Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Questions about terrorism

In the years since the attacks on New York and Washington D.C. by a couple of dozen religious zealots, armed with box cutters, hundreds of millions of Americans have been subjected (sometimes on a daily basis) to "enhanced" security. They go through various levels of scrutiny traveling on planes, trains and simply driving down the highway. Similarly, they are screened at public buildings, sporting events and schools. Our very right to make a phone call or send an email (at home) with the expectation that it is a private communication between two people, has been tossed out with the garbage. Nearly all Americans are far more concerned with a terrorist attack than they are with the likely heart-attack coming from decades of filling up on junk food.

Is it worth it? How many terrorists have been caught in this net? Is it better to live in fear, minus our basic human rights, simply for the illusion of safety? Would we not be better off by more vigorously defending our way of life?

12 comments:

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

I don't think so. The anti Terror Laws in Australia were a fucking joke and the feds fucked up their first case and became a lauging stock

yunshui said...

In the UK the IRA carried out an average of one London bombing per year from 1970 to 2000, not to mention numerous other attacks elesewhere in the country. We lived with it, and never stooped to the levels of personal intrusion which are now so commonplace. Since 9/11 made "terrorism" the boogeyman of the 21st century, however, we've had DNA databases set up (on which any arrestee's DNA is permanently stored, even if they are acquitted of any wrongdoing); phone and e-mail monitoring systems put in place; an increase in police powers that include the right to hold anyone, without charge, for longer than any other European country; compulsory ID card schemes (not yet, but due in the next three years) and a host of knee-jerking politicians desperate to be seen to be doing something to combat this terrifying (and yet surprisingly quiet) new "threat".

The new powers granted to the authorities by the Laws On Terror have so far mostly been used to catch benefit cheats and litterers.

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

yunshui,

that is a damn astute observation. The difference? They were white and christian?

the chaplain said...

Given the USA's record over the past 7-8 years, I sometimes have difficulty sorting out the terrorists from the anti-terrorists. There are days when they all look very much alike.

Brendan said...

I've thought, ever since it became clear that the 9/11 attacks were extraordinary outliers and not just the first wave of a prolonged attack, how much I wish Americans could adopt the proverbial British stiff upper lip about terrorists.

Evidently, according to Yunshui, this attribute seems to be in decline among the originators, too. Sad to see.

I have a feeling that a great number of us actually feel like The Terrorist Threat (ZOMG!!!) (tm) is really not that big a deal, and we continue to live our lives pretty much as we always did. The problem, as so often, is that the shrill minority get the bulk of the attention, and that makes politicians react accordingly.

So, in answer to your question, John, of course it's not worth it. The more we let the Nervous Nellies drive policy, the more we have let the terrorists win.

Spanish Inquisitor said...

The area where I actually notice it the most is in airports. We've long had extra security in public buildings, primarily metal detectors, before 9/11.

But ask yourself: Why do we have to go through all that shit at the airport just to board a plane? The answer, of course, is to prevent another 9/11. But does that make any sense? Are terrorists going to hijack a plane to use it as a huge airborne bomb on a pre-picked target again? After 9/11 and the plane that crashed in Shanksville, will any occupants of a plane sit idly by and allow a hijacking to continue, as they did in the first three planes? Why did the occupants allow that? Because all previous hijackings to that point resulted in safe landings, and the release of the occupants, so common protocol was to allow the hijackers to take the plane wherever they wanted. The 9/11 hijackers used that assumption to keep the people complacent. That's no longer the assumption, after 9/11, so why would any terrorist ever think to use that as a form of terrorism. Every hijacking will result in either the overpowering of the hijackers, or a plane crashing a'la Shanksville, neither result being the point of the hijacking. They want to take the planes to a specific target.

Yet we have to go through this nonsense every time we board a plane.

All this does is maintain a heightened sense of fear in the population, that then allows them to pass legislation and otherwise take away the freedoms Americans have enjoyed in the past.

Bush was fond of saying the terrorists hate our freedom. He nay have been right, but the irony is that it was he who is most responsible for depriving us of it, not the terrorists.

Maria Salva said...

The antiterror measures have as much a capacity to keep the people terrified as the original act of terror--or, if anything, the effects are rather more prolonged.

As Ben Frankin said, "those who would give up an essential liberty to purchase a little temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security."

The Upbeat Cynic said...

Yeah, what SI said. The government is preying on the people's fear, and I think it's vulgar.

Ordinary Girl said...

Of course it's not. But perceived risk seems to be always off with the majority of people.

Glad to see you back.

Sarge said...

Things started to get really pretty chicken shit after the Kennedy assasination.

From something I read in 1973 and the now public Operation Northwoods (never implimented...maybe) a lot of it has to do with control of the population. Everybody is a suspect, you know.

I saw two personal examples of this in 1960 and 1961.

John Evo said...

Sarge - since when do I have to beg you for a story? Continue...

Sarge said...

My father was the cheif of security of the office of the secretary of defense, and although he dispised me from about the time I was twelve, I have always respected him for his integrety and the fact that he wouldn't permit me to be named after him. He had some horrendous first and middle names. Really ducked a bullet.

In the first case, we were stationed in Ethiopia (my father was one of the attaches) and we were probably deliberatly exposed to danger and placed where we were as a provocation. Luckily, nothing happened. I've always wondered what would have happened if something was SUPPOSED to happen but didn't. I have no doubt that this would have been rectified by people who were supposed to "protect" us. That I've gathered over the years from fragments of conversation.

But in 1961, I saw the naked face of what the powers that is really looked like. In my years in the military I got a glimpse every now and again, but this was the real deal.

We would get relatives visiting during the summer and it was our task to be unofficial hotels and tour guides, and my father (since he was in charge of security) would sometimes clear the visitors to go into the pentagon and he would take them through the place. Even into the secretary of defense's office.

During one of these one of my cousins, she was eleven then I think, saw something that interested her and walked over to examine it on the desk. My father was there and two of his men. I knew these men, had been to their houses, knew their kids, but they were on her, screaming shouting, swearing, and I'll never forget that look on her face. One was actually reaching into his coat. She was terrified, literally a deer in the headlights.

My father was a remarkable person, inside of two minutes he had the whole thing resolved and everyone was laughing. He had another of his people taking us to the concourse, and I "flanked out" to wait for him (I had a penchant for winding up places I shouldn't be and observing things that souldn't be observed. He wanted to speak to his people.

He aksed if they'd lost their rabbit-assed minds, WTF was THAT!!??

They countered that she might have Seen Something.

He countered that the myth of the child who Saw Something and mentioned it on the playground thus bringing it to the attention of commie spies who were said to be lurking about such places (yes people really thought so!)was vastly over stated. They had obviously not played "telephone" for a while...plus the S of D was elswhere and wouldn't be back in a week, and if there WAS something that shouldn't be seen there, someone was going to wish they'd never been born, he'd personally see to it.

They countered about "threats", and he told them that aside from her church and home, that building and that particular room in it shousld be where an eleven year old American girl should feel safest. That was what that building (pentagon) and that office (OSD) was there for; the protection of Americans, they were not the enemy.

They didn't say anything, but I could see their faces and those of the other people there, and they certainly did not agree. My cousin was just a great an enemy as Kruschev as far as they were concerned. And they weren't too sure about my father, either.

Luckily, he was their boss.

But that's the mind set.