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Failed Terrorism on Aircraft, the Silent Killer

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It is unfortunate that there has been another attempt at terrorism on an aircraft, in the form of explosives strapped to the suspect's leg and mixed with chemicals from a syringe, which luckily did not detonate. But the terrorist should be proud of what he has done, this act will obviously lead to more stringent security measures which will inconvenience every passenger, especially the ones of suspicious ethnicity.

Considering the massive numbers of people who fly everyday, even a failed act of terrorism can accomplish a lot. According to the Air Transport Association's 2009 Economic Report, US carriers average 2 million passengers daily,  each of whom will have to spend around 15 minutes extra on stricter security measures. That would mean about 10417 man-days spent on security. With an average life-span of 80, this would be equivalent to around 130 man-lives wasted on a single day. If you look at the number of people who will be scared into taking other forms of much slower travel, we have even more man-lives wasted.

These are informal numbers (the actual numbers are far greater) thrown at the reader, but you get the idea, it's a sorry state of affairs. Fear has taken more lives than the acts of terrorism themselves. But it is a little less sudden, so we do not really see the best parts of our lives pass us by, security check by security check.

I don't know if terrorists are proud of this fact, but it's obviously helping their cause. Yet, I can never imagine Bin Laden releasing a tape which proudly states how they have made the 'people of evil America' waste 15 minutes of their lives as they got felt up by strange security officers.

But returning to the security aspect. Security is mostly retaliatory; all measures are made to prevent what has already happened and to make it harder for copycat crimes. The job of the terrorist, almost like a game, is to find what exists and look for the weakness which can be exploited. Security only increases the cost of terrorism, mostly at a far greater cost to the intended target.  It might put off the weak-hearted but the fundamentalists out there have enough faith to spend massive amounts of time, intellect and money in a quest to destroy.

No security is ever going to be enough. We just have to watch the authorities get tougher and tougher, even as we convince ourselves of their efficacy, while terrorists attempt to prove us wrong. It us a battle of wits, in which we lose out no matter what. The walls of security, aiming to protect us, only take our lives in a more silent and recognizable pace, like the queues at McDonald's or Starbucks.

Only the innocent non-Caucasians who share ethnicity, or looks or language or any other feature, with the terrorists face a little more discomfort. But this is a "War on Terrorism" and collateral damage is a part of every war. I look forward to my beard being eyed suspiciously the next time I board a flight.

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About P Chandra

  • pablo

    I wonder if the author of this article has ever considered that it is in the interest of government officials to scare people into giving up their rights for more security, ie more control over their lives, and hence more government power. Perhaps that mental leap is a bit too much for the author of this lousy article to contemplate.

  • Priyank Chandra

    Pablo : Nope. Never considered it. I just can’t seem to make those mental leaps that relate terrorist attacks to a dystopian future where the government controls all.

    Also, I believe that botched terrorist attempts are scary enough and the government doesn’t need to scare me anymore. But thats just me.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Hey – Palbo – do you hear it?


    It’s the black helicopters, man – they’re coming! Save yourself! Aaaaahhhh!

  • Ruvy


    Save the comments for the ones who want to know. Glenn has forgotten that the military is an organized killing machine, and that the police are the clubs of intimidation that dictators and would-be dictators wield.

    Priyank does not want to make the leap or connect the dots. The picture is right there in front of him and he refuses to see. Of all the fools on the site, only Cobra has picked up the hint. He shrinks from even talking to me because he fears what the “security minded” dictators running his country will do to him.

    Gotta give him credit for that, even though his fears are over-blown terribly. The would-be dictators in the States just haven’t thought it out thoroughly enough – yet. Cops are, by their nature, lazy. That’s why G-d invented Dunkin’ Donuts – so that lazy cops could coop on the job. Security cops are no different from other cops.


    There go the black helicopters – out to harass the folks who make the biggest stink. If they can’t harass them, they’ll put down near a Dunkin’ Donuts and coop over coffee and doughnuts, just like every other lazy cop in the worl.

  • pablo

    Nice post Ruvy :)

  • Silas Kain

    A terrorist was stopped from blowing up a plane. The sky is falling. This could have had tragic consequences. The sky is falling. FOX News keeps trying to pin the blame on Obama. The sky is falling. GOP Congressional leaders are pouncing on this and propagating fear. The sky is falling.

