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September 10, 2002

The Destroyer

Regardless of what the rational part of me has decided to do about the Sept. 11 anniversary, my less rational processes have increasingly begun to shriek and gibber in paranoia as the anniversary approaches. We went to the Panthers football game Sunday, and apart from cheering the rat as it ran into the endzone, I was preoccupied with planning what I would do if there was a gas attack. Since our seats appeared to be downwind of every other part of the stadium, most of my planning would have been for naught. There were some minor security measures; the guards weren't letting in previously opened water bottles, and they were checking bags. What they didn't check were seat cushions. I was carrying a 2 x 2, 2 inch thick zippered seat cushion, and it was let through without a glance, as were all the other ones I could see. You could pack a lot of Semtex into a seat cushion.

I consoled myself with the notion that only a idiotic terrorist would bother to bomb a Carolina Panthers game. Even if they did, it would be less of a blow to America than the WTC attack. Any attack on any athletic stadium would be, and a stepped down attack doesn't really fit the Al-Qaeda profile. Al-Qaeda needs to carry out an attack that is as inconceivable to us today as flying a 747 into a skyscraper was last year. To paraphrase Wee Willie Keeler, AL-Qaeda needs to hit us where security ain't. Yes, an attack on a football stadium would be horrifying, and I'm not saying it won't happen. But it wouldn't be unexpected.

Osama bin Laden attacked the World Trade Center because he wanted to not only strike at a symbol of America, he wanted to hit us economically, as well as horrify and enrage us. Not many targets can satisfy those same criteria now, certainly not a football game. Many of the ones that do are much more closely guarded now than they were then. If Al-Qaeda wants to hit us like they did a year ago, to hit us even harder than they did last year, they won't hit a skyscraper, or bomb a mall. They'll bomb daycare centers. Multiple ones, across the U.S. at more or less the same time. Perhaps around noon EST, since by that time the West Coast centers would be seeing the last of the morning arrivals.

Al-Qaeda's objective is to start a massive war between the House of Islam and the United States, and that can only come about if they enrage the American populace to such a degree that we start demanding wholesale destruction of the Middle East. The fact of such simultaneous attacks would be an almost surefire way to enrage us beyond anything we or the world has ever experienced. It could be argued that such attacks are unlikely because they would cost Al-Qaeda potential supporters, but Al-Qaeda isn't looking for support so much as it is attempting to bring forth Armageddon. And there are always some who will celebrate the death of innocents.

In the Oklahoma City bombing, the nineteen dead children from the Murrah building daycare horrified the nation. One of the first things the media talked about on the morning of last Sept 11 were the kids in the World Trade Center Daycare. Despite the fact that our children are probably less at risk now that they have ever been from the threat of violence, we still obsess over it. 3000 killed is horrible enough. What if all 3000 had been children? All the repercussions from such an attack are, at least for me, completely unimaginable.

What security there is at a daycare is geared towards not letting strangers take kids from there. Getting in is easy, and for a suicidal attacker, once they're in, everything is a target, and there is no defense save the resistance of the mostly female, mostly young caregivers. As far as planning the attack, one or at most two terrorists is all that is needed per daycare, so it would be easy to attack multiple targets, spread out across a city.

In the past month, Durham, N.C. daycares have had multiple instances where a car was broken into while a parent was dropping off a child. It's been assumed that it was the work of junkies doing a smash and grab for drug money, but what if it was done to see the police response time? What if it was a dry run?

One repercussion that I can imagine is an economic one. The aftermath of such an attack would be chaos. It's one thing to decide that if you don't go to work one Sept 12th then the terrorists have won, but how many people can apply that same logic to their children? How many families will decide that, come hell or high water, one parent stays home with the kids from now on. Bang, there goes the productivity miracle. There goes the one thing that has kept the U.S. economy out of the abyss. Beside it, the impact of the WTC collapse would be negligible. As well, once a daycare center is hit, nowhere is safe, and everything must be guarded. Little League games, libraries, churches, every public gathering place is going to have security, or be deserted. If productivity doesn't totally collapse after the economy loses a huge chunk of the work force, then the arteriosclerosis of constant security checks will finish the job the workforce losses started.

You can also kiss your civil liberties goodbye.

Such an attack fulfills the same purposes for the terrorists that the attacks a year ago did, and there is literally almost nothing standing in the way of such an attack. What do we do? There are probably more daycare centers in the U.S. than there are cops, so you can't station one at each center. I can just imagine what the response would be to a suggestion that we arm the workers.

A daycare's only defense is the fact that there are so many other ones around, so the odds are extremely low that any specific one will be attacked. Rationally, that should be enough for me. But every morning after I drop off my daughter, part of me still gibbers and shrieks.

Posted by Bigwig at September 10, 2002 12:23 PM | TrackBack
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