America's NERF-Based Security: Reassurance Through
Illusion, Rhetoric, and Fear-Mongering
22 October 2001
(c) 2001 by Author. Permission is granted to quote, reprint or redistribute
provided the text is not altered, and appropriate credit is given.
Summary: An easy-to-read look at various current issues and actions resulting
from September 11th and asking if they are really effective.
With all the hype surrounding the events and aftermath of September 11th
it is difficult to separate the reality and 'signal' from the hype, sensationalism,
and 'noise'. We see increased security at buildings and airports, and
hear of threats around each corner - but how much of what we're seeing
is real, and how much is fear-mongering and/or feel-good security measures
designed more to reassure the American public than be truly effective?
Is the United States scrambling helter-skelter to investigate, prevent,
respond, or censor anything that might be remotely connected to past or
potential terrorist actions? How effective are the proposed 'enhancements'
to existing security postures, really?
This article is intended to provide reality-based answers to these questions,
and are probably not what you'll see on television or the mainstream media.
The decision to write this came from the public reaction to Susan Sontag's
column in the New Yorker Magazine. Her comments - rooted
in reality - generated a significant public uproar that had some branding
her as 'unpatriotic' - the logic being that anyone who does not blindly
accept and support everything the United States proposes in its response
to terrorism must be supportive of terrorism. While I am an American,
and patriotic as Yankee Doodle Dandy, I happen to agree with many of her
comments, and thus this article was born.
If you're wondering, the title of this article symbolizes the knee-jerk
attempts to 'enhance security' in the United States by overt yet ineffective
actions in the public eye, some of which are mentioned below. We all played
innocently with NERF's various sponge toys (balls, frisbees, guns, spears,
darts) as children since it was very difficult to hurt someone with these
realistic-looking toys. Realistic But Harmless - particularly on the airlines
- we're becoming NERFed against anything that might pose a danger through
realistic-looking but totally ineffective security measures. (No offense
to the NERF Company, these make some great products, but with respects,
the analogy fits well for this article.)
Anthraxophobia Wrongly Rules News and Our Lives
Since the case of anthrax was reported in Florida, the media
- particularly the 24-hour cable news channels - focused on the story,
calling in pundit after pundit to discuss the bacteria, preventive measures,
responses, and the nation's ability to defend against a biological attack.
Even now, days later, news 'crawlers' at the bottom of the television
screen continue to display statements and sound bites that - while adding
nothing substantive to the story - serve to elevate the public's collective
blood pressure simply because the word "anthrax" appears on the screen.
On October 19th, the Associated Press even reported that Northwest Airlines
removed powdered artificial sweetners from its airline food service meals
to allay passenger fears! How far will this lunacy go? Will it soon be
illegal to walk down the street eating a powdered doughnut?
Osama Most Likely Isn't Sending Encoded Messages to the Networks
This media-driven "Anthraxophobia" and contradicting government actions
sends mixed messages to the American public, and perpetuating public
fear and misperception about the issue. While the White House presents
an "all is calm" image, the US House of Representatives adjourned for
a long weekend claiming anthrax security concerns, although the Senate
- where there were confirmed anthrax attacks - remained open for legislative
business. Does this sound like a confused government establishment unsure
of how to proceed in today's era of terrorism? A recent New York Times
by Tom Friedman notes that "We have U.S. troops in the field all around
Afghanistan. It can't be easy duty. But the House is running scared.
Just what the terrorists wanted. The House members should be meeting
on the Capitol steps, popping Cipro if they have to, telling America's
troops and America's enemies that nothing - N-O-T-H-I-N-G - will derail
Anthraxophobia has even forced the Pentagon to shutter
its Operation DEAR ABBY service that sends holiday morale messages to
troops deployed overseas. Traditionally, letters - not addressed to
anyone in particular - are sent to the central DEAR ABBY offices and
then passed on to troops. As a result of bureaucratic Anthraxophobia,
however, the Military Postal Service Agency simply shut the service
down. Did it ever occur to them that it might have been a better compromise
to perhaps only accept postcards instead of sealed envelopes that could
contain anthrax? We are starting to see fear influence and dictate policy
and operational decisions - not educated fear, but assumption-based
knee-jerking that's rooted in anything but facts.
