Theater of the Absurd (security genre)

I'll give the UK and US governments the benefit of the doubt for the sake of argument (even though they are both world class liars) and assume the alleged hair-gel terror plot is real. The response to it is still monumentally stupid. So what do I know about hair gel? Nothing. I don't use it.

But I vaguely recall a Kurt Vonnegut novel whose plot went something like this (I might be making some of this up; I have no access to library materials where I am at the moment). A childless man, living in a suburb where everyone had families felt left out so he decided to have some of his own. But he had no partner. So he devised an alternative scheme. He scraped some skin cells into a vat of chicken soup and exposed it to cosmic rays. This produced clones of himself. When others saw how successful this was they did the same, resulting in a population problem. The government then stepped in. Their solution: make possession of chicken soup by unmarried men illegal.

Back to hair gel. Here's what a security expert says about the monumentally stupid response of the Bush administration:

Hours-long waits in the security line. Ridiculous prohibitions on what you can carry onboard. Last week's foiling of a major terrorist plot and the subsequent airport security graphically illustrates the difference between effective security and security theater.

None of the airplane security measures implemented because of 9/11 -- no-fly lists, secondary screening, prohibitions against pocket knives and corkscrews -- had anything to do with last week's arrests. And they wouldn't have prevented the planned attacks, had the terrorists not been arrested. A national ID card wouldn't have made a difference, either. (Schneier on Security)

As Schneier and others note, the real defense for this alleged plot was the usual one: traditional police work: following leads, intercepting communications, seeing who was in communication with whom. The alleged plotters had been under surveillance for a considerable time and got as far as they did -- supposedly almost to the point of a dry run -- because they were allowed to get that far. Now we get the inevitable response: ban hair gels. So you now can bring scissors and small knives on the plane but you can't bring Grecian Formula 44 -- or any liquid -- on the plane. As Cosmic Variance points out, the federal government has just banned an entire state of matter!

Schneier makes an important point:

Banning box cutters since 9/11, or taking off our shoes since Richard Reid, has not made us any safer. And a long-term prohibition against liquid carry-ons won't make us safer, either. It's not just that there are ways around the rules, it's that focusing on tactics is a losing proposition.

It's easy to defend against what the terrorists planned last time, but it's shortsighted. If we spend billions fielding liquid-analysis machines in airports and the terrorists use solid explosives, we've wasted our money. If they target shopping malls, we've wasted our money. Focusing on tactics simply forces the terrorists to make a minor modification in their plans. There are too many targets -- stadiums, schools, theaters, churches, the long line of densely packed people before airport security -- and too many ways to kill people.

Security measures that require us to guess correctly don't work, because invariably we will guess wrong. It's not security, it's security theater: measures designed to make us feel safer but not actually safer.

The Bushies are busy trying to paint sane people like Ned Lamont, who want an expeditious exit from Iraq, as friends of al-Qaeda. On the contrary it's the Bush administration who is al-Qaeda's most faithful and consistent ally:

Osama Bin Laden got everything on his Christmas list after 9/11 -- US out of Saudi Arabia; the greatest military in the world over-extended, pinned down and distracted; the greatest proponent of democracy suddenly alienated from its allies; a US culture verily eager to destroy freedoms that little scumfuck could never even dream to touch himself -- I would like to deny him the last little check on the clipboard, i.e. constant terror. I panic, they win. To coin a phrase, Osama Bin Laden can suck my insouciance. (Kung Fu Monkey)

As Schneier points out, we can't keep weapons out of prisons. You think we can keep them off of planes? Outsmarting security measures for airplanes isn't hard. And planes are just a small fraction of targets.

Without being able to stipulate a workable solution -- and there may not be one -- you can at least spot ones that don't work, and worse, are counterproductiive.

Don't work, that is, unless your end is not security, but security theater. In this case the Theater of the Absurd.


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Well said, Revere.

Air travel is tedious enough and it's now gotten downright ugly. Last Thursday, stepping off a 5-hour flight after midnight, denied of lipstick, mascara, hair products, Visine, moisturiser, H2O, etc., and with high heels, belts, accessories and jewelry safely packed away to avoid causing commotion at the scanners, I thought to myself, "Just brink on my Bhurka--Osama & co have finally won!"

In the US, security comes in the form of taking our freedoms so that we may feel safe. True security is not being taken border control (anyone can get in). Lets get real, fear tactics are an attempt to breed fear and get your way (gov't)to take away more freedoms.

