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The Great Terrorist Failure of September 11

By localroger in Op-Ed
Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 06:21:17 PM EST
Tags: News (all tags)

Much has been made in the media about the sophistication, planning, and diabolical brilliance of the September 11 terrorist action. I would like to offer another interpretation -- the terrorists spent millions of dollars and years in preparation, and failed at most of their objectives.

We've seen the pictures. We've heard the stories. We've spent our time shaking fists at the TV and mourning. We wake up and once again, two mighty towers and over six thousand people are not there.

In the midst of this tragedy I'd like to remind everyone that, from all appearances, the terrorists were not particularly smart, and their much more grandiose plan was a dismal failure.

  • The terrorists prepared by taking flight training, an expensive, time-consuming, paper-trail creating, and unnecessary step if you don't ever plan to take off or land.
  • Despite common suspicions, the terrorists do not seem to have used Microsoft Flight Simulator or a similar tool to train. Besides being cheaper and more private than flight school, FS would have given them the experience they might need to locate a landmark like the White House from an unfamiliar angle -- straight up.
  • It seems apparent that the terrorists had a grand and stupid plan to topple the WTC towers onto neighboring buildings. The buildings did not collapse because of good terrorist planning; the buildings were designed to survive an airliner hitting them and they did so. The towers fell later, through an unexpected synergy of copious burning jet fuel and shattered standpipes that prevented the fire from being fought.
  • While the death toll was awful, it was a pittance of what would have happened had the towers collapsed immediately. It seems likely that the terrorists were hoping for a death toll of 40 to 60 thousand, the full population of the towers plus topple damage. Instead the towers waited for the evacuation to be nearly complete and then imploded more gracefully than anybody had any right to expect. In the end the terrorists destroyed a bunch of mostly evacuated buildings.
  • Only the first two of at least four planes found their targets. Plane #3 apparently diverted to the Pentagon after failing to find its real target and only demonstrated how truly vast our military infrastructure is -- after blowing up a fraction of the outer rings the rest of the building continued to function. It's just too big to be attacked that way.
  • Plane #4 demonstrated what will happen in the future if hijacks are attempted. After only half an hour they had already lost their primary weapon and they have probably lost it indefinitely.
  • It seems likely that one hijack went unattempted because the flight was cancelled due to mechanical failure. (This is also the cause of plane #4's 30 minute delay, which allowed the passengers to find out the new rules in time to adopt the new strategy.)
  • It seems likely that other hijacks went unattempted because of the prompt grounding of all flights by the US Government, a surprisingly wise step that startled everybody.
  • After having partial success at only two of as many as eight or more targets, the tactic is ruined and the organization must go to earth because so many operatives bracing for suicide runs made themselves visible at airports and in other planes scheduled to fly that day.
  • Much hay is being made at this moment about "ringleader Atta's" sniffing around crop dusters several weeks ago. This sniffing cannot have been at an advanced stage yet Atta would be dead mere weeks after making these inquiries, and the inquiries themselves would arouse more suspicions. Clearly an unwise or uncooordinated maneuver, whatever Atta's intentions may have been for the crop duster he wanted to buy.
The masterminds who plotted the events of September 11 cannot be happy. Most of their plan went unattempted or awry, and the actions that succeeded did so in a way that allowed the majority of potential victims to escape (and if they were counting on toppling the towers, that's the vast majority). They have aroused the hornet's nest of American wrath and left the landscape littered with clues to their carefully concealed identities. And they have left the public wary and attentive so that the most economical and useful tactic they had at their disposal, the suicide-hijacking, will probably never work again during our lives.


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The Great Terrorist Failure of September 11 | 67 comments (41 topical, 26 editorial, 0 hidden)
Possibly. (4.37 / 16) (#3)
by Dlugar on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 09:10:58 PM EST

It's obvious that the terrorists failed in a number of their objectives. However, it is just as likely that their primary purpose wasn't to kill people, but rather to destroy symbols of capitalism and United States government. Why else would they send the planes in at nine-fifteen, instead of an hour or two later when the maximum number of people would be in the buildings?

Despite common suspicions, the terrorists do not seem to have used Microsoft Flight Simulator or a similar tool to train.
First of all, if they wanted to "do it right," so to speak, they would definitely get genuine flight training and not simply used Microsoft Flight Simulator. But how do you know they didn't use FS to augment their training? Did you go up and ask them?

It seems apparent that the terrorists had a grand and stupid plan to topple the WTC towers onto neighboring buildings.
Why is this apparent? You offer no evidence for this. If they trained as long as is apparent they did, they likely researched their targets and knew exactly what the result would be. It is very possible, as I mentioned before, that their sole purpose was to topple the symbols of America's wealth and capitalism. Any other damage caused by the falling of the buildings would not likely be counted on.

It seems likely that other hijacks went unattempted because of the prompt grounding of all flights by the US Government, a surprisingly wise step that startled everybody.
Rubbish. It seems likely that other hijacks went unattempted because only those four were planned. The four planes were all hijacked at the same time, which makes me think that the terrorists knew exactly what would happen if other hijackings were attempted later on. The only thing that saved plane #4's target is that it left late. It also seems likely that plane #3 didn't reach its target because of quick military intervention.

They have aroused the hornet's nest of American wrath and left the landscape littered with clues to their carefully concealed identities.
Arabic "How to fly commercial jets for Dummies" left in rental cars? Doesn't sound like "carefully concealed identities" to me. It seems fairly certain that the hijackers didn't care who knew who they were, since they were planning to be dead anyway.

No, I think the terrorist's plans went, and are going, exactly as they laid them out. If you have any better information to the contrary than these wild speculations, please let us know.


Fair questions (4.00 / 6) (#5)
by localroger on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 09:23:20 PM EST

But how do you know they didn't use FS to augment their training? Did you go up and ask them?

No; I base this on what seems to be their inability to find a primary target, the White House, to which they had unerringly vectored, and their diversion to a secondary and much more futile target, the Pentagon.

Also, you don't need to "do it right" when you're going to ram an already-flying jetliner into a building. Any pilot could have told them this. (Jetliners are much easier to fly than a Cessna.) They were obviously unaware that real flight training was not necessary for what they really wanted to do.

Re: toppling the towers
Why is this apparent? You offer no evidence for this. If they trained as long as is apparent they did, they likely researched their targets and knew exactly what the result would be.

Because there was no research they could have done, no source they could have accessed, of any credibility, which would have told them that ramming the towers with a plane would work. Quite the opposite. During the initial minutes of the disaster all the architects and engineers were explaining why the towers would probably survive, and when they actually did collapse the mood was one of shock and disbelief. The experts did not think such an attack would work. Therefore, the terrorists did not consult experts.

Rubbish. It seems likely that other hijacks went unattempted because only those four were planned.

The news is reporting incidents of box cutters being found stashed on airliners grounded that day, and of known compatriots of the known bombers having booked tickets on grounded flights. It would be an amazing coincidence indeed if all the things being reported were actually coincidental.

Arabic "How to fly commercial jets for Dummies" left in rental cars? Doesn't sound like "carefully concealed identities" to me.

Of course not, not at that point -- they would expect the pamphlets to be found eventually, but only after the successful conclusion of their plans, at which point it wouldn't matter. Except that it does matter, because much of the plan went wrong or didn't go, and the advantage of surprise has now been lost.

No, I think the terrorist's plans went, and are going, exactly as they laid them out. If you have any better information to the contrary than these wild speculations, please let us know.

