2005: A bomb in America.

*Reports are coming in of a series of explosions in a packed stadium in America. It is believed that a coded message from an Islamist terrorist group, warning of several backpacks packed with mining explosives interspersed throughout the stadium, was received shortly before their detonation, which killed relatively few. The real damage was done when three enormous car bombs subsequently exploded at each of the main exits to the stadium as dense, panicked crowds rushed out. Each bomb reportedly left a crater some 50 ft in diameter.

There are not yet any accurate figures for fatalities from the explosions or stampede, but sources speculate upwards of 3000 deaths…*
What would this mean?

Should such a horrific hypothetical atrocity actually come to pass, I would think that measured, careful debate would simply be out of the question. And so, let us explore it now, before our reason and rigour are swept away by such understandable passion.

Specifically, I wish to explore who exactly might have been responsible, and what rhetoric and action each political persuasion might set forth in its light. My guesses are thus.

[ul][li] The US Administration says: This attack on the free world proves that Al Qaeda still exists as a global terrorist organisation, and justifies the American people’s re-election of George W. Bush as their leader in the ongoing war. We will redouble our efforts to find and kill Osama bin Laden. We will commit more troops to Iraq to fight the terrorists there. We are committed to bringing full democracy to terrorist states such as Syria and Iran.[/li]
[li]The anti-war, anti-Bush portion of the left says: The US had it coming. This attack reaps what the invasion of Iraq sowed in terms of propaganda for Al Qaeda’s recruiters, and George W. Bush must share responsibility for these deaths, which represent a mere 3% of the Iraqi civilian deaths since the invasion. The Iraqi elections are over and their people have spoken - it’s time to withdraw and leave them to run their own country, for better or worse.[/li][/ul]

Now, I consider that both of these positions are rather misinformed, but the key question still appears to be “who exactly placed the bomb(s) and made the phone call?” Again, my personal second-guesses.
[ul][li] The US Administration says: A sleeper cell of Osama bin Laden’s global legion of followers. This is an act of desperation in response to our armed forces having disrupted their operations for four years. We believe that one of the terrorists had help from a national government whose past association with terrorists is well documented - rest assured, consequences will follow.[/li]
[li]Anti-war says: How unlikely is it that the nationwide Iraqi insurgency somehow managed to get a few people into America, or that someone outside Iraq acted in sympathy with them against their aggressor? Bush has made it impossible to distinguish between Al Qaeda and the Iraqi rebellion.[/ul]Again, both views look in utterly the wrong direction, in my opinion. I consider that the probability of the bombers having some connection to either Osama bin Laden or the Iraqi insurgency is slim to none. What we do have are several other examples of terrorist acts, whose origins and perpetrators we can examine. [/li]
Jemaah Islamiah, the group responsible for the Bali Bomb, had no link with Al Qaeda. The Madrid bomb was planted by a group called Islamic Combatants of Morocco (GICM), who exchanged drugs for mining explosives - again, these are hardly the actions of a global terrorist organisation. The Beslan Chechen separatists and the gunmen in Egypt had no AQ link either. (Indeed, Al Qaeda barely seems to have existed, except as a byword for a group of foreign fighters in Afghan training camps linked with a wealthy Arab: it seems highly unlikely that Al Qaeda, whatever it was, survived the fall of the Taleban.)

These Islamist groups are isolated handfuls of psychopaths - only one of them, somewhere in the world, needs to put some cheap explosives in a public place once a year and the Al Qaeda illusion is complete. It is this kind of group who I believe will have been responsible for the hypothetical atrocity. Some low-level crime is all that is necessary to obtain the materials, and some web-based research and a little experimentation required to plan the attack. Indeed, the terrorists need only say that they are Al Qaeda, or sponsored by the Iranian government, or whatever, and the US security forces will have neither reason nor motivation to question it (heck, they needn’t even really be Islamic: if another Timothy McVeigh blames it on Muslims, will the police ever catch him?)

For who will believe that a mere handful of evil monsters will solely be to blame? The cry will come: “Surely such carnage could only have been possible with high level knowledge and funding, perhaps at a state government level?” Even now, we cannot bring ourselves to sensibly consider the possibility that 9/11 was just down to 30 or so guys who lived in tents and caves, and a few tens of thousands of dollars.

