged war against a tactic. American civil rights were burdened and unprecedented powers were transferred to the US executive.  For years legal scholars have been watching the dynamic and the unfolding of circumstances to evaluate the burden on civil rights in relation to the furtherance of homeland security. And civil rights groups and constitutionally-minded Americans have been critical of the Patriot Act, the NDAA, NSA spying, etc from the get-go. They understand that any surrender of liberty is likely to never be reclaimed.

On Saturday, May 31, President Barack Obama announced that he made an arrangement to free an American soldier that has been held for nearly half a decade in Afghanistan.  That “arrangement” was a swap for five “Guantanamo detainees.”  As usual, the White House was not completely honest about its actions.  The American “soldier,” Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, was more of a “deserter” and Islamic supporter than he was an American soldier.  Testimony from some of his fellow platoon members claim that he walked off from his platoon voluntarily and reports have said that as many as six soldiers might have died while searching for him. And the “Guantanamo detainees” were, in fact, five top Taliban terrorists.  News reports claim that the freed terrorists are headed back to the battlefield – wherever that may be.

How has the United States honored those six Americans who were killed searching for Bergdahl when he “walked off”?   It rendered their sacrifice meaningless by releasing hardened terrorists to go back on the battlefield to kill more Americans.

Taliban Swap - 6 Americans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As justification of his decision, Obama alleged that “unique and exigent circumstances” presented the United States with an opportunity to save Sergeant Bergdahl’s life and he had to move as quickly as possible.  Lingering questions remain, and with each day the debate intensifies in Washington and among Americans all over whether the U.S. should have negotiated with the Taliban over prisoners.

Obama’s swap of 5 key terrorists – “the Terrorist Dream Team” – for an American deserter has raised serious questions, including of our President’s fitness to be President and his ability to keep our nation safe. How many Americans may have lost their lives or were wounded or who were sacrificed in trying to secure these five individuals?  And how many Americans have lost their lives – brutally at that – at the hands of terrorists related or financed by the Afghan Taliban.  The terrorists so cavalierly released by Obama have ties to the al queda and to Osama bin Laden.

Here are my concerns, just to name:

(1)  Deserter Bergdahl is a supporter of the Taliban. He deserted to offer support for the terrorist organization, in some form. If anyone should have any questions about that, just reflect back on the conduct of his father at the news of his son’s freedom in exchange for the release of the 5 terrorists. It should be noted that his father, Robert Bergdahl, looks like a Taliban member.  At a podium from the White House Rose Garden, and in the President’s presence, he offered a Muslim prayer in honor of the President’s decision to swap notorious Islamic terrorists – enemies of the United States – for his son’s release.  He spoke the words: “Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahm,” which means, “In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Compassionate.”

Taliban leader Mullah Omar pointed to Bergdahl’s use of a Muslim prayer to characterize the actions of our government as a “clear victory” for their movement. He reported as much to the Pakistani news outlets.

To compound the insult, Robert Bergdahl sent a tweet (now removed, but clearly originating from his twitter account) that he would continue to work for the release of the rest of the Islamic prisoners at GITMO.

So here’s my concern.  Bergdahl’s conduct can arguably be characterized as traitorous – giving aid and support to an enemy of the United States. Because the US government doesn’t want to be limited to the constraints imposed by the US Constitution (Article III) when it comes to Americans who commit traitorous acts, it invented a new “creature” that would be beyond traditional law – the “enemy combatant.”  Originally used to refer to members of the armed forces of a country at which we are at war with, who, without wearing their uniform, wage war or aid/support their cause, the US Supreme Court has perverted that definition to apply it to Americans who “are in arms” against the US or give aid/support to the enemy.  Make no mistake, the “enemy combatant” is merely another term for the same individual – a traitor. But an “enemy combatant” has none of the civil rights protections afforded by Article III.  In fact, an “enemy combatant” has essentially no constitutional rights.  He is barely considered an American citizen. He has less rights than any one of the 9/11 hijackers, had any of them lived to see their day in court.

Obama’s swap then amounts to this:  He swapped someone barely recognized as an American for 5 key Taliban terrorists. Senator John McCain commented on the five detainees: “These are the hardest of the hard core.”  Two of the five detainees (terrorists) are linked to the massacre of thousands of Shiites in Afghanistan and one has been labeled by the US State Department as a “global terrorist.”  As mentioned above, freed Bowe Bergdahl has vowed to continue working to release the rest of such prisoners.  One can’t help but note how poorly our country fared in this exchange.  In fact, a TV poll today showed that 81% of Americans are concerned about the deal that President Obama struck.

