Thursday, July 07, 2005

London Bombings and security

The bombings today were truly despicable, and I am glad to stand with the rest of the civilized world in condemnation of such a horrible action.

The people who plan and carry out these kinds of things deserve to die, preferably by being blown up by a smart bomb launched in our war on terror, a war which they started.

We must also analyze this bombing on many levels and see what we can learn in order to prevent such events in the future.

The first lesson is that we will never completely stop terror attacks, but we can try to minimize their effects. Security in the United Kingdom was as high as it's been, with the G-8 summit happening on British soil. Clearly this wasn't secure enough. And, the United States is no more secure. Last week (on June 30) a man stole a truck in Phoenix, drove it through a wrought iron fence, and onto the tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport, right past several packed passenger planes and through another fence before he had to stop. Now, this guy was just some two bit loser whose only goal was to get away from police with his stolen truck, but it was obvious from the picture of him cruising along the runway right in front of the terminal that he could easily enough have driven right up next to several jets and the implications for terrorism are unmistakeable. Four years after 9/11, we still don't even come close to inspecting all of the containers that come into the country, and it seems as if provisions which the Bush administration is putting into place (like American citizens needing a passport to enter the country from Canada or Mexico starting in 2008) are more aimed at preventing people from leaving the country to buy prescription drugs than they are about stopping terrorists, who invariably have all of their paperwork in order.

A second lesson is that it is a mistake to give terrorists respite. We had Osama bin Laden on the run, then President Bush made the decision to put that on the back burner and focus on Iraq, and clearly al-Qaeda has regrouped to the point that today's attack was possible.

All in all, we have done a credible job of preventing these kinds of attacks, if not an outstanding one. And one has to wonder if al-Qaeda's failure to launch this attack ahead of the British election (as they did before the Spanish election) and having to postpone it until the G-8 may have been caused by at least some level of interference with their operations by British or American agents or military forces.

However, we are doing a job only of treating the SYMPTOM, which is terrorism, and not the disease itself. That consists of a long history of both British and American involvement in propping up anachronistic feudal monarchies and other repressive governments across the middle east. Osama bin Laden himself said that his original motivation for declaring war on the United States was the continued presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia. And what exactly has having them there gained us? Forcing even our servicewomen into burqas? Our 'friends' executing terror suspects in attacks like the Khobar Towers before the FBI can even get there to interview them?

President Bush, in his inaugural speech this year, said that he intends to push Democracy. Leaving aside his obvious failure to support the democratically elected governments in Venezuela (where we supported a failed coup), Haiti (where we supported a successful coup) and Pakistan (where we have given our blessing to Pervez Musharraf, who overthrew a democratically elected government to take dictatorial power), the real test will be how hard he pushes it in places like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Yet it is in these countries where it is most needed. Without it, there will continue to be an almost endless number of dispossessed young people, who are easy to recruit into terror organizations. And why do we do it? Because we can't afford not to. In a Faustian deal, we have to have Saudi oil, so they can pretty much say and do anything to us that they want to.

We should indeed aggressively go after the cancer that is terrorism, but we shoud also make some lifestyle changes (without which the cancer will return and return again) , everything from driving more fuel efficient cars to pushing for political reform in some of these monarchies.

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