OK, I just have. You have the same access to information that I do; I just have offered an interpretation of it here (that's what "op-ed" means). I claim no godlike or insider knowledge of the situation, but what I perceive after the bullshit filter is through with the news is quite different from the omniscient campaign overtly described by the media.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Agreed (3.80 / 5) (#16)
by Phage on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 10:24:36 PM EST

I have just read that there were a number of imposter pilots in the jump-seats of those grounded planes using US Airlline ID's previously stolen.
Further, wasn't one of the later suspects caught with Lufthansa uniforms in his baggage ?
It would appear that whilst the scale of the attack was mind-boggling, the planned attack may have been as many as twelve or more planes in a concerted attack over some hours of the morning of 9/11.

I assume that they knew that not all of these would be successful, but from what I have read I beleive that we are looking at the successful hijack of only the first wave, and casualties (particularly amongst emergency personnel) were much lower than expected.

I am merely building castles in the air, but the idea of a rain of jets on NY seems to fit with the "character" of a kamikaze attack. YMMV.

I don't find Heathens to be sexy, as a general rule.
[ Parent ]

Had you put this in your article, (4.50 / 6) (#19)
by Dlugar on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 10:34:20 PM EST

it would have been 100% better. Regardless, there's still much missing. Particularly, links and sources.

I base this on what seems to be their inability to find a primary target, the White House, to which they had unerringly vectored, and their diversion to a secondary and much more futile target, the Pentagon.
I do not see this as a rational explanation. First of all, the Pentagon and the White House are pretty darn near each other. Secondly, from my quick perusal of some Terraserver maps, the White House doesn't appear at all to be a difficult target to find from the air, especially with that whole Washington Monument thing guiding your path. It is far more likely that (a) the passengers started fighting back, and the terrorists downed the plane on the nearest government building, or perhaps (b) the US fighter jets that had scrambled caught up to the passenger airplanes and the terrorists decided to crash there instead of trying to make it all the way to the White House. If you supplied links to the flight patterns of this jet, I might be more willing to accept this story.

Regardless, "They couldn't find the White House because they didn't use Flight Simulator" is a lousy explanation. Just because they didn't use FS doesn't mean it would have helped, or perhaps even they did use it and it helped them not a whit.

Also, you don't need to "do it right" when you're going to ram an already-flying jetliner into a building. Any pilot could have told them this.
It's not extremely difficult to hit, but considering that this was, as you said, their "only shot", wouldn't you have made it a good one? Let's assume that flight-simulator trained terrorists had a 1 out of 10 chance of missing the WTC, while one who had taken flight lessons for a few months had a 1 out of 100 chance of missing the WTC. Knowing that hijacking planes to crash them into targets would be no longer an option after this event, they likely did their best to ensure that the pilots were well-trained.

In addition, my cousin is a pilot and uses Flight Simulator frequently. It takes him hours to calibrate his custom joystick to get it pretty close the planes he uses--and still, it's "not the same." Is it "close enough"? Perhaps, but apparently the terrorists weren't willing to take that chance. I will assure you, however, that being in front of a computer on the ground and being in a cockpit in the air are two completely different experiences from a purely psychological standpoint.
The experts did not think such an attack would work. Therefore, the terrorists did not consult experts.
Actually, every single construction engineer I've heard interviewed said that they knew instantly the towers would come down after being hit by a plane that size--it was only a matter of time. Again, if you have links to back up your story, please provide them. Both planes were on their way to the other side of the country, and hence had completely full tanks of airplane fuel. Are you saying this was chance?

The news is reporting incidents of box cutters being found stashed on airliners grounded that day,
I have heard no such rumours. This may very well be true, but you will have to back up this story with links before I give them any credence. Even in an Op-Ed piece, you ought to give readers some evidence for your otherwise unsupported opinions.


[ Parent ]
How do you link memories? (4.00 / 5) (#23)
by localroger on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 11:18:15 PM EST

I was at work when the attack began. Someone called a secretary, and one employee began trying to download CNN's hopelessly bogged site. When the picture finally came back, of WTC 1 with the huge hole in its upper flank, we gasped. Then, as we were watching this, the phone rang again and we learned of the second strike.

At that point the boss decided to get out the TV, the one we use for video presentations, except we had no antenna. I went back to shop 1 and got some scrap wire and rammed it into the center of the "F" connector of the VCR and was holding it in my hand, waving it about while about 10 other people watched the results, when we saw through the snow the collapse of the first tower.

My boss saw the look on my face and gently took up the task of fixing the makeshift antenna while I sank to my knees. Not long before, I had been arguing here that the missile defense shield was a worthless waste of money because it was just so easy to steal an airplane. Never in my wildest dreams had I dreamt this nightmare, though. It was the very proof that I had been so right that I wanted to throw up.

I have formed the opinion in this piece out of a mirage of days spent working, all through the weekend, since Friday in a strange and backward town with no Internet connection, and all the while listening to the news on whatever channel was available. It frankly never occurred to me that anybody with access to electronic communication would not have heard any of the things I have mentioned, and it seems like a lot of them have now dropped off the 'net in a hurry due to some sort of misplaced idea of reverence for the victims.

I know I hear about a *lot* of pictures and stories I've never seen. The whole thing is too big for any of us to have seen the whole thing.

I see people questioning things here I know I've seen with my eyes, not once but several times (or I'd not have used them). But to find them? In this hysteria things are being moved quickly to the backburner. There are probably people more net- and media- savvy than I who could flesh out this story in minutes with links, but I'm not one of them. I wrote this based on memories and growing suspicions. I don't claim it to be absolute or right or perfect; that's why I filed it under "op-ed."

I have never in my entire life seen an actual op-ed piece in an actual newspaper accompanied by a footnote or reference. Not once. Perhaps this is another of my misunderstandings of the incredibly poorly documented K5 community and structure, but that's what op-ed has always meant to me. Your documentation is the world. Now I realize it's different here and I'll deal with it differently in the future. But it's not like journalism anywhere else.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

The problem with memories ... (4.00 / 3) (#27)
by Dlugar on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 11:40:21 PM EST

Memories can be faulty, and news sources have in the past few weeks reported various rumours and untruths. The fact is, if you can't find any information about these things corroborated on the web somewhere, it's likely they aren't true.

I have never in my entire life seen an actual op-ed piece in an actual newspaper accompanied by a footnote or reference. Not once.
Not necessarily the poor documentation of K5 (which is quite poor), but rather poor documentation of the voters whims :-)

"Journalism" on the web is usually riddled with links to back up one's claims, hence the lack of them is seen to be rather suspicious--whether an op-ed or not. Quite frequently there is some piece where claims are pure opinion and links cannot be found, but your article was not one of them.

The only problem I see is that you say things like, "you don't need real flight training to crash into buildings," "they didn't use Flight Simulator", "the terrorists wanted to topple the towers onto neighboring buildings," and so forth throughout each of your bullet points--each time stating it as if it were fact, without supplying any evidence whatsoever, anecdotal or no. Your reply to me gave me more of the anecdotal evidence I desired, but still no hard links. I think it would have been better if the bullet points had been conclusions backed up by some of the observations you mentioned in your reply, rather than unsupported premises used to support the conclusion of "This Whole Thing Was a Failure".

But, if you'll notice, I voted your article up. :-) I don't see the lack of links in an op-ed as being a critical failure of an article which needs to be voted down (as apparently some others do), but rather as an easy target for me to supply more plausible alternatives and, without further proof/links to back up your story, the discussion ends. At any rate, thanks for the article!


[ Parent ]
I did notice... (3.75 / 4) (#29)
by localroger on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 11:47:32 PM EST

...that you voted it up. Your criticism is not taken lightly, nor any of the other comments I've received here.

