As the counter-terrorism debate has grown more intense in recent weeks, Americans have heard quite a few policymakers who seem eager to create a sense of dread, if not panic. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), for example, has said we may “all get killed” unless President Obama deploys ground troops in Syria.
A wide variety of Republicans have said Islamic State terrorists may try to infiltrate the United States through Mexico. One GOP member of the House Armed Services Committee claims ISIS is already in Mexico and has “designs on trying to come into Arizona.” Former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), now running in a new state, released an ad yesterday saying terrorists “are threatening to cause the collapse of our country.”
In related news, Republicans strongly urge you to look under your bed tonight before going to sleep.
But it appears that only one GOP member of Congress has gone so far as to say that ISIS terrorists not only infiltrated the United States, but actually tried to attack a prominent U.S. military base. Reader B.A. emailed yesterday to note a quote from Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who had this exchange on “Fox News Sunday” over the weekend with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.):
SCHIFF: We can’t take our eye off the ball, because al Qaeda, the al Nusra franchise in Syria, poses a more immediate threat to our homeland than ISIS does at the present. They’re trying to work with AQAP bomb makers to smuggle on bombs on our planes. We cannot lose sight of that threat. That’s really the more immediate threat to Americans –KING: Adam, I would disagree. I would say they’re all a threat. They’re equal threats. They’re coming at us and we have to be on our guard at all times. If ISIS went into Australia, they could certainly come into the U.S. In 2011, they attempted to attack Fort Knox. So, all of them, I say, are threats we cannot let our guard down at all.
Putting aside the fact that the “let our guard down” contingent doesn’t actually have any members, it seems to me that if ISIS terrorists “attempted to attack Fort Knox” in 2011, that’d be the sort of thing I’d remember.
The problem is, the terrorist plot never actually happened. I suspect this is what the congressman is referring to.
In May , two Iraqi refugees living in Bowling Green, Ky., were charged with trying to send sniper rifles, Stinger missiles and money to the Qaeda affiliate in their home country. Neither of the men, Waad Ramadan Alwan, 30, and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, 23, was charged with plotting attacks within the United States. A federal sting operation prevented the weapons and money from going to Iraq.
This was, to be sure, a counter-terrorism success story for federal law enforcement, but neither of the two Iraqis “attempted to attack Fort Knox.” They lived a couple of hours’ drive from Fort Knox, but that’s not the same thing.
Demagoguery is one thing; demagoguery on national television based on fantasy is something else entirely.