While the casual observer - perhaps those whose only source of 'news'
is from shows like 'Hard Copy' or who receive their news from a single
source - may be concerned at the potential of an anthrax attack, realists
may have a far more sinister assessment: given that confirmed anthrax
incidents and anthrax-related scares occurred in isolated areas - Reno,
Manhattan, Madison, and Palm Beach - could it be that an adversary,
be it al Qaeda, Iraq, or a domestic nut case, is simply mailing anthrax
and anthrax-like letters to either cause public paranoia, or (more likely)
is sitting back observing how the government, media, and public react
and respond to this perceived threat, in advance of a future, more widespread
Nobody seems to be interested that anthrax is a very treatable bug
- even after an infection is diagnosed - or that Cipro is not the exclusive
remedy. Folks don't realize that it takes more than a few spores to
cause problems in people. Worse yet, the average person - including
television's talking heads - does not understand or discuss the concept
of drug-resistant infections. If everyone starts taking antibiotics
for any symptom of illness, over time such practices will not only weaken
the protective effect of such medicines on the human body, but also
reduce the impact of such drugs on various infectors like anthrax, smallpox,
The panic and paranoia we're currently seeing about anthrax is insignificant
compared to what we'd see if smallpox, plague, or any other significantly
more deadly substance was reported. Several specialists I've spoken
with agree that on the ' bioweapons food chain' anthrax is nowhere near
the top of deadly weapons. Yet by watching the news, you'd think it
was worse than anything else. One confirmed death from anthrax is certainly
newsworthy, but does not imply terrorism or justify a round-the-clock
news cycle on thestory. However, one person being diagnosed with smallpox
would be both newsworthy and almost certainly terrorism, and nobody's
wondering about that on the airwaves.
Last week, National Security Advisor Condeleeza Rice contacted
the major media outlets and strongly suggested they not broadcast unedited
videos from those involved with Osama or Al Qaeda, fearing that such videos
might contain hidden messages to sleeper cells instructing them to execute
additional pre-planned attacks. Historically, this is not a new concept,
as it was quite effective during World War II with the Special Operations
Executive (SOE) and the Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner to
today's CIA) using civilian radio broadcasts to pass coded messages to
the maquis (the French underground resistance fighters) instructing them
to carry out pre-planned strikes in advance of the Normandy invasion in
Threat Inflation by The Regal Court of W.
Casual observers may think this is a wise precaution, even if they
don't know the success of this technique during World War II, and agree
with the White House's statement that such messages are also propaganda
to incite the rank-and-file Muslim population in the United States in
support of al Qaeda. To a certain extent, that's probably true.
Realists, however, seem to agree that such 'encoded messages' are probably
not a very viable method of communication for our adversaries. It's
already known that al Qaeda knows how to communicate securely - without
encryption, by the way - to coordinate its cells and plan attacks around
the world. Besides, even if the United States media censors such videos,
what prevents people from seeing the video from satellite television,
over the Internet, from international news sources, via telephone, obtaining
a transcript, or placing calls to non-Internet (and old fashioned) computer
bulletin board systems to access the video or text of the statement?
Crazier still, news executives are most likely not intelligence professionals
trained to look for hidden messages or nuances in such statements, nor
do they have the background information on the situation - much of it
from classified sources in the intelligence community -- to provide
specific guidance on what to look for. So, how effective is this, really?
That being said, if the real reason behind the White House request to
censor unedited terrorist videos is a method of quieting propaganda
directed at the United States, why not simply say so? Are they that
concerned that the American people would start believing Osama's babbling
that they must NERF our perceptions of the adversary?
Terrorists are asymmetric and unconventional in their actions, choosing
unorthodox methods of attack. On September 11th, four aircraft were
hijacked with the intention of destroying buildings and killing thousands.
In early October, there were statements by Osama stating that "storms
of airplanes" would never defeat his cause. Soon after, an al Qaeda
spokesperson warned American Muslims "not to board airplanes" or be
in skyscrapers "anytime soon." The news channel 'experts' and government
spokesmen were quick to state these were serious hints that future airline
hijackings were possible. While that's certainly a possibility, given
the unconventional nature of terrorism, perhaps we could interpret these
messages as items intended to draw our attention toward airports and
airplanes while ships, trains, and busses (for example) are the real
targets in a follow-on attack. Nobody wanting to be successful in battle
outlines their exact battle plan or weapons capabilities for their adversaries.
