Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Editorial on Detroit Terror Attack

Another day brings more details about what happened and what our country is trying to do about it.  We’re on the wrong track.

Flying has become much more difficult.

airport By now, everyone knows the airport drill, its inconveniences offset by its clarity: take off your shoes, pop your laptop in a tray, have your driver’s license at the ready. But in the three days since the attempted terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound airliner, the beleaguered traveler has once again been beset by a confusing and inconsistent set of rules.

Could you keep your blanket, as on Continental, or would it be snatched at the end of the flight, as it was on Lufthansa? Would security measures be visibly unchanged, as they were at the Houston airport, or would passengers be surprised by a careful swabbing of their hands and purses, like those in South Carolina? Would this week resemble Sunday, when JetBlue’s entertainment system was shut down on international flights, or Monday, when the movies began flowing on that airline once more?

“I just wish they’d have something, a list of rules, and stick to it,” said Sherri Hemmer, who made a point of using the bathroom early on her Monday flight from Phoenix to Pittsburgh and was then annoyed to learn that a prohibition against moving around the cabin in the last hour of flight did not seem to apply to her flight.

The Transportation Security Administration has been deliberately vague — and even a little random — about the security measures it has imposed in the last few days, in part to make certain that potential attackers do not know what to expect. Many passengers welcome this.

“It’s no problem,” said Eleonora Gomarasca, who traveled to New York from Milan on Monday. “It’s more control.”

But that careful unpredictability has made life far more confusing and inconvenient for thousands of travelers. After Sept. 11, 2001, stark fears were met with complicity and acceptance, but now many people seem to feel that the government measures are more about reaction than protection.

“I think the security checks on the ground are the ones that make the most difference for safety,” said Daniel Kim, 36, who arrived at Los Angeles International Airport three hours early for his flight to Frankfurt with his wife, Catherine, and their 20-month-old. “The whole one hour before thing, no getting up, what is that going to help, really? Will it get to a point when we can’t get up at all during the flight, or have to raise our hands to go to the bathroom? Where does it end?”

While the new T.S.A. restrictions seem largely confined to international travelers bound for the United States, confusion, delays and the ensuing angst seemed to spread across the nation in the wake of the thwarted attack on a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day.

The slowdown appeared to be particularly intense on flights coming from Canada. Dianne Duncan’s trip to Los Angeles from Toronto, for one, involved a 10-hour security wait, four lost bags, a missed flight and rerouting, a thorough search of her belongings, and a full-body pat-down of her and her 5-year-old daughter.

“It was extremely strict,” said Ms. Duncan, who arrived at the Toronto airport at 9:30 a.m. Sunday morning and did not reach the screening area until nearly seven hours later.

“Take note: there was no toilet, no water and no food for purchase,” she said. “There was one man to screen the men, and one woman to screen the women. There was a full pat-down. It was as if they were specifically searching for something.”...

Inserted from <NY Times>

While it is clear that our transportation safety procedures leak like a sieve, banning passengers from relieving themselves for the last hour of flights is ludicrous.  Anyone wishing to avoid that can go to the can to bomb-up ninety minutes before the flight lands.  I’m not saying that we should not make flights as safe as possible, but no matter what we do, those who wish to circumvent our security will simply adapt their tactics to take advantage of whatever we don’t do.  The way to stop this attack was quite simple.  Abdulmutallab should never have been allowed on the plane.  The Bush/GOP system still in use was designed more to create the illusion of security for propaganda purposes than to provide actual security.  The focus for in flight security needs to shift from dealing with terrorists on planes to keeping them from getting on planes in the first place.  It might help to have an executive in charge of the TSA, but we do not.  Obama’s appointee, Erroll Summers, has not been approved, because GOP Senator DeMint has placed a hold on him.  Perhaps DeMint considers unions a greater terrorist threat than Al Qaeda, because DeMint claims that he fears Summers would allow baggage handlers to unionize.