Probably not many people remember Craig Murray - he was Britian' ambassador to Uzbekistan - he exposed the vicious human rights abuses by the US-funded regime of Islam Karimov. (next to him Sadaam and our own thugs at Abu Ghraib are pansies). Here is what he has to say about the whole affair.
August 14, 2006
The UK Terror plot: what's really going on?

I have been reading very carefully through all the Sunday newspapers to try and analyse the truth from all the scores of pages claiming to detail the so-called bomb plot. Unlike the great herd of so-called security experts doing the media analysis, I have the advantage of having had the very highest security clearances myself, having done a huge amount of professional intelligence analysis, and having been inside the spin machine.

So this, I believe, is the true story.

None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports, which given the efficiency of the UK Passport Agency would mean they couldn't be a plane bomber for quite some time.

In the absence of bombs and airline tickets, and in many cases passports, it could be pretty difficult to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt that individuals intended to go through with suicide bombings, whatever rash stuff they may have bragged in internet chat rooms.

What is more, many of those arrested had been under surveillance for over a year - like thousands of other British Muslims. And not just Muslims. Like me. Nothing from that surveillance had indicated the need for early arrests.

Then an interrogation in Pakistan revealed the details of this amazing plot to blow up multiple planes - which, rather extraordinarily, had not turned up in a year of surveillance. Of course, the interrogators of the Pakistani dictator have their ways of making people sing like canaries. As I witnessed in Uzbekistan, you can get the most extraordinary information this way. Trouble is it always tends to give the interrogators all they might want, and more, in a desperate effort to stop or avert torture. What it doesn't give is the truth.

The gentleman being "interrogated" had fled the UK after being wanted for questioning over the murder of his uncle some years ago. That might be felt to cast some doubt on his reliability. It might also be felt that factors other than political ones might be at play within these relationships. Much is also being made of large transfers of money outside the formal economy. Not in fact too unusual in the British Muslim community, but if this activity is criminal, there are many possibilities that have nothing to do with terrorism.

We then have the extraordinary question of Bush and Blair discussing the possible arrests over the weekend. Why? I think the answer to that is plain. Both in desperate domestic political trouble, they longed for "Another 9/11". The intelligence from Pakistan, however dodgy, gave them a new 9/11 they could sell to the media. The media has bought, wholesale, all the rubbish they have been shovelled.

We then have the appalling political propaganda of John Reid, Home Secretary, making a speech warning us all of the dreadful evil threatening us and complaining that "Some people don't get" the need to abandon all our traditional liberties. He then went on, according to his own propaganda machine, to stay up all night and minutely direct the arrests. There could be no clearer evidence that our Police are now just a political tool. Like all the best nasty regimes, the knock on the door came in the middle of the night, at 2.30am. Those arrested included a mother with a six week old baby.

For those who don't know, it is worth introducing Reid. A hardened Stalinist with a long term reputation for personal violence, at Stirling Univeristy he was the Communist Party's "Enforcer", (in days when the Communist Party ran Stirling University Students' Union, which it should not be forgotten was a business with a very substantial cash turnover). Reid was sent to beat up those who deviated from the Party line.

We will now never know if any of those arrested would have gone on to make a bomb or buy a plane ticket. Most of them do not fit the "Loner" profile you would expect - a tiny percentage of suicide bombers have happy marriages and young children. As they were all under surveillance, and certainly would have been on airport watch lists, there could have been little danger in letting them proceed closer to maturity - that is certainly what we would have done with the IRA.

In all of this, the one thing of which I am certain is that the timing is deeply political. This is more propaganda than plot. Of the over one thousand British Muslims arrested under anti-terrorist legislation, only twelve per cent are ever charged with anything. That is simply harrassment of Muslims on an appalling scale. Of those charged, 80% are acquitted. Most of the very few - just over two per cent of arrests - who are convicted, are not convicted of anything to do terrorism, but of some minor offence the Police happened upon while trawling through the wreck of the lives they had shattered.

Be sceptical. Be very, very sceptical

I think the security arrangements are insane. They are completely arbitrary (to call it theatre is an insult to the many fine playwrights of the world--ok theatre of the absurd is fine). With about 10 seconds of thought I can think of many practical problems with their prohibitions (what if I get poison ivy?). The whole shoe thing has never made sense to me (why aren't other pieces of cloth)ing going through the conveyer belt--what exactly can be concealed in flip-flops?

I cannot help but notice that the word "discretion" keeps creeping into TSA directives. They are also training people in "pschological profiling"--this surely cannot be useful in practice (are TSA going to detain people for being antiauthoritratian?). It is really about petty power trips even more than bad policy.

