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Could 9/11 Happen Again?

Natalia J. Garland

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Our nation has just decreased the alert level to Code Yellow. The possibility of terrorist activity, however, is still real. But how real is the possibility of another attack as lethal as the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center? What other kinds of attacks are possible? And how can we protect ourselves at home? In this essay I will attempt to summarize some of the current discussion on these questions, and make a comment or two of my own. My purpose is to provide an update on our national safety.

(1) The total collapse of the Twin Towers came as a surprise to the terrorists. They had planned to sever the top portions of both Towers, using hijacked airplanes as projectiles. The Towers completely collapsed apparently due to their structural inability to sustain the impact of the intense heat that resulted from the burning airplane fuel. Since the collapse was not planned or anticipated, this would seem to make a negative comment about the terrorists' level of military skill.

(2) Americans are smarter now. If terrorists tried to use airplanes as guided missiles again, it is much more likely that the passengers would defend themselves and the country. In our post-9/11 world, we would know that the airplane was not merely being hijacked, but was being used a weapon. There would probably be some brave, self-sacrificial, and capable passengers who would thwart the attempt. This could result in a situation similar to what happened in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, or it could result in the airplane landing safely.

(3) We know much more about terrorists now: who and where they are. They cannot move about as freely as they used to. They do not have open targets like they used to. Citizens are more likely to notice and to report any suspicious behavior. Law enforcement and government officials are also working more closely together, as evidenced by the security measures taken at the New Year's Eve celebration in New York City and at our airports.

We have a better understanding of the symbolic language that seems to precede an attack. We know that Bin Laden's tapes contain hidden messages to his followers in the words and phrases which he chooses. These tapes are usually released before an attack. We also know that a possible reason that the British Airways flight 223 was singled out over the holidays, was that its number coincided with the United Nations general assembly resolution 223 that was passed in 1997.

(4) There is greater international awareness and cooperation. Although some people disagreed whether the war in Iraq was necessary, most people want to find some way to bring the era of terrorism to an end. Many people seemed to agree that the removal of Saddam and his two sons was of benefit to international security. There is, however, some backlash to America's involvement in Iraq because of the Islamic militant distortion of our purpose. Militants are inciting distrust and fear among average Islamic people, portraying America as a political force that kills anyone who disagrees with American policy. Part of our defense against terrorism must be to counteract the bashing of America.

(5) There is perhaps greater threat of terrorism in the form of suicide bombers (including female bombers), chemical or biological attack, nuclear attack, and assassination of political leaders who are friendly toward democracy. Rather than using an airplane itself as a weapon, it is perhaps more plausible that a suicide bomber could board an airplane, or a bus or subway, or enter your local shopping mall.

Chemical and biological attacks are more or less possible, depending on which experts you listen to. These attacks would involve poisoning our water supply, spreading anthrax, and spreading diseases. The possibility of nuclear attack existed before terrorism. There is concern that some countries are selling weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups. The possibility of assassinating political leaders seems to be very real. The president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharef, survived two attempted assassinations in December, 2003. Several others were killed in the attempt process. Islamic militants are believed to be responsible for the attempts.

It is also possible that terrorists will attempt a major attack on a third world country rather than on America, or even a European attack. There has not been an American attack since 09/11/01. This is perhaps because of our increased security, or perhaps because the terrorists have suffered losses with the defeat of the Taliban and are not yet ready to make another attack. It should also be noted that the perpetrator(s) of the anthrax letters in 2001 has never been caught. We do not know if this was a terrorist attack or the work of a domestic criminal. It seems that Bin Laden is still alive, he has sent out another tape, and the experts expect there will be some type of attack somewhere.

There is a 25 million dollar reward for Bin Laden. Even if he is found and his terrorist groups cease to exist without his leadership, there are numerous other cells throughout the world which will continue to operate. It should also be noted that some people, such as Oliver North, suspect that Bin Laden could be dead.

(6) Terrorism requires funding. This brings us into the area of narcoterrorism. Recently, hashish valued at 8-10 million dollars (according to the U.S. Navy) was intercepted by the U.S.S. Decatur from drug smugglers working for Al-Qaeda. The significance of the drug bust, as regards a possible terrorist attack, is that it means the terrorists have up to 10 million less dollars to spend on weapons and training. Terrorist attacks, however, seem to be relatively inexpensive. The World Trade Center attack is estimated to have cost the terrorists $400,000.

(7) National security continues to grow in ways unknown prior to 9/11. The Patriot Act is an example of this. Some people are concerned about the possibility of civil rights violations, while others view it as a temporary and workable legislation. Visa, immigration, and travel enforcement issues are bureaucratically confusing. There is talk of the new normal, that is: flight delays, baggage inspections, and questioning. Most Americans seem to be willing to cope with this, having a better safe than sorry attitude. Some individuals in other countries, however, seem to have strong objections.

A federal judge in Brazil, Julier Sebastiao da Silva, said in response to Brazilians being fingerprinted and photographed upon entry into America, "I consider the [U.S. government's] act absolutely brutal, threatening human rights, violating human dignity, xenophobic and worthy of the worst horrors committed by the Nazis." This is an over-reaction to and a personalization of our security intentions. There is a new trend to equate America's strategies with those of Hitler's Nazism. Not only is this grossly inaccurate and misleading, but it also diminishes the true horrors of the Holocaust.

(8) Terrorism did not begin with the attack on the World Trade Center. Other countries have been experiencing terrorism for many years. Compared to the homeland destruction and loss of life in other countries, and until 9/11, America had been exempt. (I am not forgetting the first attack on the Twin Towers in 1993 or the attack on the U.S.S. Cole in 2000. I am using 9/11 as a date that everyone seems readily to identify with.) When Americans ask why do they hate us, and they answer with self-incrimination, then there is a need to study the reality of global victimization. Terrorists hate everyone. Terrorists are global criminals.

(9) It is not possible to talk about terrorism without mentioning the war in Iraq. Weapons of mass destruction were not found in Iraq. The most recent concern is that Iraq may have transported chemical and biological weapons into Syria by ambulances. It must be kept in mind, however, that the concern about W.M.D. were not the only rationale for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Other concerns were Saddam's extreme human rights violations and the defense of our democratic values: an open and free society with tolerance for differences, and the need for free people to provide others with alternatives to despotism.

It is reported that the former President of the United States, Bill Clinton, also believed that there were W.M.D. in Iraq. Just because no such weapons were found, that does not necessarily mean that there were no weapons, or that there are no weapons at present. Biological weapons require only small space for storage and are fairly easy to hide. Any such weapons could have been re-located, or could have been taken by unauthorized persons. We may never really know if Iraq was hiding W.M.D., or where any such W.M.D. are now. There had to be some reason for Saddam's lack of cooperation with the United Nations inspectors.

As of January 9, 2004, the death toll of American military men and women in Iraq was 494. We owe them eternal gratitude for protecting our liberty and safety. The death toll for Vietnam was 58,000, including combat and non-combat deaths. The death toll for World War II was 290,000 combat deaths. America's greatest wartime death toll was incurred in the Civil War--620,000.

(10) What can we do as average citizens to prevent our nation from becoming a battleground? Of course, we need efficient intelligence agencies and a vigilant citizenry. We need to vote wisely and hold our elected officials accountable. We need to keep ourselves informed. It takes effort to sift through the partisan arguments, the anger and the blaming, and the lust for power and status. On the somber practical side of things, we are advised that every home needs to keep a first-aid kit, a month's supply of prescribed medicine, batteries, bottled water, and food that can be eaten without being cooked. On the brighter hopeful side of things, we can always pray. (Written 01/12/04: bibliography available.)


There seems to be further evidence that Saddam smuggled chemical and biological weapons and possibly W.M.D. into Syria. Photographs taken by Digital Globe, a satellite imaging service, show five guarded installations in northwest Syria. These photos were taken over the past two years. There are 40 buildings with passageways leading to installations under some mountains that surround the town of Masyaf (the nearest town). It is also reported that there are three other sites under the village of Al Baida (just south of Masyaf) which contain W.M.D. A Syrian journalist, Nizar Nayouf, reported in 2004 that Saddam had smuggled chemical, biological, and W.M.D. into Syria before the U.S. military intervention into Iraq (in 2003). Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, and former defense chief of staff, Moshe Ya'alon, had also given similar statements.

Recently, President Obama named Air Force Lt. General James R. Clapper as Director of National Intelligence. Remember, Obama claims he was against the Iraq War from the beginning. However, Clapper apparently believed Saddam had smuggled weapons and documents into Syria only weeks before the U.S. military entered Iraq. Clapper was the former head of the National Geo-spatial Intelligence Agency (N.G.A.), a map and terrestrial imaging service. In 2004, Clapper told the Washington Times, "I think probably in the few months running up prior to the onset of combat that...there was probably an intensive effort to disperse into private homes, move documentation and materials out of the country. I think there are any number of things that they would have done." The materials to which Clapper referred could only mean weapons of the following type: chemical, biological, and W.M.D. (Written 06/15/10)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2004, 2010 Natalia J. Garland