I contend that we must accept that isolated psychopaths might kill us in our thousands using stuff simply stolen from a building site, and that there is very little we can realistically do about it (at least, such that the cure is not outright worse than the ailment). If my hypothetical atrocity came to pass, and of course I hope with all my heart that it does not, it would not be George Bush’s fault. It would not be Bill Clinton’s fault. It would not be vocal war-protestor’s fault, nor the fault of those opposed to strict profiling procedures at airports. It would not even be Osama bin Laden’s fault.

It would be the fault of some madman who, despising the pernicious effect of Western liberalism on Islamic society, woke one morning and decided to kill Western civilians. Who he subsequently convinced to join his cause, and who he specifically said he represented, would likely have global consequences in terms of who the US subsequently attacked militarily. After all, if one single fanatic can start a war, how are we ever to see peace in future?

So, for debate: 3000+ people die in a 2005 bombing in the US, and the coded message beforehand vaguely claims it in the name of Islam and jihad. [ul][li]Who did it?[/li][li]Which past course of action does it justify? []What should the response be?[/ul][/li]My answers:[ul][li]Anybody.[/li][li]None.[/li][]Nothing (save for criminal investigation, extradition and prosecution under due process of law). [/ul]

You know, if this ends up happening… you’d better run and hide. Just sayin’, is all.

Would Bush admit not knowing who did it if they don’t figure out who did ?


[li]Nothing (save for criminal investigation, extradition and prosecution under due process of law). [/list][/li][/QUOTE]

Unless the group is funded/protected by a nation state of course.

I’m a little confused as to the topic of the debate. We’ve already seen such a hypothetical situation come to pass Sept. 11, 2001. Reason certainly wasn’t swept away in the blink of an eye as thought was given to how we should respond to those responsible.

  1. Not just anybody organizes and trains to commit terrorist acts.

  2. I guess not.

  3. There are plenty of military resources we can use to curb terrorist actions.


We also had the Oklahoma City bombing, where the exact nature of the terrorist threat was evaluated and addressed.

And yet, there is a possibility that all of those responsible died instantly on the planes, and the subsequent response was directed against people associated with those responsible. Indeed, it might even be the case that literally nobody else was responsible: That the entire plan, execution and funding for the 9/11 attacks came from the hijackers themselves.

Now, I happen to believe that Osama Binladen did put money in a fund to be used upon request by handfuls of terrorists for particular missions, and that the “planes operation” had input from at least one person not on the planes themselves. But even then, the US would be responding militarily to two guys in caves. Targeting an entire country to prevent similar acts in future might well be justified, and we could examine any such plan on its merits, but it would not necessarily be a response to that attack itself.

“Protected”, as in “contests the legal extradition of”? Well, OK, but I suspect few nation states would wish to follow the example of Libya when they refused to hand over their suspects. But “funded”? This is an altogether more indirect association. Any individual receives money from any number of sources throughout their lifetime: which particular transfer of goods or collateral would constitute justification for military action against the contributor? Heck, Binladen received Stinger missiles from the CIA years ago: Would that have the US invading itself? IF not, might other national governments not make similar use of mercenaries in missions unrelated to this particular attack on US soil?

2005 is a mighty pessimistic date for another september 11. This examination of the frequency of terror attacks suggests that events of the magnitude of 9/11 occur only about once every ten years.

So what? I know that sounds like a high school response but I’d like to know what the alternative is. Should we sit back and do nothing for fear that we might be in error?

I think you’re splitting hairs as ultimately any decision to invade would be in response to such an attack. You’ve also got a pretty narrow view of what how the military can be put to use. Other then full scale invasions they can gather intelligence, perform surgical strikes, or serve as a big stick in negotiations. They could even go in to a hostile area to arrest terrorist.

Why does it matter if it’s an indirect association?



As The Onion said in their satirical article, the debate was limited to:

“We should respond with blind, indiscriminate rage”

“We should respond with measured, focused rage”

To answer your last question first: Because terrorists have indirect associations with almost everybody. Like I said, if indirect association is all that is required for military action then the Pentagon got what it deserved for associating with Binladen itself.