(2)  We Americans lost many of our treasured civil liberties because of individuals like those detained as terrorists or likely terrorists in Guantanamo prison.  We have sacrificed these liberties in order that our government can identify, track, and prevent them from doing any further harm to us or to our nation’s security. We didn’t sacrifice these liberties in order that the government catch these individuals and then let them go.

(3)  The President broke the law by releasing the five GITMO terrorists. Is he not bound to follow the laws that he is tasked to enforce?  The President of the United States is required, BY LAW, to notify Congress at least 30 days in advance before transferring any prisoner out of GITMO.  He gave no such notification. He made a unilateral decision. There needs to be a full investigation and consequences – articles of impeachment, for starters.

(4)  The US has now made it clear that it has reversed its policy of not negotiating with terrorists. One of the greatest protections and assurances that US diplomats and soldiers abroad have is knowing that the United States does not negotiate with terrorists. And now that has been compromised.  Senator Ted Cruz perhaps sums up this last concern most concisely in his exchange on June 1 with Ambassador Susan Rise (of Benghazi notoriety): “According to Ambassador Rice, U.S. policy has changed. Now we make deals with terrorists. And the question going forward is, have we just put a price on other U.S. soldiers? What does this tell terrorists, that if you capture a U.S. soldier, you can trade that soldier for five terrorists we’ve gone after. … And the idea that we’re now making trades, what does that do for every single soldier stationed abroad? It says the reason why the U.S. has had the policy for decades of not negotiating with terrorists is because once you start doing it, every other terrorist has an incentive to capture more soldiers.”

Additionally, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. McKeon (R-CA) and the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, James M. Inhofe (R-OK), wrote in a statement, “Trading five senior Taliban leaders from detention in Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl’s release may have consequences for the rest of our forces and all Americans. Our terrorist adversaries now have a strong incentive to capture Americans. That incentive will put our forces in Afghanistan and around the world at even greater risk.”

Again, how has the President’s conduct made the United States safer?   In fact, he has made us far more vulnerable and without credibility in our so-called “War on Terror.”

Of course, there are more concerns that I, and others, have regarding the swap of Bergdahl for “the worst of the worst” terrorists, and especially as suspicions continue to grow as to who this deserter and likely Taliban sympathizer is.

In a recent interview, Colonel Allen West said: “Those of us in the know and in the inner circles have known since 2009-2010 that Bowe Bergdahl was a deserter. He’s not a prisoner of war and we know the circumstances; we knew there were nondisclosure agreements that members of his platoon were forced to sign and, as always, the truth is starting to come out now. This whole episode was not about a swap, it was about an out-and-out release of five senior members of the Taliban structure.”

Taliban swap - collage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

West outlined the need for a thorough Congressional investigation and reiterated that the House ought to draw up articles of impeachment against the president. “I think the articles of impeachment are there because the president broke the law. I don’t care about this Article II signing statement; you can’t just pick and choose and say what’s constitutional and what’s not constitutional.”

The Obama Administration has shrugged-off the release of the GITMO terrorists by claiming that U.S. forces could always recapture them, an option that of course, could come at the expense of more American lives.

Borrowing a term from law school, the decision to swap Bergdahl for five notorious terrorists doesn’t pass the “smell” test.  In other words, it stinks. The truth is that there isn’t hasn’t been much from this administration over these past several years that “smells” right.  America, Americans, and especially our men in uniform deserve better.  We’ve sacrificed far too much for shady deals like this one.

 

References:

Robert Farley and Eugene Kiely, “Sorting Murking Issues on the POW Swap,” FactCheck, June 6, 2014.   Referenced at:  http://www.factcheck.org/2014/06/sorting-murky-issues-on-the-pow-swap/

Joe Saunders, “POW’s Dad Praises Allah at Suspicious Rose Garden Press Conference with Obama,” Biz Pac Review, June 1, 2014.  Referenced at: http://www.bizpacreview.com/2014/06/01/pows-dad-praises-allah-at-suspicious-rose-garden-press-conference-with-obama-122631

Dan Friedman, Edgar Sandoval, Stephen Rex Brown, and Larry McShane, “Obama Admits that Taliban Prisoner Swap for Bergdahl Could Put Americans in Danger, NY Daily News, June 4, 2014.  Referenced at:  http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/obama-bergdahl-deal-circumstances-american-soldier-back-article-1.1814986#ixzz340WMGKZk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Q_pmEbDbMM     (Video of Robert Bergdahl at the White House Rose Garden)