I’ve been listening to pundits debate Afghanistan/Pakistan/Somalia/Yemen center of terrorism.  The GOP seems to want to attack Yemen.  How absurd!  Yemen’s government is cooperating with the US, bit they have no control over large swaths of their own territory, much like Afghanistan.  We lack the troops to invade and occupy the country.  Our last reserves, the Brownie Scouts, are already committed to defense against Iran.  Here’s the problem.  We’re fighting a 21st century conflict using 20th century tactics.  If we could actually take control of Afghanistan, Al Qaeda would move (as they have) to Pakistan.  If the Pakistanis get control of their territory, they will move to Yemen.  If we occupy Yemen, they will move to Somalia, or Indonesia, or anywhere that we have not conquered.  And we aren’t even talking about the center of Wahhabism, the extreme right wing beliefs AQ uses to justify their existence, Saudi Arabia.  To defeat AQ using conventional means, we need to conquer the entire world.  Going after the leadership won’t work.  AQ is not organized top-down.  They are cellular.  They are not a snake we can decapitate.  They are a hydra.  The only way we will defeat them is to compromise their ability to recruit.  At present we are enhancing it every time a drone takes out innocent civilians with or without the targeted AQ operative.  We enhance their ability to recruit even more in this manner:

gaza-destroyed I don't know what to say. The United States not only permits this, we subsidize it - at great personal cost to our country. After all, why were we an Al Qaeda target in the first place?

Yes, we'll tie ourselves in knots to keep a taxpayer dollar from getting anywhere near an abortion, yet we continue to fund the slow starvation of the Palestinians.

Very sad:

One year after Israel launched its three-week offensive in Gaza that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians and damaged or destroyed over 50,000 homes in a campaign aimed at stopping Hamas rocket fire, the survivors are still living in rubble. And it is not for want of money that thousands of residents of the coastal enclave remain homeless this winter: Moved by the plight of Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinians who were already reeling from a two-and-a-half year economic siege imposed by Israel with help from Egypt and the U.S. even before Israel's air and ground assault had begun, international donors earlier this year pledged over $4.5 billion to repair war damages. But that aid has failed to reach Gaza, according to Palestinians and relief agencies who accuse Israel of imposing Kafkaesque rules that bar entry to vital reconstruction materials and items as bizarre as glass, most schoolbooks, honey and family-sized tubs of margarine.

Says Chris Gunness, spokesman for the United Nations' Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), "Because the Israelis are not allowing in any reconstruction material, that $4.5 billion is just a paper figure." With over 80% of Gazans now surviving on humanitarian handouts from UNRWA, Gunness adds, "Palestinians are becoming more desperate and more extreme."

Relief officials estimate that Gaza needs 40,000 tons of cement and 25,000 tons of iron to start repairing the homes, hospitals, schools and shops destroyed during Israel's offensive. But so far, according to GISHA, an Israeli legal rights group, the Israelis have allowed only 19 trucks carrying construction material into Gaza since the war ended last January. "You could say that Israel has bombed Gaza back into the mud age," says UNRWA's Gunness, "because that's what they're building their houses out of now — mud."

Without parts to replace machinery damaged in the war, 97% of Gaza's factories have shut down, raising unemployment to over 43%. With scarce sources of income, many Gazans would probably starve if not for food handouts from the U.N. and other agencies. Over 40,000 Gazans have no electricity, 10,000 have no running water in their homes, and because Israel bans entry of the spare parts needed to run its sewage treatment plant, every day 87 million liters of sewage is dumped into the Mediterranean (which washes up on Israel's beaches, too.)

Although the international community occasionally protests Gaza's ongoing tragedy, so far no real pressure has been applied on Israel to loosen its stranglehold... [emphasis original]

Inserted from <Crooks and Liars>

As long as the US remains a party to Israeli atrocities in the region, Muslims will have just cause to believe that the US is conducting a War on Islam.  As long as the US kills innocent civilians while attacking terrorists, Muslims will have just cause to believe that the US is conducting a war on Islam.  As long as the US attacks and occupies Muslim countries, attempting to control their energy resources, Muslims will have just cause to believe that the US is conducting a war on Islam.  As long as Republicans keep spewing hate speech, Muslims will have just cause to believe that the US is conducting a war on Islam.

Are we?  In my opinion we are not, but we were while the Bush/GOP regime was in power.  However, as long as our strategy appears unchanged, how are Muslims to tell the difference?  Until we can convince Muslims by our actions that we are not still conducting the Bush/GOP war on Islam, they will be able to recruit Muslim teabagger types to become terrorists.


Jack Jodell said...

Happy New Year, TomCat!
Whew! Like you, I don't pretend to have all the answers on this very complex and perplexing problem of Al Qaeda terrorist attacks. As you have indicated, the GOP has already screamed out with their paranoid voice for more military attacks, this time on Yemen. Any day now, I expect to hear the biggest terrorist of them all, the one who manipulated us into an unnecessary and illegal war and who eroded our individual liberties in the process, DICK Cheney, come out with a new demand for war on Yemen, Somalia, and Iran. And, as is now becoming abundantly clear, this is a borderless war, so both he and his mouthy, fear-spreading daughter can both take a flying leap.