Aren't long lines and crowds of people a greater security problem than a crowded plane? I'll stop before I get to bad stand-up or Andy Rooney.

While I have the option of NOT flying (I wouldn't board a plane right now if someone paid ME to fly), I have a great amount of sympathy for those who must fly for business or other important reasons. News footage of airline passengers stalled in horribly long lines carrying their little see-through baggies of personal supplies is just mortifying. Nothing like parading your personals in front of hundreds of strangers while being subjected to embarrassing pat-down searches, sans shoes. What's next? Mandatory strip-searches and body cavity probes???

So Revere and others, what do you suggest for security? The implication of possibly being caught is a deterrent at an airport and if you can keep it off the plane you will prevent an air disaster. Period. If its done at the terrorists house, all the better. Removing the Grecian Formula might might prevent something but we are also in a full blown catch up mode. They do something, we respond. They respond to our response. Will they get us? Undoubtedly. But we have to try to limit the effect of their attacks and attempted attacks.If it means the shoes come off, Grecian formula is outta the bags and milk gets tasted then so be it. I rode a badly damaged plane down once from 6000 feet and made the runway. Its not the best feeling. I cant fathom the fear of riding one down from 35,000 that has no chance of recovery.

Ideally you kill it at the source. But that isnt possible without stomping on someones rights in the civilized countries of this world. In the uncivilized ones, they would just kick the door in and shoot them on the way in. So its Dick Tracy this and that and yes they will still slip by. Binary liquids with a initiator of some kind could knock a large hole in someones day. Shoe bombs? Well now they did try that once but they sent an absolute moron to do it. Guess he didnt know its difficult to get a light in a 10000 foot pressurized cabin. But it would have brought the plane down for sure.

I dont think that we can do much more economically or physically than we are now.The rights of the people in war have always come into question. This is the real problem, trying to maintain a balance of interdiction against the rights of the people. Those rights are maintained by the courts and we obviously know what happens when the courts fall apart -E.g. 1939 Germany. Or 1941 West Coast USA and being Japanese. The balance hasnt been hit yet. I also know that a bomber that is committed will simply put his nasty little bag of tricks into the carry on luggage and ride along with it. Shoes on or off its still the same. Planes will come down and we will slowly come to the realization that as I have said in other posts, it may come down to just killing the guilty and taking one hell of a lot of the innocents with them. That means repression on a very high order. That will surely come if they dont do the things they are doing now to minimize it. I doubt there is a bright idea answer and its not leaving Iraq. They did this before Iraq. It might have incited them a bit but its not the reason. It might take a deterrent of equally high order to stop this from continuing. That means Iran, Syria and to a lesser degree Korea.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 14 Aug 2006 #permalink

Howdy Cougar, I agree with your (unconscious?) words, "What's next? Mandatory strip-searches and body cavity probes???" Actually, tv watching this "Theater of the Absurd" has confirmed my belief our neo-con society has slithered into a psychosexual S/M roleplay realm -- a loony patriarchal paradigm far removed from traditional police/security work vis a vis sociopaths who may wish to destroy large numbers of people.

As a GenX gay male in homophobic Australia, I understand all too well how social rules become skewed against basic rights for no other reason than psychosexual power and domination!

On a (haha) much lighter note: I clicked into your blog and read "Pandemic: Facts, Recommendations and References (August 2005)" -- insightful comments for one year ago, "[M]any people are unaware of the threat of the H5N1 virus currently spreading through Asia and Russia." Insightful, given recent postings on Recombinomics Dot Com.

If you'd like to email me at photoniqueer@yahoo I can send some theoretical writing: C21*S*E*Research -- The Politics of Horizontal Gene Transfer (How did H2H H5 get here!?!)

Cheers:*) and Aloha pumehana -- Jon

By Jon Singleton (not verified) on 14 Aug 2006 #permalink

Is this security Theater of the Absurd a preview of government response to a pandemic? Many governments respond with absurd measures whose primary purpose is to make the government appear responsive. The business world has a similar maxim to act quickly and decisively (if at the 11th hour) rather than taking the time to think an issue through to reasoned response. In both cases, damn the consequences! Modern technology has sped up the world to a fevered rat race. Do we no longer have the time to debate issues except in hindsight? Or do we not trust our ability to find answers through reasoned debate? Or has politics trumped reason at every turn? Sure am glad we have a decider

Randy: Look, what we are doing now is stupid and anybody with half a brain knows it doesn't do anything but cost a lot of time and money. This "terror" scenario has been out there since 1995 and they just decided to do it now? And then they put the stuff in barrels in the middle of huge crowds at airports? Would they do this if they thought there was a binary explosive in there? This is meant to add to fear, not keep us safe. It is carrying out the best wishes of terrorists, to keep us terrorized and spending huge amounts of time and money for practically no esxpenditure on their part. They might even bring down several commercial airline companies without a single explosion.

The purely reactive technique of devising some inane technical fix for the latest threat is, as Schneier (a security expert) says, doomed to failure. It was good police work that protected us here (if we were protected; they've already released one guy in the UK and it's likely a lot of the others are innocent bystanders as well). We need to stop being afraid and stop letting their every move make us over react, just as they wish us to. The moves being made at airports are so easy to defeat, it's ridiculous. The war on terror is being transformed into a war on liquids, and we, like sheep, are going along because "it's making us more safe."

Maybe this time they've overreached themselves and when they see there is no "terror bump" for GWB in the polls they'll try something else.

As somebody here or one of the other blogs noted, too bad they didn't make war on liquids during Katrina. That liquid really did kill people.

It is a good thing Richard Reid wasn't trying to use semtex undrewear!

Michael, maybe our gay friend from Australia will give them dressing instructions next time. Revere, I agree its costing one hell of a lot of money. I say it again, short of bombing the snot out of them somewhere to make the price so high if they do blow our planes up, someone come up with something feasible. If we shut the transportation system down, they shut us down. They will hit everything out there. Hell, I got a contract to run chemical plant people down the railroad tracks in helicopters if they hit a train with Isocyanate or worse. Mr. S. is right, we are directing our efforts into one direction only. But the cost of doing it in all directions is also unfeasible. Me, I take the military approach. For what we spent just this year on security we could have taken Damascus down to the foundations, Teheran would have been on its 10th or 11th ARC LIGHT having had all of their air defenses systematically eliminated and yes they would have said those nasty Americans...Again! This time I would have made sure they knew who it was completely and I would tell them that if they do it again, we might just scorch the earth. Genocide is a term used when someone is around to say it afterwards. People that blow up airplanes and are sponsored by states, well that state needs a regime change. Yep, hard rock on the head. Period. But I am not so concerned with my fellow man in Iraq and Iran as I am with mine here. If I have to do it every five years, then so be it. I am not bombing them because I want to, I am because I have no other option as diplomacy, the UN, Resolution 1559 or whatever havent worked.

Eisenhower invaded in 55 on nothing more than a regime change and trumped up charges. I guess what I am saying is that we are now into the downward spiral. It is heading for the end of the line and that is that its going to terminate and soon in a nuclear explosion somewhere by a major power or a pissant one that we let get the bomb. New and uncharted ground. You are right, Schneider is right, I am right. But we all know where its heading. M in H says that several of the posts on another subject like this are that its game over.

In So Lebanon we are going to have Lebanese/Hamas/Hezbollah and French troops? Not so far off the mark as I am sure its running thru the Israeli minds they might join up and try to turn south. It would insert the French back into the world stage and they would call it justifiable. Meantime we have to deal with guys trying to blow up our aircraft. If it were me, I would determine nationality and if they were "dual citizenship" I would make sure that I cancelled one of them with 1000 pounders on selected military targets. Extreme. Boys I can tell you its about to get really extreme all over this world.

Jon, Wilco. Mind that I am not a homophobe by any stretch. One of my best troops Staff Sergeant John Wilkinson God rest his soul was with me for almost three years and in combat for two. John was a guy I could depend on when there was a bolt for the rear with the gear. He shot up several people trying to do bad things to me and his comment was for one of them and I will remember it for as long as I live,"Oh damn, he was cute. Too bad." You see a lot of weird shit out there. John unfortunately got a leave, went back to Miami to chill and met someone who had the bug. He didnt last long after that. He was always concerned about how he would be seen in the eyes of God being gay. As he was going I told him in his hospital room that being gay is a sin, and so is killing. So I told him to stoke up the fire for me because I am coming home eventually too. He was a good friend and I have missed him for the last 10 years. Look for a post sometime tommorow.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 14 Aug 2006 #permalink

Revere, your disdain for GWB knows no bounds. It really didn't matter how the government reacted in the immediate aftermath of this latest crisis. If they had done nothing, which you believe is a more reasonable response than the current one, they would have been chastized for not making even a token effort to try to screen passengers for the latest threat. I like your analysis, but not your name-calling and sarcastic tirades... it detracts from your arguments.