There really needs to be a manual for people who weren't here from [insert critical moment] to explain to them about K5. (hey, you know, lit.hatori42.com could benefit from that too.) There are a lot of hidden assumptions in any community, and while the smart newcomer will figure most of them out there are always pitfalls not often enountered which even a savvy newcomer might miss.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Good :-) (3.66 / 3) (#32)
by Dlugar on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 12:47:01 AM EST

I was worrying that I might have gotten a little harsh. I don't mean to be harsh, I just get a little apathetic sometimes and don't worry enough about other people's feelings. It's easy in text mediums to interpolate negative emotions into my comments when really, there's a complete lack of them.</tangent>

As for a K5 manual, the problem with that is that the "hidden assumptions" change faster than manuals can be written. For example, I think the only "hidden assumption" you fell prey to was that "There have been a bazillion WTC articles; any other ones had better be darn good." I'm certain had this been on any other topic, it would have been rated considerably higher.

Oh, and by the way, in case you didn't notice--I do have a user ID approximately a thousand higher than yours. You predate me here at Kuro5hin by about four months, judging from comments posted, and have a few more stories posted than I do. In fact, I remember seeing one of those stories on the Front Page when I first came to Kuro5hin--hence have been rather confused that you seem to need any sort of manual. No, the whims of K5 are swift as the wind ... no need to blame it on the lack of documentation. Wouldn't help in the least. ;-)


[ Parent ]
Hard to say (3.00 / 8) (#12)
by spacejack on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 09:54:52 PM EST

If they just wanted to crudely strike at symbols of US govt./capitalism, as a message that "we can do this", they did pretty well. That the towers actually collapsed may have been an added "bonus" in their view.

I would think that if the terrorist's objective was to kill people, or destroy massive amounts of property, smashing the planes into other targets would seem to be more effective. It's difficult to describe the WTC disaster as having "limited" collateral damage, but in the grand scheme of things, particularly when you consider the hypothetical types of threats they've been discussing on the news, it could've been worse.

On what do you waste 10 suicide bombers? (3.50 / 4) (#13)
by localroger on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 10:06:52 PM EST

I've seen reports of bin Laden or somebody (it's getting late and I'm getting drunk now) bragging about "150 suicide bombers." Well, they wasted 19 of them Tuesday last, and to what? That's an average of about 300 casualties per suicider. I don't think the planners are very happy with that. *I* wouldn't be if *I* was their logistical planner. They have blown the element of surprise, more than a tenth of their potential strike force, and a yet unknowable number of operatives who might be captured due to the evidence trail on a venture that mainly knocked down a bunch of stuff that will be rebuilt one day. I don't think for one minute that, for example, these wingnuts would have been happy if the towers had kept standing, with holes in their sides, and a lesser number dead. They were indeed timing it to kill people, not during the period of maximum occupation but during that of maximum chaos when people were in transit to their workplaces. But the building's failure to collapse immediately ruined the effect. It gave the WTC towers time to evacuate those who could -- a majority -- and perhaps more importantly the surrounding buildings time to evacuate too. I don't think the terrorists planned on that delay. In fact, I suspect that they counted their mission a total failure during the moments between the twin impacts and first collapse. I can't document it and it's just me, but I can't see putting that kind of effort behind something (including ten voluntary suicide troops) for such a meagre result.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

hmm (3.00 / 2) (#17)
by spacejack on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 10:28:51 PM EST

Well if they wanted to kill lots of people, then why not just fly the planes into nuclear power plants or toxic bio labs or something?

[ Parent ]
Exactly. (3.00 / 2) (#20)
by Dlugar on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 10:43:07 PM EST

All the evidence points away from them wanting to "kill the maximum number of people", and towards wanting to "destroy the symbols of the parts of the United States that the Middle East sees as most abhorrent."


[ Parent ]
Simple (4.00 / 4) (#21)
by localroger on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 11:00:29 PM EST

Well if they wanted to kill lots of people, then why not just fly the planes into nuclear power plants or toxic bio labs or something?

Because before you can fly the plane into the target you have to find it. The WTC and Pentagon are supremely easy to find from almost any angle. Other targets, like the White House (to which planes #3 and #4 vectored very accurately before taking their very different alternate courses) are not nearly so obvious from the air.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

even so, then (3.50 / 2) (#25)
by spacejack on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 11:32:01 PM EST

you would have to know what resources they have to know how successful they thought they were. Terrorist attacks are known for being sloppy and unpredictable, they would know that too. More importantly, it is a question of how many more "weapons" they have installed in the U.S. and Canada. Are there 20 more guys ready to pull something else tomorrow, and then 20 more next month? Or do they need to spend another 5 years planning something else, now up against tightened security here? From the terrorist's point of view, has the biggest, lowest, ripest fruit just been plucked from the tree, and is most everything else out of reach... or not? Have they intentionally "held off" using nastier weapons? We just don't have enough information.

[ Parent ]
Flying into toxic bio labs... (3.50 / 2) (#51)
by chipuni on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 04:22:42 PM EST

I believe that finding the toxic bio labs would be difficult.

It's easy to find the corporate headquarters for companies that make toxic chemicals. But it's harder to find out what's made in their factories, and how toxic what they make is.

The U.S. government also makes toxic chemicals. Do you know for certain where they make them, and where they store them? (Be sure to know what your sources are.)
Perfection is not reached when nothing more can be added, but only when nothing more can be taken away.
Wisdom for short attention spans.
[ Parent ]

Because... (4.00 / 2) (#58)
by physicsgod on Thu Sep 27, 2001 at 07:43:00 PM EST

Flying a plane into a nuclear power plant or a "toxic bio lab" (whatever that is) wouldn't kill 6000 people. Assuming a plane breached the containment building and the pressure vessle of a nuclear plant you wouldn't kill 6000 people. Hell, the Chernobyl incident, which is pretty much ideal for radioactive dispersal, only killed 40some people.

If by "toxic bio labs" you mean the CDC research centers you're no better off. Research labs usually keep only small quantities of nasty bugs on hand, combine that with the sterilization from a jet fuel fire and the death toll would be rather limited.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]

Everything's relative (3.42 / 7) (#18)
by tmoertel on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 10:31:03 PM EST

Much of the shocking "success" attributed to the terrorists' attack can no doubt be explained by the widespread expectation that nothing so devastating could happen on U.S. soil. Additionally, like a presentation that leaves the audience impressed only because nobody but the speaker knows about the notes left at home and the slides wasted in the faulty projector, the attack benefits from the audience's ignorance: We know only what the attackers accomplished, not what they had planned.

Nevertheless, I wish that somebody in U.S. law enforcement had received an advance copy of the speaking notes for the dire September 11th presentation. It would have been a fitting reception for the speakers had they been greeted by armed hecklers.

My blog | LectroTest

[ Disagree? Reply. ]

If this was a failure I'd hate to see a success. (4.56 / 16) (#30)
by Carnage4Life on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 11:57:08 PM EST

This is amazing. I can't believe someone can look at the WTC attacks and see anything that even resembles failure. Let's try this again. For the cost of a few flying lessons and a dozen knives, the terrorists:
  • Completely destroyed a symbol of the United States and permanently altered the New York city skyline.

  • Damaged a symbol of the strength of the US which one always imagined was impregnable.

  • Inspired thousands of other terrorists with ideas of how to attack the US in cheap but effective ways.

  • Placed the entire New York financial district in danger of collapse which could lead to massive damage to the subway system as well.

  • Caused major stock market drops including the biggest weekly point drop on the Dow since the Depression.

