Ronald Reagan National Airport was finally re-opened, after remaining closed for 3 weeks following the September 11 attacks. Airports around the country reopened within a few days with the beefed up harassment measures instituted by the incompetent FAA Abolish It!). Do you suppose that the politicians, policy wonks, and assorted spooks in Washington D.C. knew what most Americans suspect but aren't saying: that the new FAA “security measures” are just a faade. If not, why the additional delay in opening Reagan National.
The FAA has yet to institute the security measures that would really protect against hijacked planes being commandeered. Either arming pilots or allowing concealed carry permit holders aboard would provide better security than stopping curbside bag check and restricting nail clippers. Armed air marshals may provide a deterrent against a complete copycat box-cutter attack, but a terrorist cell with a cleaning crew mole will be armed with several guns the next time around. It's doubtful that a single air marshal could stop them all. The enormity of the task required to check every single high turnover security agent, airplane caterer, cleaning person, baggage tosser, and ramp worker precludes this as a cost-effective means of preventative security.
So why hasn't the FAA taken the cheapest, most effective, measure to stop and deter terrorism (allow guns aboard)? The answer is obvious. To allow pilots to carry guns would be an admission that the FAA has failed, and that it really can't protect us. Why else would they put a weapon in the hands of a shiny new FAA air marshal, but moan about the possibility of an armed pilot hitting a fuel line? Note to FAA: The pilot knows how the airplane is built; the air marshal does not. If we think the FAA can prevent determined terrorists by adding one more stupid question to the litany of "Did you pack your bag?", we're kidding ourselves. If we think the "increased security presence" of cops directing traffic outside our airports is going to stop an inside job, we're kidding ourselves.
The bombs rain down on Afghanistan, but they stop on Friday out of respect for Islam. We keep trying to convince Islamic countries that this is a war against terror, but some don't seem to believe it. If the government policy wonks think they can expand the war on terrorism to include Syria, Iraq, or Libya without creating a jihad, they're kidding themselves. It looks like the Taliban thinks that 300 civilian casualties matter. Sorry, fellas, you've got 5,700 to go before anyone in America starts counting.
Starving Afghans don't count in that toll, since the U.S. military is dropping food to avert criticism of causing a humanitarian disaster. As noble as this sounds, it's too little at best, and a cynical public relations ploy at worst. Either way, we're kidding ourselves if we think a few thousand food packages dropped from airplanes is going to make a difference to the millions facing starvation on the ground.
As Joe Sobran points out, it appears the script is playing out exactly like bin Laden wanted. He and his cronies (still assuming it's bin Laden, and not some other US-hating terrorist organization), having anticipated our bombing response have started phase two of their terror campaign: Anthrax by mail. Why did they wait so long after 9-11? The message seems straightforward. If you escalate, we will escalate.
Now comes the news that terrorists may have a “dirty” nuclear bomb. This is really nuclear waste wrapped around a bunch of C-4, or some other conventional explosive. The effect of this weapon is not a massive mushroom cloud, but a silent rain of radioactive particles over a city, making it unsafe to live in, and expensive if not impossible to clean up. Did I mention the mass hysteria, rioting, and looting such a weapon would create. Will we escalate again? What happens if we do kill bin Laden? What happens if we capture him? Will we see New York or Los Angeles turned into an uninhabitable “hot” zone?
None of this will affect Dick Cheney, hunkered down in a (real) nuke proof bunker, or George W. Bush, with his Flying Fortress of Solitude. It will affect normal Americans. I hate to think that another massive, successful terrorist attack is about to happen, but recent events show that terrorists are here, and have planned well ahead for a military response. If it comes, I wonder if Americans, with thousands more dead and martial law imposed, will be ready to get our 6,000 troops out of Saudi Arabia and stop bombing Iraq.
It's time to stop kidding ourselves. Our overseas adventures have come back in the form of dead Americans, and waging another war overseas is more of the same. The government in the form of the FAA, the FBI, the CIA, and the Armed Forces failed to protect us against terrorists in our midst, first from airplanes turned to missiles, and now from Anthrax. What they are doing is bombing an Islamic country instead of securing the arrest of terrorists, and giving credibility to the statements of radicals that we are more interested in killing Muslims than serving justice. Thanks to the press corps bombardiers, negotiating with the Taliban for bin Laden's release would be seen as “surrender”, and is therefore politically inconvenient. How many more Americans will be sacrificed on the Altar of Politics to the False god of Soundbite Security before we realize we were kidding ourselves.
Stop bombing Afghanistan. Take the Taliban up on their offer to extradite bin Laden (certainly to Pakistan). Stop bombing Iraq. Remove our troops from Saudi Arabia. Restore our limited government, with a militia army stationed here at home, rather than abroad. Stop denying Americans their natural right to defend themselves, and stop bombing abroad in the name of security at home. Friendship with all and entangling alliances with none is the formula for peace. If we think America can simultaneously have an overseas empire, while remaining safe and free at home, we're kidding ourselves.
October 16, 2001