Outside editorial: Thoughts from across the nation on foiled British terror plot

Posted: Sunday, August 13, 2006

'They were well on the way'

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This editorial appeared in the Chicago Tribune:

The triumph of British intelligence in thwarting an international terror plot didn't have the glamour and decisiveness of say, World War II's Battle of Midway. There were no enemy dead to count, no grisly war stories to recount. Nothing happened, after all.

But it was a stirring victory in wartime nonetheless, one that shouldn't be obscured by the chaos in airports around the world, or the minor concerns about whether travelers will be able to take their soft drinks and laptops and iPods on planes in the near future.

The plot's details remain sketchy. But what has been revealed carries all the chilling earmarks of an ambitious, well-planned operation, possibly by al-Qaida. The terrorists were, perhaps, days away from attempting to detonate several U.S.-bound planes in mid-flight over the Atlantic Ocean, an act of mass murder that may have been planned to rival the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, near their fifth anniversary.

Five years after Sept. 11, 2001, the enemies of America - of the entire Free World - have not lost their resolve. Those who believe that the killing of a few terrorist masterminds cripples them all are deluding themselves. Terrorists probe the system for weakness and adjust their murderous strategy. And we must adjust too. That's how it is in war.

Evil that knows no bounds...

This editorial appeared in the New York Daily News:

This time, the maniacs came very close to scoring a kill. This time, by all grim accounts Thursday unfolding, they almost pulled off what many terrorism experts believe was intended to be the next "big one" - the next 9/11.

It is no alarmist exaggeration to say that thousands of trans-Atlantic air passengers owe their lives to the vigilance of the British anti-terror authorities who thwarted a plan to blow a skyful of U.S.-bound jetliners out of the clouds.

It is world war we are staring down the maw of here in these awful times. Deranged jihadists have struck in the United States, in Britain, in Spain, in Indonesia and elsewhere. And they mean to strike again, wherever they can, whenever they can. This time, they almost did.

Truly terrifying is the fact that the two dozen plotters in custody are young, British-born Muslims who lived, by all outward appearances, rather pedestrian and peaceful lives as everything from a student to a builder. So normal did they seem, they were granted entry visas to the United States, with some of them professing the sincere desire to visit Disney theme parks or see the Grand Canyon. Yet they burned with the same fanatic obsession to destroy Western civilization as does Osama bin Laden himself.

No doubt, the British terror suspects are inspirational heroes to many around the globe simply for having, at least in the short term, semi-paralyzed air travel. But otherwise, they failed. This time.

Reason for hope, caution

This editorial appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

The foiling of an airline bombing plot Thursday by British law enforcement is one of the most encouraging successes yet in the fight against Islamic terrorists.

Yet, for all of the gratitude and credit due British investigators, two of their widely circulated comments Thursday sounded odd on this side of the Atlantic. A top London police official said the plotters intended to commit "mass murder on an unimaginable scale." Another British official said the loss of life would have been "unprecedented."

Unimaginable and unprecedented. While everyone understands what the officials meant, their words sounded naive and thoughtless to Americans who lived through 9/11. Especially to the families of the close to 3,000 people who died on a single morning five years ago, the plot uncovered this week requires no imagination.

Many Americans have asked since 9/11 why terrorists have not attacked the United States again. These arrests appear to have supplied the obvious answer. They are still trying, whether they are members of al-Qaida or a similarly inspired group.

Predictably, Democrats and Republicans alike sought to gain partisan advantage with the news from Britain. Rather than try to sort out the claims of which party is more thrilled about the arrests of suspected terrorists, Americans can simply be grateful that our allies in the U.K. were on the job.

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