At the root of this is definitely Israel's mishandling of the Palestinian situation and their inflexibility on the matter. They understandably, but not always justifiably to the extent that they carry it, have a siege mentality. It is as if each of their successive governments since 1980, at least, have been headed by a full contingent of Dick Cheneys. Their treatment of Palestinians has been deplorable and unforgivable. They don't behave as neighbors but rather as cruel occupiers in that region. They, and consequently we, are locked on a mobius strip of repeated bloodshed in the Middle East. Unfortunately, we are paying the price for it, both militarily, and economically.

The terror situation will not be resolved by unending Cheney-esque military adventures. It will only be resolved when Israel takes a more humane and responsible approach toward its Palestinian neighbors. And yes, I DO believe in the existence of Israel. But the question of their existence does not, in my view, allow them, NOR us, free rein in the region

Jolly Roger said...

What people need to understand is that Chimpy's "security" apparatus was set up to harass political opponents, not protect anybody. It is going to take awhile to fix that.

Holte Ender said...

Your "hydra" analogy is right on the mark, they will drag us all over the world to fight a, so-called, "war on terror" all we are getting is an illusion of success. There is no success just a forever war.

Randal Graves said...

Spoken like a true defeatocrat, holte!

As long as the illusion of safety is going strong, people will buy any bridge for sale.

Glad I don't have any loot to fly anywhere. What a pain in the ass.

Karen said...

Don't see a solution for this mess. Any time they think they have one, the enemy find other ways... there's lots of body parts in which to hide things.

Unknown said...

A long time ago I decided that air travel, much commercial travel, was a matter of 'if your numbers' up' kind of choice. Makes it more of an adventure!
Good post TC.

"The only way we will defeat them is to compromise their ability to recruit."

Is the reality. As usual, Jack Jodell says much that makes sense on this issue. STill, just withdrawing from the whole thing appeals more and more.
Happy New Year, dude. :-)

TOM said...

For a society that marches on technology, and will invest millions creating the newest toy, we really should invest in the technology of full scan products that can eliminate the other annoying procedures. Privacy is a straw man argument, not to create such a product. For myself, I would rather be scanned, than touched.

Oso said...


Happy New Year,first!

Your words on the Palestine situation are so true. If we simply quit backing Israel 50% of the Muslim rage would disappear immediately and it would save us BILLIONS.

And it is that simple. Call in the Israeli ambassador and inform him we will no longer support terrorism, they will have to leave the nest and pay their own way from now on. Get along with their neighbors rather than bombing them since the US taxpayer is no longer picking up the tab.

Jail or deport all AIPAC personnel as agents of a foreign govt.

Call for immediate elections (per the 1948 Minority Report) in ALL of Palestine following freeing of all political prisoners.

Have the UN monitor the elections since they're the ones who effed things up in the first place.

Walk away.

Jo said...

Tom, your essay is a case of "blame the victim". Your country is under attack, and will continue to be under attack, no matter what you do. Support Israel, don't support Israel, it won't make any difference. Changing administrations has not made any difference. Obama's winning the *cough* Nobel Peace Prize has not made any difference. Nothing is going to make any difference.

Some of the worst terrorism inflicted on American people happened during the eight years of Democratic administration, under President Clinton.

Is it really okay for people to bully the rest of the world, and for the rest of us to appease them? People unfortunately in countries all over the world are beginning to resent Muslims.

Terrorism is never going to go away, it just may changes faces. And America is always going to be a target. You're under siege.

Jo said...

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- The death toll from the suicide bombing in Pakistan's financial capital, Karachi, rose to 40, authorities said Tuesday.

The blast on Monday targeted a Shiite procession on M.A. Jinnah Road.

The victims were among thousands of devotees commemorating Ashura, a major religious observance for the Shiites, one of two main Muslim denominations.

Ashura marks the death anniversary of Imam Hussein, grandson of Prophet Mohammed. Hussein, who was killed in battle in Karbala in 680 A.D., is regarded as a martyr -- and the battle is one of the events that helped create the schism between Sunnis and Shiites, the two main Muslim religious movements.

Religious mourning during Ashura is characterized by people chanting, beating their breasts in penance, cutting themselves with daggers or swords and whipping themselves in synchronized moves.

Shias are a minority in Pakistan.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. But the government is in the midst of an intense army offensive to rout militants from their haven along the country's border with Afghanistan. In retaliations, the militants have launched a series of deadly attacks in Pakistan.

Tom, terrorism will never stop until Muslims stop killing each other as well.

It's very sad.

