March 20, 2011 | The Daily Progress

U.S. Deaths in Germany Point to Lax Security

The killing of two U.S. airmen — and the severe wounding of two other servicemen — at the Frankfurt airport have cast doubt on German authorities’ ability to protect thousands of American military personnel in the country, and brought back unpleasant memories from the long history of terror attacks against Americans on German soil.

The attacker, 21-year-old Arid Uka, who was born in Kosovo and raised in Germany, confessed to authorities that he sought to target Americans because of the war in Afghanistan; his victims, U.S. airmen Zachary R. Cuddeback, 21, of Stanardsville, and Nicholas J. Alden, 25, of Williamston, S.C., were on their way there.

The attack has Washington worried that local authorities will be unable to prevent future attacks on American servicemen in Germany, where the U.S. armed forces maintains a presence of roughly 50,000.

German officials, including newly appointed Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, were quick to play down the attack, and noted that they have no reason to raise security levels in the country. Here’s one: How did the Frankfurt Airport come to hire Uka as a postal employee while he was waxing lyrical about jihadism on his Facebook page?

In the 48 hours after the shootings, German federal prosecutor Rainer Griesbaum claimed Uka was an isolated criminal, with no connections to organized terror networks. Yet Uka showed no qualms about displaying his ties to a number of hardcore German Islamists on his Facebook feed. How could German security officials arrive at the definitive conclusion that Uka was a lone wolf in only 48 hours?

On March 3, police union official Bernhard Witthaut complained that Germany’s police departments employ too few Arabic speakers to monitor terror websites. Though homegrown radical Islamism has emerged as Germany’s greatest domestic security threat, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration has little appetite to confront it.

For starters, Merkel could ban Hezbollah on German soil. Germany could hire more Arabic and Farsi speakers to monitor jihadist websites. And it could retain more German Muslims to help infiltrate terrorist groups.

President Barack Obama’s meek public response to the shootings — a “tragic event” — showed surprisingly little concern for his troops, and no recognition of the immediacy of the issue.

Yet the shootings of U.S. soldiers is an almost inevitable outcome of the failure to heed warnings about the rise of political Islam in Germany. In October 2010, German security officials claimed that the Obama administration had issued false warnings of Islamist terror attacks in the country as a means of scoring points in the U.S. congressional elections the following month.

German officials have a history of laxity toward violence against U.S. interests on their soil. The most notorious example, of course, is the Hamburg-based al-Qaida cell that launched the attacks of Sept. 11. The Al-Quds Mosque in that city served as the organizational hub for those attacks, and though referred to it as a destination for “jihadi tourism,” it took nine years for German authorities to shut it down.

Sadly, attacks on American military personnel in Germany are an established trend. In 1972, the German terrorist Red Army Faction killed U.S. Army officer Paul Bloomquist in a bombing in Frankfurt.

In 1981, the leftist RAF almost succeeded in killing the top U.S. Army general in Europe, Gen. Frederick Kroesen, and his wife, Rowena. As Gen. Kroesen was en route to deliver a lecture in an armor-plated car, RAF fanatics fired a bazooka at him. Kroesen and his wife were both injured in a flurry of flying glass, but luckily, they both survived.

In 1985, the RAF killed U.S. soldier Edward Pimental, stole his identification card to gain entry to the Rhein-Main Air Base, and used explosives to kill two people.

And let’s not forget the next year, when Libyan Col. Muammar Gadhafi ordered the bombing of the La Belle discotheque in Berlin, an attack that killed two U.S. servicemen and wounded 50 more.

In spite of good reason to suspect that maniacs are still targeting American servicemen on their soil, German authorities have consistently done too little, too late to protect them.

Is that too much for Merkel to do, or too much for Obama to ask for?

Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington

Read in The Daily Progress