  • Severelly damaged the airline industry leading to layoffs that could number to over 100,000 lost jobs and could place most of the major airlines in bankruptcy court.

  • Caused so much damage to consumer confidence that the economic slowdown is now on it's way to becoming a full scale Recession.

  • Cost the government and insurance companies billions of dollars.

  • Caused the most deaths on American soil due to violent action in over a century.

  • Succeeded in drawing the US into a war with the Moslem world that eventually may involve Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Iran.

  • Caused congress to hastily pass laws curbing the freedoms of Americans and abridging their constitutional rights.

  • Have filled Americans with a fear and uncertainty that may never truly be dispelled.
PS: What makes you think that the fact that they probably can't hijack planes anymore is a loss on their part? I'm not a terrorist but after the events of September 11, I can think of several inexpensive mays to kill thousands of American people without having to resort to hijacking a passenger plane.

Planning (3.00 / 2) (#44)
by dennis on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 09:37:52 AM EST

While not everything succeeded, I think they were aware that not everything would succeed. They planned for that by putting enough attacks in motion at once that some of it would almost certainly get through.

[ Parent ]
Or Hit A Nuclear Plant (3.50 / 2) (#62)
by AArthur on Fri Sep 28, 2001 at 08:40:29 AM EST

The Journal had an article on Nuclear plant's domes could *NOT* withstand the force of a commerical jet liner hitting them -- they are planning on putting anti-aircraft missiles around them -- we shall see... but if a terrorist hit a nuclear facility, the plant would melt down, destroy a vast amount of area surronding the plant, and spread nuclear isotopes all around the US (which would have grave effects on the economy, agriculuture (you don't want radio active milk or corn), and many other things.

Andrew B. Arthur | aarthur@imaclinux.net | http://hvcc.edu/~aa310264
[ Parent ]

Or not... (none / 0) (#64)
by physicsgod on Fri Sep 28, 2001 at 05:38:39 PM EST

For one thing it's hard to fing the important part of a reactor from the air (hint: it's not the big building or the hyperbolic structures). For another while the containment vessel might not withstand a direct impact from an airliner I have doubts it would cause a breach in the pressure vessel. Finally even if the core were disrupted it would NOT meltdown, nor would it destroy vast areas of the country. The worst case scenario would be a plume of radioactive material spreading downwind (which while being something to avoid wouldn't be a major disaster) and large chunks of radioactive material around the plant site (no danger except to those who have to clean it up, even then it's not bad). Just take a look at the Chernobyl incident, an explosion within the core, no containment vessel, and still only 31 people died (there were a few deaths later that may or may not be radiation related).

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
The great terrorist success of 2001/09/11 (4.50 / 14) (#31)
by scorbett on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 12:38:49 AM EST

Much has been made in the media about the sophistication, planning, and diabolical brilliance of the September 11 terrorist action. I would like to confirm this interpretation -- the terrorists spent millions of dollars and years in preparation, and succeeded at most of their objectives.

We've seen the pictures. We've heard the stories. We've spent our time shaking fists at the TV and mourning. We wake up and once again, two mighty towers and over six thousand people are not there.

In the midst of this tragedy I'd like to remind everyone that, from all appearances, the terrorists were pretty smart, and their grandiose plan was a success.

  • The terrorists prepared by taking flight training, an expensive, time-consuming, paper-trail creating, and very necessary step if you ever plan to hijack a commercial airliner.
  • Despite common suspicions, no one has any idea whatsoever whether the terrorists used Microsoft Flight Simulator or a similar tool to train. No one even knows if that would have made any difference in this situation at all.
  • No one has any idea whatsoever whether the terrorists planned to topple the WTC towers onto neighbouring buildings or simply make them collapse. In the end, the buildings collapsed because of good terrorist planning; the buildings were designed to survive an airliner hitting them and they did not do so. The towers fell later, through an expected synergy of copious burning jet fuel and shattered standpipes that prevented the fire from being fought.
  • The death toll was awful. Probably not as bad as it would have been had the towers collapsed immediately, but awful nonetheless. No one has any idea whatsoever what kind of death toll the terrorists were hoping for, but in the end over six thousand people lost their lives, which is terrible. In the end the terrorists destroyed a bunch of mostly evacuated buildings, and in doing so permanently destroyed the average American's sense of security in the homeland.
  • Three planes found their target. Plane #3 hit the Pentagon, damaging not just the structure of the building but the symbolic notion of America's military invincibility.
  • Plane #4 demonstrated what may happen in the future if hijacks are attempted. After half an hour they had lost one of their weapons, though they have certainly not lost it indefinitely.
  • It is alleged that one hijack went unattempted because the flight was cancelled due to mechanical failure. This had little effect on the terrorists overall success, as even one plane crashing into an American symbol of power would have been sufficient to meet the terrorist's goal of striking fear and insecurity into the hearts of Americans.
  • It's possible that other hijacks went unattempted because of the prompt grounding of all flights by the US Government, a common sense step that startled nobody.
  • After having success at three of as many as eight or more targets, the tactic can safely be declared a success.
  • Much is being made at this moment about "ringleader Atta's" sniffing around crop dusters several weeks ago. This sniffing may or may not be at an advanced stage, as even though Atta would be dead mere weeks after making these inquiries, many of his cohorts would live to possibly attempt to carry out his intentions at some later date.
The masterminds who plotted the events of September 11 are probably very happy. Out of all the hijacked planes, they had probably been hoping for at least one success. Instead, they got three. The vast majority of potential victims (the people of the United States) have suffered severe emotional and psychological damage. They have left the public wary and in a state of constant suspicion and fear, which was no doubt part of their original plan to demoralize and terrorize America.

They used airliners full of fuel (3.75 / 4) (#35)
by darkonc on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 02:38:28 AM EST

The hijackers chose flights from New England to Southern California. Why? The most likely explanation is that this was the longest flights (most fuel) available without choosing international destinations.

International destinations, while requiring more fuel, also resulted in more stringent security and screening. I am presuming that the extra risk wasn't worth the extra fuel. As it was, the transcontinental fuel load in those aircraft was enough to bring down the two towers of the WTC. Whether the intent was simply to do maximal damage, or they actually hoped that the heat from the fuel would do what engineers claimed that a simple airliner couldn't do is unknown. It's unlikely that we'll capture someone who is both knowledgable and willing to talk. In any case, I think that the colapse of both towers (and some surrounding buildings as a result) would classify as "maximal damage".

Snooping around the crop dusters is an interesting story. The possible scenarios I can come up with are varied:

  • cold feet: After a couple of years in the US, he got cold feet about killing himself in a few days, and was looking (desperately) for a non-suicidal alternative.
  • misdirection: If he had FBI agents following him, this might have thrown them off the real sent, and had them looking for chem/bio weapons rather than noticing that he and a score of his friends were all buying airline tickets for the same day.
  • intelligence: He might be dead, but his friends aren't. He may have dispatched a report, before he dispatched himself (and many others).
  • terror: I'm sure he would have guessed that his activities before his death would receive minute examination. Having wandered around crop dusters would have given an extra little twist of the knife in the belly of America, many days after he was dead.
Three out of those four possibilites are positive, from the point of BinLaden and his ilk. The fourth is understandabl from my point of view. I'd hate the idea of killing myself, too (of course, I also hate the idea of killing other people, but he was clearly willing to do that in any case).
Killing a person is hard. Killing a dream is murder. : : : ($3.75 hosting)
[ Parent ]
Half full, half empty (2.60 / 5) (#34)
by xriso on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 01:20:18 AM EST

Some other terrorist attacks are thwarted before they get off the ground, yet this was not as bad as it could be. It succeeded, but not as much as it could; it failed slightly, but not completely.
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
Apports nothing, matters nothing. (3.00 / 7) (#37)
by Tezcatlipoca on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 03:07:45 AM EST

I am amused about how rational people will give their ears to wild judgements about the amount of success this act had.

Had they killed one person, that would have been "successful" enough.

Time wasters like this serve no purpose.
"They only think of me as a Mexican,
an Indian or a Mafia don"
Mexican born actor Anthony Quinn on
It was a succes (3.20 / 5) (#39)
by bil on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 06:58:20 AM EST

I imagine the people who planned this are very happy with the results. The majority of planned terrorist attacks fail for one reason or another, sometimes the people involved are arrested (possibly for completly unrelated reasons), sometimes events intervene (imagine if there had been a fire drill in the WTC couple of hours before hand so the place was evacuated and empty, or if Boston Airport had been shut due to fog, or whatever), sometimes the terrorists themselves bottle out (if they get an attack of conscience, or decide they want to carry on living, or even get an attack of paranoia so belive they are being followed by the police). So to have 3 planes out of 8 (or whatever, could be as low as 4) hit their targets, and another downed with complete loss of life is probably more succes then they imagined.

The main point of terrorism is to cause terror. The attacks on 11/9 have struck fear into the hearts of people worldwide, witness the huge security increase across the western world, and espeacially into the heart of the US government, who are now so scared (and angry) of the terrorists they have declared war and are even now figuring out ways to crush them under as much military ordanance as they can.

I'd say they were pretty succesful.


Where you stand depends on where you sit...

Perhaps... (3.77 / 9) (#40)
by jynx on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 08:09:01 AM EST

...the primary objective of the terrorists was not to cause loss of life and damage to buildings (although I'm sure it was at the very least an "added bonus".)

Perhaps their real objective was to create a war between the US and countries in the Middle East, to stir up hatred between the two sides, and to create even more anti-US sentiment in their country.

I fear that if the "war on terrorism" lasts 20 years as some K5ers have been speculating (on other stories), far more that 6000 innocents will die.

Don't count anything as a failure until it has been fully played out.


Starting a war (5.00 / 1) (#61)
by janra on Fri Sep 28, 2001 at 02:17:38 AM EST

You know what I've been finding very creepy over the past couple of weeks...

This summer, I was writing a story, far more violent than my usual style - so much so that I was wondering where it came from - in which a group of terrorists attack structures that were the pride of the top nations (in this case it was directed at more than one country). The end result was that the terrorists' home country, which had nothing to do with it, was blamed. This generated more resentment amongst the terrorists' countrymen towards the 'top' nations and generated increasing intolerance and economic and military sanctions towards those countries, hurting them and generating even more resentment and hatred in turn.

The end result was a world war.

I've put that particular story down for a while... I don't think submitting it to magazines right now would go over very well. I remember thinking, in August, "Would it really escalate like that, though? Would they be so quick to place the blame?"

Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]
They might have another kind of success though (3.00 / 5) (#41)
by mami on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 09:11:00 AM EST

What about the reaction their attack caused on the world-wide community with regards of how to fight terrorism and safeguard civil liberties ?

If the events don't cause a very open minded and thougtful brainstorming process of how to limit what kind of freedoms worldwide, the WTC attack and its reactions to it might cause massive retaliatory reactions to whatever legal and counter-terrorism measures each country on its own or in alliances come up with. The long-term effect might be disasterous.

On the other hand it would be a moment to introduce very thoughtful legal reforms in the U.S. But I doubt that it will happen. I fear for piecemeal patches and no fundamental discussions about freedoms and their limits and enforcability.

This thingie above... (1.40 / 5) (#45)
by mirleid on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 11:53:22 AM EST

...well, I was just about to vote -1 (which, I think, would have happened for the first time in my K5 life) when I thought: 'Nope, I'm going to vote it on to the main page, and then turn it to shreds in public'.
What is being said here is not only deluded, its *very* dangerous.

Chickens don't give milk
Short-sighted analysis (4.36 / 11) (#48)
by jabber on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 01:16:16 PM EST

This is an interesting perspective, and good discussion fodder for something we will likely never know - the immediate intentions of the terrorists who actually carried out the attack.

The short-term aim/target of the terrorists was the destruction of the World Trade Center and a significant location in DC. I suspect that the Pentagon was a tactical target rather than a strategic one. It may be that the true DC target was the White House, Capitol Hill or some other place of prominance.

But the attack was not simply punctual (unique in the moment). It had a mid-term and long-term strategy as well.

The synchronization of the attack was carried out brilliantly, giving TV crews just enough time to set up cameras to get LIVE pictures of the other plane hitting the second tower. The fact that it was the second tower that was hit should also not be lost. If the intent was to cause immediate toppling or not, will not be known, but the synchronization an showmanship that went into the WTC attack can not be overlooked.

The DC attack was part of the mid-term plan. If NYC had been the sole target, even of two planes, we would not have been as disoriented. The fact that, while we were still confused over what happenned in NY, we got reports of disaster 400 miles away, let us know that the people behind New York were a force to be reckoned with globally. If DC had not also been hit, Sears Tower in Chicago would not have been evacuated, airports coast to coast may not have been grounded, and the public outside NY would not have been terrorized, only outraged.

There is also a long-term strategy to the attack, that succeeded remarkably, even if the near-term tactics of the attacks were not executed perfectly. The Nation is confused. We're practically asking our leaders to put all of us under scrutiny. We're handing the keys to our private lives over to the office of Homeland Security, so that we would be kept safe from the Big Bad Bogeyman in the Middle East.

Our economy took it in the arse, and the Fed just gave 15 Billion dollars to bouy up a whole industry - one which was run on such a shoe string budget that a week's grounding threatenned to put them out of businesss.. I don't know about you, but if I lost a week's pay, and even up to 50% of my income thereafter, my essencial bills would still get paid, without interruption, while I 'reassessed my expenditure requirements', 'reevaluated my ways and means' and 'downsided' my beer consumption.

The global economy has been rocked by this, and God/Allah only knows what the cost of international mobilization will be. The stock markets world wide are not just in fantasy land, but in complete confusion, with investor confidence tennuous at best, and vultures being the only cause of market increases.

The terrorist masterminds, and their government handlers, are sitting back with great satisfaction, contemplating what their $200k-$500k bought them.. A fearful and tearful America, global economic upset, military forces running around swatting at flies with armored tennis rackets and cruise missiles. Bush flexing his military might and dictatorially proclaiming that "You're either with us or with $THEM" while $THEM is still undefined, though we think that we think that someonesomewhere knows for sure that it was Osama bin Laden.

Our people and our leaders are calling for a Crusade Against Terrorism, to match the terrorists Jihad Against Americans. We're all willing to fight the good fight, and join our countrymen in handing our rights over to our religiously motivated leaders, in the name of security and justice, while the people responsible for putting us in this state simply go back to herding their sheep, until we lower our guard.. And we know it. We know that this is a war that can not be won, because there will always, always, ba a madman with a gun somewhere.. And now that we've seen the results of their madness firsthand, we are afraid..

We are afraid, aggitated, terrorized and confused as to what to do next.. We don't know what to do, or whom to do it to - and that is exactly what the terrorists wanted, and that is what they got. They didn't botch anything up, they carried out their plans with superb, spectacular precision.

Mr. Terrorist, whoever and wherever you are, job well done. It's Miller Time!

