The Unbiased Eye

A scientist's commentary on events and culture

Terror Watch on the Eve of 9/11

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It was aggravating to search the news yesterday for facts about the latest terror threat. Dozens of stories, all using the same stilted cop jargon, told us to be suspicious of every untended car and carton we saw, but to bravely go on about our business. I read that they searched trucks in Manhattan. I haven’t seen anything like that, but I wasn’t far from the apartment yesterday. Unspoken, I fear, was the advice to be suspicious of suspicous swarthy passers-by. Our leaders are nothing if not politically correct now.

What are we looking for? Three terrorists with a plot involving a vehicle. Joe Biden says it’s a car bomb. How do we know? Someone in Pakistan told us. Someone credible to our intelligence agencies said it was so.

That’s not a big comfort. Read the first part of the book on the National Security Agency, The Shadow Factory, by James Bamford. He tells the now-often-told story of how the 9/11 terrorists of 2001 were identified overseas on their way to the United States but then disappeared in the ocean of messages passed back and forth by the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, and who knows who else. Bamford’s a journalist and he’s not too good on the technology part of the story, but he’s got an ear for the politics and policework part of what spies do.

It doesn’t sound to me that our spies now have a clue about who may or may not be here, and what those individuals hope to do. The intelligence agencies haven’t had a very good record of preventing anything. They have made arrests, but frankly many of those seemed close to entrapment. Meanwhile, we have the shoe bomber, the underwear bomber, and the guy who torched his car on Times Square, and no one knew about those beforehand.

Of course, the big events in the war on terror have been those never-ending wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that we have been winning for years. But those are entirely different stories, and the later may have as little to do with terrorists as the weapons of mass destruction.

Over all, I’m not scared although I live in New York, one of the two targets. That’s because it’s plausible to me that the al Qaeda, or the Pakistanis, or both, enjoy jerking our chain.

I just wish I had more trust in the intelligence agencies.

Dealing with the past

It’s not a good idea to waste a lot of time nursing hurt feelings. It’s not a good idea to wallow in the past either. Too much of the 9/11 ceremonies seems to be doing just that. That and photo ops for our leaders.

Don’t get me wrong, the morning of September 11, 2001, gave me one of the biggest shocks of my life. It’s right up there with the day Kennedy was shot. I can give you minute details of where I was, what I was doing, how I found out what had happened, and how shaken I was. I lived, and still do, just about two miles from the corner of Liberty and Church streets, where the hulking Trade Center towers stood. After the news people were able to tell us what happened, I went up on the roof and watched the smoke rising, and saw the occasional military jets race overhead. “How stupid!” I thought. “What are they looking for? Are they going to shoot down the al Qaeda air force?”

I’m not a pacifist, and I have hoped from that moment that if we could ever figure out who to bomb for this, we would waste no time in doing so. But that doesn’t mean we ought to go out and bomb just anyone, as aimlessly as those charcoal gray jets overhead. It would also help to quit our penny-pinching approach to global affairs, and thereby stop making terrorist recruitment so easy.

The sun and the moon

While we’re at it, it occurs to me that the calendar clue the government is so fond of may be way off base because it’s Western-centric, meaning that Westerners are locked into the idea that everybody in the world believes their beliefs, has their customs, uses their language, their toys, their diet and even their calendar. Muslims have their own calendar. It’s not quite as old as the Christian, but that’s how Muslims calculate their holidays.

The Muslim calendar, like the Jewish calendar is based on the moon, and not the sun. As such, the Muslim months neither line up with the Christian months, nor line up with the seasons. They don’t have a leap month like the Jews. The difference between the Muslim and Christian calendar is about 11 or 12 days a year, and the two calendars only line up every 33 years. (If you’re confused, ask Rick Perry to clear it up because he thinks he’s Gallileo.)

The point being that September 11, 2001, fell on the 23rd day of Jumada-II. It’s 2011 now, and 23rd Jumada-II was June 25. So when would a good Muslim commemorate the great victory? Osama bin Laden appears to have had an appreciation of the Western values and a sense of American public relations, and I can imagine that September 11 in any Christian year tickled him. But are we sure that the fundamentalist mullahs and tribal warlords in remote Afghanistan and Pakistan who run the show now think at all of the Western calendar? Perhaps those people think any day is a good day to slay the enemies of Islam.

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Written by theunbiasedeye

September 10, 2011 at 10:59 am

Posted in Politics

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