Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Don't Get Fooled Again

(or Who Are We Kidding – Really!)

On December 28, the President of the United States addressed the nation, his speech opening I quote below:

“Good morning, everybody. I wanted to take just a few minutes to update the American people on the ATTEMPTED terrorist attack that occurred on Christmas Day…” (emphasis added)

I’m confused. I mean before we even get to what terrorism is all about, let’s just stop and ask what took place? A man, now referred to as an “alleged suspect” (I’m sorry – the wordsmithing and double talk is killing me) was able to successfully breach security and board a plane carrying explosives which he later detonated. Fortunately for those on the flight and their loved ones, it was not quite the detonation the terrorist was most likely hoping for. Some may wish to debate the use of the word detonate. Fine. It doesn’t matter to the argument, but for the record, if people heard a noise that sounded like fireworks going off, that is a detonation in my book. And some major daily newspapers have referred to a detonation.

So why are we dancing around this subject with the word “attempted”? What part of detonating an explosive device on a flight allows us to think of this as an attempted terrorist attack? Other than the plane falling from the sky, which may or may not have been the intention of the attack (and I think we can probably assume that it was the intent) I think at the point of detonation we are well past “attempt”. This was a terrorist attack, planned and executed, end of story.

In my opinion, the news media and American government desperately want us to believe that this was an attempt – as though something within our control or our capability prevented it. An Associated Press headline "Attempt to blow up airliner foiled" (emphasis added) is perhaps the most laughable extreme I have seen. I suppose this sort of propaganda works because as much as the news media and the government want us to believe this, we probably want to believe it more. So we take the little placebo, tell ourselves that all is well, and life goes on.

But let us dig a little deeper. While the President did not in his speech use words like “failed” or “unsuccessful” in respect of the terrorist attack, but they have appeared in the press. This to me suggests and even poorer understanding of what just happened. Failed? Unsuccessful? Try telling that to the passengers on that flight and their families. Try telling that to the thousands of people whose travel plans were disrupted or the comfort during travel was severely marred. Try telling that to the airline industry that will no doubt suffer at least a temporary reduction in business. What part of terrorism do people not get?

Terrorism has a range of definitions but in simple terms terrorism is the threat or use of violence against people or property for the purpose of intimidation. Do we think for one moment that if the plane had crashed that other than a military strike (against whom would be quite a puzzle), would we have seen anything different in all the knee jerk reactions and new measures at airports and on flights. I liked the hands folded on laps the best and want to invest in new seat belt technology that senses the position of the hands. Such belts should probably not allow an people the freedom to unfasten them, and might also contain biometric sensors that show if someone has the right levels of anxiety and excitement that might indicate he (or she) is about to attempt a terrorist act. Ridiculous – well of course it’s ridiculous – it might be funny if it wasn’t so serious.

So I contend that this was not just a terrorist attack, but a successful act of terrorism. The only person who didn’t get everything he was hoping for (from the perspective of the terrorist organization) was the terrorist who instead of being in paradise and enjoying all the pleasures that go with it, is probably in serious pain due to burns in his groin region and languishing in a US jail. Well maybe not languishing – he probably has better cable service than I do. I just hope his health care is no better than what I might need to get used to – but that’s another subject. Oh well the goals of the organization which is after all more important than that of the individual were well and truly met.

But just in case you are starting to doubt that everything is under control, you should be further calmed by watching the speech. You will notice that the President to further reinforce the low key nature of the whole event is wearing an open necked shirt. Hopefully this didn’t distract him too much from his vacation.

Closing thoughts – I don’t think I can sum it up any better than these classic lyrics from The Who…

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again
No, no!

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