Ask any military historian, this is one of the oldest tactics in the
book, not to mention a common one in boxing - draw your opponent's attention
to the left while aiming for the right. In this case, a terrorist's
A much more effective method of communicating is through sequential
events. Perhaps establishing a one-time-use system along the lines of
"if you hear that a car bomb exploded in Mexico City near Building Y,
begin your particular phase of our operation in 48 hours.." How will
the White House prevent this (and other such) forms of communication
from signaling further attacks? Again, censoring terrorism messages
in the mainstream media may have some impact, but it's not as foolproof
as they, or the public, are led to believe. NERFY Security. Sounds important,
but totally ineffective.
After September 11th, anything that could become a terrorist
tool was deemed a possible threat and became the object of close scrutiny
by the federal government. Some of the more memorable items that came
under investigation and analysis as possible terrorist tools included
crop-dusters, hazardous material tanker trucks, airplanes, semi-trailers,
box cutters, nose-hair clippers, the Internet, encryption, and barbecue
grills. (Well, maybe not barbecue grills, but you get the idea.) A few
of these deserve special mention:
Expanded Electronic Surveillance Doesn't Work Against Low-Tech Brutes
The crop-duster 'threat' might give the uninformed observer pause,
but the realist would look at Justice claims and shake their heads in
disbelief. Granted, crop-dusters spray chemicals from the air, but what
kind of chemicals do they spray? Insecticides and Pesticides - fancy
terms for substances that kill bugs, infections and germs in plants.
Assuming that the adversary doesn't switch tanks or completely clean
them out, it's a good bet that the residual pesticides would negate
part if not all of the biologic agents intended to attack people via
crop-dusters. In addition, the spray orifices (the 'nozzles') used on
crop-dusting aircraft are the wrong size for creating the droplet size
necessary for distributing biologic warfare agents. Further, several
of the common biologic agents require specific environmental conditions
to live in - changes in light or temperature can render such attacks
ineffective. Given the highly-fickle nature of biological weapons, many
educated security experts believe that chemical weapons, not biological
ones, are the preferred weapon in an aerial attack.
Given the attention drawn to crop-dusters by the government and media,
an adversary wanting to distribute biowar agents could be free to wait
for the right weather conditions and simply blow them across an interstate
highway or river. Wait for a temperate, windy day -- it doesn't even
need to be in a city or during rush hour. Drivers would likely think
it's dust from a construction project and drive through the dust as
they often to, and not give the matter a second thought. Meanwhile,
the particles get caught in the vehicle air system and move with the
vehicle (and its occupants) to their destination, thus spreading the
given bioweapon across a wide area. Short of closing all major highways,
roadways, and waterways, how would this be prevented?
Recently, the White House created the Office of Homeland Security that
includes a mission to guard against the so-called, highly-sensational
concept of "cyber-terrorism" against computer networks. While discussing
this issue is an article in itself, suffice it to say that terrorists
are by definition low-tech brutes looking to cause the maximum amount
of public fear. Images of smoking craters and high casualties are
much more effective in generating fear than a darkened computer screen.
Being an effective "information warrior" takes significant technical
and analytical experience and training, something that the impoverished,
uneducated, run-of-the-mill twenty-something member of Club Osama or
the al Qaeda club does not possess. While there always ongoing threats
to critical networks, and a possibility of a 'cyber war' many security
professionals - at least, the few realists in our line of work - deem
this as a potential terrorist target very low. Besides, there are enough
inherent problems in many of today's computer networks and systems that
cause them to fail without any outside assistance!
Creating another bureaucracy charged with accomplishing what four previous
government offices tried to do since 1995 doesn't sound promising, and
continuing to draw on the advice and counsel of CEOs (the last
people competent enough to understand the reality and dynamics of the
infrastructure security environment) through yet another Presidential
Advisory Board further demonstrates the government is once again thinking
very conventionally with its response to a very unconventional problem.
