Thursday, August 10, 2006

Bah, humbug

I'm feeling bleagh today, so I'm spending a lot of time channel surfing and (obviously) posting on the blog. Obviously, the news is entirely focused on the thwarted terrorist plot.

However, I'm seeing the same clip of a stern-looking, but slightly gleeful, Bush today:
“this country is safer than it was prior to 9/11… We’ve taken a lot of measures to protect the American people, but obviously we are still not completely safe…. It is a mistake to believe there is no threat to the United States of America.’’
A few comments. Is the country really safer than it was prior to 9/11? I don't think so. I don't think any of the so-called 'safety measures' have addressed the real dangers, it's all just visible fluff to make people feel better. I find it amazing that we are constantly assured that the security measures will keep us safe...and yet every time there is a threat of any kind (bombs on busses, or the new liquid-bomb idea) we have to scramble to put new protections in place -- the current measures are never enough to catch these things. Things are never forbidden until there is some incident. The 'security experts' always seem so surprised.

I mean, wouldn't you assume that the government (ours and everyone else's) has smart people thinking of the possible threats so we can put preventive measures in place? Why are we always reacting to these things as if the idea hadn't occured to anyone but the attackers? We didn't ban lighters on planes (which I've always thought were a bit iffy) until we had an incident of someone trying to use one to light his shoe-bomb. AFter that, we can't have lighters (although we can still have matches!) and now our shoes have to be off and xrayed with everyone else. No one prior to this ever thought that bulky shoes could be used to hold something? That having a way to light an explosive was a possibility? Why does it take a "planned attack" for people to recognize that these are a realistic possibility?

And I've seen people all day say that these bans should be permament (ie, no carry ons, no liquids, ban laptops, etc). Shouldn't we be expecting TSA and the government to find a way to test these things so the 99.99999999% of people who are not terrorists can travel with some semblence of civility? We joke about 'Naked Air', but we're certainly heading that way. I just read that the UK has banned BOOKS from planes. Books. Why?

The primary reason I don't think we're safer now than we were is that the misguided war in Iraq and our ham-handed foreign policy in the middle east have generated a tremendous amount of hatred towards the US. Don't get me wrong -- this is in no way justifying or explaining the behavior of terrorists, but it does mean that there is a larger pool of people out there who might act against the US. We have created a terrorist training ground in Iraq -- a country that previously had very little association with known terrorist groups. Despite this, I still believe that we are no more likely to suffer a terrorist attack than we were before. 9/11 didn't "redefine the world" -- it just initiated the US into the arena the rest of the world has lived with for years.

"we are still not completely safe" -- well, duh. No, we aren't. We never will be. This is a misguided and ridiculous goal. We will never be completely safe and we shouldn't expect to be. But this is one of the things that the knee-jerk American response to terror plots fosters: if only we give up a little more, if we spy a bit on our neightbors, if we let the government into our private lives and let them listen to our convesations and read out mail...we could be safe. I don't want a Nanny state. No one should. The expectation that everything will be wrapped in cotton and bubble-wrap and we will be carefully shielded from anything that might hurt us is...infantile. There is inherent risk in everything we do. Roughtly 45000 people died in auto accidents last year in the US, yet we don't ban driving or require helmets to do so. Going out your front door is dangerous. Ride a bike? Take a bath? You are more at risk from these actions than you are from terrorists. Travel, especially air travel, will never be 100% safe. Expecting it to be so is naive.

" It is a mistake to believe there is no threat to the United States of America.’’" Again. Duh. Does anyone not believe this? How condescending and patronizing to suggest that we are so ignorant, so entirely out of touch that we believe we are not a target. Of course there is a threat to the US. Of course there are threats to other countries...that's the world we live in. Well, maybe Bush doesn't quite get it, but the rest of us are well aware of the risks in the world.

I'm alternating being shaking my head in disbelief at the wide-eyed surprise expressed by the news outlets and talking heads who can barely wait to talk in hushed and breathless tones about the incident, and being angry that once again, a terrorist group has impacted so many people -- they don't even need to actually complete an act...just the threat makes everyone jump to and run around like scared rabbits, slows down travel, slows down commerce, and impacts daily life for millions of people.

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