File this one next to “Iran will acquire toasters” as part two in a series of explaining basic principles of political reality that the entire world fails to understand.
Was that too harsh? I don’t think this post is going to get any more easy-going.
The inspiration here is an online news article that is (finally!) not from Fox News. It’s this one, wherein CNN elaborates that no less than 21,000 people were mistakenly let into the United States in 2006. Security measures should have stopped each one of these twenty-one-thousand souls from crossing into the precious New Promised Land (USA).
Not only is this a fact, it’s one that the government itself is willing to tell you. Or “leak”, at least. So the actual number could be much higher. This doesn’t really matter, because there’s probably not much of a difference in your mind between 4,000 or 5,000 people and 21,000 or 25,000 people and even 40,000 or 50,000 people. Maybe if you think hard and put it into a context like sports stadiums, you can kind of grasp it, but in the end, sports stadiums of various sizes all start to run together and look the same anyway. At a certain point, numbers all start to look alike and those of us who are not mathematicians (read: everyone reading) really don’t distinguish these big numbers very well.
The point is, a metric crudload of people who were supposed to be too dangerous for the common people to interact with were let into the United States of America.
The rhetoric that is taken as a given (roughly equivalent to “the sun will appear to rise in the morning” or “Senators are doin’ it for themselves”) in the US government is that just one person who shouldn’t be let into the country (or on a plane, or into a stadium, or into a country club) will instantly lead to a breach of security so fundamentally devastating that it will instantly manifest terrorism. After all, there are about a quadrillion people out there who “hate us” (for no reason, of course) and every one of them has no life aspiration beyond blowing Americans into little tiny formerly flag-waving pieces.
Even if some of that is slightly exaggeratory, the general gist is true and is displayed daily. Not just by government sources, but by all sorts of media, ranging from “leftist” to “right-wing”. We need to live in fear of the constant numbers of terrorists chomping at the bit to blow us up where we work, live, and play. The only thing keeping our physical bodies intact is the watchful eye of American security.
The problem with the watchful eye theory is that American security is run by the same people who do all the other jobs in America. And 85% of all people, in work and in life, are asleep at the wheel almost all the time. So we get our stadium full of 21,000 would-be terrorists into the country.
Conservative estimates with this simple formula of mismanagement of the border (21,000) times people who hate us (10% of surreptitious dangerous would-be entrants? 5%? 1%? 0.1%?) would range between 21 and 2,100 incidents of terrorism per annum in the United States. Say you have the most incredible law enforcement ever, that using the combined forces of the Patriot Act, wiretapping, suspension of the Constitution, martial law, and a pod full of those precogs from the movie “Minority Report”, can anticipate and prevent 95% of terrorist acts on US soil, even though the same people let 21,000 dangerous people in the country.
2006, you owe me, conservatively, between 1 and 105 incidents of terrorism on US soil.
Not that I want, like, endorse, or do anything other than abhor terrorism. But hopefully my point is blindingly obvious by now. We have not had any terrorism on US soil since 2001. For six years, despite pursuing a foreign policy hell-bent on generating terrorism and inciting generations of hatred, there has not been a single act. Not one. The numbers above, times six. Or really, to the sixth power, to fully illustrate the beating of the odds.
There are only two possible explanations for this.
Either (A) there are no terrorists or (B) US law enforcement is working at a 100.00% rate of anticipation and prevention.
I think we’ve blown up (B) as though with a rocket-propelled grenade. How do you account for the 21,000 mistakes? How do you account for the math above? And how in God’s name do we have US law enforcement that despite allowing a burgeoning drug trade, endless gang warfare, and sky-high incarceration rates, suddenly learned how to prevent something purportedly likely with 100.00% accuracy?
It also just doesn’t wash with the fact that I carry a backpack, often extremely full (I pack lots of layers to account for San Francisco’s schizophrenic weather), onto a subway five days a week, and it could just as easily have explosives as jackets. (Note to SFPD et al: It does NOT have explosives. It has jackets.) If BART felt they could effectively anticipate my explosive:jacket likelihood, they would not have just spent millions of dollars on new hidden camera systems, entirely to prevent terrorism, that not even Turkish hackers will know the location of. (I learned about this on the local news at the ER.)
But if I grant (B), then nothing else really matters. I think I’m more scared of a world in which law enforcement can anticipate and prevent with 100.00% accuracy than one in which we risk occasional private acts of discord.
So we’re left with (A). There are no terrorists. At least not that want to do anything in the United States.
I guess you could allegedly make the counter-argument that terrorists all have an extreme penchant for panache, and the bar has been raised so high by 9/11 that it’s just too darn intimidating to commit terrorism on US soil. Daily events in Iraq and Afghanistan seem to contradict this theory, not to mention the old days of Israel, Northern Ireland, and wherever terrorism is sold. Granted that only 2 of those 4 examples are in the fabled “post-9/11 world”, but I think they’re quite relevant given that it’s allegedly the same enemy as the one that is coming for us on US soil. So even if I grant this crazy argument that only the biggest plot ever would be satisfying to commit within American borders, all it means is that we can stand down and relax, because we’re going to see something coming a mile away. The fear and paranoia paradigm still doesn’t wash.
The only other counter-argument I could possibly imagine would be that the deterrent is so high that terrorism doesn’t get carried out. And while ending up on the rack in Gitmo isn’t appealing, I don’t think it’s deterring countless acts of terrorism in the Middle East. And certainly it’s no secret that US law enforcement rates are not fueled by precognition and do things like let in 21,000 “bad guys”.
So what would be deterring people who hate the US, can get in, will likely not get caught, and are willing to kill?
We’ve got another binary choice here. For the sake of clarity, we’ll move on to two new letters. Either (C) there aren’t any such people or (D) they see a distinction between attacking US civilians and US occupiers.
You might say we can rule out (D) off the bat, because of 9/11. But if that’s the case, we’re left only with (C), which means that 9/11 was not what it seemed. But if we rule out (C), it makes (D) very hard to explain in the context of 9/11 as well. In fact, why did 9/11 happen and then lead to six years of uninterrupted bliss inside a porous and osmosis-prone United States?
I can’t explain it. But I will go with (D), in part because (C) would have to mean accepting that literally everything we are being told about both Iraq and Afghanistan is untrue, and that’s a little more than I want to handle tonight. (D) is at least logically consistent and sound outside of 9/11, and even more logically consistent and sound with an inside 9/11. (You see what I did there.)
So then we have a people who blow up people only for the purpose of kicking out an oppressive occupier. Who will only attack military or invasive parties and steer clear, despite plenty of motive an opportunity, of attacking civilians who have stayed out of the conflict directly (despite empowering the conflict indirectly).
I’m no fan of violence. I’m an ardent pacifist who advocates peace and non-violence about all things. But I also like semantic and logical political arguments like this, a throwback to my debate years. And I’m left feeling that you can’t really call this phenomenon in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere “terrorism”. It seems pretty military to me, or at least paramilitary. And while that doesn’t justify it any more, at least we have defined terms. These people are just rebelling against an occupier in the old traditional method. Adhering very strictly to terms of engagement more civil than those used by the oppressor.
Which, in fact, brings us all the way back to (A). There are no terrorists.
Sleep easy, America. There was never any threat (from abroad) to begin with. Border guards, go ahead and let an extra thousand in, on me.
Part 3 in this series (mostly noting it now so I don’t forget) will likely involve breaking down the problems with fighting a force which routinely employs suicide bombing as though they were ardent individualists.