We know what the problems are - we don't need continued studies, research,
and bureaucracy to generate jobs and more paperwork. We need action
and authority to implement effective countermeasures. Unfortunately,
the sad truth is that nobody in charge wants the responsibility to rock
the boat and really fix things - thus we continue creating Boards, Councils,
and generating reports. To use a historical analogy, our President Nero
is fiddling while his cyber-infrastructures burn!
In the month after the events of September 11, the Justice Department
and FBI received nearly everything it sought to (but could not) get under
the Clinton Administration regarding wiretapping, electronic monitoring,
and definitions of terrorism. As a security professional that's worked
with law enforcement investigations in the past, while I question some
of the new powers granted federal law enforcement and the rush to get
them past Congress, I'm happy that the FBI finally received its 'roving
wiretap' authority, something they've needed for a long while, something
that was a major obstacle to the timely investigation of interstate criminal
matters. (One has to wonder if they scheduled an after-hours champagne
party in the FBI's sixth-floor SIOC to quietly mark this historic event.)
Information Resiliency and Futility of the Government's Self-Imposed
Aside from rushing a flawed anti-terrorism bill through Congress (the
discussion of which is a separate article in itself) there were indications
that those responsible for September 11 used e-mail and instant messages
to communicate. Immediately after the attack, there were claims the
attackers hid messages in photos on internet auction site Ebay and used
strong encryption to protect their messages, but these have been unsubstantiated
by hard, tangible evidence. If so, there is a slim chance that expanding
wiretaps and electronic sniffing of data (e.g., Carnivore) would have
been helpful in monitoring such communications. Yet there were renewed
calls to restrict strong encryption, a technology policy horse that's
not only left the barn, but is already across the meadow....attempting
to enact encryption restrictions under the guise of 'anti-terrorism'
is another effort in futility given how technology works, as evidenced
in the mid-1990s. As I've said for years, there are any number of
ways to communicate - electronic and otherwise -- that totally confounds
law enforcement interception and renders any 'expanded authority' obsolete.
Expanding electronic surveillance won't work against such tactics, but
presents the appearance of being 'good for anti-terrorism." An example
of E-NERFy restrictions and legislation.
The experienced co-authors of an as-yet-unpublished article "Terrorism
Today and Tomorrow" correctly note that "our new adversaries are diverse
and linked in unfamiliar ways....Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda, the Taliban,
and a loose coalition of criminal actors, guerillas and insurgents now
challenge national security capabilities that were designed to operate
within a nation-state framework. As we're now seeing, outside that framework,
our traditional structures have great difficulties.
America's current adversaries present a significant challenge to
our government and law enforcement organizations so enamored with high-technology
devices and tradecraft that we are grossly unprepared to handle operations
and adversaries in a low-tech environment. As previously mentioned,
terrorists are low-tech brutes. It's common knowledge (to both VIP visitors
at NSA and the public) that Osama stopped using satellite phones once
it was learned that NSA was intercepting his calls. This also begs the
question regarding the responsibility of the media and NSA tour guides
in reporting these types of facts in the first place, and how these
entities balance national security, public knowledge, and the needs
of their organization's ego about its capabilities.
Late last week, word got out that the federal government started
to remove items from their web sites that 'could help' terrorists. William
Beecher, spokesperson for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said
in an AP story last week that NRC pulled the coordinates of all 103 US
nuclear power plants from the agency's web site. "In most cases it is
common information...nothing top secret was on the Web site to begin with,"
he said. "We just don't want to provide anything that a terrorist might
find helpful." The Department of Transportation's Office of Pipeline Safety
also pulled maps of various domestic pipelines from their web site as
well, and the Environmental Protection Agency conducted similar actions
on its own site with regard to chemical plant security.
Airport Security as The Screen Door on The Submarine (NERF Security @
The casual observer may find this a prudent measure to prevent terrorists
from gaining any information that could be used to conduct additional
acts against the United States, and thus wrongfully assume that once
this information out-of-sight, it is therefore out-of-mind. Unfortunately,
I also see this mindset in action in the IT security industry all too
frequently, and it does not work. They are attempting to 'nuke' information
out of the public eye, but they're only succeeding in NERFing it to
another public venue.
The reality is that any information published on the Internet becomes
able to be instantly copied and archived by any number of sources aroundthe
world. Further, while the government may restrict pipeline information
and coordinates of nuclear plants, it does not take a terrorist mastermind
or uber-spy to find the same information via any other traditional reasearch
methods, including visiting local libraries, industry associations,
reading the local phone book, or (dare I say it?) using common sense.
A fact of physics is that while you may be able to remove information
about a nuclear plant or pipeline from one site in cyberspace, you can't
easily remove its physical presence in real life or everywhere on the
Internet - you have to look at the entertainment industry's cartel and
its failed attempts to quash music file-sharing services to see this
exercise in futility. Think about it -if someone drives by Turkey Point
Nuclear Plant in Florida, they know where it is without having to visit
a website, right? Again, only blind arrogance assumes that removing
information from a few websites will impact a terrorist's plans.
As mentioned earlier, it's an ineffective and high-tech approach to
an effective and low-tech adversary.
I've said repeatedly that terrorists are by definition low-tech
brutes. They don't use Joint Directed Air Munitions (JDAM), Joint
Stand Off Weapons (JSOW), or Tomahawk cruise missiles reliant on Global
Positioning System (GPS) coordinates to locate their targets. Being
low-tech means that such adversaries have much simpler methods of determining
the locations of their targets, and an easier time conducting such attacks.
It's a good bet that the hijackers didn't need the GPS coordinates of
the World Trade Center towers in New York on September 11th, and didn't
step all over themselves coordinating radio frequencies, codewords,
go/abort signals, and network adapters. They Keep It Simple.
Despite the government's clampdown on pipeline and power plant information
on its federally-owned websites, a few minutes at my local library and
online resulted in information that can be found here.
You'll see several examples of information that could be considered
'helpful' to a terrorist in planning attacks. Yet this information is
also quite useful for the law-abiding citizens, visitors, and businesses
of the United States. Some of this information was removed from government
websites recently, but most of it is freely available in a variety of
formats to the public.
Thus, the realist knows that the government's much-publicized restriction
of its various web sites does little to impact or prevent an adversary
from obtaining useful targeting information from a variety of sources
- both electronic and traditional - and is the government's inside-the-box
response to a non-issue. As we see in the IT security community, information
is a dual-use item, and the mere fact that a given set of facts (or
knowledge) can be used for evil does notnecessarily follow that it will
be used for evil. The point-and-click convienience may be gone,
but the information exists in a multitude of other formats.
Since September 11th, we've seen airport and airline security
measures reviewed and increased...at least as far as the public is concerned.
Seeing camouflaged and armed National Guardsmen patrolling our airports
presents the appearance of increased airport security. Prohibiting everything
from nail clippers to tweezers, Swiss Army Knives, box cutters, and sewing
needles results in increased pre-board search times at airports, and the
public's perception that security is being strengthened on our airplanes.
For a firsthand account of the current airport security fallacies - including
bags not being matched to passengers and arriving at a destination before
their owners - I encourage you to read this missive
from a respected intelligence professional who's also a close friend.
While some security procedures, such as reinforcing cockpit doors and
developing 'auto-land' capabilities for aircraft will truly increase aircraft
safety, some of the other measures - particularly at the airports - are
just downright goofy.
Terrorists Don't Keep Bankers' Hours (But Those Guarding Our Buildings
Recently, an officer friend in the National Guard called and asked
if I noticed anything odd about his fellow Guardsmen posted at the airports
I frequent. I said that nothing looked strange, but that I'd look again
when on travel later in the week. Sure enough, a closer, casual observation
revealed that many of the Guardsmen at airports are either unarmed or
apparently instructed to hold their hands strategically over their holsters
(perhaps containing an unloaded or non-existent weapon) to give the
public impression they are indeed armed. To the average person, this
presents the warm-and-fuzzy illusion of security, but that's just about
what it is - only an illusion.
Let's not forget that a pen, house key, a piece of plastic, string,
shoelace, belt, credit cards, and any number of other innocuous everyday
items or trinkets can be made into a weapon, yet can be carried onboard
aircraft, even after the latest security changes. More fundamentally,
anyone with two fists, feet, and teeth - regardless of any martial arts
training - can endanger passengers or flight crews. Even something as
innocuous as an airplane fire extinguisher - a handheld device readily
available to all passengers in an emergency -could be misused as a blunt
trauma weapon onboard an aircraft. Are we going to prevent anyone from
using such items under anything but 'approved' circumstances? Who determines
what those circumstances are?
It is important to realize that the items used as weapons to commandeer
four aircraft on September 11 were not prohibited by existing federal
airport security guidelines. Anything that can be controlled by a
person - tools, pens, trinkets, guns, knives, and information - can
be turned into a weapon with the proper modification and intent.
Incidentially, a six hundred page Danielle Steele hardback novel could
be used as a weapon. And what about blunt force trauma caused by impact
from a metallic laptop or strangulation from a power cord or a Walkman's
headphones? As if airline food wasn't bad enough of a concern for us.
Are we destined to live in a hardened world of safety scissors and
plastic sporks, boarding airplanes in hospital scrubs after being strip-searched
and separated from our carry-on bags? Will our flights become extended
periods of people sitting at a cramped 'attention' in their airborne
sardine cans, staring at the seatbacks in front of them, prohibited
from standing, eating, reading, listening to music, or using anything
sharper than a witty remark to their seatmates? If this becomes reality
- and were' on that course already - you can bet I'll start driving
home for the holidays.
The reality is that these are feel-good, scrunchy, NERFy steps to encourage
the public to fly again by presenting the appearance of increased security.
Yet, there have been numerous cases of pilots, flight attendants, and
passengers 'testing' these new security requirements and successfully
moving newly-prohibited objects past security checkpoints since September
11. That fact alone should indicate the nature and state of these vaunted
'increased' security measures, and question its true effectiveness.
There are currently new provisions prohibiting semi-trailers
from driving on the two major DC roads that flank the Capitol grounds.
The casual observer will interpret this as increased security to prevent
against future terrorist attacks.
Contrary to Patriotic Rhetoric, America Is Reaping What It Sowed (We
just don't want to know or admit it)
Realists, however, will note that the events of September 11th demonstrate
one of any number of ways to attack a facility that bypasses street
closings, and something that's been quietly discussed in security circles
for years. While street closings may reduce the size of vehicles that
can pass through it, nothing precludes an explosives-laden SUV or Volkswagen
Bug from wreaking havoc in the area at an opportune moment.
More strikingly, working close to the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia,
the week after the attacks saw increased police vehicles and military
policeman checking credentials of those driving into garages of military
buildings here. Three weeks after the attacks, there was no sign of
military police checking vehicles as they entered garages...it was as
if the threat to those buildings had magically disappeared. However,
after the October 11th FBI advisory warning that additional attacks
were possible, military police were back checking vehicles and patrolling
the sidewalks in front of their buildings during the business day. However,
driving by at 7:45 one evening, I did not see any police or guards checking
vehicles, and was able to drive into the same garage that was protected
by military policeman three hours earlier! I've also been in DoD facilities
that prohibit entry from any door but the front door during work hours,
where staff identification is checked - but after 5:00pm, since there
are fewer security guards to check badges, monitor cameras, and make
rounds, authorized staff are free to use their access cards and enter
the building from any external door. This is Feel-Good, Look-Good security
in action, plain and simple.
Based on these observations, one assumes that those in charge of
homeland security believe that we're facing an adversary working on
a 9-5 40-hour workweek schedule. Something tells me that an unconventional
adversary doesn't keep bankers hours or regular schedules.
Any discussion of Islam would take several pages alone, but
suffice it to say that those that understand Islam know it is a religion
rooted in charity and peace. Those Americans that equate Islam to
terrorism, Hezzbola, bin-Laden, and al Qaeda are ignorant of the reality
of Islam, and wrongfully interpret these extremists as representatives
of the Islamic and Arab communities, as evidenced in the increased anti-Arab,
anti-Islamic criminal incidents in recent weeks. Nothing could be further
from the truth -- Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance; the nut-cases
in al Qaeda do not speak for the world Islamic community, just as a Christian
blowing up an abortion clinic does not speak for all Christians around
the world. In the same vein, American evangelists Jerry Falwell and
Pat Robertson used religious overtones to explain and justify the September
11 attacks, but these two men don't represent mainstream Christianity
as a whole. As Americans, we have always prided ourselves as a tolerant
mixing pot of world cultures and ideologies, and we should continue being
tolerant of our fellow Islamic and Arab citizens and neighbors. Being
Islamic or Arab does not indicate a proclivity for terrorism. Thus endeth
my soapbox sermon.
What Osama's Real Problem Is (Rick's Patriotic Comedy)
Truth be told, the Taliban have a reason to hate America - as
is often the case when America gets involved in foreign nations' conflicts,
we tend to pull out once our goals are reached, leaving those we supported
to fend for themselves. When the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in
February 1989, the Untied States also withdrew its support of the anti-Soviet
mujhadeen, since American interests in the country were reached once
the Soviet war machine and communism departed. Post-Soviet Afghanistan
became one of deep poverty, civil war, estranged elections, and famine....yet
because the Soviets were gone, the United States had little interest
in helping rebuild the battered nation. It is this type of foreign policy
that generates anti-American sentiment and support for al Qaeda. It
may also be justifying our current humanitarian relief mission in Afghanistan
as a way for the United States to relieve its guilt at 'abandoning'
the Afghans in 1989. If we do not learn from our history, we're potentially
doomed to not only repeat it, but become endangered by it, as we are
Club Osama, on the other hand, is filled with individuals possessing
limited education and exposure to (and perhaps are jealous of) the international
standards of conduct and society. Nearly all of what they know comes
from cave-borne propaganda and religious brainwashing. Simply put, their
goal is to return the Arab world to the strict medieval Islamic culture
of the 15th Century, using the world's oil interests in Saudi Arabia
and the presence of Israel as a cassus belli for an Islamic holy war
with the intentions of freeing Saudi Arabia's religious lands from so-called
"Western invaders" and restoring the Palestinean State where Israel
currently sits. Club Osama's radical, tyrannical view uses a very warped
interpretation of the Koran to strive toward an isolationist Islamic
world where religion is the absolute law, women serve as disposable
walking wombs (incidentally, female US soldiers in Saudi Arabia really
angers Osama) and anything non-Islamic is inherently evil and must be
The concept of a holy war (a jihad) in the Club Osama Brochure does
not refer to the quest by Muslim individuals to lead a wholesome life
according to their religion, but to use any means necessary to defend
the Islamic culture against the declared Evil De Jour. Unfortunately,
the word 'jihad' has been in frequent use in the Western press over
the past decade or two, explained directly or subtlety, to mean an Islamic
'holy war.' (As a matter of fact, the term 'holy war' was coined in
Europe during the Crusades, referring to the many wars waged against
Muslims by European invaders in the Middle Ages.) Jihad is not a declaration
of war against other religions and certainly not against Christians
and Jews as some media and political circles want it to be perceived.
Islam does not fight other religions. Christians and Jews are considered
as fellow inheritors of The Abrahamic traditions by Muslims (historically
called "People of The Book") that worship the same God.
The Koran makes reference to war as a last resort, very much like the
Just War Ethic of the Catholic Church or international laws. Reading
similar to the United Nations Charter, the Koran states that adveraries
should "..make peace between them (the two fighting groups), but if
one of the two persists in aggression against the other, fight the aggressors
until they revert to God's commandment." (49:9) Military action is therefore
a subgroup of the Jihad and not its totality, and represents the ultimate
scenario when diplomacy and communications break down between international
We have to acknowledge that nearly all major religions - Islam, Christianity,
and Judiasim, among others - had their lapses in honestly following
the valued ideals of their religions or philosophies. Over the course
of human history, religion has been responsible for more man-made
deaths than any man-made device. This is no reflection on religion,
but it shows how desperately humanity is in need of better education,
more enduring concern for human dignity, rights and freedom, tolerance,
and vigilant pursuit of justice, even at the price of curbing political,
economic, ideological, and individual greed.
