Has the Media Finally Figured Out that Anwar Al-Awlaki is More than Just a Cleric?

December 30th, 2009 9:56 PM

Representative Pete Hoekstra recently indicated that the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 should be a clue that helps the Obama Administration ‘connect the dots' on terrorism.

While that remains unlikely with an administration more obsessed with right-wing extremists, man-caused disasters, and the impeccable success of our counterterrorism systems, perhaps it's time to start holding the main stream media accountable for their own inability to connect certain dots. 

Such is the case of the media's handling of Anwar al-Awlaki...

One of the more recent events to look at is the Fort Hood shooting nearly two months ago, in which - and say it out loud MSM - a Muslim terrorist, Malik Nidal Hasan, shot and killed 14 people and wounded 30 others. 

Hasan has definitively been linked to Shaykh Anwar al-Awlaki, a man who previously held the title of spiritual adviser to two 9/11 hijackers.  Awlaki himself made it clear that Hasan's action were indeed terror related, by referring to the massacre as an ‘operation' and frequently reminding listeners in an interview with Al-Jazeera that Hasan had attacked a military target.  In other words, the mass shooting was an act of war, and Awlaki, by extension, was involved.

Next, news accounts previously had reported that Awlaki was killed in an airstrike in Yemen, until recent indications suggest that he is still alive.  Strikingly, a spiritual adviser was one target in a military operation.  

Now, Umar Abdulmutallab, the failed underwear bomber, has said that "he received instructions and training from al Qaeda operatives based in Yemen ahead of boarding the Detroit-bound flight Friday."  According to the Daily Express, there is intelligence which indicates Awlaki was in contact with the attempted Nigerian plane bomber, Abdulmutallab. 

The Yemeni crackdown targeting Awlaki suggests that their operatives have at least been partially successful in connecting the dots that the Obama Administration has failed to, (Yemeni authorities dispute the level of the CIA's involvement).  Yet, there has been scant evidence that the American media can bring themselves to identify Awlaki as anything more than a ‘cleric'. 

They would have you believe that Awlaki is nothing more than a radical preacher, the crazy guy who talks to himself on the street corner, waving his hands and shouting at non-existent threats.  But the Awlaki tentacles to terrorism are far too numerous.  His blood-stained fingerprints have been identified with 9/11, Fort Hood, the Nigerian plane terrorist, and nearly a dozen other cases.

In fact, the favorite description of Awlaki in the media seems to be the word ‘cleric', hardly an indicator of his true nature as an inciter of violence.  In a briefing by the New York Times on Christmas Day, a single paragraph (four sentences) on the airstrike in Yemen refers to him as a cleric four separate times.  The Los Angeles Times also tends to refer to him as a cleric, the definition of which is nothing more than a harmless ‘member of the clergy'.  Occasionally, someone in the media will venture out on a limb and label him as a ‘radical cleric', as the Wall Street Journal has done.

But if the media is hesitant to call the actual perpetrators of the crime terrorists, as they definitively were in the Hasan case, then it is clearly too much to ask that they refer to the man inspiring the terrorists as anything more than a spiritual leader.  A member of the clergy.  A cleric.

On the bright side, the Guardian UK had the audacity to go against the PC grain, referring to Awlaki as one ‘who has inspired a number of terrorists'.  Baby steps...

Lo and behold however, CBS News has apparently had the revelation that Awlaki ‘may be an al-Qaeda recruiter'.  Additionally, and surprisingly so, the Washington Post has been one source willing to go so far as to identify Awlaki as an actual member of al-Qaeda.  They report that:

"U.S. officials said Aulaqi was a member of al-Qaeda and has been moving up the ranks, having recently been promoted to regional commander."

Maybe the rest of the main stream media will follow suit, identifying Awlaki for what he is - at the very least an accessory to terrorism, at most an outright terrorist. 

But then we wouldn't want them to start 'jumping to conclusions'.  Rather, they'll likely continue a governmental and media policy of crawling to conclusions instead. 

Photo Credit:  AFP/Getty Images