(Conveniently enough, I'm doing hiatus reruns, and it's apparently time to drag this one out fo the closet. Originally posted August 2006, right after the Juicebox terrorists were rolled up)
"Wait, Arent You Scared?"
Errr, no. And if you are, you frankly should be a little goddam embarrassed.
No false bravado and it's not that I don't take terrorism seriously. I do, which I why I voted for the guy who believed in securing our ports and fighting terrorism with criminal investigation methods -- which is, if we may remind everybody, how this particular plot was busted.
I am just not going to wet my pants every time some guys get arrested in a terror plot. I will do my best to stay informed. I will support the necessary law enforcement agencies. I will take whatever reasonable precautions seem, um, reasonable. But I will not be terrorized. I assume that the terror-ists would like me to be terror-ized, as that is what is says on their nametag, rather than, say, wanting me to surrender to ennui or negative body image, and they're just coming the long way around.
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.
I am absolutely buffaloed by the people who insist I man up and take it in the teeth for the great Clash of Civilizations -- "Come ON, people, this is the EPIC LAST WAR!! You just don't have the stones to face that fact head-on!" -- who at the whiff of an actual terror plot will, with no apparent sense of irony, transform and run around shrieking, eyes rolling and Hello Kitty panties flashing like Japanese schoolgirls who have just realized that the call is coming from inside the house!
I may have shared too much there.
To be honest, it's not like I'm a brave man. I'm not. At all. It just, well, it doesn't take that much strength of will not to be scared. Who the hell am I supposed to be scared of? Joseph Padilla, dirty bomber who didn't actually know how to build a bomb, had no allies or supplies, and against whom the government case is so weak they're now shuffling him from court to court to avoid the public embarassment of a trial? The fuckwits who were going to take down the Brooklyn Bridge with blowtorches? Richard Reid, the Zeppo of suicide bombers? The great Canadian plot that had organized over the internet, was penetrated by the Mounties on day one, and we were told had a TRUCK FULL OF EXPLOSIVES ... which they had bought from the Mounties in a sting operation but hey let's skip right over that. Or how about the "compound" of Christian cultists in Florida who were planning on blowing up the Sears Tower with ... kung fu?
And now these guys. As the initial "OH SWEET MOTHER OF GOD THEY CAN BLOW US UP WITH SNAPPLE BOTTLES!!" hysteria subsides, we discover that these guys had been under surveillance, completely penetrated, by no less than three major intelligence agencies. That they were planning on cell phones, and some of them openly travelled to Pakistan (way to keep the cover, Reilly, Ace of Spies). Hell, Chertoff knew about this two weeks ago, and the only reason that some people can scream this headline:
"The London Bombers were within DAYS of trying a dry run!!!"
-- was because MI-5, MI-6, and Scotland Yard let them get that close, so they could suck in the largest number of contacts (again, very spiffy police work). The fact that these wingnuts could have been rolled up, at will, at any time, seems to have competely escaped the media buzz.
This is terrorism's A-game? Sack up, people.
Again, this is not to do anything less than marvel as cool, well-trained, ruthless law-enforcement professionals -- who spent decades honing their craft chasing my IRA cousins -- execute their job magnificently. Should we take this seriously? DAMN STRAIGHT we take this seriously. Left unchecked, these terror-fanboy bastards would have gone down in history. These cretins' intent was monstrous; they should, and will, all go to jail for a very long time. This is the part where we all breathe a sigh of relief that there are some actual professionals working the job in some countries.
But God gave me a brain, and a modicum of spine. Taking something seriously, and panicking over it are two different things. I do not assign all dangers and risks equal value. Tight little freelance squads with leak-proof operational discipline, like the 7/7 guys, -- those I worry about. A nuke coming in through one of ridiculously open ports -- I am concerned. Not bio-terror so much, because it's a shitty delivery mechanism. That the Muslim population of England seems to be becoming radicalized enough to sprout up these plots, that's not a good thing to consider. al-Queda involvement -- good if true because this means their recruiting is shitty: bad if true because this means they're back in business: bad if false because it means al-Queda has indeed become a "brand": but good if false because it reinforces the idea that they're operationally crippled (and if Zwahari is involved, I personally would like a word with whatever idiot nation took their eyes of the ball and let him escape ...)
... You get the point. There are a million factors in this New World of Terror. You weigh 'em, you process, and then you move on.
You move on, building a better international society so that luddite fundamentalist criminal gangs/cults of personality are further and further marginalized.
Or, if you don't understand 4th Generation Warfare at all, you move on, bombing the shit out of nation-states and handing your opponents massive PR victories. Either way, you move the fuck on.
Maybe it's just, I cast my eyes back on the last century ...
FDR: Oh, I'm sorry, was wiping out our entire Pacific fleet supposed to intimidate us? We have nothing to fear but fear itself, and right now we're coming to kick your ass with brand new destroyers riveted by waitresses. How's that going to feel?
CHURCHILL: Yeah, you keep bombing us. We'll be in the pub, flipping you off. I'm slapping Rolls-Royce engines into untested flying coffins to knock you out of the skies, and then I'm sending angry Welshmen to burn your country from the Rhine to the Polish border.
US. NOW: BE AFRAID!! Oh God, the Brown Bad people could strike any moment! They could strike ... NOW!! AHHHH. Okay, how about .. NOW!! AAGAGAHAHAHHAG! Quick, do whatever we tell you, and believe whatever we tell you, or YOU WILL BE KILLED BY BROWN PEOPLE!! PUT DOWN THAT SIPPY CUP!!
... and I'm just a little tired of being on the wrong side of that historical arc.
This is it, folks. This is the world, from now on. Even assuming the War on Terror is a not just a bad metaphor and there is an actual measurable winning point (which is a bad assumption, by the way), even short 4GW struggles last fifty years or so. We're going to be stopping one or two of these bastard mass-murder plots a year, minimum, for the rest of our lives. Hell, the way terror tactics and tech evolve, five years from now we're going to be pining for the dudes with the flammable juice boxes.
It's now part of our life. Let's try not to hop like the trained monkeys every time it happens.