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Bombing Us Back To The Middle Ages
"Threat level red at London Heathrow."

I came home from dinner late last night and heard on CNN there was a "major terrorist plot" foiled at London Heathrow -- a huge worldwide hub for flights, that moves 186,000 people a day. The plot, the CNN anchor says, was apparently to bring down flights while in the air with bombs in hand luggage, causing a major loss of life.

The more modern the world gets, the harder these barbarians work to destroy it. Where are the "moderate Muslims" we sometimes hear about? Are their mouths sewn shut? Their jaws wired together? I don't hear anybody speaking up against primitivity and murder plots by these savages.

CNN's Richard Quest, via phone from Los Angeles, told the anchor that it's likely passengers, in the near future and possibly more, will only be able to take on a wallet, prescription drugs, and maybe baby formula. Women may have to taste the baby formula for it to be allowed on the plane.

Suddenly, it looks like an even bigger mistake that we were fucking around in Iraq instead of focusing on Al Qaeda.


MORE, from Robert Windrem, NBC News investigative producer:

In June 1995, U.S. and Filipino authorities uncovered a plot very similar to the one revealed Thursday in the U.K.

In that plot, called the “Bojinka Plot,” bombs were to be placed aboard 11 jumbo jets and detonated by timing devices as the planes flew over the Pacific Ocean, killing an estimated 4,000 people.

Most of the jets were to be American carriers and most of the dead would have been Americans.

The bombs were small, using a Casio watch as a timer and contact lens bottles filled with nitroglycerine. They were to be secreted behind the wall panels in the plane's lavatory.

The bombs would have been timed to go off over a number of hours to heighten the terror.

The plan, also called the “Day of Hate,” was conceived by Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing, and his uncle, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11.

Only a fire in Yousef's Manila apartment thwarted it. Mohammed later modified the plan, took it to Osama bin Laden, and it became the blueprint for the 9/11 attacks.

"Day of Hate," huh? How about "Day of Murder"? In the words, spoken on Al Jazeera, of Dr. Wafa Sulfan, a Syrian American psychologist:

"Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people and destroying embassies. This path will not yield any results. The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them."

From the Wikipedia entry on Wafa Sultan for those who think anti-Americanism is the root of the violence:

Sultan revealed to the Times that she is working on a book to be called The Escaped Prisoner: When God Is a Monster, and says she was shocked into secularism by the 1979 atrocities committed by the Muslim Brotherhood against innocent Syrian people, including the machine-gun assassination of her professor in her classroom in front of her eyes at the University of Aleppo where she was a medical student. "They shot hundreds of bullets into him, shouting, 'God is great!' " she said. "At that point, I lost my trust in their god and began to question all our teachings. It was the turning point of my life, and it has led me to this present point. I had to leave. I had to look for another god."

Here's an excerpt of Sultan's Al Jazeera debate with Dr. Ahmad Bin Muhasmmad, an Alegerian professor of religious politics. And a more recent reminder that they aren't just blowing us up.

Posted by aalkon at August 10, 2006 10:27 AM

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Only allowing people on with hand luggage? That's moronic. The bags will have to be scanned whether they're in the belly of the plane or carried onto the flight. We already have security checkpoints at the gate and chemical bomb detection scanners are getting cheaper and more accurate by the day. It's no easier to sneak a bomb on a plane through carry-on than it is through check-in.

Posted by: Mo at August 10, 2006 1:19 AM

Considering this all started when some guy got mad his own government let Americans stay in his country, it was a sooner-or-later deal. And if you want to be a target, just be on Israel's side.

Posted by: Radwaste at August 10, 2006 2:12 AM

New to the site. Glad I came. So no more travel size shampoo and conditioner? So the stores in the airport will charge $5.00 a bottle I am sure.

Posted by: christina_the_wench at August 10, 2006 6:06 AM

But Amy, this has nothing to do with Islam. To even hint at such a possibility is the worst sort of racism.

"Suddenly, it looks like an even bigger mistake that we were fucking around in Iraq instead of focusing on Al Qaeda."

Right, because that's what caused 9/11.

Posted by: Jim Treacher at August 10, 2006 6:43 AM

Sorry, but I don't see fundamentalist Christians blowing themselves and the rest of us up, just trying to deny the rest of us stem cell research and the right to an abortion. It isn't Dr. Finkelstein either, or the Hari Krishnas. No, all Muslims aren't implicated in the attacks themselves, but if your religion is being used to justify horrible acts against humanity, don't you think you might speak up and try to persuade the easily led that it's being perverted for that cause...if it is being perverted for that cause. I don't know the bible let alone the Koran, but it seems passages are used to justify these acts. Right? Wrong? Who better than the moderates in the religion to call it wrong and a lie if it is?

And sorry, if Al Qaeda didn't cause 9/11, what did?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 10, 2006 7:01 AM

And to clearify, it's not that they're only letting on people with hand luggage. They'll allow baggage, but nothing on the plane but your wallet and prescription drugs. No liquids, even. For somebody like me who gets altitude sickness if I don't drink a lot of water, that could be a real problem, as airlines often run out of water in flight. This may be temporary...or it may not.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 10, 2006 7:25 AM

eeek, I just heard that it's taking 5 hours to board an international flight today. And me a few weeks away from a Euro-trip!!

I don't care about the bottle of designer water on board but if they don't let me take a book on I'll really die.

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at August 10, 2006 8:11 AM

Where are the "moderate Muslims" we sometimes hear about?

Here's one:

Posted by: Lena at August 10, 2006 8:24 AM

We are Fucking around in Iraq, A good thing too since we are between Iran and Iraq and Israel.
The war in Lebanon would be much more deadlier had Saddam still been in power to attack Israel from the other direction.

Posted by: Barry at August 10, 2006 9:20 AM

An excerpt about Irshad (Lena's link):

A Muslim Refusenik is...

By Muslim Refusenik, I don't mean I refuse to be a Muslim. If I did, why would I care enough to write a book that puts me on the front lines of anger, hate, even death threats? By Muslim Refusenik, I mean I refuse to join an army of automatons in the name of Allah. Many Muslims applaud Jewish Refuseniks -- those soldiers who protest the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. In the same spirit of conscientious dissent, we've got to protest the ideological occupation of Muslim minds. An occupation perpetrated by our own mullahs, imams and civic leaders.

Irshad engaging Muslims in Rotterdam, Netherlands
In that spirit, I'm asking Muslims in the West a very basic question: Will we remain spiritually infantile, caving to cultural pressures to clam up and conform, or will we mature into full-fledged citizens, defending the very pluralism that allows us to be in this part of the world in the first place?

My question for non-Muslims is equally basic: Will you succumb to the intimidation of being called "racists," or will you finally challenge us Muslims to take responsibility for our role in what ails Islam?

The Trouble with Islam Today is a wake-up call for honesty and change on everybody's part. Through the book and this website, let's create conversations where none existed before.

We could use a little more of this, huh?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 10, 2006 9:23 AM

> we were fucking around in Iraq instead
> of focusing on Al Qaeda.

We lost 'focus'? If you have any scraps of information on Al Qaeda --rumors, whisperings, faded post-it notes, anything at all-- be sure and notify the authorities. They'll move on it immediately, promise.

> had Saddam still been in power
> to attack Israel from the other
> direction.

Excellent point. And it's also the first time anyone's (anywhere) acknowledged that we've improved the flow of history by this invasion. But everything's branching, and good effects can't be denied anymore.

> Who better than the moderates
> in the religion to call it wrong

Exactly. I know one moderate Muslim in LA. He's from Detroit. Wonderful man.

People are so ungrateful for modernity... That's human nature. They don't want to look at it to closely, because then they'd have to be grateful. And they don't want to be grateful, because then they'd have to look at it more closely... And in the case of Arab muslims, that would mean seeing that they've contributed very little.