No, I’m suggesting that callin such a thing a ‘response’ is a non sequitur. It may be that a given military action might diminish the probability of a similar attack in future, but we can propose and examine those plans right now, before my horrific hypothetical. I suggest that unless the targets are the very individuals who are suspected of demonstrable criminal activity (and of course I agree that troops can indeed be useful in this regard), then the actual attack is merely being used as an excuse to execute a plan which could have been executed any time.

Yes. We must accept that psychopaths might kill us, and that all we can do to stop them is largely already in place. If those psychopaths evade those measures and kill themselves in the process of killing us, there is nothing we can do in response. We can seek those associated with the dead killers, but they might ultimately be innocent. We can target an entire country in order to prevent such actions in future, but that would not be a response.

Training, material funding and providing sanctuary/protection from other nation states. Afghanistan makes for an ideal example with respect to Bin Laden.

Of course not, the stingers were for a proxy war against the USSR.

At this point in history I’m not sure we can use Cold War proxy fighters as examples anymore. The modern context is all wrong. At the time, the proxy wars allowed for great power gamesmanship without resorting to nuclear war. I’ll grant you, it was the lesser of two evils. That nations, such as Pakistan, use proxy fighters in Kashmir does not absolve them of responsibility, not anymore. So a nation state that knowingly funds, and harbours 3[sup]rd[/sup] party groups that inflict massive damage of other nations should be held responsible for the actions of their clients.

And if, somehow, Binladen himself was captured in the act of blowing up a Chinese airliner with a Stinger launcher emblazoned “Made in the USA”, would you understand if teh Chinese government jumped to the wrong conclusion? I am suggesting that the Iranian (or Pakistani, or Syrian, or whatever) government might have simply played at similar machinations as the US did with Binladen, and that any “associations” might not justify the military actions which some might propose in the aftermath of the terrorist atrocity.

So, for debate: 3000+ people die in a 2005 bombing in the US, and the coded message beforehand vaguely claims it in the name of Islam and jihad. [ul][li]Who did it?[/li][li]Which past course of action does it justify? What should the response be?[/ul][/li]My answers:[ul][li]Anybody.[/li][li]None.[/li][li]Nothing (save for criminal investigation, extradition and prosecution under due process of law). [/ul][/li][/QUOTE]

  1. Islamists

  2. Any fairly proportionate legislation and action which attempted to prevent such attacks. The war in Afghanistan for instance, undercover infiltration of Islamist groups, surveillance of mosques frequented by extremists, etc., profiling perhaps.

  3. More research of course, to ascertain whom and wherefrom the terrorists came. War, if it turns out they were directly caused by or helped by other states or by protected groups therein. Ultimatum followed up by war, to certain states to cease all terrorist sponsorship and state-sponsored Islamists teachings.
    Anyway, I’m sure such an attack is going to come soon enough.

I’d agree, probably, but McVeigh-style extremists would have the perfect opportunity to throw the scent off themselves completely in order to plan further attacks.

This, I’m suggesting, might be a very misleading route to take, understandably appealing though it might be.

I see what you are getting at and, in a broad sense, do agree with you. But I think there are some important details you are glossing over:

How do you know they are “isloated”? How islolated? What do you mean by syaing they are “psychopaths”, and what does that have anything to do with the scenario? Are you implying that there is no planning, no overall goal that bin Laden has for the Middle East? You make it sound like they’re cartoon charicatures who simply want to perform evil acts, or operatives of C.H.A.O.S.

True, but that doesn’t mean it MUST be this way. This goes back to your assertion that Islamists groups are small, isolated cells. How do you know this?

Completely wrong. Terror groups routinely take credit for bombings and intelligence agencies rarely, if ever, just take the word of the first crackpot that says “I did it”. In the example of Timothey McVeigh, there were all sorts of “eye witnesses” saying they say Middle Eastern men fleeing the scene, yet Timothy McViegh was caught. History contradicts your claims here.

That’s exactly what everyone thinks DID happen. Maybe not precisely 30 men, but do you really think anyone doubts that another 9/11 type disaster could happen even without the Afghan training camps ObL had back then but no longer has?

Except for your insistance on referencing “isolated psychopaths”, this is not inconsistent with what the Bush administration (or other governments for that matter) have been saying. But I think you are oversimplifying things be portraying Islamic terrorsts as some whacked-out loner intent on spreading mayhem throughout the world.

Well no, they’ve captured him. They can do whatever they like to him. Now if they can ascertain that the US

  1. Provided current funding
  2. Provided a safe haven for the man and his group
  3. Provided current training
    Then yes the Chinese should go after the US for reparations. Since we’re talking great powers here I would place money on their funding 3[sup]rd[/sup] party groups to thwart American interests.

I am suggesting that the organisational aspect of past terrorist attacks worldwide is massively overblown, given the simplicity of the attacks in most cases.

Binladen? I think he’s now largely irrelevant even if he’s still alive. And I don’t even think he was anywhere near as crucial to the planes operation, the 1992 bomb, the US warchip bomb or the African embassy bombs as the Pentagon and he himself has led us to believe.

I would not seek to get into the mind of the hijackers or these hypothetical bombers, but I’d suggest that they would see themselves as freedom fighters seeking to liberate Muslims from the pernicious effects of Western liberalism.

By examining the evidence for claims of large, organised networks with a strong communication structure and command heirarchy, which is almost nonexistent.

Well, how current is “current”? If my hypothetical bombers were found to have been trained in Iran, and used in some special operation associated with the Iranian government a few years ago, would the US believe the current Iranian government if it said it had nothing to do with them?

Well, OK, but I’d argue jumping to the wrong conclusions is very easy in the face of public demand for a suspect.

Not quite everyone (see second paragraph).

So long as we agree that it could very well be a whacked out loner, this debate will have served its purpose. We both know that within hours of such a terrible thing happening, we would hear someone or other proposing an immediate invasion of Iran.

You know, I’m just plain tired of shit like this. And shit is what it is.

There’s certainly a few fringe types who will say stuff like this. The antiwar, anti-Bush left as a whole won’t want anything to do with them, and the main publicity they will receive will be from the Kool-Aid-drinking Right (Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter, Jonah Goldberg, etc.), who will do their best to equate this handful of loons with the Left in general.

If an event of this sort should happen, what the anti-Bush, antiwar left will really say is:

  1. we should have been going after terrorists, rather than getting bogged down in Iraq; and
  2. we should have been playing better defense at home. Since 9/11, we’ve had a whole laundry list of obvious things that needed to be done to make the homefront more secure - Kerry listed a number of these things in the debates last fall - and 3.5 years later, Bush has done none of it except to make air travelers pass through security.

I’d hope that Howard Dean would add:

  1. It’s absurd for Bush to base his claim to leadership on his failures on 9/11 and now.

Must be a cold day in hell. :slight_smile:

Couldn’t agree more strongly.

Definitely agree.

I don’t see 9/11 as solely a Bush failure, there is blame aplenty to go around, including on the previous administration…however any future failure on the scale of 9/11 as posted by the OP WOULD fall squarely on Bush. Granted these things happen and there probably is no realistic way to completely prevent them, but Bush has now been in office a full first term and is starting on his second now…the buck stops squarely on him for any future fuckups. So I’m in partial agreement with you on this as well.

2 and a half out of three in agreement though. :stuck_out_tongue:

Why? This didn’t happen after 9/11. Certainly we were and would be angry…but we didn’t just lash out blindly. We didn’t immediately invade Afghanistan after all, nor nuke it back into the stone age, or anything like it. We didn’t invade Iraq right away either, nor nuke IT into oblivion (though why we invaded at all, or would want to nuke it is a mystery). Why would another 9/11 strike be different? We are more emotionally and intellectually prepared now. 9/11 was a complete shock…another attack, while shocking, wouldn’t have the same impact on us unless it was the nuking of a city.

I disagree with your “isolated handfuls of psychopaths” assertion as well. While its true that there probably isn’t a vast international terror organization with ties into everything, and while its true that AQ is mostly just a shell, there certainly ARE terrorist groups that are highly organized, reasonably well trained and well funded by various nation states out there. Your characterization of them as handfuls of isolated nutballs just randomly attacking is simplistic at best. You seem to be saying that because AQ is merely a shell (its actually a terrorist clearing house and funding agency if memory serves, loosely tieing together various semi-independant or even fully independant Islamic terror groups through funding and a common banner) that ALL terror groups are small and isolated.