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

Probelm (3.75 / 4) (#49)
by weirdling on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 02:33:12 PM EST

Post hoc analysis of the timing of the WTC attack is not sincerely convincing. It's just as likely that the taping of the attack caught the terrorists entirely by surprise. They probably wanted the attacks close together and that's as close as they got them...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Maybe (4.33 / 6) (#50)
by jabber on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 03:31:24 PM EST

But the impacts could just as easily have been timed to happen every 30 minutes, or so. I haven't the background to make an educated guess on it, but I would like to hear expert opinions after (if) all the flight recorders end up getting recovered.

Were the planes flown with the intent of a 30 minute delay between 'events' after they were hijaked? Well, there's the first impact, about 30 mins later the second.. Then another 30 (or so) mins later, the DC impact.. Then the crash in PA which was about a half hour out of both Camp David and DC.. It may be giving the terrorists too much ccredit, but I think that a rolling wave of overwhelming news would be much more unnerving than a single, concerted disaster - even a distributed one.

When no new crashes happened after the DC/PA ones (the timing of which escapes me ATM) my whole office breathed a sigh of relief.. There was a distinct feeling of "What now?!" each time a new reporter came on the screen, or a new development was announced. It seemed to keep people off balance much more effectively than a piecing together of what had already happened would have.. If that makes any sense.

It could have been just complete circumstance, but after the DC crash, the sentiment in my workplace was that we would see tragedy sweep across the country, coast to coast, as the business day started in each region. We feared, but expected, that another report would come in from yet someplace else... Dallas, Chicago, L.A.... In a way, it was a big relief that terrorist means - while admitedly quite formidable - were limited (or that the airports nationally were shut down as soon as they were).

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Well, yes (4.00 / 3) (#53)
by weirdling on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 05:45:22 PM EST

I agree that would have been much more effective, and, indeed, waking up to the first one, seeing the second one, seeing both buildings collapse, and seeing the pentagon all before breakfast (I am a programmer, after all) was quite a stomach punch.

However, there is evidence that the one that hit the pentagon was lost and was headed for DC but the pentagon was a target of opportunity...

I guess such a collusion will be hard to prove, and, while these people do bank in terror, I don't think they are sophisticated enough to realise how much terror could be gained from such subtleties. I also don't think they expected to topple the WTC in the way it fell, and am certain they miscalculated the result, in much the same way Japan did in WWII...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Very much agreed (5.00 / 3) (#59)
by jabber on Thu Sep 27, 2001 at 07:47:26 PM EST

The little nuances in the overall attack are probably something that we are reading into it, not what was intended by the terrorist. The men that carried out this attack were probably sweating bullets for weeks before they got on those planes as passangers. Keeping such a grand scheme in mind is something done by high ranking officers sitting in comfortable chairs, in a hardenned bunker - and not for the stomachs of young idealists who could probably barely maintain composure before taking out their knives mid-flight.

If there is anything that the human mind does well, it is the seeing of patterns in the input that it is given. It's so good at this in fact, that it sometimes sees patterns that are not there. We're all trying to make sense of what happened, and odds are that we are giving the terrorists more creedence than they deserve.

They tried to hit targets that were prominent and symbolic. They figured that if they caused lots of death and confusion, all the better, but most importantly, they wanted to make their action as high-impact (pardon the pun) as possible. The pentagon may have been a mid-flight alternative. If the pilot didn't get to DC on schedule, or if he came in on the wrong vector (after all, he may have been skilled enough to fly the plane, but not do so with a Naval Aviator's precision) he may have ditched into the first large building he felt he could make.

In the aftermath, we all try to figure out why, and how all of this happened, and in retrospect, we see the effect, and think that it was all intentional. The timing, the collapse, the casualties (even the delay, so that rescue crews would be killed, which is very demoralizing), the economic impact, the military mobilization..

Odds are that, beyond the confusion wrought by a multiplane, multilocation attack, the terrorists didn't consider much. Why should they, they would be dead and not around to witness their handiwork - or rather, in paradise, with a bird's eye view from the right hand of Allah, or whatever.

I'm sure that there is a part of terrorist strategy that was planned, and not by the tactical team which carried out the attack, but rather by the people who motivated them to do so.. Terror. That goal has been achieved. We're waiting 3 hours to board sparse flights. Crop-dusters and HAZMAT drivers and loads are being scrutinized. The government and banking systems are in an uproar.. The nation, and in fact the whole world, is waiting to see what the military will do.

The specifics of the upset may not have been engineered, but a far-reaching disturbance in American life was, and it is here. The best we, and our leaders, can do now is to try to act and think normally - but that is not adequate for vigilance, and with that comes the concern (and fear) that we are in danger. So the goal is reached.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

disagree (3.75 / 4) (#55)
by Ender Ryan on Thu Sep 27, 2001 at 04:05:44 PM EST

Every report I've heard suggests that their main objective was to topple the WTC towers. It appears to have been very well calculated. They knew how much fuel these planes carried, and it was just enough to get the buildings to topple. They even hit the buildings at the right speed to keep all the burning fuel inside the buildings. Had they been planning to topple them instantly, they would have gone in at full throttle.

Their targets were the two big towers, but they were lucky and toppled a couple surrounding buildings, and left others in an uncertain state.

Plane #3 didn't seem to find it's intended target, but it nevertheless did a massive amount of destruction to the Pentagon and took the lives of a good number of people.

By good fortune (for us), plane #4 was delayed which allowed the passengers to be alerted to the terrorists' intent.

That's ~2.5 accomplished out of 4, not too bad considering they killed 6K+ people with box cutters.

Hopefully their next plans don't involve nuclear or biological weapons.

Exposing vast conspiracies! Experts at everything even outside our expertise! Liberators of the world from the oppression of the evil USian Empire!

We are Kuro5hin!

Bullshit. (4.00 / 2) (#56)
by Rainy on Thu Sep 27, 2001 at 04:14:31 PM EST

If they wanted the towers to topple they'd fly both planes in one tower, from the opposite side so that if it fell, it'd fall on the second one and topple it too. At the very least, they'd have a backup plan that said that if first tower doesn't topple over, the second plane should hit it again hoping that two planes will accomplish what one had failed at.

Terrorist acts are symbolic, psychological. It's not about number of dead, it's about the act of destroying the symbol of american capitalism. They'd kill more if they crashed the 3rd and 4th in Sears tower in Chicago. For all we know, the plan could have been to create maximum psychological effect by escalating events - first a plane crashes into WTC tower, then a few minutes wait, everybody thinks it's an accident. Then, another one crashes into 2nd tower - everybody realizes it's a terror attack. Next thing is a plane crashing into pentagon or white house, and then half an hour later, towers collapse. At that point people don't know what to expect - a hydrogen bomb, anthrax sprayed over manhattan, atomic missiles?

If you think about terrorist attacks that happened before, there has never been any even 1 hundredth as shocking as this. Embassy bombed, a dozen americans killed.. wtc bomb, 10 or so killed, Cole bombed, 18 sailors killed.. hell, more americans die each week by falling off a mule.

Also, it's ridiculous to claim that it's been a failure because it can't happen again. It's obvious that they didn't count on doing it again 2 months later using the same strategy. It was a one-time plan from day one. Maybe they plan to use kalashnikovs later on, I don't know.
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day

Some errors, in fact and theory (4.50 / 2) (#63)
by jd on Fri Sep 28, 2001 at 04:12:41 PM EST

First, we have no means of knowing what the pilots involved used. Certainly, they made use of flight training, but since it is entirely speculative as to who was involved, where they went, and what they did in the years prior, it is sheer fantasy to claim -anything- for certain, beyond the fact that these people weren't killed in traffic accidents in all that time. Which, given the US road system, is amazing in itself.

