Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane, co-author Rainy Day Thought, where they write about experiences, ideas, nature, creativity, and culture. The latter might appear at times political, but we will try to avoid partisanship to speak to the broader issues that impact a culture. This is just too important a time not to sometimes speak to problems that impact society. As she and I do, readers will find we often disagree and have for over 50 years-- still able to be close friends. You can do that if you can be agreeable that we share more than not despite the difference.
Diane posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments, relating to the topic, are welcome as it turns an article into a discussion, but must be in English, with no profanity, hate-filled comments, or links (unless pre-approved).
Fantasy, the painting by Diane Widler Wenzel, cropped a little to fit the needs of a banner.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Is depending on luck enough?
The recent attempted bombing of a US plane indicates a couple of things that hopefully will be looked at very seriously. Anybody who thought terrorist attacks were behind us (not sure that was very many) should rethink their position. Saying that al Qaeda isn't still a factor should likewise be taken off the table for debate. Their numbers don't have to be large for them to have the expertise to plan such attacks.
When some indicated it didn't matter if we got bin Laden, they need to rethink that. Whatever bin Laden's part is in planning this attack, as long as he's out there, he's a symbol that is potent. He ordered the attack on 9/11 and so far as anybody knows, he got away with it. If he's dead, we need to know it and be able to publicize it. If he's still out there, we need to stop pretending he doesn't matter. Some of the people like this latest want-to-be suicide bomber may be very impacted by Osama bin Laden's success in evading capture.
Likewise those who would like to say these terrorist attacks happen because of poverty should throw the argument out the window. It really never held water as the 9/11 terrorists were not from impoverished families nor nations. All but one came from Saudi Arabia and had had the benefit of higher educations. Does this simplistic thinking come about because some want to think everything comes down to money?
What we are facing is a war of ideology. It is because of religious ideology that these people, including the Fort Hood killer, do what they do despite their lives of privilege. [I hesitated to use the word war here because right away people equate it with a war on terror. The war on terror is a war on tactics used to carry out a war of competing ideologies. This is not the kind of war you can fight with conventional warfare.]
I believe we have a two-fold approach that we must take. First is constantly improving our physical tactics for stopping attacks before they happen. The above link describes how this method was known. What excuse do we have for not being ahead of them? Our technology is inferior?
Second is ideological-- a recognition that our goal has to be to make their ideology of death and destruction seen for what it is instead of some kind of heavenly glory. It so often comes down to religion and in this case an interpretation of a religion, Islam, which tells these bombers that it is a good thing to kill innocent people for their higher purposes and their concept of god.
If you don't think this is scary, check out the statistics on what is happening in Europe with people of Muslim faith becoming a larger and larger percentage of Europe's population. The majority of them are law abiding and would never think of doing something violent. Some of them will do whatever they can to catch those who would, but some of their clerics are teaching this kind of violence. Too many moderate Muslims have been standing back and not trying to stop the violent ones in their midst. The thing is this kind of violent act would kill Muslims alongside Christians. We have to all see that.
I don't know how we deal with a religious ideology that teaches death is a victory if it takes others with them. Keep in mind that when they think their god is favoring their cause, their belief he has protected bin Laden fits into that. In a war of ideology, symbols matter.
A start on the physical end would be placing in all airports enough of those machines that show passengers naked through a camera. Sure it's invasive but so would be taking off all of our clothing. The ultimate invasiveness is to be blown apart by a bomb. To me this is a lot like when they argued that making cockpit doors stronger was too expensive.
If we don't get these cameras in place everywhere, there clearly is no way to stop one of these kind of attacks from being successful. There may not be anyway as the terrorists constantly work to find new ways to destroy people while they ignore positive ways to improve their own cultures. Logic? Don't bother looking for it in this. They can win nothing through it but they don't seem to care.
There was only one reason this attack failed-- luck and maybe incompetence of the person carrying out the attack. BUT it would have worked had it been done properly. Nothing I am hearing airlines discussing right now will change that. Make people sit down for an hour before the plane lands? Fine. So they blow it up ten minutes ahead of that. Since they have no respect for individual lives, it's nothing for them to try this all again. We need to move fast and that rarely happens when it costs money.
I also wish our government would make those terrorist watch lists more effective by keeping them up to date as best they can. This guy was like the Fort Hood shooter in that he had someone seeing the danger and in this case warning about him. Our Homeland Security Chief said there was nothing credible to stop him from flying. Did anybody actually investigate after his father gave such a strong warning?
Sometime around 2004, Farm Boss found his name to be on such a list. We have no idea why it showed up there; and when you call, nobody can tell you either. He traveled a lot back then for business and often back and forth in the same day. Was his name the same as someone else's? But his name is not ethnic. He has had no criminal record. Certainly he is not someone who would practice the Muslim faith. Yet there his name was which prevented advanced printing of boarding passes and always led to more hassle at the airports. For all he knows, his name might not still be on it, but they said 550,000 people are there. At one time Teddy Kennedy's name was among them.
So when the most recent bomber was on the list, there were so many others also that the list provided no protection. The watch list has to be real and up to date. If you find your name is there, you should have a right to find out why and provide proof you are not whoever that person is. Lists that are so bulky that they cannot be effectively used are not better than no list at all.
Homeland Security and others from the Obama administration have tried to say the system worked. No, it did not. It failed. Passengers did act heroically; but if the detonator had gone off, if the man had ignited it while in the bathroom, the bomb would have exploded that plane before anyone had a chance to do anything. We are kidding ourselves to think otherwise.
We got lucky this time. Next time we might not be. And as things stand, there will be a next time.