Has anyone heard any details about when this was supposed to go down? Had someone said "August 20" or September 9" or something? Of was this just a bunch of mouthy 17-year-old shits blowing bravado up each other's assholes?

Posted by: Crid at August 10, 2006 10:04 AM

There are wonderful individuals out there -- I've known some of them. But there are a handful of people speaking up -- Salman Rushie, Hirsan Ali, Irshad, and a few others. Meanwhile, I'm from Detroit, and if you want to see hate burning off the page, pick up one of the Arab newspapers next time you're in Dearborn.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 10, 2006 10:16 AM

Be skeptical! Here's a headline from CNN:

- Plotters were to carry a "British version of
- Gatorade," detonate it with iPod or cell
- phone, source says

Um... Cell phones and Ipods are not known for their flammability. In particular, the Ipod is a poor tool for generating even simple detonation-type signals, nor is it well suited to kicking out a few volts in a hurry. Any cub scout could do better with a 9-volt battery and five inches of wire, items that could be easily carried through security. And as of 10:30a Pac, no one's offering any thoughts about the chemistry beyond an 8-year-old boy's daydreams. ("We'll mix the two together and.... Boom!")

Besides, the British have too much dignity to drink Gatorade.

Remember when the USS Iowa explosion happened in 1989? Someone floated a story that it was all about gay love gone wrong below deck... This speaks to how much of a boogieman homosexuality was in those years, and how badly the armed services dealt with it. (Don't Ask Don't Tell was just months away).

The story was that a jilted lover had built a radio detonator and blown up a 16" gun. Fast-turnaround animation on television news was just coming into its own. NBC whipped up a particularly convincing graphic of a little gray box with a pushbutton and a tiny red lamp. It was exactly like what we used to see all the time on TV action shows like "Mission: Impossible", something made of hobbyist parts from Radio Shack.

But months later, it all turned out to be a rumor. Of course, NBC could not issue a factory recall of the animation, any more than CBS could recall the Rather memos.

Ipods and cellphones and garishly-flavored sports drinks are today's loci of the overstimulated preteen imagination, playthings that turn into monsters in their caffeinated nightmares. We don't need to fear these things, we need to fear people who are executing plans, and there have been no reports of that yet. At this point, the bad guys may not be any worse than Raider fans drinking on Thursday night, boasting about how they're gonna kick ass in the 49'ers parking lot on Sunday.

Mostly this story is about job security for the TSA.

Remember: When shit goes down, it's *passengers* who make the difference.

Posted by: Crid at August 10, 2006 10:50 AM

>Mostly this story is about job security for the TSA.

Er... what does the TSA have to do with Heathrow, Birmingham and Glasgow?

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at August 10, 2006 11:14 AM

Think *wide*. Government types love to pretend they're protecting us.

Listen, it would be great to think that a sturdy, attentive and coordinatated alliance of western security forces struck deeply into the heart of Al Qaeda this morning, ripping whole chapters from their dastardly plan for global disruption, and making the world safe for Apple, Samsung and Snapple enthusiasts on every continent.

But I bet not.

Posted by: Crid at August 10, 2006 11:29 AM

Crid- I took it that the plotters were going to put a liquid that was explosive in a sports drink bottle, then use modified IPods to detonate. I think you're being a little simplistic to think that it would be a regular sports drink and a regular IPod that the plotters would use.

Why do you think they would make mothers taste baby formula before taking it on the plane if they thought it would be a liquid that was consumable? Obviously it would appear to be a sports drink, but would be an explosive.

Posted by: Starfox5253 at August 10, 2006 1:17 PM

And of course, it's a COMPLETE coincidence that this massive plot (which was taking place in the only country whose leader is still palsy-walsy with Dubya) was discovered barely 24 hours after Bush's favorite Democrat was defeated in a high-profile primary by a little-known anti-war candidate...

Posted by: cadavra at August 10, 2006 2:19 PM

Sorry for the triple post. I kept getting messages saying it hadn't gone through.

Posted by: cadavra at August 10, 2006 2:20 PM

> I think you're being a little simplistic to think that it would be a regular sports drink and a regular IPod that the plotters would use.

Exactly. The fact that an off-the-shelf IPod is not well suited for detonation of a bomb is, of course, totally irrelevant.

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at August 10, 2006 2:21 PM

But Gatorade sure tastes chemical... and looks nuclear ;)

Posted by: LA Frog at August 10, 2006 4:07 PM

> totally irrelevant.

Naw. Is there any doubt that this will make travel even less convenient in the years ahead? And is there any belief that will be any safer at all? I think the truly biggest of the bad guys (Al Qaeda) and the most powerful of the good guys (Bush / Blair) are both really happy about these events... Even though none of them had anything to do with it!

The bad guys get to pretend they're tentacled and omnipotent. Osama can sit back and enjoy his dialysis without worrying that terror can't live without him.

The good ones get to pretend that they're protecting us. Remember Brownie? He's still out there, and he's still doing a heckova job.

Posted by: Crid at August 10, 2006 4:24 PM

Annoyance! More annoyance for travellers! (CNN):

"Besides banning liquids, British police are also banning passengers from carrying electronic key fobs, which have the potential to trigger bombs."


"The sports drink could be combined with a peroxide-based paste to form a potent "explosive cocktail," if properly done, said a U.S. counterterrorism official."

Why on Earth wouldn't they name the official? He gets another (blind) quote in the next graph.

I hate MSM.

Posted by: Crid at August 10, 2006 4:36 PM

Last time I was in England, their media had plenty of moderate Muslim voices.

But let me ask this - where are the moderate Christians in the U.S. media? Or the moderate pundits of any kind? The one time I came close to being on a TV discussion show, they told me to pick the most extreme examples I could think of, because "it makes better TV."

U.S. media is not geared towards moderate voices of any kind, period. Except moderate Democrats like Alan Colmes who get used as punching bags.

Posted by: LYT at August 10, 2006 4:42 PM

I concur. I don't hear much moderate voices in this country. It's either black or white = fundamentalism of its ownn kind.

I don't condone Al Qaida's or any terrorist tactics -- far from that. But it's about time the West takes a hard look at where their success is coming from, and what promotes it. Beyond the asymmetric war paradigm, it's also about people proud of themselves and their culture -- and fed up to be constantly caricatured and alienated -- like this post does. You can draw the parallel with those joining sects like the scientologists in search of recognition and appreciation -- before they know, it's too late.

As for respect of life, I have a serious problem with Guantanamo, civilians being killed in Irak a "collateral damage, or "insurgents/enemy combattants", or The Red Cross being systematically targeted by Israleis in Lebanon... among other peeves.

Posted by: LA Frog at August 10, 2006 6:15 PM

this is astonishing. how can these people claim to love God if they destroy what God has made in his image.

Posted by: claudia at August 10, 2006 6:59 PM

Love your sentiments about moderate muslims...ain't too many of those about. But have to wonder if you really understand how important it was for us to be in Iraq.

Just consider this one nugget. You correctly point out that Ramseh Yousef was planning much the same sort of attack back in the 90's but you stop there. Dear old Yousef was one of the main bomb makers in the 1993 WTC plot...his main aide who got away was a young gentleman named Abdul Rahman Yasin. Guess where he escaped to? Iraq. Guess where he was interviewed years later? Iraq. Iraq was one of the centers of terror. It was anything but a waste of time.

Now on to Iran.

Posted by: Pierre Legrand at August 10, 2006 7:00 PM

And then to Pakistan?

Posted by: deja pseu at August 10, 2006 7:14 PM

Alan Colmes, whom I knew slightly when he was a radio DJ in New York, isn't a moderate. Like Ann Coulter, he's a whore of the worst kind. He shuts up for money, she spews hate for money. I respect the ones who sell sex.

Matt Welch is what I call a "common-sense moderate." Jill Stewart is another. Keith Olbermann is another.

Iraq was never Disneyland, but here we've spent billions and billions of dollars there, and sacrificed the lives of young American soldiers, and for what?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 10, 2006 7:35 PM

> for what?

1. No more mass graves.
2. No casual customers for NK nukes
3. End of the no fly zones
4. NO more draining of marshlands
5. Qaddafi's cooperation
6. Dead Hussein sons
7. Our feeling of contentment on the morning of 4/9/03, when every dictator in the world --and there are thousands-- reached down to do a ball check. That was a sweet hour.
8. The humilation of an important representative of the dark side of human affairs.

More things to be named later

Posted by: Crid at August 10, 2006 8:12 PM

deja pseu

Pakistan? Nah no need to bother them yet. They are still terrified of the possibility of India and the US Actually becoming the allies we should already be.

No after Iran, Syria...Kill the sponsors and the parasites will die.

Posted by: Pierre Legrand at August 10, 2006 10:48 PM

Racism? How daft is that?! Islam is not a race. That's like calling someone a sexist for being against drinking in mixed company.

Jim, why don't you stew on these Koranic verses for a while and get back to us.

Posted by: MikeT at August 11, 2006 12:32 AM

About those moderate Muslims, Amy. It turns out this plot wouldn't have been foiled without">">without a tip from a moderate Muslim.

"It all began with a tip: In the aftermath of the July 7, 2005, suicide bombings on London's transit system, British authorities received a call from a worried member of the Muslim community, reporting general suspicions about an acquaintance."

Posted by: Mo at August 11, 2006 6:14 AM

>1. No more mass graves.

Checked any US or UK military cemeteries lately, Crid?

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at August 11, 2006 6:47 AM

Islam is not a race. --MikeT

Judging from Irshad Manji's letters page (she's the refusenik mentioned above), a lot of Muslims would disagree. Irshad's own favourite quote: "Here you are, a self-proclaimed 'Muslim' turning on your own people! How do you sleep at night? Undoubtedly beside a white woman." The "white" question comes up quite a few times in these letters.

I don't suppose the letter writers are particularly well educated, but they certainly think of themselves as Muslims.

Posted by: Norman at August 11, 2006 7:49 AM

> US or UK military cemeteries

Not since memorial day. Anyway, there were no Iraqi children or conscriptees.

It's not fun being as wrong as I was yesterday about the dimensions of the plot. I should have waited 24, by which time the MSM expresses just how shitty this really is for us. This is backhanded, but it's from the WSJ:

"The plot was foiled because a large number of people were under surveillance concerning their spending, travel and communications. Which leads us to wonder if Scotland Yard would have succeeded if the ACLU or the New York Times had first learned the details of such surveillance programs. . . ."

Get the picture? Hel-lo, Patriot Act III !

Norman's on to something with the race/color/sex thing. If Pam Anderson were as comical and uninteresting in Riyadh as she is in Los Angeles, we wouldn't have these wars.

Posted by: Crid at August 11, 2006 10:52 AM

Cosh comes through. He always does:

Posted by: Crid at August 11, 2006 11:35 AM

1. No more mass graves.

what about the mass grave under other world dictators?
2. No casual customers for NK nukes

just the serious customers now?
4. NO more draining of marshlands

just the destruction of millenia old atrifacts for a helicoptor pad
5. Qaddafi's cooperation

I seem to recall saddam promising to dispose of his weapons as well
6. Dead Hussein sons

cause lord knows they were the most evil men in all creation, and now that they're gone peace will grace us evermore
7. Our feeling of contentment on the morning of 4/9/03, when every dictator in the world --and there are thousands-- reached down to do a ball check. That was a sweet hour.

And yet they are still in power, apperently they still have their balls, and if anything are even more active given we are not maing headway in dealing with iraqs violnce
8. The humilation of an important representative of the dark side of human affairs

and there we have an honest assemsnt for the war, humiliting Saddam

Posted by: lujlp at August 13, 2006 3:56 AM

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