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The War for Terror [Sep. 5th, 2006|09:39 am]
[Current Mood |crankycranky]

At the beginning of last month, a bunch of Al Qaeda wannabes successfully reigned terror down upon the Western world. The ramifications of their actions still echo loudly through airport terminals, and promise to keep doing so for months and years to come.

These guys were so good, they didn't even have to blow anything up.

Scotland Yard succeeded in thwarting a plan, but the DHS and the TSA have guaranteed that the efforts of those dedicated to the destruction of the West through fear and mistrust were not in vain.

Here's the deal: there was never any reason whatsoever for flights to be grounded on August 10. The arrests of the wannabes was not based on their just having been discovered. Nor did it come because bombs were made and fanatics were buying airline tickets.

No, the reason the arrests happened when they did was that the Pakistani police with whom Scotland Yard was coordinating got trigger happy and arrested one of the main players in the plot. The Brits were well aware that the plot was nowhere near ready to go forward - no airline tickets had been purchased, and two of the bombers still didn't have passports. But once the leader was arrested, the Brits feared that the rest of the ring would destroy the evidence and go to ground. So they executed multiple raids to prevent that from happening.

What we should have seen on the morning of the 10th was newspaper headlines touting how the plot was foiled and how summer travelers were continuing their plans uninterrupted. That would have been triumph over the terrorists.

Instead, we got Chicken Little shouts that the sky was falling. Planes were grounded, people's lives disrupted, and ridiculous new regulations were adopted.

This is not an accident.

Not once since the institution of the terror alert level system been below yellow. Why is that? If this is the level of alert we should expect to live with, why not make this "green - exercise ordinary caution"? That way elevation would actually mean being alerted to a real danger. As has been proven in the last 5 years, there is almost never any danger to the average U.S. citizen on a day-to-day basis. We are free to go about our lives, taking ordinary precaution.

Except it does not serve the purposes of the government to allow us to think that we are in any sort of a normal situation. Nothing as soothing as green is to be allowed.

It serves the government to keep us continually at a yellow alert level, however. Terror is useful. There is no reason to justify taking additional measures such as illegal wire tapping if the government admits that the day-to-day lives of citizens are actually pretty safe. After all, if they are, then wiretaps are not, for the most part, emergencies. A proper warrant can be obtained. The law of the land can be followed.

No, that won't do. Far better to create an ongoing sense of danger. People are more compliant if they think you are saving their lives.

And so it was that we found ourselves boarding a plane to Germany with our meager belongings in a clear plastic bag. No books, because a bomb could be hidden in them - something that opening the book and riffling through the pages apparently would not reveal. No snacks for kids, no computers, chapstick, magazines, toys, no nothing.

The sky, after all, was falling. And, hell, you get an oppotunity like this, you take it! Ground travel, increase regulation, run people through more security, look grimmer and more serious than usual.

Because sheep are easier to manage than individuals. And if you can keep people in sheep mode - easily spooked, willing to be herded - then stuffing more and more regulation down their throats is simple.

I hear it, too. People shrug their shoulders and say, "Well at least we're safer." Even were that true - which it's not - since when safety is the highest value in our lives? What happened to freedom? Self-determination? The kind of guts that turned our forefathers into criminals in the eyes of their English overlords when they assaulted tax collectors and dumped tea into Boston Harbor?

Oh, better not stir up trouble. After all, we're all on yellow alert. You never know what dangers may befall us!

The greatest danger is not that you'll be blown up. It's that you'll lose your ability to speak out. Terror isn't the actions of a few crazed fundamentalists. It's the industry of governments bent on fostering compliance. They're fighting to keep you terrified.

That's the really scary part.

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[User Picture]From: usmu
2006-09-05 01:59 pm (UTC)

Before 9/11 if a plane went down for whatever reason, it was assumed it was some sort of mechanical failure or human error. Nowadays the first thing you hear is that it authorities rule out a terrorist attack. Which is ridiculous when you compare the number of flights with the ones that go down and the ones that go down with the ones that re blown up. Even if there's a higher threat than there used to be it's still minute. But that's just logical thought and who needs it these days.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-09-05 02:02 pm (UTC)
I think it's essential for people to understand that we are being manipulated by our government. But it feels like being the only person in the theater who's yelling, "no, there isn't a fire!" The voice gets lost in the panic.
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[User Picture]From: kalieris
2006-09-05 02:04 pm (UTC)
I very honestly would rather risk being blown up than continue on as we are. Death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-09-05 02:09 pm (UTC)
Yes, whatever happened to "Give me liberty, or give me death!"? Now we seem to have, "Give me 500 cable channels and leave me alone!"
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[User Picture]From: kmg_365
2006-09-05 02:04 pm (UTC)
I would like the TSA to explain how I'm going to create a bomb using a 700ml bottle of Deer Park spring water. :-)

Oh, and if the terrorists are reading the TSA's web site, they know that they can smuggle their liquid explosives inside bras, since the TSA will allow gel-filled bras on the plane as "carry-on" luggage.

