Happy Al Qaeda Day!

This is Al Qaeda day because it is on this day nine years ago that Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization that had been doing battle with the US for some 8 years or so, finally won the War against the West, resoundingly defeating George Bush by successfully completing the most terrorizing event to have been carried out ever. To this day, the United States is little more than a deer caught fearfully in the headlights of Osama bin Laden’s Cadillac SUV as he drives about the desert playing with his guns and religion.

Sadly, the defeat was not so much a success of bin Laden, as it was a collapse of the will, strength, mind, and courage of our leader, George Bush, and the American People generally. We were crushed not as much because we were smitten by a great weapon, but rather, because we were very crushable. Our inherent weakness was the strongest weapon against us.

I knew a guy who hijacked an airplane. He was mentally ill. He boarded an aircraft, told them he had a bomb, and that he wanted to go to Cuba. The FBI found his wife (with my help) and put them in touch with each other, and she talked him down. He was arrested, given medical attention, and let free. No one was injured, though I’m sure a several hour delay of the aircraft was annoying to the passengers and crew.

That hijacking occurred some six or seven years after a ten year spate during which one US based airline was hijacked almost every week. Think about that for a second. There was a time in the US when hijackings were more common than major western brush Fires, school shootings, mine collapses, huge multi-car accidents, train wrecks, and kidnappings of little blue eyed blond girls combined. About every week, eating your TV dinner in front of your TV in your TV room you would be informed by Walter Cronkite of the hijacking of an American based air liner. And you would go, “Oh, another hi-jacking, how terrible,” and move on.

If a US based air liner was hijacked tomorrow, everyone in America would have a heart attack. Everyone in America would clutch their chests with one hand, stagger around the the room while flaying about their other arm, eyes rolling back into their lolling heads, collapsing to their knees knocking over a chair or some other piece of furniture, chest heaving, ululating, and wailing “Oh my god, we have been struck again by the TERRORIZERS….. The MOSSLEMAN had attacked us again, SEND THE ARMY to the Desert!!!! This is the BIG ONE, Elizabeth!!!!”

But back in those days, we just kept munching our cube steak dinner, taking in the news, wish the passengers well and move on.

Granted, there is a huge difference between Cubans and/or Crazypeople forcing a New York to Miami flight to make an extra stop in Havana vs. flying four planes full of passengers into ground targets killing thousands. The latter is a much more powerful act, and a true act of terrorism. But that is not what I’m talking about here. What I’m talking about here is that Al Qaeda has brilliantly converted the pysche of an entire nation into wide-eyed paranoid fearful Fred G. Sanfords.

On this anniversary of 911, we see that things have not gotten much worse or much better over nearly ten years. I’ve written about the time I witnessed a group of rural Iowans so fearful of being in the city after 911 that they accused an older African American man in a wheelchair of being a terrorist because his effort to get through a too-narrow storefront door was somewhat disruptive (though he was utterly polite at every moment of the ordeal). That’s one kind of stupidity, the fearful stupidity of the masses. The other day, we were passing through airport security and my minor Daughter flashed her passport for the Homeland Security officer. The officer said “Wait, are you a minor, under 18?” and Julia said “Yes.” The officer said “Then you don’t have to show me your ID.” I interjected: “Wait, how do you know she’s telling you the truth? She could be a young looking 18 year old, then we’d all be in big trouble!” The Homeland Security officer grinned and said “I know, it’s stupid.” Indeed. That would be the stupidity of our government security response.

The other day, I was grilling hot dogs and witnessed a crime. We called the police, and they came. As part of their investigation, they asked me for my ID. There I am standing in my yard with a fork pierced through a hot dog that I’m grilling on the Weber, a table of cole slaw and relish and potato salad and plates and stuff next to me, and a police officer is asking me to produce identification. I said no, he backed off. This was the stupidity of the new Police State in which we live.

The other day we arrived at a time-share apartment complex with reservations in our name, but the reservations were made by my sister, who had not arrived yet. Amanda, Julia, Baby Huxley and I … again with the same last name as the reservations … and we were told we could not check in until my sister arrived, because she had made the reservations (This was a Westgate Inc facility, by the way. Avoid buying their time shares!) It isn’t even the case that my sister owned the time share …. it was simply a matter of the inability for their reservation system to call up the records without her credit card.