By Sea Stallion (not verified) on 14 Aug 2006 #permalink

Stallion, hold on a minute. First keep it civil. I am a FLAMING Republican and I take issue with a lot my Prez has done, and applaud what he has done at other times. If Revere wants to call him a homophobic, draft dodging, cross dressing Cheney dog then I can remember two or three times when to speak out against your government was wrong and big time. First was the British, aw well fuck they just took you out and shot your ass for that. Second was being black in america in the early 1900s to about the 60's, couldnt vote either. Next was a jerk named McCarthy, little more there than a Nazi without the boots and support on the streets. Then there was Johnson ordering income tax audits and lawsuits against his opponents when they ragged on him. I absolutely hated Bill Clinton and I vented my bowl in national rags and the local papers but I kept it civil and I chose my battles. I had an opportunity to shake his hand at the airport once and told the former President of the United States that I wouldnt because I didnt know where that hand had been. The Secret Service guys almost had a stroke laughing. But thats what its all about. The right to say just about anything in the world you want here. I guarantee you that Revere is one hell of an American who really cares about the people in it. I think sometimes he cares more for some of the people on the otherside of the planet but that is his right too. We all laugh at some of his stuff and crawl his butt when we think he is wrong, but we agree to disagree and move on. Name calling ? Sheyit bubba, I want this guy to absolutely have no bounds because to muzzle him is censorship and with that comes repression. Its just the first form of it.


By M.Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 15 Aug 2006 #permalink

I was also upset when I heard that the restrictions on these substances are being entertained as long term measures. My concerns are as follows.

1. Dont we understand the difference between hijacking a plane and using these planes as a weapon to kill 1000 people per plane and cause extensive property damage, and using a plane to kill only the people on that plane over an ocean or corn field? The threat level is not even close. Keep in mind, most planes taking off from US airports have fewer than 200 passengers. If terrorists only want to kill people, why not just target trains where there is no security check?. In fact we know Al Qaeda had a plan to target trains in the New York subways in 2003 with cyanide gas using a device called a mubtakkar (imagine, 20 subway cars at rush hour, 200 people per car). Execution of the plan was called off for unknown reasons by Zawahiri, which indicates we were no longer a principal target of theirs or they wanted to wait until we did something to make us a target again (ref: Ron Suskinds One Percent Solution). Why dont we have security checks on subways? Because we know that if terrorists want to kill people, there are too many ways to prevent them all and not go broke (or should I say broker), so why bother.

2. The possibility of terrorists blowing up any individual plane in midflight is not new. The possibility that multiple planes would be targeted at one time, and with a bomb assembled inflight with liquid explosives is also not new. The Bojinka plot planned by Ramsi Yousef who is in jail for his role in the 1993 WTC bombings as well as the Bojinka plot, was to blow up a dozen planes from Asia to the US using a device he had tested without success in a trial run (he also had a 2nd plot to hijack the planes instead and crash them into the WTC, Pentagon, etc which was executed on 9/11) (ref Cover Up by Peter Lance). That being said, post 9/11, the possibility that planes would be blown up using liquid explosives was certainly considered in the determinations as to what subsequent airport security measures should include. Banning liquids, cosmetics, etc was not one of the measures that was deemed necessary nor effective, so why now?.

3. I have no problem restricting the items which are now prohibited, even if I dont agree, but only if it can be done without too much delay. But why would it be necessary to prevent beverages which are purchased after passing the security check from being brought on board an airplane?. Shouldnt we expect that those shops and their staff selling product in the airport have been subjected to security checks?. Assuming that this will be a suicide bombing, wouldnt it make sense that such bombers would only target large sized fully loaded planes with 300-500 people, and not waste their time on smaller planes? If so, the restrictions on beverages should be dependant on the size of the plane (service on US domestic flights is so poor, and delays so common, that preventing passengers from carrying on beverages onboard may be a human rights violation, ok maybe a bit extreme, but give me my water and I will take my chances if I have a choice).

4. We all know that most cargo on any given airline is not screened. While passenger check in baggage is subjected to some random screening, commercial cargo is not screened at all. If the terrorists are only concerned with blowing up planes and killing those onboard, and if the heightened security checks on passengers make this difficult, wouldnt they just resort to planting bombs in check in baggage which could be activated with a device in the passenger compartment, or sending bombs in commercial cargo with a detonator that would be self-activated by low pressure (high altitude)? So it seems the measures announced for restricting what passengers can bring on board do not prevent terrorists from bombing planes, so whats the point besides giving people a false sense of security, except to remind people that the inconvenience is caused by terrorists, and we are in a war against terrorism, so remember that when you vote, a vote against Lieberman, or a Republican, is a vote for Bin Ladin.

5. What would the governments response be to a plot to kill hundreds or thousands of people at a New Years Eve event using assault weapons. Would they institiute a ban on assault weapons?. Terrorists can readily acquire assault weapons in the US and efforts to renew the 1994 ban, ineffective as it was, failed under the Republican controlled House and Senate (dont bring that bottle of Volvic purchased outside the gate of a plane, it might be a weapon, but we dont want to piss off the NRA and ban assault weapons).

So I can only conclude that the ridiculous measures instituted by Homeland Security are simply to remind people, by inconveniencing them, that we are at war against terror, and to show us that they are doing something. This is in spite of the evidence that suggests that for the last 5 years we have not been a primary target of Al Qaeda.

Why? Probably because they have accomplished what they wanted with 9/11. They gain nothing more from further attacks on the US. Since 9/11, Americans have become sheep, allowing the government to weaken our democracy by giving up our freedom for a little bit of security (Ben Franklin said those who would do so deserve neither). We have went from being a country respected for its human rights record to a country which dares not criticize a country like China for its human rights record for fear of being ridiculed. In fact, China and other countries use our actions in the war on terror to justify their actions on internet security (control), illegal detentions of citizens (and even non citizen reporters who violate their state secrets, eg H5N1), torture, etc, all done in the name of security. We dont fight wars as a last resort, we now fight pre-emptive or speculative wars of choice, if there is a 1% chance a country plans to hurt us, we invade (so long as that country is weak enough not to cause too many American casualties).

Post 9/11 America under GWB have been the best thing since soap for Islamic extremists recruiting efforts, to the point where Bin Ladin felt it necessary to release a tape before the 2004 elections to give GWB a boost and ensure he stayed in office (it worked in conjunction with some shenanigans in Ohio to give GWB his second stolen election).

Our standing in the Middle East is at its lowest level ever. We are no longer in a position to act as mediator between Israel and other Arab countries, or the Palestinian problem, even if we wanted to. We have started a war we can not finish in Iraq. With American deaths approaching the amount of dead on 9/11 and 19000 injured (many of these are permanent disabilities), sectarian violence in Iraq is at a level where some of our Generals feel it is approaching a civil war, and Iranian influence in Iraq and in the Middle East is increasing, and there is no clear exit strategy. We must either stay the course and accept the mounting casualties or leave humiliated.

And now we cant even bring a stupid bottle of water or diet coke onto a stupid plane. Crap! If this is winning the war on terror I am glad we are not losing

By Paul Todd (not verified) on 15 Aug 2006 #permalink

I have a small disability caused by head-neck radiation, that of a serious lack of saliva production. I sip on water, carry it with me at all times, and travel a lot on planes. I was worried I would not be able to get my sips of water after the ban on water bottles. I asked ticket agents at our local airport what I should do. All I really need is access to water after I go through airport security. They suggested I use the WATER FOUNTAIN, and then I can get a bottled water once I get on board. I have decided to carry a 4 0z plastic cup in my purse and get water from the water fountains until boarding time.

I was so worried about my precious little water bottle and how the mean airport people were taking away my right to sip. I feel so silly. Get over it, folks.

By LibraryLady (not verified) on 15 Aug 2006 #permalink

P. Todd I agree with most of what you are saying. Our exit strategy might as I said have to be an entrance strategy. Cant do to much if you dont have supplies for this kind of activity in Iraq. That means Iran, that means Syria. Take them out or the Israelis are. This peacekeeping mission is nothing more than a rearming mission. It also means that in under six months you are going to hear about a new round over there and this time, UN be damned they are going all the way to Damascus. When they do the Iranians will fire their "X" weapons. That x is the unknown. 1000 pounders on missiles the Israelis can deal with and harshly. They drop radiation on Israel then it will hit Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria and they will do some radiation dropping of their own.Big step, but not if you are calling the shots in Teheran and are defying the world... You know, like Hamas and the Lebanese government not disarming them two years ago and allowing them to set up another government in the country. So who is really in charge there?