But that cup of yogurt? That's got to go!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-09-05 02:08 pm (UTC)
Especially if you buy that water on the other side of security. Becuse we all know that WH Smith is bringing in lots of 'splody water to sell.
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[User Picture]From: shezan
2006-09-05 02:10 pm (UTC)
No, in this specific case, the authorities worried that there were parallel teams nearer to completion date, who could have been activated after the Pakistani arrest.

Going through stupid airport security is a hassle, but it's better than the alternative. I fly VERY often and I'm glad they're doing it.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-09-05 02:15 pm (UTC)
That is highlyarguable, and is being pointed to as the reason why in a way that stinks of scapegoat to me. I'm not buying it. The Brits didn't want the Pakistanis making that arrest because they thought they could get more people if they kept stringing their targets along for a while, but the "there might be others" smacks of scare tactic justification for creating the high-profile crisis they did.

I don't mind security as such, but as you pointed out yourself, our security is ineffective. Give me Israeli security any day.
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From: authentichris
2006-09-05 02:16 pm (UTC)


Lovely post. I agree with the sentiment wholeheartedly. People often say--apologists for thE Bushies--that "the gov't needs roving wiretaps to fight terrorism, etc."

I say, Oh, Really. Do you want Hillary Clinton or...Barbara Boxer wielding this power? (Similar arguement made when people want universal health care--I ask if these same people want Bush deciding who can and can't get a female medical proceedure.)

It's scary, increasing the things the government can do. I don't think we've won, and I don't think that we're ready to declare victory--but I think that the supurflous searching and consistant obedience tests were getting acustomed to (obeying convenience store clerks that request your papers), well, this is getting nuts.

I was recently attending a sporting event in Nationwide Arena, and an older security guard asked me to open up my jacket. I said, "boy, I feel MUCH safer now," and a big red state galoot said, "hey have you forgotten 9/11" to me in an agressive kind of way. Heather was with me, and I didn't want to hassle with educating this guy, so I let it go, but...

...man, there's no connetion between an octogenerian making a cursory glance at my paunch and the barbaric attacks that took place on 9/11.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-09-05 02:20 pm (UTC)


Yeah, because Al Qaeda hates sports.
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[User Picture]From: lubedpumpkin
2006-09-05 02:23 pm (UTC)
Excellent post, but I have to ask: what do we do? Every elected/appointed/God Mandated official seems to only care about re-election and pork barrel legislation, and the good ones are far to "fringe" for society to elect. Barack Obama, I fear, is still years away from a presidential nomination.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-09-05 02:25 pm (UTC)
Keep speaking up. Write letters of protest.

It's a long fight, but if we don't do something, then we definitely lose.
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[User Picture]From: darlox
2006-09-05 02:51 pm (UTC)
As a person heading to the airport in about 30 minutes, and a rather frequent traveller, I'm afraid I have a slightly different perspective. I agree almost completely with your points, but don't believe the theory on the reasons behind it. That disagreement stems more from Occam's Razor than from any intrinsic trust in our political machines...

Terrorism is nothing new. But until Sept 11, the situation always _did_ return to Green, and people forgot... then when the next thing happened, the public flew up in a blind rage and railed against elected officials, screaming "Why weren't we told?!? How could you let this happen?!?" So, I agree that the government is indeed perpetuating sky-is-falling nervousness, but I don't think it has anything to do with "keeping us under control." It's because politicians don't know how to do anything else for a living, and want to keep their jobs, and therefore see no benefit to letting people forget about what _might_ be lurking around the next corner. Humans are big stupid herd animals when traumatized, and the politicians are treating us accordingly, I'm afraid...

Now as for the airline drama, and the prohibition on chapstick, etc... THIS I blame squarely on the left-wing, and WILL make it political. After Sept 11, the first response of security officials was to create the do-not-fly list, and start profiling like crazy. If you had an Arab name, those magical little 'S' marking started showing up on your boarding pass. But, of course, we CAN'T profile... it's un-American!! So instead of focusing the search for bad people, we have to start treating everyone equally, and empting little Minnesotan grandmas' underwear bag to look for bomb parts.

We can't use low-intensity X-ray machines, because the screener might see a naked outline of the passenger! We can't pull up historical airline purchase records of passengers to see where they've been travelling, because THAT'S an invasion of privacy!

Yes, it's easy to say this as a young white man, but this problem isn't going to go away until we start using common sense and profiling, and using the technology available at-hand to screen passengers. When young white businessmen form the "Financial Avengers Brigade" and start blowing up planes destined for closed-market economies, then I fully expect to be pulled aside and have every cavity searched before I get on an airplane.

All the government can do right now is focus on Things, because holy hell gets raised by the left every time we try to focus on people. We'll all be flying naked in government-provided smocks to preserve the right of young Arab men from being questioned in-depth before they enter airport property...

... and then, after we've foiled 1,000 plots to blow up American property and people, 1 will succeed. But we're at Condition Green!! How could this happen?? Why weren't we warned?!?

Catch-22 anyone?

