If, as the New York Times now reports, Faisal Shahzad, the 30 year old who allegedly planted a car bomb in the back of an SUV in Times Square over the weekend, was trained by the Pakistani Taliban, then the U.S. has nothing to fear from the Taliban in Pakistan. At this rate, we might even have to go back to fighting the Russians.
What is haunting is not just the facility with which this fiasco was carried out, but the lingering image of a good looking, clean-shaven, smiling young man in sunglasses beaming as he’s being hauled off in a police car. Clearly, he was having his 15 seconds of fame. I don’t know about you, but if I were just charged with an act of terror, I’m not sure I’d be smiling like Faisal was. It was as if he was posing for the cover of GQ.
The alacrity with which he gave it all up, with or without a side order of Miranda, is also a bit baffling. Did part of his reported training by Pakistani extremists inspire him to have a loose tongue?
More chilling, though, is the idea that what was to be a weapon of mass destruction was so easily acquired in a Connecticut parking lot for such a paltry sum, $1800, and in such a benign way by responding to an ad on Craigslist.
But, let’s not forget that Shahzad is a card carrying American citizen who went to school for his MBA here, owned a house an hour and a half away from New York City, even went into debt to the tune of $200,000 here. He’s as American as the guy operating the hotdog stand on Eighth Avenue only blocks away from where the Nissan Path finder was parked.
Chilling, no doubt, for his father, too, a retired Air Force officer in Pakistan, who must be glad for one thing. At least he didn’t encourage his son to train to be a rocket scientist because a rocket scientist he is not.
A rocket scientist would not pile a bunch of explosives into a car, set a detonator to go off, and then leave the keys in the car. A rocket scientist would have hid his tracks better. A rocket scientist might even have used a drone to accomplish the dastardly deed.
I guess it’s not called an act of terrorism to blow up a house full of civilians in Karachi with a remote control bombing machine, and all in the name of fighting a war on terror. Drones have been active in Pakistan for months now.
The past eight years, if nothing else, have shown that not only have we taught the world a thing or two about fast food, big Macs, and McMansions; not only have we shown the world that bigger is better, but we’ve shown them that bad is better, too. When we conduct a secret war in a country that we say is training terrorists, we have abandoned the moral high ground.
We have abandoned the moral high ground, too, the day a U.S. interrogator decided to immerse a detainee’s head under water to simulate drowning in defiance of international law; the moral high ground was surrendered, too, the day elected officials were immunized from war crimes charges by the Military Commissions Act; the day we decided to bypass habeas corpus, and tweak the public discourse such that Miranda is now optional with the vehicle.
Bill Maher recently told CNN that it’s not that terrorists hate the U.S. that makes them want to destroy us, but that they like us too much. How right he is. We’ve taught them too well.
JAYNE LYN STAHL is a widely published poet, essayist, playwright, and screenwriter, member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA.