Archive for August, 2002

Hey, if it didn’t happen the same day as WTC1,2 and Pentagon, the Somerset County item would have been above-the-fold page a1 news anyway.
Yes, but it would be a very different story:

Vowing not to be taken alive, passengers storm four hijackers bound for Washington

as opposed to

In a staggering lack of security, nineteen people simultaneously hijack four aircraft and fly three of them unmolested into really large buildings

If the Somerset County story happened by itself, it would represent an amazing triumph of American determination over Al Qaeda – no one messes with the USA.  As it happened, 9/11 showed that for all our trillions, for all our MX missiles and Abrams tanks and Trident submarines, we were unable to defend ourselves against nineteen Arabs who at 8:30 am that morning had little more than a few knives and a hell of a lot of will.

I think the miracle of the whole thing is that the government was somehow able to convince people that this was not a staggering national failure, but rather something more like a freak volcanic eruption.  We didn’t linger over why the second plane, and the third, and the fourth, were not intercepted.  We didn’t dwell too long on why our security isn’t as good as the Israelis’, or even the British.  And then, a few months later, we didn’t ask why we didn’t capture or kill Osama Bin Laden or Mullah Omar or anyone else of any significance.  Would we have let Hitler or Himmler or Goring escape, smug in the knowledge that the Reich’s “capabilities were diminished” (Martin Bormann may or may not have made it out, Eichmann made it but seems to have given up on running even before the Mossad kidnapped him – he had long since settled down, Joseph Mengle made it – all pretty second-string guys, and those are the big escapes)?  I can only barely understand why we did not completely plow Afghanistan under, and I happen to think that Saudi Arabia should be given a deadline – say, 1/1/03 – to shape up or find itself stripped of its oil wells.  But mostly I am amazed and staggered at the extent to which we have not been critical of our own weakness.  How the fuck did four planes get
hijacked on one morning?  How is it that in the forty minutes or so between the first plane turning abruptly south from Albany and the second plane hitting the WTC no F-15s were over Manhattan, when Hanscom is under 200 miles away and the F-15 tops out in the Mach 2.3-2.5 zone?  How did no one think of immediately launching a combat air patrol over DC?  How much warning did we think the Soviets were going to give us
before impact, and why wasn’t our decision circle able to work under that time constraint?


I doubt it.  Security still sucks, and is slated to get worse as they ease off on letting food through screening.  BA and Virgin reinforced their doors by
removing the standard breakaway door and replacing it with a cast aluminum (aluminium for them) door and housing that would at least take some work to get down.  AA might have changed its locks; on my last two flights the door didn’t even fill its frame, which ought to make breaking it down relatively easy.

And AA A-300 went down, officially due to wake turbulence shearing the tail clean off the plane.  I’m not sure if it’s more frightening to attribute that to terrorism or incompetence.

People go the wrong way through checkpoints all the time, airports are often evacuated, sometimes the guy is not caught, and I have NEVER read of a guy getting shot for failure to halt.  I give even odds the rifles aren’t loaded.

We have discontinued continuous air patrols.  In the intervening time a punk kid flew into a building in Tampa without finding a Sidewinder in his engine.  Airspace around the White House and Camp David is periodically breached, and not one surface to air missile has been fired.

All of these breaches of security have been plagued by the inability of security officials to commit to a course of action in time to prevent the event.

If Somerset County were the only hijacking, we might think we were immune, that no one would dare fuck with us again, as to a man we were crazy enough and determined enough that we would never yield.  But it wasn’t, and the shame is, we haven’t gotten our own message.

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