As for our deal, I fully expect that Iranians regulars will be caught in country in Iraq red handed soon and thats going to set the stage for an invasion by US troops. Syria if Iran is hit will strangle and might see an invasion by the Turks (never ones to miss an opportunity). The pieces on the board are moving, we just have to wait and see what happens.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 15 Aug 2006 #permalink

Revere, and others:
I am surprised at your response to the efforts the TSA and airlines are implementing to make sure the planes don't fall out of the sky. Please research "Bojinka plot" and Ramzi Yousef. Then sit and think about 9-11 and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

Here are some commonalities: Once al Qaeda approves a plan of attack, the principals in the plot keep trying until they get it "right". Practice makes perfect. That is why in 1993 one Japanese citizen was sitting in the wrong seat on Phillipines Airlines to Japan and was blown in half. Yousef used a Casio watch detonator, some kind of wool batting, a liquid, and some wires, assembled on board. This was only a test, the plane didn't come down, so try, try again. The purpose is to kill as many Westerners, Americans, and Jews as possible--in one coordinated attack.

"Bojinka" was supposed to bring down 12 planes over the Pacific. Good luck finding the black boxes from those planes. Impossible. Why 12 planes? The twelve tribes of Israel? The twelve Apostles? No significance in the number 12 for Mr. Yousef?

All media reports of this latest attempt on airplanes only mentions 10 planes targeted. You'd better stop criticizing and start thinking about the other two planes that haven't been mentioned in the current crisis. I beleive THAT is what the security measures are all about.

If you want to read more about Ramzi Yousef's other plots read "Breakdown" by Bill Gertz, pp.22-27. Much of his information can also be found in other books.

You have encouraged thousands of people to "prep with the basics" for a bird flu pandemic with your Fluwiki website. Stop criticizing, and start "prepping" people to cope with truly minor inconveniences--such as leaving stuff they really don't need at home, when flying. You know in your heart we really don't need 90% of the stuff we cram into the overhead compartments. Back to the basics, folks.

By LibraryLady (not verified) on 15 Aug 2006 #permalink

LibraryLady, you shouldn't be surprised at all. In Revere's mind, the bad guys aren't the ones who vocally and repeatedly announce their intention to murder as many of us "infidels" as possible.

No, in Revere's mind the "bad guys" are the people trying to protect us and prevent the mass murder from happening. You know, Republicans and the President they support, those are the real bad guys and it is they who must be stopped no matter what!

Not terrorists, no. They're just poor misunderstood souls, stuck under the oppression of BusHitler and his SS goons, just like Revere, who is only now getting back from his detention at the government reprogramming facility.

Oh wait, that last part was just wishful thinking...ha ha.

I believe Randolph Kruger has bought into a fallacy: that there exists some level of conventional military force, and some target thereof, that will constitute a "deterrant" to terrorism. The problem with this logic is that violence begets violence, aggression begets aggression.

Not to mention that people whose lives have been destroyed and loved ones have been killed will naturally resent and hate the ones who committed those acts, or those they rightly or wrongly blame for them. Some of those who are victimized will in turn become victimizers. Those who are hopeless, especially the young men, are particularly vulnerable to being swayed to militant ideologies.

Does recognizing all this mean I am "sympathizing" with terrorists? Absolutely not. I decry and denounce their violence and attempts to spread fear in the strongest possible terms. But pretending we can wipe out our enemies if we just kill enough people is psychologically and sociologically inane. There is no magical threshold where if you kill indiscriminately enough, terrorists will stop killing indiscriminately in retaliation. How would that even work? "Well, I was gonna blow you up, but then you invaded two more countries, and that changed my mind"?

On the contrary, the more innocent people are killed in our "War on Terror", the more we help terrorists recruit more people to their cause. The CIA itself concluded, based on Bin Laden's taped message right before the 2004 U.S. Presidential election, that Bin Laden wanted Bush to win. These intelligence officers were understandably perturbed at the implications of this, but any discussion of why current U.S. policy played right into terrorists' hands was curtailed.

Caia, I'm afraid that I must disagree with part of your thesis.

I think the fallacy is the "conventional" part. Randolph Kruger is making the same mistake the Israeli government just got done making, and the IDF just got done paying part of the butcher's bill for. It's also the same fallacy the Bush Administration has bought into for reasons of galloping incompetence.

We aren't dealing with "war" in quite the same way that Europeans have been used to dealing with it since 1648. When you face another national army, killing people and breaking things generally serves to get the job done.

But in the sort of war we're engaged in, often you can't tell the soldiers from the civilians without a program. To make things worse, often, neither can they, right off the top of their heads. Until one side or the other makes the misstep that commits them.

So what you need to do is, to the extent possible, kill the will of the enemy to fight you before he becomes an enemy. When this is no longer possible, you need to cut your declared and irrevocable enemies away from their base, and make it your base.

