by John F. Di Leo
In December, as our military was learning of the latest iron in Al Qaeda’s unholy fire, a desire to poison American food or water supplies, they began an investigation of five Middle Eastern members of the “09 Lima” unit, a translation group working at South Carolina’s Fort Jackson.
At this writing, it is still correct to use the term “alleged” in describing the Fort Jackson Five, a group suspected of having been involved in just such a plot: to poison the food supply at a U.S. military base. While the investigation of at least one continues, several have been cleared. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they were all innocent of the intent; it could be that the plot was discovered before there was any hard evidence in place to support a prosecution.
What they may not have expected was public outrage at the translation program itself. As news has come out, drop by drop, we learn that there is a severe security risk inherent in this program, even if all five of these particular translators are exonerated. Desperate for staff fluent in Arabic, Dari, Pashto, etc., the government has been bringing hundreds of locals from the region to the USA – literally inviting foreign nationals from hostile territory – and installing them in restricted areas - in military bases - as translators. In exchange, in addition to salary and normal military room and board, they are granted a fast track to U.S. citizenship and voting rights, a program that commences as soon as they complete their first day of active duty. To a jihadist, this program must feel like like winning the lottery.
Let’s think about this. Commonly cited estimates of the islamofascist threat indicate that, while most of the world’s Muslims are of course decent, peaceful people, at least ten percent believe in global jihad against the West, against “infidels,” against whomever their radical imams have declared to be their enemy. Even if not all of these ten percent are willing to strap on the bombs and engage in attacks themselves, the sympathies of this hundred million are with those of their brethren who are.
In short, unless we can have some very dependable process for psychological, religious, and political screening for these middle eastern translators, our own government is likely transporting, funding, housing, training, and equipping the very jihadists who will strike at or near our domestic bases and other U.S. targets.
Amazing, isn’t it? We’re the world’s superpower, virtually unbeatable in war – unless we invite the enemy in, to do his sabotage behind our lines.
This is hardly the first time in history an overconfident superpower has made such an error of judgment concerning its own defenses. Why don’t we learn? Let’s turn the clock back to our mother country for an example:
After the defeat of King Harold in 1066, William the Conqueror’s Norman Conquest presented a serious challenge: his new government would invite not only foreign threats, but local threats from the unwelcoming Saxons as well. William and his son therefore set a plan in place to build the greatest castle of all time – ninety feet high, over a hundred feet squared in area. His superpower-worthy White Tower still stands, nearly a millenium later. Now known as the Tower of London, it was built to serve as the visual reminder to all, near and far, that this Conqueror and his heirs were here to stay.
Over the next two centuries, William’s castle was expanded through walls and outbuildings. By its peak in the fourteenth century, additions by Henry III and Edward I had made it virtually siege-proof. Concentric walls, wide moats, archers’ turrets, drawbridges and sharpened iron portcullises left nothing to chance. The Yeoman Warders (we know them as the Beefeaters on our gin bottles) were tasked with guarding the complex. It was an honor to serve as a Yeoman, and was probably as easy a duty as there was in the English army of those days. How hard could it be to protect the most daunting fortress in one of the greatest countries on earth, which no sane enemy would even dream of attacking? All you had to do was show up and man your post!
If an army somehow managed to get through the first wall, they would find themselves in a courtyard where archers could pick them off with ease. If they managed to get through the second wall, that scenario was repeated, with still more bowmen at the ready to dispatch them. Nobody in his right mind would attempt it. Much like the aura of invincibility that the USA had until recently, surely the size, design, and defenses of the Tower of London would dissuade any potential attacker. And so they did, for quite a while. To all appearances, given the technology of the time, the Tower was invincible.
…until the peasant revolt of 1381, when a steep poll tax so infuriated the commoners that the rabble rose. Thousands of peasant farmers marched on this impregnable Tower, armed with little more than hoes and shovels. To everyone’s surprise, these unarmed peasants pushed their way in – all the way in – and beheaded the Archbishop of Canterbury, the young king’s trusted advisor (and architect of the hated tax).
How could so inferior a force defeat stone walls fifteen feet thick, guarded by bow, sword, and moat?
Easy. They had the support of just enough of the yeoman warders to be let in. It turns out that many yeoman warders were happy to have the title, but didn’t want to be troubled to actually do the work, so these nobles foolishly hired peasants to show up and wear the uniforms, never even realizing that such choices would compromise the entire security system.
There were some jobs respectable Englishmen just didn’t want to do, so they outsourced them. And when the peasants revolted, the Tower’s guards were divided by split loyalties: their friends or their employers?
Note that all the Tower’s guards didn’t have to be unfaithful – many, even most, may have been true to their duty. All the peasants needed were enough holes in the armor to have one path through to the castle keep. Any chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and overconfident rulers and nobles had allowed several links to be weakened, to disastrous results.
The United States of 2010 bears a great deal of similarity to the White Tower of 1381. We have moats – huge oceans on our east and west, a gulf to our south and a chain of lakes in the north – and walls and guards along our land borders. We have one of the greatest standing armies in history, well trained and well equipped, with the latest in military technology at our service. With the strongest economy on earth, we can afford to send this military anywhere we need to – whether just to rattle sabers, keep the peace, or engage the enemy. No one in his right mind would attack us.
But on September 11, 2001, as they had attempted before and would attempt again, little Al Qaeda, an organization rather than a nation, attacked New York City, killing thousands of Americans and guests, doing tens of billions of dollars of damage to our economy and the world’s.
Suddenly, America learned to its horror that a foe doesn’t have to be of equal size to be a threat… and that a superpower that allows its defenses to be compromised is no longer a superpower. But not everyone learns from history. While there is no way to prevent all attacks, we can plug up many of the holes, reducing the odds of such attacks being successful.
Just as the White Tower drilled its own holes by hiring substitutes with mixed loyalties as Yeoman Warders, the U.S. military has allowed radical jihadist adherents to join, to serve, even, amazingly, to lead. The most famous in this class is Nidal Malik Hasan, an army major at the time of his November 2009 massacre at Fort Hood… but there have been other islamofascists, particularly among the chaplain corps, who have been recruiting for the enemy from within both our military and our prisons for years. No sane country arms its enemy, gives them rank, and knowingly enables their recruiting efforts behind its own lines and in its own camps – but America does.
Like the White Tower of centuries ago, we have weakened our defenses on purpose. Exhausted from the Cold War, impoverished by economically crippling entitlement spending, and thrown off course philosophically by decades of moral relativism, America is now ruled by people who believe that our enemies are no different than ourselves. These misguided leaders and bureaucrats raise up our enemies instead of casting them down – by talking with Ahmedinijad instead of shunning him, by Mirandizing bombers instead of interrogating them, by setting killers free instead of leaving them in Guantanamo where they belong … and amazingly, by offering citizenship and good jobs, on our own army bases, to a pool of candidates virtually guaranteed to be contaminated by some percentage of jihadists.
You don’t have to be a general, or a student of ancient Greece, to know that accepting a Trojan Horse is a bad idea… so it follows that building a Trojan Horse abroad, inviting the enemy to climb right in, and bringing it all back home to your base is downright suicidal.
We have potentially the strongest defenses in history, but we must use them in full, not encourage their breach through laziness, green cards and political correctness. You can only be a superpower as long as you keep your defenders loyal.
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based Customs broker and international trade compliance trainer, and is a former county chairman of the Milwaukee GOP. Permission is hereby granted to forward this article freely, as long as the byline and IR URL are included.