Second, their "objectives" are, and always have been, irrelevent. They had one overriding objective, the casting of shadows and the creating of fear. That's ALL this kind of stuff is about. In that, they succeeded far beyond any other organization, past or present. Even the anger seen daily in the news and in the streets is just disowned fear. Every part of America is consumed with fear, in one form or another, as is much of the rest of the world. NOBODY, in all of history, has been able to generate such universal terror.

(The military action, the anti-terrorist bill, even the "tighter security" - which is a phantom in itself, are ALL acts of a terrified people, scared shitless by a threat that's no more solid than a moonbeam and no more identifiable than a grain of sand on a beach. Even calling the acts a "failure" is the act of a person desperate for a shred of security in what is really an insecure world.)

How many such attacks were contemplated? We just don't know, and can never know for sure. Sure, there have been other box-cutters found. So? You imagine that NOBODY in an airport would EVER use such a device? Don't you think that something unusual would be reported instantly? That this was only possible PRECICELY BECAUSE it was nothing unusual? *SIGH* People ignore what they expect to see. The greatest disguise in the world is the totally mundane.

As for people being spotted at airports - uhhh, chances are that two out of every three people who are ever "spotted" as someone "suspicious" is simply some peacable Joe or Jane Normal, who happens to have an unusual fashion sense, or an unusual ethnic background. When you next go to an airport, watch for who gets targetted. Frequently, it'll be students, geeks, religious devotees, etc. Anyone wearing a fashionable suit, with a neatly-trimmed haircut, polished shoes and a briefcase will typically go through unchallanged and unquestioned.

Given that this is common knowledge, which is a terrorist organization most likely to do? Send off people dressed like raving fanatics, with hair everywhere, screaming "death to the infidels!"? Or have people neatly manicured, looking like upper management from a Fortune 500 company?

DUH! This one is so brain-dead that it staggers me that anybody could even imagine anything different. Nobody, but NOBODY, questions a senior executive. Especially one that might easily play golf with their own upper management. It is tried, from time to time, around the world, and ends invariably in the person seeking new employment. Worse, they're unlikely to get it. Nobody touches a hot potato, when their own job might be put at risk.

This, I suspect, is why you'll find that so many of the alleged terrorists went first class. Because they blended in with the "Rich And We Know It" crowd, completely. And, in turn, that means any associates likely did also. Which means that just "spotting" them in a crowd of other "Rich And We Know It" yuppies & business executives is so unlikely as to be pure fantasy.

Lastly, let's look at these "clues" for a moment. Most of them are so vaporous that if this were a court of law, ALL of them would be dismissed as either heresay or circumstantial. And that is for the few "clues" any of us mere mortals know about. The US Government is telling exactly NOONE what it knows, purportedly for "security reasons". But since we don't know what it is that they know, we can only take that on blind faith.

So, these "clues" are really not clues at all. They are allegations, rumors, speculation and heresay. They're about as solid as the moonbeams the adversary is made of. And that is a serious problem. If the Government is entitled to wage a war, whether by force of arms and/or financially, on the basis of =ITS= say-so alone, then the rule of law is effectively abolished and replaced with an effective Monarchy with Absolute Power.

"Bin Laden is the enemy!" we hear. "But we're not going to tell you why, how, or any other goddam thing! You're going to believe us, because we say so!" If this had been any other issue, at any other time, American citizens would have given that bit of Orwellian carp short-shrift. In addition, the other parties would have just about demanded impeachment.

This hasn't happened. Nobody is so willing to step out of line, and risk alienation, that they would openly confront or challange this monstrous abuse of authority. Especially when GWB has declared so openly "you are either with us, or against us!", putting any skeptic in the position of having to feign acceptance or be put in serious danger from vigilantes and the "over-zelous".

What has happened is that America has become a place where you are either "one of the crowd", or a corpse waiting to happen. IMHO, this degree of self-abuse and self-castration that America is so willing to perform is a success to whoever ordered these attrocities, FAR beyond the impact of their actions. The buildings can be rebuilt. The injured can heal their wounds. But scar the psyche of the nation, and it will take centuries to heal. (We know from Vietnam that forty or fifty years is not enough. The abuse America dealt to itself in those years ran so deep that, even today, the scars from the self-mutilation of a nation seem almost fresh. PTSD amongst vets is still the norm - so much so that the Pentagon has been forced to ban giving Purple Hearts to inmates of Death Row. Such a ban would be stupid, if such extreme damage were not common enough to warrant action.)

What, then, will be the scars of the current action? The military stuff is irrelevent. Those involved expect to see action. Those here expect that some families will receive the unwelcome news. We can all deal with the expected. No, it's not the expected we'll have trouble with. It's the paranoia, the political stresses, the McArthyisms, the feeding of fear to a terrified country. THESE will do the damage. And we shall be called upon to suspect our neighbors, and fear the different. The result will be psychologically far, far more destructive, over time, than all the overt acts of terror the world has ever seen have ever been.

Why? Because you can deal with the overt. It's there, it acknowledges itself in all it's pathetic excuse for "glory", and honestly people see it for what it is - pathetic. So a bunch of clowns destroy two buildings, and kill 5,000 people. (Notice that now that everyone has begun to turn away from the attrocity, the number is rapidly falling. I wonder if it'll even be in the thousands by the end of next week.) So what? Sure, I'm sad for all those who died. I'm actually a lot more sad for any who were involuntarily there, such as any children taken into work. Those who worked there have always known that tall buildings are prone to being threatened, and it's not as if this was the first time anything had ever happened there. Even if that were not the case, we can mourn them, honor their memories, and then get on with life.

The covert is another matter. The fact that, if the current anti-terrorist bill goes through, ANY computer expert can be arrested and held indefinitely without trial or bail, on the pretext that someone in the Government =claims= to suspect that the person is either a cracker OR might know one, is guaranteed to create an aura of suspicion. Are you sure ALL your co-workers are "clean"? And if they're not, are you at risk, by association?

The same applies to foreigners, who could in future be subject to arrest for being, well, foreign. Again, indefinitely and without any explicit accusation.

Of course, this bill is being opposed, but you can be certain it'll go through. In the end, nobody wants to be known as a sympathiser to terrorists, especially politicians who depend upon support from the population. And the population's mind is made up. At least, right now.

Once it goes through, the Mcarthy trials will be unnecessary. An accusation will be the same as securing a conviction, for all intents and purposes.

Is it really failure, for a band of terrorists to turn a nation renoun for its dedication to world peace into a nation that is bent on destroying itself? IMHO, that would seem like ultimate success.

Is it really a failure, for that same band to "unite the world" against a mere suspect? Even if the suspect is the "right guy", we're one step closer to turning him into whatever the Islaamic version of a saint is. This guy's gone well beyond martyrdom, and is well on his way to making the worst points in the history of the Jews look like a relaxing day in paradise.

Is it really a failure, to suck 90% of the world's armed forces and intelligence forces into some nowhere country? A nowhere country that the alleged leader of this alleged organization might not even be in? (And if he is, he could be anywhere in a labrynthe of bunkers built by the US to survive almost anything.)

Is it really a failure to be the lead news item for two weeks running? In this day and age, there has been no tragedy so terrible, no success so great that the media and/or the world at large doesn't get bored of it after the third day. Until now.

And what if the USA is wrong? Maybe they're after the wrong guy, and the real villain is laughing his or her socks off. Imagine! They've pulled off the crime of the millenia, and it's the kid next door that's going to get the black eye. Would that be so great a failure for them?