Look up "Fourth Generation Warfare". The people who are doing most of the thinking about this, these days, are disciples of John Boyd. Willaim Lind is the most well-known and most eloquent, right now. But make no mistake, this guy isn't any species of liberal. In fact, he's a paleocon. Just one who thinks exceedingly clearly.

These wars can be won. This isn't easy, nor are the methods intuitive given our way of looking at war, but it's possible. You're not going to do it by flattening the civilian infrastructure, though. All you do that way is the enemy's recruiting for him, and save him the trouble of it.

I think the way Ramon Magsaysay took on and defeated the Hukbalahap guerillas is a good place to start looking for ideas. The British campaign in Malaya isn't, though you hear a lot about that from the Bush regime. The Brits were facing guerillas who had almost zero support among the Malays from the git-go, since they were ethnic Chinese for the most part. The Huks were indigenous.

You want a case study in how to get it wrong? Just look at the way Israel prosecuted the recent war in South Lebanon. They made just about every sort of mistake it was possible to make. Beginning with allowing Hizbullah to replicate Bismarck's Ems Spa telegram sort of incitement, to get the Israelis fighting the war at a time and in a way of Hizbullah's choosing, not Israel's.

By Charles Roten (not verified) on 15 Aug 2006 #permalink

While I disagree with AF entirely, I dont with Roten or Caia. Its like going to a "doctor" for a wart. The wart offends you so you go to the surgeon who offers to cut it out. Then he goes to an MD and he says well I can freeze it off. Then he goes to an oncologist who wants to test it for cancer cells before he does anything. And on and on. Everyone has an answer. None of them worked. Peace initiatives, give back of lands, resolutions. If the people are not committed to it, then it means nothing. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan seem to have gotten the big picture. Why not Hezbollah and Hamas? Because they dont want to.

You are all right and so am I. But it wont change anything. To cite case studies in getting it wrong are opinions and generally biased in that direction, just like a GAO report. He who is funding the studies generally gets to determine the bent. With all due respect Charles/Caia the use of force has an immediate and desireable effect. It might take a "genocide" to end this. Horrible to think of but if this continues they will do something like it. Its silly to try to deal in an honorable way with people who sign a paper declaring peace and then start sending their ships into harbors with supplies. French, Germans, Americans, UK, Chinese are all guilty of it.

Caia, we could go the negotiations way...again. But I think that everyone in Israel is tired of negotiations and 1559 was yet another piece of paper being pushed in front of their noses by a paper tiger. The UN is worthless except as a collection point for bullshit and its simply because these countries are customers plain and simple. I sell you a 50 pound bomb, the other guy says I want a 100 pound bomb. All in the name of defense.

Diplomacy never does anything but prolong a situation when it is extreme. Perhaps we did go into Iraq on bad intel. Well thats because we cut the guts out of the intel people just as they did in the Carter Administration. But Hell everyone could see the inevitablity of it anyways, so whats a year or two amongst arms salesmen? The endless loop continues and neither C. Roten or Caia have ANY viable answers except to come up and say in absolutes that this is the way to go and that is that. Take away their will to make war? Good luck on that one. So far 5400 years of history hasnt proven anything has ever worked against an attacker except to take him out, Hez will try again, Israel will do them again. If in a year and the cease fire holds that Israel posts up a Netanyahu doctrine of scorched earth stating that if attacked they will no longer restrict bombing, or take prisoners then it might give those that are attacking them pause. That is to say if we know you are being supplied by Damascus we will attack them and kill everyone there. Damascus then will take a long look at what they are doing. Genocide on the part of Israel? Debatable. Geneva Convention...Please. Not if they make their intentions known ahead of an attack. In effect it would keep it conventional and not in the nuclear arena which is where this is heading fast.

If Israel dropped them on Syria and Iran, their problems for quite some time would end. Permanently? No and they would have to do it in such a manner so as not to contaminate Chinese/Russian soil. If they can do that then they likely wouldnt react. Else in something under 3-5 years I look for a regional thermonuclear exchange and then the big boys are going to come into play. I want one or the other to take the other one out. If not, it prolongs and continually brings up the possiblity of a nuclear weapon development by Iran, and an announcement that they have them by Israel. Something they deny for right now.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 16 Aug 2006 #permalink

Well said, it is indeed absurd, we are dancing around like a bunch of half crazed puppets. You cant ban everything, we are going to get hit sooner or later. Maybe our time is better spent trying to avoid the inevitable by concentrating on the roots of the problem - why this serious need to cause us harm?