Saturday, December 29, 2012

Gunning for It

They're talking about things of which
they don't have the slightest understanding, anyway.
It's only because of their stupidity
that they're able to be so sure of themselves 
--The Trial, Kafka 

We didn't love freedom enough 
--The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) has spawned myths that have been sewn into our gun culture.

We were told that being alert would alleviate our fear and neutralize the threat, a threat left largely undefined.  The first reaction to the 9-11-01 attacks was to place National Guard riflemen in the airports of America to create a simulacrum safety net against the "bad guys".

From this image issued a cornucopia of terrorist TV and movie depictions of terrorists bearing old fashioned AK's and semi-auto pistols being ferreted out from behind every bush by brave Jack Bauers.  The problem with this media-driven bravado was that it did not address the actual threat.

The closest we came to suffering this sort of threat was the inside the wire shooting by Major Nidal Hasan at Ft. Hood, an event which was entirely predictable and avoidable (as were the World Trade Center attacks themselves if anyone had connected the dots.)  Terrorism was not the problem, but rather a failure of leadership.

The collective insanity of our national reaction to a containable terror threat has led to a warped perception that our safety is enhanced by firearms, a hyperbolic idea beaten into our consciousness at all levels.

The United States has not seen a significant firearms-related terrorist event and we will not because such an attack would lack the drama demanded by the terrorists.  Terror must be significant and, well, terrifying.  It is unlikely that terrorists will ever engage in shootouts in the Homeland.

We confuse the low-intensity conflict in far-flung reaches of the earth like Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza, Israel, Philippines, Mexico, Columbia, et. al. with U.S. concerns at home, leading us to the false conclusion that this will happen in America.  Being so misled allows the proliferation of government security excesses and the militarization of our civilian security and law enforcement agencies.  While this does not make us safer, it does make us less free.

Imagine what our unemployment rates would look like if the people employed by the current U.S. security apparatus, including the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) -- as though we were Britain during the Blitz -- were not padding about in para-pornographic airport pursuits.  How many people are employed in nebulous security functions that provide no protection from any actual threat.  Security and Prisons are the only growth industries in America.

The entire system is like a metastasized cancer -- it is systemic, but we do not see it because we are in the tumor.

We fail to see the fiscal cliff that is based upon security, defense and intelligence activities that have little or any rational basis for their existence.


  1. jim

    Help me out here. You appear to be saying that 9/11 resulted in all kinds of fears of gun wielding terrorists. Now, I left the US in late 2005, so I can only attest to what I experienced first hand until then. If fear of gun violence drove any policy decisions, how do you explain the expiration of the so called "Assault Weapons Ban" in 2004? Since then, a bill to reinstate the ban has failed to ever reach the House floor. Kinda hard to put firearms into the irrationally feared category in light of that. However, I am more than receptive to some concrete examples of firearms being a major fear factor in the terror paranoia in the US.

    That said, I doubt you would find many Pub denizens who would say the War on Terror has been conducted in a rational or effective manner. But then, that was probably OBL's objective - to stir irrational fear. Predictable attacks on a people are not "terror" by the greatest stretch of the imagination. I would offer that the reaction we see by the US is a combination of fear amongst the population, the use of the politics of fear for political gain, and pure and simple vested interests. Hell, we invaded a country on an outside chance that there might be a threat, perhaps.

    Fear is a powerful motivation. Thousands of people who fear that something may be outlawed or controlled are buying that something up in record numbers, lest they act too late.

    I have a hard time getting my head around the fear that runs rampant in the US, as I cannot, and will not, live a life based on fear - be that a fear of terrorism or a fear that something I desire may not be available if the "other guy gets his way".

