Wright from Washington City
July 29, 2002


Living the fever-dream


I went on an airplane trip the other day — my first since the September 11 hijackings. I suppose I should have been ready for the new "security" measures, but I was not — I failed to remove my belt, with its dangerous metal buckle, before I went through the metal detector. A minor crisis ensued as I was made to wait in a little cordoned-off area until an official with the expertise required to run a magnetic wand around my body could bustle over.

It was apparent to said official that I was not happy about being singled out and separated from my wife (they rudely told her to get a move on), so he was extra careful to go over my white-bread, middle-aged Anglo-Saxon body with a meticulousness heretofore rare in the Land of the Free. He put his hands on me and even made me sit down and remove my shoes for his inspection. It would have been funny to see him peering intently into my footwear if I hadn't been so angry at being treated like a criminal. I was sorry I'd used foot deodorant that morning.

What was even more depressing was seeing the sheeplike acquiescence of my fellow Americans as they were randomly chosen at the gate to have their bodies and possessions pawed by half-educated "security" personnel with bad haircuts. One of the greatest problems any totalitarian state faces is convincing its subjects that the indignities it subjects them to are for their own good, and it is clear that the War on Terrorism is reaping huge returns in that regard. On the other hand, airliners today are still more comfortable than boxcars rolling through Poland — marginally.


Emergency #911

September 11 is, of course, only the latest "emergency" to be used by our masters as an excuse to crack down on us. The Depression got us the New Deal, probably the greatest single power grab after Lincoln's destruction of the Republic (and the South) in the Civil War. [1] World War II got us a world empire, a huge military, vastly expanded domestic surveillance by the secret police (to which was added, in the Vietnam era, attempts by the secret police to provoke peaceniks to commit crimes), and income-tax withholding, which was to be abolished after the Second Great Crusade was over, but never was. Nor was rent control, imposed as another "emergency wartime measure" in many U.S. cities, most notably New York, which explains the decrepit condition of much of the housing there.

Most recently, the Oklahoma City bombing provided a great excuse for ending the so-called Republican Revolution, which had been supposed to bring us lower taxes, less regulation, "choice" in "education," and other pipe dreams (see sidebar). The OKC attack happened just in time to put spokes in the wheels of a number of freshman Republicans — products of a popular reaction against Emperor Clinton — who had threatened actually to attempt to represent their constituents. That possibility had terrified both Democrat and Republican bigwigs (such as the fake radical Newt Gingrich). Practically overnight, the "right-wingers" were equated with militia types, who in turn were painted as fanatic Tim McVeighs, drilling in the woods to prepare for taking over the country, and no doubt racist into the bargain. Emperor Bill blamed talk show hosts such as the fiendishly subversive Rush Limbaugh for creating an atmosphere that encouraged the bombing. Helen Chenoweth, Republican representative from Idaho, was one of the more radical and vocal of the freshmen. She paid for it by being smeared as a militia sympathizer, and immediately pulled in her horns, becoming a mere shadow of her former self.

Now the current "crisis" has brought out the latent Prussian authoritarian tendencies in the Republican establishment, and the alleged differences between Republicans and Democrats are vanishing before our eyes. There's no more loose talk of a freer, more open society — opinion polls every few weeks tell us that Americans are willing to give up some of their freedom to be more secure. Apparently some of them, innocent of ever having looked into American history, actually think they'll get those freedoms back when the "crisis" is over. Emperor Bush II's henchmen really have the bit in their teeth. The smug arrogance of Minister of Bombing Small Helpless Countries Rumsfeld, as he impatiently brushes aside the question of civilian deaths in Afghanistan, and the weird fanaticism of Minister of Love Ashcroft, who urges upon his employees his own trite, jingoistic songs [2] at command-performance sing-alongs, are the stuff of satirical novels. So are the maunderings of neo-Trotskyists such as Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, and especially Rich Lowry of National Review, who, on an online NR discussion group, actually advocates dropping the Bomb on Mecca. [3]

All those "conservatives" evidently see few problems with the so-called USA PATRIOT Act, which calls for, among other outrages, the official monitoring of all monetary transactions, and the reading of e-mails and tracking of Internet use without warrants. The act also allows the secret police to seize business records without warrants while forbidding the victim to talk about it (!) and to infiltrate any meeting or religious service they want to, without probable cause. Yes, September 11 was the answer to the modern fascist geek's heartfelt prayers, making possible the fulfillment of his most humid psycho-sexual fantasies.