The truth is, the only ones who have failed are us. Each and every one of us. We have failed, by giving this act the power to affect us. We CHOOSE how we respond, and we have chosen to react to these events in a predicatable way. It might almost have been scripted for us. (In fact, given the Reagan response to acts of terror was essentially the same as GWB's, it might well have been.)

WE have failed, not them. WE have failed, by choosing to put anger over compassion, by choosing to put revenge over understanding, by choosing to play God rather than look for good. WE have failed, by following a leader who believes himself superior to the God he follows. (Think about that!) WE have failed, by looking for excuses and scapegoats, for imagined security and imagined enemies.

Yes, THIS is the failure. Airport security is as loose as it has ever been, where it matters, with near-daily reports of people "testing it" or just being absent-minded, and being able to walk through with everything from box-cutters to firearms. I'm waiting for the day someone decides to drive an armoured personel carrier through the metal detectors, and gets away with it.

Our security hasn't been tightened, it's been infected. The swelling you see isn't from superior protection, it's from disease.

And what's this "protection" for, anyway? To prevent another take-over? A switch connecting the air to laughing gas would do that. A camera in the passanger cabin would be much more effective than a handgun for the pilot. The ability for the pilot to irrevocably switch to automatic or to remote operation would be invaluable. There are vests which monitor vital signs, and which could alert ground control and/or an on-board computer if the pilot were disabled or killed. THESE offer security.

Then, you can "bomb-proof" the cargo area. Easy enough to do. Instead of thin aluminium sheets for the crates & cargo space, use a honeycomb structure. Essentially, bubble-wrap everything. Then, if something explodes by intent or by accident (as happened in the ValuJet incident, where compressed air cylinders exploded at altitude), the explosion would be absorbed. For anything but a huge incident, you're most likely to just need to replace the crate, and at worst, some passangers will lose their underwear. Big deal. Those you can replace. Just as importantly, any residual fire won't last. Aluminium sheet burns almost unstoppably, as HMS Sheffield demonstrated in the Falkland Islands. Here, you might still be using aluminium, but in a way that would require a hotter, more sustained fire to ignite. Hey, it's not perfect, but it's 100% of an improvement.

The second thing to consider here is that it would also increase cushioning from forced landings. Plenty of aircraft have been lost, due to loss of control and ploughing into forests, runways, etc, at high speed. If the aircraft's belly can absorb a significant amount of energy, this might turn an unsurvivable disaster into something maybe a few people could walk away from.

Of course, Concorde demonstrated that debris (either accidently or deliberately) on the runway can also have devastating consequences. But why? Again, impact-absorbing structures could have helped, as would the experimental fuel that was tested which combusts only in the engine. It can't catch fire in the tank, because it's combined with a suppresent. Only by seperating them out can you burn the fuel. Blowing a hole in a fuel tank would create a fine spray, but that's about it. Better than slicing off the top of a hotel.

This is NOT rocket-science. These types of design are tested out by high-school students, and are known to every engineer on the planet. Structures designed specifically -to- disintegrate, and thus carry energy away from any danger-zones, are also common-knowledge. Indicar and Formula One depend on them. You don't survive 240 MPH collisions with a barrier, and walk away, without the engineers putting in effort to ensure that you WILL walk away.

Then, there's the passanger cabin. Most aircraft explosions don't kill passangers. The number one killer is the impact on the ground, with the number two being head-injuries inflicted by being propelled round a densely-packed cabin, filled with extremely rigid structures. The first is just a case of packing an emergency parachute into the chair, maybe into the head-rest. The second is adding a roll-bar, so that the head is shielded against collisions from above.

There. In just a few paragraphs, I've covered how to prevent all such future tragedies, PLUS prevent all future disasters due to explosions, fuel tank punctures, loss of control, passanger riots, pilot heart-attacks, structural failure, etc.

Please remember, in the end, the only people who really decide how an aircraft is built are the engineers who build them. My opinion is therefore not worth a damn, in terms of practical, day to day reality. In terms of why what's being done is meaningless, and whether there ARE alternatives which WOULD offer security, though, I believe they offer a message of hope.

My suggestions don't have to work, as written. If a single engineer, in a single aircraft company, follows the principle that safer designs are the best solution to an unpredictable problem, and manages to build an un-terrorizable aircraft that is also damn-near accident-proof, then that is everything anyone could hope for. This post is written in the hope that maybe someone else can hope for a safer, AND less paranoid, future.

Success or Failure; Not Yet Determined (none / 0) (#65)
by eliwap on Fri Sep 28, 2001 at 07:08:54 PM EST

The real objective of the terrorist attack was not the toppling of the World Trade Tower or Destruction of the Pentagon, or the White House for that matter. The real objective was to unite the Moslem world around the call for Jihad against the US justified by the expected response from the US after such a devastating attack. Fortunately the US is acting with a great deal of patients and prudence.

It is now time for the rest of the World to decide. Are we going to bring the world to nuclear, biological or environmental disaster, or are we going to end the scourge of terrorism. This is the real choice the world is facing right now. The choice facing the Islamic countries, and every other country for that matter, whether they have or are developing weapons of mass destruction, is whether a war of civilizations will develop or not. This is the real threat that is facing the entire world.

If the Muslim Fundamentalists provoke the US into a unwise decision, then the reaction could be horrific. If the states that support terrorism do not begin to clamp down and lock out and then eleminate these organizations within their midst, then they are in jeapordy of falling to these extremist elements and consquently the inevitable result of this would be a war of civiliztions. This is what needs to be avoided. Imagine, Pakistan with their nuclear capability falling to the Taliban, with Muslims fighting with India. How soon would it be that the nuclear missles fly into Islamabad or New Delhi. And then the World War that will follow as an inevitable result of this. And the eventual nuclear exchanges to follow. This is the real threat of the terrorists and this is their main objective.

Whether the terrorists have been successful or not, only time will tell. Time and the decision of the countries that support terrorism and the countries that fight terrorism. What ever the politcal and ideological differences are between nations, these differences must be put aside, at least temporarily, so that we as one human family of great diversity do not destroy ourselves. The terrorists must not succeed, or we are all doomed.

"Understanding is the basis of communications. Enlarge your mind to multiple points of view. The world is infinitely larger than your huge ego. -- Hey I said that :)"

Bad attitude .. (none / 0) (#67)
by Highlander on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 08:08:32 PM EST

Before "the states that support terrorism" do "begin to clamp down and lock out and then eleminate these organizations", they have to become convinced that it is better not to have these organizations, and this means that you have to be careful with your wording, and "eradicate" is a negative word to describe your only plan of action, especially if you consider that some "normal" people also support the Taliban.

The real challenge for Afghanistan would be to find out a mode of living that does not include the taking over of the entire territory of Afghanistan by any single interest group.

Moderation in moderation is a good thing.
[ Parent ]

Tactical vs. Strategy (4.00 / 1) (#66)
by tarsvp04 on Fri Sep 28, 2001 at 08:12:11 PM EST

It was a strategic move. The tactics may not have worked exactly as planned. But the strategy is intact. That is the view you are missing. This is the opening of a WAR. The outcome of this first "battle" hardly matters. Their true aims are hardly to continue hijacking airliners. You want a glimpse at what their true aims are read this: http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/opinion/2001/0925/opt1.htm IMO - They accomplished their initial goal. To provoke the USA into OVERT responses that will galvanize Muslims the world over. For further background read "Jihad vs McWorld" by Benjamin Barber. An excellent overview of the inherent conflicts between western "civilization" and Islam. tarsvp04

The Great Terrorist Failure of September 11 | 67 comments (41 topical, 26 editorial, 0 hidden)
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