Unfortunately, as we saw during the 1930s in the Great Depression and
post World War I Germany, people that are impoverished, with little
direction in life, and not much to live for tend to elect and follow
leaders promising radical change for their society. This, coupled
with religious laws, customs, and occasional brainwashing, presents
a significant adversary with no reservations about dying (and ascending
to heaven) for conducting actions that their religious beliefs or national
loyalties - however warped - deem a just cause (Incidentally, Adolph
Hitler's campaign slogan in the 1930s was 'give me four years and you
won't recognize Germany.' A historical demonstration of the Law of Unintended
Has anyone else noticed the Freudian picture presented whenever
America's adversaries (Osama, Omar, and al Qaeda representatives) appear
in the media? Has anyone seen these individuals without a Kalishnikov
rifle slung over their shoulder, hanging on the wall behind them, next
to them on a cushion, or being casually stroked in their lap while they
deliver their messages to the world? While the casual outsider would probably
interpret this as an attempt to convey fear in the image on television
- I suggest this demonstrates a high degree of personal insecurity, possibly
hinting at deeper personal issues, perhaps physical limitations or the
absence of a significant, meaningful adolescent experience. Maybe that's
what this is really about, these warped men trying to enhance their manhood
in a part of the world that doesn't carry Viagra. After all, everyone
has personal problems.
The co-authors of "Terrorism Today and Tomorrow" noted that "the world
of today and tomorrow is one dominated by a conflict between those ìwho
haveî and those ìwho have notî. Those with a conflicting cultural
or religious ideology are likely to challenge our superiority according
to their rules, not our rules. Their modus operandi blurs and will
continue to blur the distinctions between crime and war, criminal and
civil, combatant and non-combatant. Their actions will seek to exploit
the seams of the modern stateís internal and external security structures.
These emerging challengers will embrace unconventional means not amenable
to conventional responses.
If we begin to live in constant fear, we allow the adversary to win.
The United States is not the first industrial nation to experience terrorism
at home - Israel has lived with assorted Arab-sponsored terrorism since
it became a state in 1948, and the United Kingdom has been victimized
by Irish terrorism for longer than that. We, too, will survive thisÖ.and
we will, provided we keep things in perspective, do our own research,
and draw our own conclusions on what the real threats and security measures
are, instead of taking what is presented by the government and media as
The wisdom I hope you've gleaned from this article is that contrary to
what is presented on the media and enacted as law or new procedures, little
is really effective at preventing or adversely impacting future terrorist
activities. This is a different kind of war - not only is it a military
one, but a psychological one for us at home. We're not as secure or as
prepared as the government would lead us to believe, and there is no clear
defense against the impact of terrorism except to keep an open mind and
continue our normal lives the best we can.
The President is waging a self-declared "war on terrorism" against a
"new enemy" that modern America is not prepared to face. This article
has shown, however, that much of the defensive posturing in this new war
-- especially at home -- is conventional, traditional, and predictable
- and thus rather ineffective against an unconventional adversary and
philosophy. We would be wise to recall the warning of Edward Luttwak in
his 1997 text Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace: "War, in common
with sport, has the characteristic that what worked well yesterday may
not work well tomorrow, precisely because it worked yesterday."
Welcome to tomorrow.
A military intelligence professional's firsthand
report on the state of airport security
of what can be gleaned online despite the government's removal of information
from its websites. Anyone with the right resources, time, and effort could
use libraries, phone books, and traditional research methods to obtain
this type of targeting information.
"Terrorism Today and Tomorrow" - Currently unpublished article (draft
copy) co-authored by Col. G.I. Wilson, USMCR, Sgt. John P. Sullivan, Los
Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and Lt.Col. Hal Kempfer, USMCR.
Thomas Friedman's Op-Ed: "A
Tweezer Defense Shield?" appearing in the 19 October 2001 New York
Times Foreign Affairs Section.
(We've all had a Eureka moment in recent days when we realized the new
world we're living in post-Sept. 11. For me it came at National Airport
the other day when, while checking in for the Delta Shuttle to New York,
my small overnight bag was searched and the security agent found my tweezers.
"I'm sorry," she said. "You have to check this...")
(c) 2001 by Author. Permission is granted to quote, reprint or redistribute
provided the text is not altered, and appropriate credit is given.
No, the author has no grudge with the NERF Company and thinks they make