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-09-05 03:33 pm (UTC)
Alas, I am slammed at work and don't have time to consider and respond to this now - damn you for being all thinky and stuff. It will have to wait until this evening. But I'm not ignoring you!
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[User Picture]From: dougals
2006-09-05 02:58 pm (UTC)
It's an old chestnut, but still true over 200 years later...

"Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one." - Benjamin Franklin
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[User Picture]From: trianakvetch
2006-09-05 03:13 pm (UTC)
Due to family situations, I've been flying since I was 11 months old. Before 9-11 getting on planes, airport waiting, and all that fun traveling stuff was automatic for me. After 9-11 it was disrupted, all the messages of fear and terror around me made it so that traveling was now an anxiety-producing event. It made me think twice about what routes to take, what clothing to wear, and what types of gifts I could bring to my family in Spain.

overall, it sucked. I have to travel to Spain this December (Ohare-Madrid) and I'm not looking forward to it. It'll be winter so I can't just wear flip-flops to take off easily when they do the shoe inspection. I'll have a jacket and winter clothes so packing will be more obnoxious and when they rifle through my bags, they won't put things back together neatly.

And worst of all...we're back to plastic utensils for the meals on the plane. My finger nails could cut more than those do!
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[User Picture]From: jenk
2006-09-05 04:38 pm (UTC)
I flew first class last week.

Bottles of water waiting at each seat. Metal utensils. Glass wine goblets (or goblettes, I should say ;) China coffee mugs. Apparently we're too refined to make use of them.

Oh, and due to security reasons, the bathroom in the first class cabin (right by the cockpit) is restricted to first class travelers. Security? Or letting first class travellers have less of a wait?
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[User Picture]From: lupagreenwolf
2006-09-05 03:15 pm (UTC)
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

--Frank Herbert, "Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear", Dune

If only we could work this into the National Anthem....
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[User Picture]From: donkey_hokey
2006-09-05 03:33 pm (UTC)
Heh. By pointing all this obvious stuff out, clearly you're not patriotic.

I've taken a plane trip once since 9/11. I left it open to take another trip, should I really need to. Now, though, it's going to take something *really* special to get me to fly on a plane now. I have no fear of, or concern about, terrorists. I fear the government lackeys and their ever-more-ridiculous restrictions, however. I get very uncomfortable when I can't have food or water with me, and I don't really trust the airplane food or drink. I also require a portable air purifier, and it probably looks like a little bomb, or something else nasty. Since it's not an official medical device, it would be difficult to get a doctor's note.

Anyway.. yeah. I don't think I'll be flying again anytime now or in the future. A "war" on something as open-ended and vague as terrorism means all this shit is probably permanent.
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[User Picture]From: kmg_365
2006-09-05 03:39 pm (UTC)
I get very uncomfortable when I can't have food or water with me, and I don't really trust the airplane food or drink.

After seeing Airplane!, would anyone trust airline food? Jokes aside, though, you are allowed to bring non-gell based foods on the airplane with you. You can't brink drinks, though. The airline would provide those.
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[User Picture]From: 28bytes
2006-09-05 03:40 pm (UTC)
I think the only thing that would reverse the trend is another successful attack even with the draconian "security" measure in place. That would demonstrate that these measures aren't doing anything useful.

IMO it's a lot easier to convince people that their elected officials aren't competent than that they're acting in bad faith to supress them. Finding out you've trusted someone who's just not good at their job is a less bitter pill to swallow than finding out you've trusted someone who's actively trying to harm you.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-09-05 06:02 pm (UTC)
I fear that the reaction would be, "see, you need to let us do more!"
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[User Picture]From: astridsdream
2006-09-05 04:06 pm (UTC)
Word with word sauce. I think I just might metaquotes you.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-09-05 06:09 pm (UTC)
Feel free!
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[User Picture]From: rose7
2006-09-05 04:29 pm (UTC)
I am glad that there are people like you who are not willing to suffer every restriction under the premise of "safety".
We - in the Western world - have lived in such comfort for such a long time that we forget that complete safety is not possible and that even incomplete safety comes at a prize which might be too high to pay. Forgetting that leads to a kind of thinking where people always expect that something can be done, something can be fixed and then we will be safe again. WEll, IMO it ain't so, safety is only temporary. I also get the feeling that the public opinion is in such a state of panic that even ridiculous, and dangerous, controls are condoned. I am a cautious person myself but that also implies for me that I look for the prize I will have to pay for the allegedly increased safety.
It is necessary to point out that not all of us are willing to pay that high a prize for our alleged safety and thus voice an opinion to counter the public panic attacks.
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[User Picture]From: urbancannibal
2006-09-05 04:47 pm (UTC)
Wise words. I wish a few more of the "it's okay to lose a few rights for the sake of our safety" brigade would realise these simple truths.
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[User Picture]From: kmg_365
2006-09-05 08:55 pm (UTC)
Perhaps the airline industry should have their lobbyists go to Capitol Hill and say "Yo, wtf? Unless you want to pony up more bail-out money, could you cut out the unreasonable bullshit? Because all you're accomplishing is driving people away from flying. We'll take our chances with the Yoplait bombs, thank you very much."
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