    My friends, terror is real. There are those in the world who blindly hate us so that they will stop at nothing to inflict pain upon us and our way of life. Did we have some of it coming to us? Well, to quote Sarah Palin, “you betcha!” We’ve got to get real and stop swallowing the drivel fed to us by the cable news networks. FOX news reporters are coming at this from the point of view that the Obama Administration is impotent. CNN’s desperate attempt to regain it’s ratings have left them inconsistent. And, well, MSNBC is the Democrat Propaganda channel devoid of fifteen hours per week when Morning Joe is aired.

    It’s been intimated in the political arena that this health care debate is as serious as our “terror” problem. Well, that’s fear mongering. The “terror” problem makes for great political manipulation and boosts FOX ratings. Terror and the promotion thereof results in increased ad revenues. It’s business as usual. Unfortunately, the prospect of terror erodes our rights to privacy resulting in even more invasions of that privacy in the event the ultra right GOP returns to power.

    As someone who was strongly in favor of gun control legislation, I find myself at a crossroads in my thought processes. The right to own and bear arms must be preserved at all costs. Not only in the individual’s right to fight terror on his/her own soil, but to serve notice to the government which serves us that there are certain inalienable rights in our society which will not be forfeited under any circumstance.

  • John Lake

    You suggest that the problem here is a few wasted minutes for many, many people. I’m sure I’m not the only one to suggest that if the bomb had succeeded, if the plane had crashed killing all aboard, we would be in the throes of a torment not dissimilar to that of September 11 itself. We Americans would be in deep shock, awaiting more death and devastation.
    Is security at Airports the answer? Perhaps flying should be completely eliminated, or the security measures made so stringent that travelers would need an appointment to be searched.
    That should have been the case with a known terror advocate. We wonder if the Security team in Amsterdam was even aware of the fliers category in this area.
    Isn’t that what computers are for? We can look up anything in the world in a few seconds; does an enrollment in terrorist potential individuals of 500,000 make it impossible to check every boarder?
    Truly some extremists would love to kill thus remove the Westerners, but there must be some truth in the basic religious mandate not to kill.

  • Silas Kain

    We Americans are a spoiled lot having been shielded from the realities of a world outside our borders. Imagine living under the fear which must permeate the lives of Ruvy and his family. Imagine being a member of the opposition party in Tehran. Imagine being gay in Uganda. Terrorism is a reality and, God forbid, if we ever experience again that which we experienced on 9/11, let us hope that we react with a little less dramatic reaction and a whole lot more of reason. Except for those on the far right — they’ll just commit treason.

  • Ruvy

    Imagine living under the fear which must permeate the lives of Ruvy and his family.


    Don’t ever confuse fear with awareness. I have a heightened sense of awareness – not a heightened sense of fear. I am aware of danger. But when you grow up in New York City, you are always aware of danger; the difference is that a Puerto Rican stabbing you for your money (or coat, or whatever), for example, is very different in motive from an Arab stabbing you in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Arab may seek to take money too, if he can get away with it, but his stabbing someone in the Old City has to do with Jew-hatred, not robbery.

    The difference between terrorism and violent crime is in its motive, and often, its degree. The violent criminal generally does not seek to massacre everyone in a bank he robs – he wants its money, and he want to get away to enjoy that money. By contrast, the terrorist wants to kill people – the more the better.

    Failure or refusal to comprehend the difference in motive is key to the failure of most Americans who do not understand terror. The terrorist is not a “criminal” in the sense of committing a “crime”. He is a rebel (usually – sometimes, like the now masked Basij in Persia, or the Yassa”m goon in Israel, he is an agent of the State) pushing a cause. Whether his terror is justified or not depends on whether you agree with his cause.

    “I reject violence”, is not a sufficient answer to the terrorist. That’s bullshit and avoidance of issues. You must decide if his cause is just, and if in your eyes it is, then make up your mind as to how far you can support his methods.

  • Cannonshop

    #8 Far right, AND Far Left. They’re not that far apart in terms of how they respond to stimuli, just in the rhetoric they cloak their power-grab.

  • Ramesh Ramani

    So does a successful terrorist attack!!