  2. Al,
    Thanks for your comment.
    I'll say that the assault wpn ban was scrapped due to citizen disapproval and the fact that the ban was eye wash anyway. It didn't ban assault rifles but rather just changed the externals of the weapons. As example the bayonet studs were removed and collapsible stocks were scrapped as was screw on flash suppressors or compensators.This led to the maniac concept of pre and post ban rifles.
    I surmise that our fear of T's attacking us with auto weapons is disconnected from the domestic ban issue because we were sold a James Bond non realistic version of what an AQ operator looked like.
    WE JUST ASSUMED THEY WERE SO SOPHISTICATED that they would have their own active support to smuggle their weapons into the states. All the TV and movie depictions encouraged these beliefs.
    Why else did we have M4 toting NG privates walking our airports with combat alacrity?
    That's my take and i listen to people every day unbeknownst to them.
    Bottom line -we need our black rifles to protect ourselves from an AK attack that will not happen.
    This type of thinking was encouraged by the NSA and others. An example- a atomic cloud over US cities which both Condi and her mentor GWB used to stoke up the fear level. If they were gonna plant a bomb then we needed our rifles to protect ourselves. After all it worked for the Japanese.
    Happy New Year.

  3. jim,

    I really don't believe that very many people, despite a few nuts on Doomsday Preppers, are legitimately concerned about terrorists using small arms in a terrorist attack, and as a result, people are stocking up are against gun bans.

    IMO, the reason we had NG in uniform in airports and other mass trans was a show of force, not to the terrorists, but to the people, demonstrating that the government is taking visible action. I am not suggesting it was an effective deterrent, but instead, it was intended to make dumb Americans feel safer to travel and go shopping.

    As far as Hollywood, remember Invasion USA? Classic Chuck Norris movie, pre-9-11, with terrorists conducting small arms attacks throughout America. Red Dawn, also a classic, thank God them boys had their own guns. I think these kind of movies have always been around.

    However, I agree with you on the Fox shows like 24, and some other silly shows that effectively remind the US population that bad guys are out there and that we need to continue to justify large expenses for more Jack Bauers and expensive intelligence technology to protect us from this alleged threat. As a real life Jack Bauer type, I can tell ya, I ain't cheap :)

    While I strongly believe there are those who still wish to conduct attacks on Americans within the US, I think your assessment is spot on that they won't conduct small arms attacks. And the imbalance of resources that we are willing to commit in an attempt to thwart or prevent a significant attack is based more on fear by politicians, than the population's fear. It is politicians who don't want to have to answer to a million bloggers like jim (voters) and political opponents who will say, "that attack was predictable and preventable." (see GOP response to Benghazi that the President is unfit to lead). That is the fear that is driving our nation's priorities, "not on my watch," and that is what truly upsets me.

  4. bg mentioned Red Dawn and a conservative fave, Chuck Norris, the guy who fixed anything with a good fight. I've noticed an interesting theme in movies. I'm not sure whether it's a recent theme or just something I've noticed recently, but there are a few movies out there that attempt to make the US look like the kid on the playground that gets picked on and suddenly turns around and confronts his tormentors. Red Dawn is just one, there are others.
    In reality we are (or some would say were until recently) the big chief on the playground. Nobody's been big enough to touch us since Gorbachev took his bow. It's too bad that when we had 19 hijackers stick us in the arse when we had our back turned we pissed ourselves and started swinging wildly. Where once the other kids on the playground respected us, everybody knows what will happen when we get picked on now. Plenty of people fear us, but few truly respect us any more.
    In reality we need to realize what it is to be the big chief, why garnering respect is more important than imposing fear.

  5. anon,

    I don't know, I think plenty of people on the planet still respect and fear the US. What has made Islamic terrorists successful (relatively) is they don't fear the consequences of actions that the US can take. Computer hackers, a far greater threat, also have little fear of the US. Note that both of these threats are non-state actors. Also note, that countries where Islamic radicals live often work with the USG (to some degree) which indicates that the US has some leverage over them. (Iran being the obvious exception).

    That is the difference today, IMO. State actors are still afraid of what the US can do to them, it is the non-state actors that the US has failed to come up with an answer for how to deal with. You can't put sanctions on them, you can try to hunt them down, but that proves difficult, costly and often ineffective.

  6. Keep in mind that "Red Dawn" is a remake of a 1984 story, when "terrorism" was not a household term nor common fear. In 1984, the "bad guys" were Latin Soviet puppets, and today it's the North Koreans. The feasibility of either scenario is remote, but the underlying premise is, of course, patriotic heroism triumphing by violent means.

