A few paragraphs from a recent New York Times article:
In 2012, two employees at the nuclear plant in Doel quit to join jihadists in Syria, and eventually transferred their allegiances to the Islamic State. Both men fought in a brigade that included dozens of Belgians, including Abdelhamid Abaaoud, considered the on-the-ground leader of the Paris attacks.
One of these men is believed to have died fighting in Syria, but the other was convicted of terror-related offenses in Belgium in 2014, and released from prison last year, according to Pieter Van Oestaeyen, a researcher who tracks Belgium’s jihadist networks. It is not known whether they communicated information about their former workplace to their Islamic State comrades.
At the same plant where these jihadists once worked, an individual who has yet to be identified walked into the reactor No. 4 in 2014, turned a valve and drained 65,000 liters of oil used to lubricate the turbines. The ensuing friction nearly overheated the machinery, forcing it to be shut down. The damage was so severe that the reactor was out of commission for five months.
This almost reads like a parody. "It is not known whether they communicated information about their former workplace to their Islamic State comrades." I'm sure the New York Times writers were chortling with dark humor as they penned this masterpiece of sardonic understatement.
And how does someone who once worked at a nuclear plant, ran off to join murderous jihadists, and then was convicted of "terror offenses" get released from prison in one year? Why, pray tell, was he even let back into the country?
One of the suicide bombers had a long criminal record including the following:
His brother, Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, was the lookout for a robbery attempt in January 2010 at a Western Union branch in central Brussels. Surprised by a police patrol, Ibrahim opened fire with a Kalashnikov, hitting a police officer in the leg. As he and his accomplices tried to escape, they crashed their car and were forced to hide in a house in Laeken, the neighborhood where the Bakraoui brothers grew up, before surrendering to police.
Ibrahim was sentenced in August 2010 to nine years in prison for attempted murder and received parole in October 2014. As part of his parole, he was prohibited from leaving the country for longer than a month.
How does someone fire an AK-47 -- favorite weapon of terrorists -- at police during a bank robbery, hitting one cop, and serve only four years in prison?
Four years for attempting to murder a police officer.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of mistakes, errors, and missed chances. Really, at some point you get the idea that the Belgian bureaucrats simply don't take the task of ensuring their citizens' safety seriously. A cynical observer might say that every democratic country gets the government it deserves, and if Belgians are incapable of electing a government which can protect them, perhaps they don't deserve protection.
But I'm not that guy. Not yet, at least. I love Belgium and have many friends who live there. But Belgians, instead of mourning and drawing chalk hearts and staging marches against fear, should be doing one thing: expressing their outrage at the idiocy and incompetence of the people who let this utterly preventable bombing happen.
This isn't the time for peace and love, it's the time for righteous outrage and accountability. Belgians need to put aside their attitude of learned helplessness toward their dysfunctional state and demand brutal reforms. The many Belgian cops and intelligence officials who do care and are doing their jobs properly should start leaking to the press about all the other hundreds of slip-ups they know about. Belgian judges and corrections officers should be interrogated on national television as to why known jihadists and people who have committed terror offenses and tried to kill cops receive such insultingly brief prison sentences.
The people who let this latest attack happen through negligence should be publicly identified, stripped of their offices, and fined thousands of Euros, if not imprisoned. Since devotion to duty obviously isn't doing the job, fear of punishment will have to substitute.
The security of Western Europe depends on it.