When I objected, I was told that this was a “security concern.” I asked them if they had reserved the crib for the baby (pointing to the baby). They said yes. Then, I asked them if they realized that this was one of those EXPLODING BABIES!!11!!” And as they stood there wondering what I was talking about, I told them that they were out of line telling us that we, paying customers, were terrorists just because their reservation system was fucked.

This was the stupidity of people allowing businesses to use “security” as an excuse for being bad at what they do.

My real thoughts in each of these instances remained hidden, of course, as they usually do. In the airport, my thoughts were, “I’m pretty sure middle eastern teenagers commonly don explosive tank tops on a regular basis, you moron. How do you know this blond blue-eyed girl is not going to EXPLODE!!!!.” Since members of my local police department may or may not read my blog, I’ll continue to keep my hot dog grilling thoughts to myself. At the time share, I thought about how the Westgate Resorts would be mentioned by me on my widely read blog (16 readers these days, if my count is correct) every time it occurred to me to annoy them. 4-ever.

So today, I’m sitting peacefully at the lake side, probably for the last time this year (the owners of the cabin have decided to shut down early this year, for some reason). And as I look across the lake, I can not see a single boat: No one is fishing, no one is skiing, no one is dragging their screaming children in a rubber box behind a speed boat. But I know there are terrorists out there. They may be in a submarine, or perhaps in the woods behind us. It is possible that they have a lookout dressed in a bald eagle suit perched on the Norway Pine overlooking the marsh. I don’t know how they are doing it or where they are exactly, but they are out there, waiting for their next move.

Well, probably not. But I do know this: If I proposed the possibility that there are terrorists in submarines, or hiding in the woods, to any of our local Minnesotans, some would say that was absurd, but a disturbing number would think it possible, and a small but not insignificant number would say “I know. I see their shadows in the day and hear their footsteps in the night.”

Comments

  1. #1 Ed S.
    September 11, 2010

    Oh my thanks – I do loves me a good rant & this one is entirely appropriate to the day.

  2. #2 Jim Ramsey
    September 11, 2010

    You and Bruce Schneier think a lot alike.

  3. #3 sailor
    September 11, 2010

    Greg, it is a good post, if a tad exaggerated. However, I think what you miss is that the extreme paranoia being exhibited today is not so much a change in the American psyche (think McCarthy), but that it erupts each time some opportunist politician or activist takes advantage of it. It is also being fed by the tough economic times which makes people edgy. Without Glen Beck and Fox News the very illogical meme that the Muslim Center is being erected as a means of showing the finger to the US would probably not have spread.

    By the way they eventually seemed to deal with hijacking by refusing to negotiate with hijackers. This does not help if the hijacker wants to die, but in those days most did not.

  4. #4 L.Long
    September 11, 2010

    Exactly my thoughts but more poetic.
    On 9-11 they won and forced a lot of frighten children to allow their freedoms to be eroded away.
    We are spending more money on the present situation then the towers cost to replace.
    They have won economically and socially and psychologically.

  5. #5 Chris Crawford
    September 11, 2010

    Never allow yourself to be terrorized by terrorists. That’s how they win.

  6. #6 dean
    September 11, 2010

    Ted Koppel has an interesting article today, with the same theme: much of the damage done to the US has been done through stupidity and over-reaction. (I find it amusing to compare and contrast the article to Greg’s writing here: I like them both.)
    I think Ted sums it up well:

    If bin Laden did not foresee all this, then he quickly came to understand it. In a 2004 video message, he boasted about leading America on the path to self-destruction. “All we have to do is send two mujaheddin . . . to raise a small piece of cloth on which is written ‘al-Qaeda’ in order to make the generals race there, to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses.”

    Through the initial spending of a few hundred thousand dollars, training and then sacrificing 19 of his foot soldiers, bin Laden has watched his relatively tiny and all but anonymous organization of a few hundred zealots turn into the most recognized international franchise since McDonald’s. Could any enemy of the United States have achieved more with less?

    Could bin Laden, in his wildest imaginings, have hoped to provoke greater chaos? It is past time to reflect on what our enemy sought, and still seeks, to accomplish — and how we have accommodated him.

  7. #7 lily
    September 11, 2010

    I am unable to find evidence for:
    “one US based airline was hijacked almost every week.”

    I kind of disagree with several things you said. I’m sure you realize that in a lot of cases gaining security costs liberty and vice versa but you missed several places in the article where that also applies.
    for example here:
    “‘Wait, are you a minor, under 18?” and Julia said “Yes.” The officer said “Then you don’t have to show me your ID.” I interjected: “Wait, how do you know she’s telling you the truth? She could be a young looking 18 year old, then we’d all be in big trouble!” The Homeland Security officer grinned and said “I know, it’s stupid.’”
    Since the other options are extending mandatory ID to people of a wider range of ages or making the range of ages smaller, no other solution really seems any better. Though I admit some might not be worse.

  8. #8 Greg Laden
    September 11, 2010

    Lily, if the HS officer decides someone is a minor, or a person with ID claims a third party is a minor, the ID is not checked and no one is asked any questions of any kind beyond that. You must see how that is a flaw in the system, and how absurd that is next to the fact that we all take our shoes of.

    Regarding your failure to find evidence, just look for it, it is not hard. For ten years the average number of hijacking was over 41 per annum. During that period there was variation, which means that there were months when there were several.

    I remember it, perhaps you don’t. But wikipedia is your friend, sometimes.

  9. #9 Larry
    September 11, 2010

    I think you’ve grossly overstated the case for paranoia and “deer in the headlights” bit. In a very recent poll Americans were asked what the number one problem facing America only 1% answered Terrorism. 49% answered The Economy.

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/142961/Nine-Years-Few-Terrorism-Top-Problem.aspx

    Is our Security infrastructure cockeyed? Yeah. I’ve never seen a Security Organization that wasn’t paranoid. That’s their job.

  10. #10 lily
    September 11, 2010

    Hey I wasn’t trying to be incendiary,sorry about that.
    I tried wikipedia and all I found was this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_aircraft_hijackings

    And with with regard to the ID thing I’m not saying it’s a good system I’m saying that it’s essentially impossible to improve on.
    I feel that making people of all ages carry an ID would not significantly improve security considering that although it is difficult to make a highly convincing fake ID, it is not impossible and such an action is a member of the set of things which an average person could accomplish.
    Even asking more questions wouldn’t accomplish anything since the statement some people are good liars is definitely true, and the statement some terrorists are good liars is very likely true.
    I have met people who reside in the US illegally and most of them carry a fake green card which is apparently good enough to fool the authorities.
    I mean one of them attends public highschool, they had to have lied convincingly to pull that off.
    I don’t think it would be much harder to do so at an air port.
    Therefore I claim that the lack of questions and ID checks is not one of the main weaknesses of the system.

    This is perhaps less supported but I think that the current age is at about the right level, maybe 15 should be the threshold instead of 18.
    But like I said it isn’t a good security measure but it is approximately as good as it could possibly be.

  11. #11 Big D
    September 11, 2010

    I Think you are a moron.
    nuff said!!

  12. #12 Chris
    September 11, 2010

    That hijacking occurred some six or seven years after a ten year spate during which one US based airline was hijacked almost every week.

    Ah, I remember that! And I have a better wiki page on it, though it leaves out most of the original destinations. On many of those flights (especially from Miami) the original destination was Caracas, Venezuela. Where I lived during the last two years of the 1960s (at least one hijacking per week the first three months of 1969!).

    During that time I watched a local skit comedy show. The skit I remember starts with the pilot and copilot flying the plane, then a man and a woman burst into the cockpit with a gun. They say they are hijacking the plane to Caracas (in Spanish, of course). The captain says, “But we are already going to Caracas!”, and the hijackers reply: “We know, we just want to make sure we get there!”

  13. #13 bcoppola
    September 11, 2010

    Damn, Greg, you must be almost as old as me – or even older.

    As already said, great rant. Shit, not only do I remember the nearly routine Cuba planejackings, but also that “TAKE THEESE PLANE TO COOBAH” actually became a jokey catch phrase.

    And lest we forget the dear departed D.B. Cooper…

    Good times!

    If we were at all sane, the Detroit Xmas underwear bomber wannabe would have become a punch line in, say, a day or two. There was a great article in the Atlantic magazine recently: “The Case for Calling Them Nitwits”.

  14. #14 mxh
    September 11, 2010

    Nice post, right on target. Most Americans would never see it this way. I agree with sailor (@#3), Americans have a history of having exaggerated responses to what they fear (especially when egged on by the media and politicians).

  15. #15 Bubs
    September 11, 2010

    This is a good one. Your numbers on plane hijackings are wrong. This post is basically a list of anecdotes about people being victimized or mistreated because of fear, but nothing here looks unreasonable or unexpected. Oh my, the policeman asked you for IDENTIFICATION!?! The gall. A minority got called a name? Unprecedented.

    Basically, you need to pull it together. I mean, seriously, some of the stuff you’re complaining about is the same stuff that slips out of other people’s short term memory as soon as it has happened. Are you really that bitter or full of anger? I think anyone with a clue would have EXPECTED the check-in problems you are raging about here–the reservation wasn’t in your name. But for you it’s not reasonable? Do you think policemen and clerks and everyone else should approach these issues subjectively? “Oh, you like a nice enough fellow, go ahead.”

    Sigh.

  16. #16 Jim Thomerson
    September 11, 2010

    I think 9/11 was initially a failure. Bin Laden’s aim was to terrorize Americans and disrupt the western global economy. Instead, Americans were made mad, and the economy hiccoughed. First, as urged by our President, we went out and bought a lot of stuff, and a large majority of us supported taking Afghanistan away from bin Laden. Then Bush started the Iraq war. It has been said that Bin Laden danced for joy. American people were divided, and have remained so until this day. We forgot about Afghanistan, and pissed away billions in Iraq, turning it into a terrorist recruiting and training ground and disorganizing it so that the Iranians can soon take it over. As said, our real enemy is our own hubris and stupidity.

  17. #17 Chris
    September 12, 2010

    Your numbers on plane hijackings are wrong.

    Hmmmm… did you see the Wiki page I linked to? During the first three months of 1969 there were at least one hijacking to Cuba per week. In case you are new to this whole HTML and Internet thing, the text that is red (on this page) is something called a “hyperlink.” When you put your mouse over letters written in red (on this page, on other pages it is blue) the little arrow usually turns into a little hand. Click on that, and then you are at a new web page, just like magic!

  18. #18 Cyn
    September 12, 2010

    What I’m talking about here is that Al Qaeda has brilliantly converted the pysche of an entire nation into wide-eyed paranoid fearful Fred G. Sanfords.

    We allowed Al Qaeda to cripple us in such a way. The over reaction began soon after 9/11 and has continued to escalate over the years. We gave them two wars, Abu Ghraib, and an America that hates Islam. What more could Al Qaeda have asked for? We handed them all the recruiting tools needed in order to keep it going for years to come. Somewhere, Bin Laden is thanking America.

  19. #19 Christian A.
    September 12, 2010

    bcoppola: I always wondered what it was with this “Take this bus to Cuba” sketch from Monty Pythons. Now I know, thanks!

  20. #20 Raskolnikov
    September 12, 2010

    “by successfully completing the most terrorizing event to have been carried out ever.”

    Seems that inflicting terrorism on others routinely never quite prepares to having it come your way.

  21. #21 John Logan
    September 12, 2010

    Sorry but Al Qaeda or imaginary hijackers cannot change the laws of physics.
    Accepting the government’s story means that the laws of physics are wrong.
    Those 3 buildings were brought down by explosives and that is what the evidence shows conclusively.
    Do your research and remove yourself from the massive lie.

  22. #22 Darkumbra
    September 12, 2010

    Nope the terrorists didn’t win

    Remove your shoes
    No snow globes
    No liquids
    No lighters
    No pen knives
    No remembrance day pins
    Power up that laptop
    You can’t fly you have the same names as someone we don’t like
    Remove the coins from your pocket so can scan you in this expensive machine
    ‘Do you mind if I open yor bag?’ ( try saying yes! )
    Do you mind if I do a chemical analysis of your bag? ( pray that you weren’t laying fertilizer the day before)
    Come to the airport 3 hours in advance of your flight
    Did you pack your bags yourself?
    Why is the name on your ticket not spelled EXACTLY the same as on your passport?
    Don’t stand up while in flight unless you need to.
    Don’t stand in line for the toilet.
    Keep your hands in plain sight at all times.
    Make no sudden moves.
    Obey every command of everyone in a uniform regardless of its stupidity.
    Don’t be upset by any of the above citizen… Or else

    No. The terrorists didn’t win.

  23. #23 Fred Magyar
    September 12, 2010

    Darknumbra, I just got back from a trip to Germany two days ago and had to deal with everything you mention at the airports both here and in Europe.

    However traveling around within Europe by train bus or car I was able to cross multiple borders without even knowing I had crossed one. The best one for me was driving through what had once been a Soviet check point between Austria and Hungary back in the day. I had crossed that same check point back in the late 70′s and had been strip searched.

    Last week there was no one there. I just drove through on my way to Budapest and no one seemed to care about all the trucks passing through being driven by all those foreigners, some of whom were probably Muslims who couldn’t even speak English…

  24. #24 Greg Laden
    September 12, 2010

    Sailor: “… the extreme paranoia being exhibited today is not so much a change in the American psyche ”

    Absolutely, Not a change at all. Nor is the inability to manage only one level of complexity at a time.

    “By the way they eventually seemed to deal with hijacking by refusing to negotiate with hijackers. This does not help if the hijacker wants to die, but in those days most did not.”

    Maybe, but several similar events where there was no negotiation ended badly. It is true that the Cuba hijackers may have been put off by this, but it is also true, IIRC (and I may have this wrong) that Castro started locking them up on his end. Post hoc credit taking for crime reductions are traditionally self serving inaccuracies, I’m not so sure abuot this one.

  25. #25 Greg Laden
    September 12, 2010

    Larry: Interesting poll. But there are two reasons that I’ll stick to my guns on this despite your evidence to the contrary (which should not be ignored). First, there is no way that only 1% of Americans think that terrorism is our most important threat from the outside or inside. The poll is a) not designed to investigate this kind of question or b) was taken at a time when everybody was thinking short term about the economy. Second, and overlapping, the complexities of modern life, domestic concerns and international issues don’t allow us to assign any validity to a finding that “the most important issue” is anything. There is no such thing.

    The real issue is that police-state like or other Orwellian post-911 change in how we do things are accepted without question by most people. That fact underscores my point, and also fails to correlate with any kind off prioritization of issues.

    Still, yes, we are not frozen like deer in the headlights with every issue and every aspect of our lives. But we can no longer function rationally when it comes to the most important international issues of the day (the wars we are involved in) the way we carry out international security, or the ways we carry out security as well as day to day police work internally, including airport security, and even many basic day to day business operations. I mentioned the Westgate Properties staffer using 911 as an excuse for their broken reservation system. After 911, Target used 911 as an excuse to check our ID’s before selling us cold medicine (remember that? They seem to have backed down slightly).

    “Deer in the headlights” is a simlificaiton and is never going to stand the test of real life complexity. But it is merely an analogy,and an apt one. Analogies are not meant to be exact descriptions.

  26. #26 Greg Laden
    September 12, 2010

    Bubs:

    “Your numbers on plane hijackings are wrong.”

    No, they are correct.

    ” This post is basically a list of anecdotes about people being victimized or mistreated because of fear, but nothing here looks unreasonable or unexpected.”

    Thank you for saying that. When we have more and more people like you saying that using fear to mistreat people is not unreasonable or unexpected, we are living in a police state. My post is about you, Bubs. It is about how people like you are letting this happen. This is your fault.

