Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fortunately, This Didn’t Happen During Jihadi Pride Week

In a shocking breakdown of national security in Nancy Pelosi’s home district, San Francisco’s police chief allowed himself to be diverted by concerns about so-called Islamic terrorism, in complete disregard for the more imminent danger of domestic terror attacks launched by Tea Party grandmothers. As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle:
A breakfast to tout the importance of passing an earthquake-safety bond measure on the June ballot wound up sending shock waves through San Francisco's Arab American community after Police Chief George Gascón made controversial remarks about terrorism.

Gascón reportedly said the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St. is susceptible not just to an earthquake, but also to members of the city's Middle Eastern community parking a van in front of it and blowing it up. . . .

Despite some reports to the contrary from those in attendance, Gascón on Thursday said he never referred to Middle Easterners or Arab Americans.

He said he instead singled out those from Yemen and Afghanistan as posing potential terrorism risks - especially in an iconic city like San Francisco with large numbers of residents from those countries. He admitted to saying they could park a van in front of the Hall of Justice and blow it up.

"There was no need to single out the two countries, and I recognize that, but it's not because it was not accurate," he said. "The reality is this is the area where we're seeing most of the international terrorism coming from. ... I think certainly in this case, people are reading too much into it."

He gave no specific examples of threats to San Francisco, but did point to the attempted bombing on Christmas Day of a Detroit-bound airplane by a man allegedly trained by an al Qaeda offshoot in Yemen.
(“Police chief's remarks on terrorism anger Arabs”).
Oh, sure, likes that one example proves anything. What about all those Tea Party attacks and . . . . . . . . . .

Gascón didn’t apologize. In response, Ali Altaha, a member of the Arab American Chamber of Commerce who owns a small engineering firm in the city and was at the breakfast at the Ferry Building's MarketBar, said the chief should be fired.”

You’d think a guy from a Chamber of Commerce might try a bit harder to be diplomatic. Anyhow, Gascón’s failure to apologize was partly mitigated. When Mayor Gavin Newsom heard what Gascón said he instantly rolled off his pedicurist’s table to call Alahi, apologizing to him “’on behalf of his administration,’ Altaha said.” (On second thought, what’s wrong with that? Newsom should apologize to all of us for his administration).

Altaha said he recalled Gascón’s comments this way: "He basically said there's a large Arab American community in the Bay Area, a lot of Muslims, and because of terrorism, they need to be very careful."


Every now and then someone unexpected pops up somewhere unexpected and does something, hmm, unexpected. Who would have thought San Francisco would have a police chief with enough sense to figure out that Yemenis and Afghans have contributed a suspicious number of volunteers to the work of blowing up Americans?

Gascón’s point was that the Hall of Justice was vulnerable to terrorist attack, which he thought worth mentioning in a meeting to discuss protecting the building from an earthquake. The Chief evidently approaches potential threats by drawing inferences from patterns, or doing what the 9/11 Commission famously referred to as “connecting the dots.” Gascón wasn’t trying to attack the Middle Eastern community; he was just imagining foreseeable threats to a landmark building.

Unfortunately, the much more common and unsurprising response of law enforcement since 9/11 is the one that makes avoiding anything that hurts Muslim feelings the main priority. When law enforcement does identify dots, first they put them in a lineup, so they can let the local Muslim clerics point out any dot that offends them.

Gascón is probably not long for his job. My impression of San Francisco culture is that its frequent resorts to tolerance as a political weapon results in an environment highly intolerant of Gascón’s kind of free thinking. Maybe Newsom will make amends by installing a parking sign in front of the Hall of Justice: “RESERVED FOR YEMENI VAN DRIVERS ONLY.”

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