So, to keep the iron hot, we're all being treated to a succession of scares: "warnings" about "threats," one of the latest of which is that terrorists might use fuel tanker trucks for future attacks. Each "warning" is a prime example of what I have called Virtual News — news that isn't news at all. The minions of the Regime come up with some kind of dire threat, but it's not really a concrete threat, it's blue-sky speculation. They don't say that terrorists are going bomb us using tanker trucks. They say that they might do it. Well, as teenagers around here like to say, duh! You mean the Authorities just figured that out? You or I might get hit by a bus, too, this afternoon.

The FBI apparently has a whole list of possible means of terrorist attack that someone seems to have drawn up on a cocktail napkin after a couple of martinis. Every now and then the Feebs throw out yet another idea, like a chunk of bloody meat to the sensation-hungry press lapdogs, who fall upon it ravenously and report it as if it were actual news. It's only a matter of time before they run out of the easy ones and start talking about plague-infected goat carcasses dropped from hang-gliders, or bomb-toting scuba divers, a la "Thunderball" — oops, they've already promoted that one on the "news."


Let me (try to) count the ways ...

All this talk of ingenious ways for terrorists to strike brings to mind a conversation I had about 15 years ago with a scientist who worked at the super-secret Sandia Laboratories — a sort of techno-think tank in which all kinds of cutting-edge weapons technologies are explored and developed. I asked him what he thought of the Reagan "Star Wars" initiative to develop an anti-missile defense. He said, simply, "All I know is, given the choice of working either on developing it or defeating it, I'd much rather be working on ways to defeat it. That would be a lot easier." G.W. Bush, take note.

The reason, of course, is that it's next to impossible for a defender to plan for everything that an attacker might dream up. Remember, the attacker only has to come up with one idea the defender hasn't thought of — flying hijacked airliners into buildings, for instance. [4] And the bigger and more complex a system is, the more possibilities exist to beat it. That's the problem with trying to stop terrorism — any industrialized society is incomprehensibly complex, which, by the way, is one reason statist economic "planning" can never work. That complexity offers so many ways a terrorist could kill a lot of people, cause massive damage to property, or shut down a city, that there is no way to defend against them all. Don't believe me? Well, let's think about it.

DISCLAIMER for the benefit of any NSA satellites trolling for key words on the Net: The methods described below are speculation meant only to illustrate a point. I and the other gentlefolk at this Website DO NOT ADVOCATE using these or any other methods to cause harm to anyone, whether Americans, Afghans, Israelis, Palestinians, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Serbs, or whomever.

The tanker-truck idea is pretty obvious: 20 or so tons of gasoline could make a very nice Hollywood-style explosion. For real effect, blow it up in a tunnel somewhere, such as New York's Holland Tunnel or the Harbor Tunnel in Baltimore. Terrorists could kill a lot of people and tie up traffic for weeks. Oh, but they could do better than that. Liquid gasoline isn't really an efficient explosive unless it's vaporized or mixed with a lot of free oxygen — it takes too long to burn. Why not a propane or liquid natural gas tanker? It wouldn't take a genius to make quite an effective fuel-air bomb: burst the tank, allow a few moments for the gas to spread out and mix with the air, then ka-BOOM. The effect might be similar to the one produced by those monster "daisy-cutter" fuel-air bombs of which our armchair warriors are so fond — an area of several city blocks leveled, or a tunnel actually collapsed.

Want an even bigger bang? Use a railroad tank car or two. Surely some semi-bright troll could devise an easy way to attach an explosives package to one — after all, one of the railroads' biggest problems is keeping unwanted riders off their freight trains. How many of those rumble through major American cities every day? How many that are carrying all kinds of poisonous gas, from vinyl chloride to ammonia, chlorine, and who knows what?

