Well, they are at it again. Adherents of radical Islamic jihad have attached the town of Brussels in Belgium. NATO headquarters is located here, as is the European Parliament. A live Reddit thread, at least as of 5:00 am (EST), includes posts from people on the scene stating that the airport, near the American Airlines counter, as well as several subway stations are under attack, including the station underneath or close to the European parliament building. If these early reports hold up, it is an attack on the heart of Europe. It is also attack on the United States since we are the infidels in chief.
It is going to be several hours before we’ll know what is really going on, however, one thing is certain, governments around the world are nowhere near putting an end to this. Judging from what the experts say, it maybe a new phase in the global war against radical Islamic terrorists that will be with the West for some time.
Will attacks such as these occur in the United States? Probably yes. And we’re right at the start of the busy travel season. These people will try again and again. Every time this happens I recall an incident that took place in 1998 while I was working at the U.S. Capitol. A lone gunman stormed the Capitol building and killed two Capitol Hill police officers who were manning the security station by the Document Door entrance.
My boss, Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) and I were in an office nearby, but did not hear about the incident until police were asking people to evacuate the building. At the time Rep. Thomas chaired the committee oversaw the Capitol Police as well as security of the Capitol complex. A few weeks after the incident there was a rush to fund a long-stalled project, the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) and, as the supporters of the multi-million dollar effort would have it, they argued it was needed for security reasons.
I’m going to leave out all the backroom discussions, some heated, about the CVC because I don’t believe in “tell all” books about the political process; however, by using public news reports, you can easily deduce that it was a hotly discussed topic among Members. Opponents of the project reminded colleagues that security is a relative thing. What difference does it make if someone is shot and killed in the Capitol building itself or a few hundred feet away in a visitor center? What about the office buildings? Or Members crossing the street during votes? More importantly, making a budgetary decision of this magnitude should be done well after murder of two Capitol Hill police officers. Emotions were, understandably, running high.
This entire process taught me a valuable lesson about decision-making in Washington, DC: there is absolutely nothing logical about it. If you try to argue principle or logic, well, you’ll be one lonely person. The CVC was, essentially, rammed through. And, yes, there were cost overruns. Big ones. The initial cost estimates were around $70 million. When the CVC completed, the final tab for U.S. taxpayers came close to $1 billion or $700 million!
Yet what stuck with me more than the costs was a statement by a security expert, and several Members of Congress, that a terror attack is a terror attack. With respect to the Capitol complex, it makes no difference where it happens. If the police officers had been killed at the CVC, the Capitol would have been breached. Sure, it was farther away from the House and Senate chambers, but, so what? To this day I’m convinced that proponents of this project took advantage of the emotional state of play to ram this project through.
Frankly, governments can only do so much to keep its citizenry safe. When someone or some group is determined to do evil things, they will find a way to defeat any security system. The terror attacks in Brussels today, and Paris last year, are a harbinger of things to come. Unfortunately, the more I read reports by counterterrorism experts, the more I agree with arguments that it is only a matter of time that attacks such as these will occur on U.S. soil.
It is a cold reminder to governments around the world that more must be done to deal with this problem. Pulling out of Iraq was a huge mistake. The United States needs a significant military and diplomatic presence in the the region and, at least, a forward operating location in Bagdad would have made sense. The Syria debacle has also contributed to this madness, as has U.S. policy in the greater Middle East since 2009. Europe’s open border policy has not helped matters and these incidents are a reminder that the EU and the US need to get smarter, faster, about border security. It involves a whole lot more than securing geographic boundaries.
Most importantly, unless the free world does something to put on ice the ideological head of this movement, mostly Iran, attacks such as these will be with us for some time to come. No amount of security will stop these savages from committing diabolical acts. Even with the best security countermeasures, radical Islamic terrorists, and those who support them, will find new ways to terrorize.