    Non state actors are a difficult issue. You can't "conquer their country" as we did to Germany and Japan. As bg noted, you can't impose serious sanctions against them. In short, the traditional application of national power doesn't work. What can a bully do if he doesn't have a convenient weakling to kick around? Strike out at any target. Even more frustrating in the minds of many Americans, I'm sure, is that there are people out there that really don't want to be just like Americans. Hell, we, as a society, are not united in what we want to be.

    As to the American overall behavior in response to "terror", I would suggest that it is generalized. We don't know how to prevent it, so we do anything and everything, up to "Theater of the Absurd", to include x-raying people boarding an airplane. The Mrs and I need to adopt a whole new mindset in American airports.

    jim- I have heard few Americans justifying unfettered access to firearms as a response to terror. Burglars? Yes. "Sacred Constitutional Right? Yes. Protecting kids in schools? Yes. being prepared for the government to become "tyrannical"? Yes. In fact, GWB made it clear that we were slaughtering tens of thousands overseas so that the "bad guys" will never make it to the US, and then pointed out that none did make it.

    I also reject the notion that our scatter brained response to those 19 box cutter armed guys with an impeccable plan is solely the brainchild of politicians. Pols regularly run on a platform of "tough on terrorism", and the sheeple vote them in. Anyone painted as "weak on terrorism" has a serious uphill battle. When was the last mass demonstration against intrusive TSA, NSA or FBI measures? Even those who rail against a "Nanny State" tend to want "Nanny" to protect them from "terrorists". Hollywood simply plays to this fear with simplistic violent solutions to a much more complex problem. Keeps it within the intellectual capacity of the segmented worm.

    My guess is that the Guardsmen patrolling airports are simply carrying their MTOE weapon. Much cheaper, in both dollars and training time than re-equipping them with handguns. When my Marine Corps Reserve Rifle Company (mobilized as state "Naval Militia") assisted in response to the Harlem Riots of 1964, we simply carried our MTOE weapons. Reading more into that than there really is makes no sense.

    FEAR, pure and simple FEAR.

  7. Al,
    We have bill boards in Fl to this very day that advise-Be Alert/aware and be safe from T's. Well what are you to do IF you see a T'ist? The Answer of course is-shoot his ass. See my essays on Emerald Warrior here in FL.on RAW. The gov't is heaping the fear like gravy on a biscuit at Cracker barrel.
    I must laugh at bg's Bauer comment about being Bauer and he isn't cheap, but to Norris.
    He's out there on his right wing thingo and to my memory/knowledge he was an Air Force e5 during the VN war and he served in Korea. I reckon that's a step up from the Texas Air Gd.
    No T org is going to risk losing a highly skilled asset in a gun fight unless if it's to escape from a cornered situation.
    OT- i hope your schooling is taking. It's hard to train Bauer types, even the expensive ones.
    You need to start going to gun shows in the Homeland. By this i mean the arms bazaar shows and NOT the big collector shows.
    It'd give you a wake up call.
    Maybe a Borat type expose would do the topic justice.

  8. jim,

    IMO, If AQ could pull off a Mumbai style attack in the US, they would be willing to sacrifice a few highly skilled guys.

    Most who conduct terrorist attacks are not "highly skilled," but instead of highly motivated mules. One possible reason we don't see Jihadist gun fights in the US is, as you implied earlier, there isn't enough bang for the buck in a gun fight unless you can pull off an Mumbai style attack, which does take some highly skilled guys. Highly skilled guys develop their fighting skills in AFG, PK, Chechnya, etc. Do you think it is possible that highly skilled guys can't make it past the no fly list or the FBI and that is why we don't see them here? Tough to call that a measure of effectiveness, the absence of evidence, but to date, skilled guys haven't been able to get to the US.

    The fact that we haven't seen a Islamic Jihadist, Mumbai style in the US, could mean one or more of the following:

    1. There is no intent to do so.

    2. There is no capability to do. (skilled attackers with weapons)

    3. Inability of the skilled shooters to get into the US (effective no fly lists, FBI, etc).

    4. Belief that this style of attack simply wouldn't have the desired effect, and therefore a decision is made not to execute despite intent and capability.

    5. It's all BS, there isn't anyone out there who has the desire nor means to do this.

    What are your thoughts? If there another possible reason?

  9. BG,
    I get so frustrated when a long reply gets lost in the nether world. This just happened -here we go again.
    It all falls back to intent and capabilities.
    Of course the world is filled with men having combat experience in the places that you mention.
    They have the capability but what about intent?
    I do not believe
    that this combat experience signifies T criminal behavior, nor is it correct to view these in theater fighters as T's that can project their abilities to our shores.
    I don't care if the 9-11 hijackers went to every AQ military camp in the known world BECAUSE their skill set did not require any military training to pull off their criminal hijacking.
    We have been sold a bill of faulty goods when we accept T as a military threat.
    Mumbai was as i understand it was a Pak/Indian long term hostile campaign sponsored by state supported assets with a porous border etc...etc...
    We are not so vulnerable unless Canada or Mexico become AQ affiliates.

  10. a sense, the chance that SOMEbody will conduct an effective small-arms terror attack somewhere in the U.S. reaches a near certainty as you stretch time "T" into a period of decades. When you look at Israel, a nation that has made itself into a virtual armed camp for the very reason that it is under nearly daily assault from organized, adjacent, trained and armed enemies, you can see that at some point somebody will slip through the security net.

    The question for me would be, rather, is the gain in "security" worth the cost in treasure and the inevitable loss of civil liberties?

    IMO the "visible" side of security theatre; the TSA, the DHS, stuff like the immediate-post-9/11 armed troops in airports, the port screening apparatus...all those are just as Al is suggesting, a way for the government to show the proles that they're "doing something". I suspect that most of the people in positions of responsibility in the security agencies know full well that they cannot hope to put a secure cork in this bottle, just do what they can and hope for the best.

    I think the really dangerous problems are the ones we don't see. This past week Congress reauthorised the FISA Courts and the "antiterror" sigint program that we've been running since 2001. My Oregon senators tried desperately to insert some sort of amendments that would, at least, give us some idea of the raw numbers of U.S. citizens whose phone calls and e-mails are getting swept up in this thing. They couldn't even get THAT past the national security freaks.

    So my problem here is not so much the wasted motion and tossed-away dollars in these visible security-theatre programs. We would have done that anyway; countries and governments will always spend money and time building Maginot Lines to convince their own subjects that they're "doing something". If we were threatened by a serious enemy, or were on the cusp of fiscal ruin and this stuff was costing us serious money I'd be worried. But you could fund the whole magilla on one month's operating costs for a carrier air group. No worries.

    But the apparatus of secret government we've built?

    THAT I worry about; mostly because I, and you, and the rest of us, really don't KNOW what's out there. All we know is that some part of our government is listening, and looking, at things that MAY involve any of us who comment or speak on these matters of "national security". And there may or may not be places and procedure to assassinate, or "rendition", those of us that are found to be dangerous to that "security"...

    But, again...we don't fucking KNOW.

    And, frankly, that makes me as nervous as a cat.

  11. FDC,

    I get the concerns over NSA and the IC, the secret government, as you call it. I guess I could write a long post telling you about how serious the IC, especially NSA, takes the 4th Amendment. I could tell you about the audits, the oversight and compliance, the lawyers, restrictive government, Director of NSA emphasis, etc, etc. You can then remind me of all the times the oversight didn't work, or when secret programs did spy on US Persons despite the laws. At the end of they day, if you don't trust the government (and it is against the American culture to do so), why in the hell would you trust a government spy agency?

    So I get your concern. How the IC protects US persons' rights is NOT a secret, and you can know how they do it to some degree. What scares you are the unknown unknowns. You don't know what you aren't being told about, so you have to make assumptions based on historical precedent and human tendency.

    So realistically, what is the solution? The government stops having secret programs so that everyone feels better that the government isn't doing anything sneaky? Even if we did a 100% disclosure of every secret program, people would still assume there are some uber secret programs not being shared. So we balance protecting sources and methods vs. public disclosure. We provide oversight, checks and balances and audits to ensure compliance. And we rely on responsible, values driven leadership to ensure that our nation's values are adhered to.

    I don't see a better solution. I mean this with all due respect, what can be done to make you less nervous about the system?