WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 2015 — As I watched the World Trade Center towers collapse on 9/11, a chill went up my spine. I immediately thought of the 1998 film “The Siege,” starring Denzel Washington, Annette Bening and Bruce Willis.
The story begins with a terrorist attack on a U.S. military installation in the Middle East, and the movie has news clips of President Bill Clinton issuing empty promises to bring the killers of American servicemen “to justice.”
The fictional Iraqi cleric responsible for the attack, Sheikh Ahmed Bin Talal, is captured by the CIA and interrogated to no effect. Bin Talal’s capture is a closely held U.S. government secret.
Meanwhile, in New York City, FBI Special Agent in Charge, Anthony Hubbard (Denzel Washington) gets word that a city bus was taken by three Arab men with automatic weapons and explosives strapped to their chests.
Hubbard thinks this is a simple criminal matter for the NYPD’s bomb squad with him acting as a hostage negotiator.
As the media arrive and set up their cameras, with news helicopters hovering overhead, CIA agent Elise Kraft (Annette Bening) attempts to impress upon the FBI that the hostage-taking is no simple criminal act.
“Oh God,” says Kraft, “They’re not here to negotiate. They were waiting for the cameras. They want everybody watching. You’ve got shooters in place?”
Hubbard is slightly confused by the question, but acknowledges he has snipers at the ready.
“Use them,” insists Kraft, “Kill them now. Look, it’s lose-lose, any way you play it. You want to lose a little or lose big?”
While Hubbard attempts to sweet-talk the terrorists into surrendering, they detonate their explosives, killing themselves and their hostages. Hubbard, cut and bleeding, cannot wrap his brain around what has happened.
In a message to the FBI, the terrorists promise to escalate the violence unless the U.S. government releases their leader, Sheikh Ahmed Bin Talal.
In another scene, FBI agents are moments away from raiding a Brooklyn apartment where a jihadist terror cell is living.
“If I don’t take them down properly, they hit the streets in two hours. I don’t care if I find Semtex, plutonium, dynamite, self-lighting charcoal briquettes. Without the right warrant, they walk,” says Hubbard to Kraft.
Kraft attempts to introduce a little reality to the situation, “Listen, they’ve also got a warrant. A warrant from God. They’re ready to die. Your quaint laws – they don’t mean shit to these people.”
Hubbard is indignant, “This ain’t the Middle East.”
“Oh, really?” says Kraft.
While addressing a New York City law enforcement terrorism task force, Agent Hubbard tells the gathering, “Just got off the phone with leaders of the Arab community. We have their complete support and cooperation. They love this country as much as we do. They want these criminals brought to justice as much – as badly as we do.”
Throughout Hubbard’s politically correct invocation, the electronic chimes of every beeper and cellphone fills the room. A bomb has detonated inside a Broadway theater, killing “scores of the wealthiest and brightest of New York society… The list of victims are a veritable who’s who of the city’s cultural leaders,” says a newscaster.
As Hubbard enters the smoke-filled theater, he sees a beautiful woman descending a staircase. She is in shock, the explosion having severed her left arm. She collapses in the arms of a firefighter.
With acts of terror escalating, including suicide car bombs, Washington enters the picture. In a meeting of frightened House and Senate members, Maj. Gen. William Devereaux (Bruce Willis) is asked whether the military has a plan to deal with the crisis in New York City.
“The Army is a broadsword, not a scalpel,” says Devereaux. “Trust me, Senator, you do not want the Army in an American city. Make no mistake, we will hunt down the enemy. We will kill the enemy. And no card-carrying member of the ACLU is more dead set against it than I am, which is why I urge you – I implore you – do not consider this an option.”
Congress and the White House dismiss his warning, ordering the deployment of U.S. troops to the Big Apple.
That’s when a bad situation gets much worse, with civil liberties taking a back seat to expedience.
In places like Mumbai, Nairobi, the desert wastes of Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh, the capital city of Mali and the fashionable precincts of Paris, life imitates art.
Today, Belgium and France deploy police, military assets and enact emergency measures curtailing civil liberties to deal with the domestic terror threat posed by ISIS.
I wonder if European leaders are at long last re-evaluating the immigration policies that allowed large, unassimilated Muslim populations to establish safe-haven communities that now provide logistical support for jihadist operations in Europe.
I wonder if the people of Belgium and France are re-evaluating the votes they cast for the politicians who enacted these immigration policies.
And I wonder if Americans, too, are starting to notice that many of their elected representatives — who refuse to enforce existing U.S. immigration law and promise to bring thousands of Syrian refugees into the United States — do so in blithe disregard to overwhelming public opposition while accusing the average American citizen of cowardice and harboring un-American thoughts.
Watch the movie “The Siege.” It’s a snapshot of a more innocent time, when Americans thought Islamic terror was better handled by law enforcement and the courts – three short years before New York’s Twin Towers came crashing down on Sept. 11, 2001.