    “I mean, seriously, some of the stuff you’re complaining about is the same stuff that slips out of other people’s short term memory as soon as it has happened. Are you really that bitter or full of anger? ”

    Actually, I’m an insightful analytical person without short or long term memory loss. What are you? It should be obvious, but I’ll say it, I’ve not used any of the widely known egregious cases. One could bring that in to make the case stronger. Rather, I’m using personal day to day cases not because any one instance is so horrible (though being put out on the street in Los Vegas for five hours by Westgate Properties with a hungry baby was not fun) precisely because they are just day to day occurrences of the kind many people experience. Those who let such things slip from memory are part of the problem. Those who notice the shifting moralities and practices may be able to help do something about it.

    “I think anyone with a clue would have EXPECTED the check-in problems you are raging about here–the reservation wasn’t in your name”

    I didn’t say (or at least, didn’t mean) it wasn’t in my name. We all had the same name and we all fit the description as to who we were and even when we were arriving. But I was not the one who had phoned in the original credit card. No, it was not reasonable to expect this. And, again, it was not a security issue. It was a reservation system glitch and the security issue was used as an excuse. Is this too complicated?

    Hey, Bubs, let’s see YOUR ID? You look like an apologist for the security industry, or possibly an employee of Westgate (as an aside, it is common that when I mention large corporations on my blog, I’m contacted by said corporations). Your anonymity is annoying. For security reasons, I need to see your ID.

  27. #27 DuWayne
    September 12, 2010

    Jim Thomerson -

    9/11 was never a failure. Indeed it succeeded beyond al Qaeda’s wildest wet dreams. Do you honestly believe that Bin Laden and other strategists within al Qaeda are/were stupid enough to believe that the initial reaction wouldn’t be extreme anger and aggression? Of course they aren’t, they were counting on that anger and what it would motivate us to do.

    The 9/11 attacks were about recruitment, just as much as they were about changing the U.S. American pysche. They were counting on extreme overreaction on the part of the U.S. and a backlash against Muslims in the West. They wanted us to do everything we could to enrage Muslims worldwide, so as to see a crop of (mostly young) Muslim men in the West commit or attempt to commit more terrorist acts – whether with an actual connection to al Qaeda or completely stand alone.

    They want to see us become more xenophobic and increasingly isolationist. Ultimately they would like to see the West withdraw from the Middle East altogether.

  28. #28 Bubs
    September 12, 2010

    @ Chris #17: Nice retort, I think after reading your description of how hyperlinks operate I figured out how to access your hijacking numbers derived from this “Wikipedia.”

    Greg said, “That hijacking occurred some six or seven years after a ten year spate during which one US based airline was hijacked almost every week.”

    That wiki page doesn’t show what he said at all, so still waiting for a source on this statement (hint: there won’t be one). The point Greg is making is that hijacking was a much more commonplace event to the American public once upon a time (true) but his original statement is false and so I wanted to point that out initially.

    @ Greg #26: OK, if the numbers are correct as you insist I’m still waiting on numbers to show that.

    My point about nothing you say being unreasonable or unexpected is restricted to YOUR anecdotes. My comment is about YOU, Greg. Your specific instances are not particularly troublesome–you were inconvenienced in Vegas? Damn Dubya, it’s his fault! Put on the street with a hungry baby is a good one, too. I’m sure you were forced to stay outdoors in the Vegas sun, right? You couldn’t go indoors anywhere and you couldn’t find anything for your child to eat. The horrors.

    The list of things you whine about in this post are the same kinds of things that afflict normal people with regularity (and always have), except that those people just say they had a shitty day or otherwise deal. Generally they don’t come up with a convoluted way to blame the U.S. response to 9/11 for their hotel check-in problems in Las Vegas.

  29. #29 Greg Laden
    September 12, 2010

    “still waiting for a source on this statement (hint: there won’t be one”

    The statement that the average annual number of hijackings was over 40 is what underlies my assertion (together with the fact that there are 52 weeks in a year). I’m sure you can find this on the Internet if you really want to.

    Bub, yes, as I’ve now said explicitly instead of merely leaving it blindingly obvious, those are day to day things of the type that everyone encounters. Now that you’ve grasped that part of the point, you can start working on the next level.

  30. #30 sailor
    September 12, 2010

    “Maybe, but several similar events where there was no negotiation ended badly. It is true that the Cuba hijackers may have been put off by this, but it is also true, IIRC (and I may have this wrong) that Castro started locking them up on his end. Post hoc credit taking for crime reductions are traditionally self serving inaccuracies, I’m not so sure about this one.”

