The eight people killed when a rental truck rampaged down a Manhattan bike path are being remembered at a vigil and memorial march. (Nov. 3) AP
The following editorial was published Nov. 1 by USA Today.
On a sparkling autumnal Tuesday reminiscent of Sept. 11, 2001, New York City was again shattered by terrorism, and eight more innocent lives were taken.
Unlike the meticulously plotted, spectacularly lethal attacks from the skies that killed nearly 3,000 and brought home to America the deadly potency of al-Qaeda’s brand of terrorism, Tuesday’s attack signaled how weak its successor, the Islamic State, has become as its caliphate crumbles in Iraq and Syria.
This attack was carried out by one man using one of the most basic weapons imaginable, a rental truck. In a nation awash in firearms, the attacker was armed only with a paintball gun, a pellet gun, a stun gun and a bag of knives.
Even one person in a truck, of course, can do significant harm, and every death or injury from terrorism is a needless tragedy. Such attacks are devilishly difficult to prevent in an open society, but they don’t represent existential threats.
Another thread of hope in this time of sorrow is that since 9/11, about 100 homegrown terrorist attacks have been plotted on U.S. soil. Everyone recalls those that succeeded: the murder of 49 people at an Orlando nightclub last year; 14 gunned down at a 2015 holiday event in San Bernardino, California, and three dead and 17 maimed in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.
Less noted is that more than 80 percent of those plots have been thwarted in the past 16 years, according to RAND Corporation terrorism expert Brian Jenkins, a remarkable record that should rally Americans against what terrorists want most: to terrorize the nation with their horrific acts.
New Yorkers certainly demonstrated that they won’t succumb to fear. Just hours after the attack, a throng turned out for a traditional Halloween parade in Greenwich Village. Sidewalks were teeming with people headed back to work Wednesday. Children were in school. And the New York Marathon will go forward as planned on Sunday.
That’s the sort of inspiration Americans need at this moment, especially from their president. But, as usual, President Trump skipped the unifying message and went directly to turning the tragedy into another moment to demonize certain immigrants, pump up his agenda, and portray Democrats as villains.
Because the suspect, Sayfullo Saipov, came from Uzbekistan in 2010, apparently under a “diversity visa” program, Trump called for an end to the program and blamed Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer for its existence. Perhaps Trump is unaware that the program was part of a major bipartisan law signed in 1990 by former Republican president George H.W. Bush.
Trump also called the nation’s system for punishing terrorists “a joke.” This is supposed to rally Americans? The nation’s judicial system is the envy of many around the world, and the last major terrorist to be tried, the Boston Marathon bomber, got the death penalty.
Moving toward more of a merit-based immigration system is a worthy idea, but engaging in collective guilt for the actions of one Muslim immigrant (whom authorities say was radicalized after coming to America) is not only an ugly, insulting message to many citizens but also a counterproductive one. Authorities need Muslim communities’ trust and help to identify potential attackers.
Within days of 9/11, former president George W. Bush sent powerful messages of resolve, resilience and tolerance. After this latest attack, via a scenic bike path in Lower Manhattan, those are the kind of messages America needs to hear once more.
USA TODAY’s editorial opinions are decided by its Editorial Board, separate from the news staff.