Democrats & Liberals Archives

Incompetence Incorporated: The War on Terror

Omar al-Farouq escaped from his cell in Afghanistan.

If you’re unfamiliar with Omar al-Farouq, you might recall the fervor surrounding his capture in 2002. When, in 2002, the Bush administration used his capture as evidence that the war on terror was working and using information from al-Farouq to issue a homeland security warning.(link). al-Farouq was one of Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenants in Southeast Asia until Indonesian authorities captured him in 2002 and turned him over to the United States.

He was featured in a Time magazine cover story in September 2002. The article, titled "Confessions of an al-Qaida Terrorists," detailed his plans to carry out attacks in Southeast Asia, including a plot to bomb U.S. embassies near the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The Bush administration used the media effectively by pushing stories like al-Farouq's capture down the throats of the American public to prove that their strategy for combating international terrorism was working. In al-Farouq's case, following the capture, major news organizations played up the story. FNC had pundits describe who al-Farouq was, what role he played in the Bin Laden organization and what a tremendous victory this was for the war on terror. And when the Bush administration announced terror warnings because of information they claimed was interrogated from al-Farouq, FNC would use that as evidence about how well the war was actually going. FNC also would gleefully post a scorecard of Al Qaeda's leaders on their site (link, link) to support the wonderful progress that the US is making.

Ah... propaganda.

But now Omar al-Farouq escaped, along with three others by picking the lock of their cell. Some news organizations are reporting al-Farouq's escape; some are not. I guess the reason that they are not really reporting this story as aggressively as when he was captured is because it's actually old news. Yes, old news; he escaped in July.
For four months, al-Farouq and company ran free and nothing was reported by the media. It wasn't until a video the four men made of themselves after they escaped was broadcast on Dubai-based television station Al-Arabiya on Oct. 18, when things began to leak out (no pun intended).
According to news organization reporting on the video, the video shows the four men describing how they escaped on a Sunday when many of the Americans on the base were off duty, and one of the four - Muhammad Hassan, said to be Libyan - said he picked the locks of their cell, according to Al-Arabiya.
Although the escape was widely reported at the time, al-Farouq was identified by an alias and the U.S. military only confirmed Tuesday that he was among those who fled. Why no news ac0tivity? It was probably because of the sloppiness of the media themselves. They knew of the prison break back in July, but didn't think of asking the question: "Who escaped?".

So what does our illustrious Attorney General Alberto Gonzales have to say about this escape? "I don't know all the facts of this particular incident. Obviously, we consider this a very serious problem and one we'd have to look into the details of."

Okay, as long as you are on the job.

The US's response of 'Oh yeah... funny thing about al-Farouq' didn't go over well in the international community.

Well, Maj. Gen. Ansyaad Mbai, An Indonesian anti-terrorism official, knew nothing of al-Farouq's escape. He sharply criticized the U.S. government for failing to inform him that al-Farouq was no longer behind bars.
"We know nothing about the escape of Omar al-Farouq," he said. "He is a dangerous terrorist for us, his escape will increase the threat of terrorism in Indonesia. We need to coordinate security here as soon as possible to anticipate his return," he said. "The escape of al-Farouq could bring fresh wind to the operation of terrorism and could energize the new movement of terrorist actors in Southeast Asia and the world."

Geez, Mr. Gonzales, some people are taking this escape thing pretty seriously. What's the plan?

Introducing PLAN B: discredit the complainers.

Sound familiar?

A top security consultant in Jakarta played down Mbai's concerns. He asserted that al-Farouq wouldn't make his way back to Southeast Asia and rejoin Jemaah Islamiyah, the regional terrorist group linked to al-Qaida.
"He's Iraqi after all. If he's not hiding out (in Afghanistan or Pakistan), he's probably headed to Iraq to join the fight there," said Ken Conboy, who recently published a book on Jemaah Islamiyah.

Okay. Thanks. insert name here, you're doing a heck of a job.

Posted by john trevisani at November 2, 2005 12:07 PM