Here's another possibility: ammonium nitrate. It's what Tim McVeigh used in his truck bomb, mixed with diesel fuel. But did you know that the stuff is powerfully explosive all by itself, without anything added? All some feverish partisan has to do is heat it up to a certain point, and whammo. This is interesting because ammonium nitrate is used everywhere as a fertilizer and is often shipped in bulk cargo ships. What if someone took over a ship carrying several tens of thousands of tons? Dock in a harbor somewhere or ram it into something valuable (say, a big bridge). Set off an incendiary device in the hold, and let 'er rip. A ship carrying 1,420 tons of the stuff — relatively little compared to many loads today — blew up in 1947 in the port of Texas City, Texas, ignited by a fire in the hold. The blast killed at least 500 people on shore, vaporized the ship, blew apart another, and sank two more. A locomotive on the pier next to the ship simply vanished in the explosion. No trace of it was ever found.

Then there's the ultimate terror: a nuclear weapon. Despite all the loose talk about its being easy to build a nuke using information acquired on the Internet, in truth it would be very hard to do, even disregarding the difficulty of obtaining and purifying fissionable material and heavy hydrogen isotopes. But let's assume for a minute that terrorists can actually make or acquire the Bomb. The current movie "The Sum of All Fears" shows us a plausible way to deploy it: disguise it as a vending machine and put it in a public building. Alternatively, put it in a truck and drive it downtown. Or, to get around the problem of getting it into the country, one could simply put it in a shipping container bound for America, set to go off dockside in a major port city. One wouldn't have to have a "suitcase" nuke for that; it could be as crude and bulky as necessary.

Car bombs are smaller but, as events in Israel illustrate, can have a huge impact if done right. Here in America, they would be impossible to prevent. If your terrorist wants to make a really powerful car bomb, he'll want to use high explosives. High explosives are much more powerful than the gunpowder Palestinian suicide bombers have been using. What if a suicide bomber used 20 or so pounds of HE to blow himself up in Grand Central Station during rush hour? The casualties could be terrific. Or what about a do-it-yourself cruise missile? Fill up a light plane with several hundred pounds of the stuff and crash it into something conspicuous. Light aircraft are ridiculously easy to break into, even easier than cars. Security at thousands of small general-aviation airports around the country is next to nonexistent, and it would take a lot less training to get a Cessna or Beechcraft off the ground than an airliner.

High explosives are readily stolen from any number of places, including construction sites, and it would probably be possible to purchase them given a little ingenuity. Or the terrorists could make them: it's risky but doable, and the information on how to do it is on the Internet. For example, you can make picric acid, a fairly powerful high explosive, from aspirin, battery acid, and another ingredient easy to obtain. You can also make it from oil of wintergreen. TNT you can make from ingredients available at your local Home Depot. Of course, if you're not careful (and even if you are) you might blow yourself up, as some unlucky members of the Weather Underground found out decades ago in Greenwich Village, when they turned Daddy's townhouse into a bomb factory and then into a smoking hole in the ground. But people who are willing to fly airplanes into buildings would probably find that an acceptable risk.


Shared smarts

If the above seems a bit involved for people who are as dumb as the ones who tried to get a government loan to finance their enterprise, think about this. Terrorists these days often cooperate, and many of them have a lot more smarts, not to mention lots of money: the Colombian narco-guerrillas, for instance. It's not inconceivable that they might take exception to the Empire's pouring money and arms into the Colombian regime's efforts to wipe them out; and they already have the ability to make things using chemicals.

An example of terrorist cross-pollenization is the apparent cooperation between the Palestinian organization Hamas and elements of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). Over the past decade or so, the IRA has been working on developing home-made heavy mortars — a simple artillery weapon that basically consists of a rigidly mounted tube firing a shell high in the air. The IRA apparently uses big compressed-gas tanks with the tops cut off for the tubes; I don't know what they use for projectiles, but the Tamil Tigers, a guerrilla secessionist movement in Sri Lanka, cast their own explosive shells out of aluminum using charcoal fires. Originally quite ineffective, the mortars have recently become accurate and powerful enough to do serious damage to British Army installations. And in the past few months Hamas has begun using similar home-made weapons to devastating effect against Israeli targets. IRA members have also been spotted in Colombia meeting with members of the FARC guerrilla movement.

Building such a weapon in the United State would be child's play for someone with the know-how. Nobody asks you any questions when you buy or rent gas cylinders. And what could a terrorist do with such a mortar? How about mounting four or five in a Ryder van with a hole cut in the roof? Park it on one of the many streets close to the White House, with coordinates already dialed in, walk away, and fire them with remote control or a simple timing device. Take out the president in the Oval Office, a Cabinet meeting, or a session of the House or Senate. And there's any number of easier targets, all across the country: trade shows, sporting events, board meetings, church services, broadcast stations — you name it.

