Living With Terrorist Threats

Posted on October 30, 2010


Yes, Virginia, these times are unusual and there really is a man called Osama Bin Laden only he doesn’t come to the house laden with toys.  He sends toys laden with explosives to blow us up.  And to make it worse, he always advertises that he will do it, he is about to do it and, after the fact, that he has, in fact done it.  He is a man of detail.

He has several terrorists under him who have set themselves up in other countries.  Currently there is a fiendish cell in Yemen headed up by an American.  This is doubly dangerous because he knows the nature of “the beast” he stalks -i.e. his fellow Americans.  Knowledge of those little cultural subtleties could be the difference between success and failure of a future attack.

These terrorists have caused us to try to extricate ourselves in large numbers from Iraq and Iran because truth to tell, we would have to send massive armies into an increasingly large number of countries if we wanted to destroy them.

Happily we are learning to fight as they do.  They do not go into battle with large tanks and go home nights to large sitting-duck encampments.  Yes, the West is still going to the Holy Land using heavy horses and armor while the Arabs are using their swift horses and light robes.  We have allowed history to repeat itself.  We have not been paying attention.

But the hope to keep the war “over there” and not let it come home has failed.  We learned this past week that now cargo planes are targets to be exploded. Explosives placed on them could easily be detonated by cell phones on the ground and would be equally as effective missiles of destruction as the passenger planes of 9/11.

Terrorists watch the airports.  They know flight schedules and patterns.  They know when a certain aircraft will be over a certain ground checkpoint and at what altitude and this gives them the ability to set off a bomb by remote control at exactly the right moment.  They are not just getting a couple of pilots and some packages.  That aircraft will be a bomb as it drops through the skies at a highly populated area.

While al Qaeda still favors flight, they are also not above using car bombs and suicide bombers here.  So now we know what they can do.  What can we do?  OK so the government wants us to remain vigilant.  That’s a tall order when the average American attention span is less than 5 minutes.  Sustaining the alert state is going to be the key to our protection.  But it doesn’t have to be a 24/7 thing in our lives.  It can’t be.

Remember the Blitz in Britain?  It was a constant rain of bombs from the sky that did incredible damage.  But the Brit cit learned to adapt.  He took a pack of cards or cigarettes under the stairs to keep busy until the all-clear.  He sang songs of the period geared to lift the tension.  He created mythic models of stoicism on film such as Mrs. Minniver.  Daily life adapted to the situation and life became more bearable.  It meant a paradigm shift – a reality check.  Life could be bearable in a bomb shelter.

Even in on the frontier, those wagons going west were  not just subject to possible native attack.  There were wild animals, storms and many other possible disasters lurking.  One is reminded of Donner Pass named for the ill-fated family that could not make it through during a snow-filled winter.

And now there is a new threat – a new kind of enemy organized differently than in the wars of the past.  Al Qaeda has learned that tere is no more difficult weapon to uncover than a determined individual intent upon killing.  Now we face these “weapons” that have been dispersed over the globe by ideologues in highly structured cells.  This is a warfare technique we not only need to fight but to adapt on a broader scale.  Special OP forces in abundance is what we need not 140,000 regular ground troops.

As individuals, we are all responsible for our own safety in large measure.  But most assuredly, we are responsible for our own happiness. This puts some of the control back in our hands that we may feel has slipped away. Control generates confidence and it is this factor that al Qaeda has targeted in us; it is this that we have to maintain in the face of their messages that are geared to raise fear.

What al Qaeda has not thought through is the fact that the kind of a war they are fighting could take down any large government if it is fought well.  That means that if they succeed in establishing their dream of a Caliphate, it would become subject to the same kind of acts of random terror to which they are subjecting others.  They have given us a road map.  “New” only lasts so long.  Men learn and al Qaeda is losing the effective use of surprise.

We are a nation of creative, rugged individuals and you would not want to take us on here at home.  As Saddam used to say to the US military:  come on over and fight us here.  We’ll be waiting for you.

©On My Watch…the writings of SamHenry.  Registration pending.