    Castro certainly helped on the Cuba ones, but remember we also had quite a few Palestinian and other radical hijacks in those days. It is true: “several similar events where there was no negotiation ended badly.” But this determination never to give into the hijackers whatever the cost, seemed to me to play into the end of monthly hijacks. I fear that in these days of suicide missions this would no longer be true.

  31. #31 Mary
    September 12, 2010

    I absolutely agree. We have gone off the rails. Security is out of control. I live in a town in Alaska where the military dominates population-wise and have witnessed acts I call security sabotage. Unfortunately, some of the members of this particular attachment enjoy their new found power. It is frightening.

  32. #32 Alex
    September 12, 2010

    However traveling around within Europe by train bus or car I was able to cross multiple borders without even knowing I had crossed one. The best one for me was driving through what had once been a Soviet check point between Austria and Hungary back in the day. I had crossed that same check point back in the late 70′s and had been strip searched.

    This is because you were in the Schengen Area:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schengen_Area

    And you’re right on airport security. We went mad on it here too. Here in the UK, we even adopted detention without charge for a while. Fortunately, we have better judges who put pressure on the government to get rid of it. Now we have Control Orders instead:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Control_order

  33. #33 Pete Moulton
    September 12, 2010

    “‘Deer in the headlights’ is a simlificaiton and is never going to stand the test of real life complexity. But it is merely an analogy,and an apt one. Analogies are not meant to be exact descriptions.

    It is, however, a perfect description of the look on Bush’s face when he got the news, and then continued to read ‘The Pet Goat’ while simultaneously wetting himself.

  34. #34 Jim Thomerson
    September 12, 2010

    DuWayne, I’ll grant you that it turned out pretty much the way you say. However, two out of the four airplanes in the attack package were aimed at the World Trade Center. This looks to me like a clear cut attack on the Western economy. Remember there had been a previous World Trade Center attack. Secondly, I think the usual objective of terrorism is to create terror and fear, rather than armed reprisal.

    Why have there been no additional large-scale attacks on American soil? My first guess is because 9/11 showed that such attacks generate anger and reprisal rather than terror or fear. I really do not think our national security responses have been effective enough to explain why no more major attacks. Our major incontry problem is going to be from small splinter groups who do not understand the big picture; terrorism as irritation as someone said.

  35. #35 Greg Laden
    September 12, 2010

    Jim Thomerson :

    As Napoleon once said: “Never attribute meaning to the selection of a target when the target is whopping big.” Or words to that effect.

  36. #36 Tacoma Nick
    September 12, 2010

    I agree with Greg that Al Qaeda has made a successful attack on the U.S. I also feel strongly that we are going the way of Russia in the second half of the 20th century when its ambitions to have the strongest military, internal security and world political clout eventually outstripped its economy. But I would point out that in the U.S. the mid 60s and 70s were times of great insecurity (and some stupidity). Bomb shelters in citizen’s basements, back yards and public structure were the response of day as were duck and cover drills in schools and huge amounts of money were spent on defense apparatus such as the Conelrad network. I point this out not so much to contradict Greg as to say we were lucky back then. Russia failed first and we got a few more decades of reprieve before our economy really started to get into trouble. Now the economy is in a shambles, our political leadership has a ring in its nose that is being pulled by the right and the terrorists both, and we are, as Greg puts it: “little more than a deer caught fearfully in the headlights…”

  37. #37 Darkumbra
    September 13, 2010

    For those who believe that terrorists need major attacks in order to win the terrorism war? You should really pick up a copy of ‘Wasp’ by Eric frank Russell

    Or? Do the following… Compare the ‘cost’ of the ‘set my shoe alight’ terrorist attack to the ‘cost’ of our global response…

    Then continue with your belief that the terrorists are not winning.

  38. #38 DuWayne
    September 13, 2010

    Jim Thomerson –

    However, two out of the four airplanes in the attack package were aimed at the World Trade Center. This looks to me like a clear cut attack on the Western economy.

    Not the Western economy, at least not for the economy’s sake. It was an attack on real power in the West, a symbolic one at that. Look at the other targets and consider all of them in context.