To perpetrate even more mayhem, an evildoer might want to smuggle something like a Russian-made BM-21 "Stalin Organ" into the country. They consist of from 16 to 48 rocket launchers mounted together, usually on a truck. Each launcher fires a 122 mm diameter 6-foot long unguided rocket with a 50-pound bomb in the nose and a range of three miles. One Stalin Organ and its rockets would probably fit easily into a shipping container, and the truth is that most of the thousands of containers that enter the United State every day are not opened by Customs. Mount the thing in a semi-trailer and fire all the rockets one after the other. The launchers and their ammunition can be found easily all over the world — including Afghanistan — and there are thousands of them. Similar but much smaller weapons are available too — small enough to be moved by one or two men, or mounted in a pickup truck with a camper shell.

If that's too farfetched, let's swerve back to chemicals, and the dream of alienated teenage acid-heads everywhere. Make a few gallons of LSD and dump it in a municipal reservoir. It takes only a tiny, tiny amount of the stuff to render someone high: you could actually freak out a whole city. The death toll might be low, but the panic and visibility would be sky-high. Do municipal water systems test for that kind of contaminant? Would their filtration systems remove it? I doubt it.

And that brings us to the September 11 hijackers' original dream: using an airplane to spread a lethal substance. Nerve agents such as Sarin, Tabun, and VX are easy enough for terrorists to manufacture, as the Japanese found out in 1995, when the Aum Shinrikyo cult spread Sarin on the Tokyo subway. [5] Such agents are extremely lethal and are easily absorbed through the skin. The thousands of gas masks the Capitol Police bought for use in the event of another anthrax attack would be completely useless against them. Spraying the stuff from an airplane over a city could be devastating: although Sarin decays relatively quickly, VX is highly stable. Nerve agents are liquids, not gases, so even after huge cleanup efforts, some VX could be left over in sheltered areas, such as the undersides of fence rails, waiting to kill somebody who brushed up against it years later. [6]


Rage motivates

Please remember that all of the above scenarios are only those that a reasonably well-informed person with a somewhat-active imagination can come up with. Now imagine a bunch of wild-eyed fanatic haters of America, or the United State at least, inflamed to a boiling rage by (if you believe the official Imperial propaganda) the existence of Big Macs, "The Simpsons," Britney Spears's exposed navel, and, worst of all, all that "freedom" we wallow in. There are thousands of them out there, and our masters are producing more of them each day with their support of the Israeli persecution of the Palestinians and with their various imperial incursions around the world. Many anti-U.S. enragés no doubt looked at each other and cried, "What a great idea!" as the World Trade Center succumbed to the onslaught of the hijacked airliners. The September 11 success can only have inspired many such people to try to come up with something at least as clever. And I suspect the people pushing to expand the police state can hardly wait.

So here's a prediction. There will be more terrorist attacks. Maybe not right away, but they will happen, because our rulers are doing their best to provoke them by continuing to kill people around the world. The Federal Bureau of Intimidation managed to catch a Chicago street thug who supposedly wanted to construct and blow up a radioactive bomb — even though he could hardly read — but there's no way they can catch every potential terrorist. Look at how successful the Israelis are at suppressing terrorism, despite decades of practice and far more brutal methods than our masters have yet dared to try (though the regime's refusal to allow the Chicago thug his rights as an American "citizen" to a speedy trial, due process, etc., hint that they're determined to catch up).

Searching your shoes at the airport, reading your e-mail, keeping watch on your bank transactions, and flushing your constitutional "rights" to due process — not to mention raising a nationwide network of informants and gutting the Posse Comitatus Act, the latest proposals by a regime that seems drunk with power — won't do anything to foil a bunch of determined terrorists, any more than airport "security" measures foiled the September 11 hijackers. Our rulers must know that. What those impositions will do is make life a lot more inconvenient, risky, and constricted for you and me. We will have to put up with more and more interference and bad manners by officious officials. Our rulers know that, too. And in light of the rule that a man intends the foreseeable results of his actions, why, it's the whole point of the exercise.

© 2002 by WTM Enterprises. All rights reserved.

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