TomCat said...

Same to you, Jack. It appears that we are on the same page, as usual.

Quite correct, JR.

Thanks Holte. As I said, cutting off their ability to recruit is the key.

Quite true, Karen. That's why a different approach is needed.

Tom, I favor that idea as long as people have a choice. They can go quickly through the scanner or, if the scanner is that offensive to them, endure the more time consuming search.

Thanks Oso. That makes sense to me. I fully support the right of Israel to live in safety within their own borders. I also fully support the right of Palestinians to do the same. While both are guilty of atrocities, the greater guilt is with Israel.

Josie, you completely misunderstood the intent of what I said. The only person to blame for the attack itself is the bomber. The blame of which I was spoke was for the failure to stop it in time. When it comes to the US approach to the Israel/Palestinian conflict, Clinton, Bush and Obama are interchangeable. Clinton was reasonable successful at providing security in the US. Bush was not. With Obama, it's too soon to tell, but it doesn't look good. What I'm proposing here is not to blame the victim, but a paradigm shift in strategy: to combat terrorism by removing the reasons some Muslims are willing to volunteer to blow themselves up.

TomCat said...

Randal, when the browns are in the Super Bowl, you will fly.

Gwen, the withdrawal method does not work. ;-)

Josie, there is a huge rift between the Wabbabi (AQ types) and the Shia (Iran types). While I agree that we can never stop all terrorism, it's a lot more palatable if it is not directed at us.

Oso said...


" Is it really okay for people to bully the rest of the world, and for the rest of us to appease them? People unfortunately in countries all over the world are beginning to resent Muslims".

I'm assuming that was a typo and you meant "resent Americans" rather than Muslims.

Unless you'd somehow missed our attacks on MUSLIM countries who'd posed no threat to us the past few years ?

Iraq? Afghanistan? Drone attacks on Pakistan?

Ring a bell ?

Lisa G. said...

I've been saying for a while that we're gonna wind up going through the scanners naked at the airport - I say it in line while we're all waiting - everyone just nods and laughs. Then I add that no one wants to see that - unless, it's George Clooney in front of me. :)

I'm totally with Jack and Oso on both their very valid points. Israel is nothing but a bully and has been pissing off it's neighbors since it's existence - and we've paid for all of it. And all those other Muslim countries around it know that all too well. When we butt out of Israel and take our money with us, I bet things get a whole lot better quite quickly.

I'm still willing to go over there with the mom voice and the killer bunny, Quincy. I'll divide it all up so no one is happy and tell them that if I have to come back, it's glass parking lot time. And I'm taking all their shit back to the states (hell, we paid for it) and send the inspectors in to go over every square millimeter of every country. Take all that shit and they can throw rocks at each other for all of eternity for all I care. And then I'll tell AIPAC to go to hell too; you want Israel so bad, pack your shit and go or shut the f*** up. Done. I'm tired of this shit and I'm tired of dealing with it.

Oh, and we'll drop Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld and all the rest of their rotten crew in their very 'undisclosed location' in Pakistan and let those assholes find Osama since they let him go the last time.

And as far as AQ goes, don't cut off the recruiting - there's always some asshole will to martyr himself. Cut off the money. Once the money's gone, nothing gets done and the families of the 'martyrs' will wise up quick.

Oso said...

Lisa G,
You and Quincy could tag team either side and probably win. Especially when they hear the mom voice !

Is Quincy a guy ? In case he's into inter-species dating I have a single girl cat,Dulce,who is very pretty and has no boyfriend. If Quincy's a girl that's ok too as long as it's ok with Dulce.

Unknown said...

Yes, we'll tie ourselves in knots to keep a taxpayer dollar from getting anywhere near an abortion, yet we continue to fund the slow starvation of the Palestinians. This, for me, is the crux of most of the problems in the Middle East, not to mention the anti-american sentiments.

But the US has a long-assed history of funding despots, dictators and all sorts of sordid leaders..so why is the present any different than our past? Because it isn't. The bottom line is that we back these fuckwads because it suits our needs.

TomCat said...

Thanks, Oso. That should be obvious, but nobody wants to notice.

Lisa, cutting off the money is also an excellent suggestion. Don't you think that there would be far fewer AQ recruits, if we stopped supporting Israeli terrorism and stopped invading and attacking Muslim nations?

Oso for shame! What about the divinely ordained sanctity of the feline race? Bunny breeding will drag American morals into the dirt! What a CATastrophe!! ;-)

That's quite true, Dusty. The US has overthrown more democratically elected governments than any other nation in history. It's time to stop.