    Secondly, I think the usual objective of terrorism is to create terror and fear, rather than armed reprisal.

    Do you honestly believe that the strategists who came up with 9/11 were too stupid to grasp what would happen if they managed to destroy the twin towers, the Pentagon and the fucking whitehouse? Seriously? Armed reprisal was a goal.

    Why have there been no additional large-scale attacks on American soil?

    First, it was not precisely easy for al Qeada to pull off 9/11. Between the money invested and the human investment, it was costly. Then there was operational security, not an easy task either. It is due to the incompetence of intelligence agencies that prevented members of the team from being more closely surveilled. It is not easy to bring in people with ties to al Qeada and obviously all of them had such ties.

    Second, there’s really no point. All that has to happen to achieve their goals, is the occasional attack or foiled attack.

    My first guess is because 9/11 showed that such attacks generate anger and reprisal rather than terror or fear.

    You’re not understanding what the goals were. One of the main goals was to create and inspire radicalized Muslims in the West. Reprisals were one of the goals, because the stronger the backlash against Muslims in the West, the more radicalized Muslims are created. Terror and fear were also an important element, but no more important than the other.

    Our major incontry problem is going to be from small splinter groups who do not understand the big picture; terrorism as irritation as someone said.

    Which was, as I have mentioned, was the goal. As U.S. Americans, we are mostly unaware of how much more than a nuisance these small groups or lone bombers really are. American Muslims are decidedly not nearly so radicalized as Muslims in Europe can become. With such porous borders as we see there, it is easy for radicals to infiltrate Islamic community centers to recruit young people – or to connect with locals who have expressed an interest online.

    While there have been few attacks that garnered any significant attention, there have been a lot of small bombings and thwarted attempts. The only reason it hasn’t been worse, is because most European countries have security services that have far fewer legal hurdles when it comes to surveillance. The UK is especially egregious, mainly because they are a huge target.

  39. #39 Alex
    September 13, 2010

    The UK is especially egregious, mainly because they are a huge target.

    I disagree with your “mainly” here. It’s true, we are a big target for terrorists, but this is only part of the story for why we are such a surveillance society. In general we have a pretty rabid tabloid press, who whip up “DO SOMETHING” sentiment towards politicians on youth crime, immigration and pedophilia etc issues. So that is another reason. We also have no codified constitution, a highly centralized government (in England), and a Parliament dominated by the executive. None of that helps either.

    So we have a DNA database with innocent people on it, virtually unregulated mass CCTV surveillance, ANPR, and much more. The new government say they want to deal with some of these things, but we’ll see.

    It’s odd really, since we had the IRA to deal with all those years, and yet we teared nowhere near as many civil liberties then. Even when they tried to assassinate two of our Prime Ministers:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brighton_hotel_bombing
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Downing_Street_mortar_attack

  40. #40 Greg Laden
    September 13, 2010

    I think it matters that Eric Arthur Blair was English.

  41. #41 DuWayne
    September 14, 2010

    Alex –

    Sorry for oversimplifying the situation and blaming it all on the terrorists. I know there is more to it, but had the impression that the major concern was terrorism. I did base my assertion on an article written by a U.S. American terrorism scholar (said assertion having been reinforced by my being an avid follower of Spooks), so should have known to take it with a grain of salt.

    On the upside, at least you are aware of how your government intrudes into your lives. Better than our almost complete and absolute ignorance of just how much our U.S. American government intrudes into ours. Nor does your government need to shit on a constitution to do it, like ours does. While not ideal, it at least fosters an environment in which you can actually fight it.

  42. #42 lenoxuss
    September 14, 2010

    One of the Monty Python sketches about terrorists: this one’s a dim-witted Scotsman played by Eric Idle.

  43. #43 CalderaGal
    September 16, 2010

    I finally got around to reading this after the e-mails I received from people who said, “Did you see your brother’s latest?” Goodness, this is proof I was adopted.

  44. #44 Greg Laden
    September 16, 2010

    Ha! Yes, this is proof that either you were adopted, or that you live in a log cabin in the mountains in Idaho!

    …. oh, wait a minute …