Thursday, July 07, 2005

It Can Happen Here

Bombings in London, 33 killed to date, 700 hundred injured.

Can it happen here?

Not can it happen here, but when will it happen here? I've spent a good chunk of my life working in the anti-terrorism field and I'm certain that we'll get hit--again and again. Security has always been a function of a society's willingness to pay a price both in terms of money and in terms of sacrificing basic human rights. After D.B. Cooper hijacked a Northwest Airlines flight in 1971, airline pilots called for stronger cockpit doors. The airlines, backed by the FAA, resisted the changes until after 9/11. The rationale: The modifications cost too much. $300 to modify a cockpit door versus 5,000 dead on 9/11. You do the math. Essentially the same thing occured after the destruction of a Pan Am flight over Lockerby, Scotland in 1988. Afterwards,experts called for the X-ray of all checked luggage. The FAA and the airlines resisted. Too expensive, they said.

Israel has one of the best anti-terrorism programs in existence, but they know too well that a terrorist who is willing to sacrifice his or her life armed with a few pounds of C-4 becomes a terrible and almost unstoppable weapon. We're learning that lesson the hard way in Iraq.

Terrorists are opportunists. I was in Paris during a series of bombings on the Metro in the 90s. Every trashcan hade been removed or bolted shut. Armed troops stood on every corner. If you were black or looked Arab, you were stopped and questioned repeatedly. The bombings continued for a while, then the bombers moved onto easier targets. They look for soft targets. Lots of them here in the USA, they just haven't cashed in on them yet.

The paradox is that clamping down on human rights to stop terrorism only creates more terrorists. Like our war against drugs, the war against terror cannot be won unless we are willing to address the root causes; the disaffection of the masses, poverty, oppression, religious and ethnic bias. Unfortunately, attacking the symptoms rather than the causes carries more political weight these days. The terror will continue.

No comments: