Chapter 14: Nine-Eleven.
Well, Bush has had an object
lesson in how the US can be attacked by terrorists without launching
The response to new US foreign policy would
appear to have started.
What price ABMs now?
Blair cancelled a
speech. We reckoned he went to call Bush to say "It wasn't me. Don't
shoot! Look I've got my hands up."
I presume they'll blame pilot
He is kind of
I am just horror-struck. My emotions about my Judaism, our
role in the Middle East, how incredibly cute I think most Middle Eastern guys
are, and all of that are just horribly jumbled. I want to suck
my thumb and take a nap.
I can't stand to watch the coverage on TV,
especially that horrible shot (which will probably win a Pulitzer) of the plane
plowing into the second tower and the resultant fireball. I know that
probably over 30,000 people will be found to have died, but the fireball bothers
me the most. I know that we will probably never know, but I'm spinning
stories of the entire passengers and crew being knocked out by some kind of gas
before the highjacking... not likely. But oh, my, I feel bad.
You will be reassured to know that Seattle Police took immediate action and
shut down the Space Needle. Whew, that threat to national security is
The US response at present seems to be "We don't know who did it so
we'll bomb all the usual suspects."
Actually, the news here is
playing that down quite a bit. They barely mention Osama bin
bin Laden's picture has been all over the news
here. I must say, whoever did it, it was an impressive
performance. It probably -is- his
They are focusing on interesting
but not controversial things, like the buildings' strength and whether or not
they needed extra bombs on board the plane or in the building. (As
someone who actually has fueled a 727, I can tell you they didn't.)
Yes I heard that silly suggestion too. To make a
difference they would need about a ton of explosive smuggled on board.
I can just imagine "Did you pack your truck yourself sir? Has anyone
else had access to it?" Why do they think all the flights they
hijacked were transcontinental flights? For the fuel load of
As to strength of buildings, I'd say the towers did what you
would expect under the circumstances. What is more worrying is fire
control. It was the fire that brought them down, not the impact.
If you drop half a dozen stories down by one floor in any building it will
bring it down, you can't design for that. However sprinklers are
wonderful things in this sort of situation. I guess they had a
one-shot gas discharge system which is fine for a burning waste-paper
basket, or any of the sort of normal internal hazards you might expect, but
it can't cope with a military attack.
Very few things in the U.S. of
A. are built to do so. We are smug.
I haven't heard of any Arab-Americans
being harassed yet; maybe they're just staying inside because they are not
That should fail to suppress the attack, aid the attacker's
cause and lead to reprisals.
So Seattle and LA could be next. :(Maybe
they could get Bill Gates. :)
One can hope. I'm in Kent, south of Seattle. The only
thing of strategic interest we have here is a Boeing plant that makes airplane
seats. Don't worry, we're boringly safe.
"Am I being asked to
believe that this guy who sleeps in a tent in a desert has been training
pilots to fly our most modern, sophisticated jumbo jets with such pinpoint
accuracy that they are able to hit these three targets without anyone
wondering why these planes were so far off path?"
For 'guy' read
'rich arab sheik'. He doesn't 'do' it, he just funds it.
planes into the towers ain't that difficult.
Heck, I know that. When
Midway was in its infancy, the Aloha Air pilots would let me "fly" for a
while, kind of like my dad letting me drive when I was six. I sat in the
pilot chair and held it steady. They showed me how to make gentle turns,
and I did it. This was, of course, on a 727 when we had no passengers
other than Midway employees on it, and over open ocean. And they let us
all try it. But I am sure that I could do it, no problem. Now
landing... that's the hard part. And the hijackers didn't worry about
upsetting the passengers, or breaking FAA rules, or anything
As airline pundits have been saying all
day, any kid can buy a reasonably realistic simulator in the local game shop and
can learn to fly light planes. If you can do that you can hit the
towers. Hitting the Pentagon is a bit harder but it doesn't need any ace
pilots. It's nothing difficult like say, landing.
The planes weren't
particularly off path if you allow that ATC thought they were being hijacked and
under directions to fly to JFK. That doesn't seem like that dramatic a
situation until the last minute or two. Hijackers don't always file flight
plans, and a bit of wobble is expected. Maybe they imagined the hijackers
just said they wanted to see the Statue of Liberty.
Hijackers never did
ground strikes before.
Now it had been demonstrated what effective weapons they are, I hope no-one will
hand over control of an airliner without a fight to the death. The policy of 'no
resistance' was based on the assumption that most likely they would get the
plane and passengers back, and at worst that was all they would lose. A
few high profile incidents destroyed the popularity of hitch-hiking, the same
just happened to hijacking. How about sueing the airlines for their
contribution to responsibility for the disaster by supplying the weapons.
If you left your gun cupboard unlocked and someone stole your rifle and
committed murder with it you would be held partly
The following are random thoughts, and don't make much
sense. Bear with me.
The continuing problem is cockpit
access. The doors have to be able to be kicked in as per FAA rules, in
case of trouble.
Yes, look at the locks we
put on a few hundred in cash. If the FAA designed safes they'd have to
have quick-release locks in case anyone got locked
The other problems are, I think, silly rules, squeamishness and
not enough knowledge. I am trained in FAA regulations, as I used to be
the person who searched people on Midway before they got on our plane.
I bet guys came back for
No. I was distinctly humorless when I was doing
It is legal to bring a knife with up to a four-inch blade.
I have always thought that that is a stupid rule. When I was training
with the FAA, I asked about it, and they guy said, "Some people have pocket
knives that are heirlooms." Fine, pack it in your checked luggage or
don't bring it, period.
I accidentally packed a 3"
locknife from my toolkit in my handbaggage on a flight from Manchester to
Dublin, the rest of the tools were in the hold after having been given a
special X-Ray grilling. It was impounded. They're kind of keen on that
run, I wonder why.
No! Does the IRA hijack
I have heard that the hijackers had
boxcutters and plastic knives from concessions stands. A boxcutter, in
the U.S., is a metal or plastic knife with a triangular blade that slides out,
about one inch long. It can't actually do all that much
damage, but I'm sure if they held it to someone's quivering eyeball the
passengers were grossed out and scared out of their wits. Serrated plastic
knives, applied with enough force, can cut you really nastily but can't stab
wound an inch deep and several inches long can be pretty distressing to most
people, even if it is not medically significant, and as you say there are
plenty of places where vital structures come within an inch of the surface
if you know what you are doing and are in control.
There are plenty of
engineering materials that will make a knife and won't show on x-ray or
metal detector, glass for example. (It might break. Oh, pity!
That's the victims problem. Get two.) Then there are other weapons, my first
thought when I realised that the gun theory wouldn't stand
up statistically (some would have been caught) was that they had
quietly garrotted the crew. They didn't really need to intimidate if
they didn't need the pilot's skills.
I reckon I could make a serviceable
glass dagger, d'you think there might be a market for them? Glass
hypodermics too. There's a real bitch trick, if you wanted a customer
to get caught you could make his knife of lead crystal. It is totally
opaque to x-rays, but you can hardly tell the difference by
You just need to *ping*
it. Ah, the sound of fine cutlery.
I also know that all the major airports
have these very cool explosives-sniffing machines that work very well.
If someone held up a box on a plane in the U.S. and said it was a bomb, I
would not believe him, and would be more likely to do something
There is always the inside
job, if they can wait long enough to train pilots, they can get someone into
airport security. Then again, bombing planes is
I have passed the tests that the FAA gives to people. They
do something like hide a knife in a carry-on bag lining with a lot of smelly,
icky laundry in the bag and expect you to find it, or hide a big metal thing
in their crotch, where they think you will be too embarrassed to search when
the metal-detector wand beeps. The big airports often have no more than
a 60% pass rate.
"60 Minutes" had a very dispiriting piece on this Sunday about
that. They had someone from the elite FAA test group. He had a
98% failure rate. He said that the one time he was caught with a fake
bomb, he was able to talk his way onto the plane with it, so he thinks he
really had a 100% failure rate.
I, personally, feel that if an airport has less than a 100% pass
rate, they should shut down until their pass rate goes up. I've felt
that for a long time.
I knew that it was highly unlikely that
someone who had been on Midway for a week would have anything to cause trouble
with, but I also knew that I was the only one searching them and
using the metal-detecter wand and if something happened, I would be the
only one to blame.
I know it is WAAAAAAY too easy to avoid going through the
metal detectors at the airport. I just show up, limping, with a cane,
and tell them I have a Port-A-Cath and a plate in my leg, flash a little ID
card from the company that made my metal implants , and they are nice and let
me walk around the metal detector. As I wear dresses, they don't wand
me, because they would have to run it up between my legs and they don't have a
set-aside area to do that. They don't search my cane, either. It's
metal and hollow, and could be holding all sorts of stuff -- and could be a
weapon in itself. FAA regs require you to pop the rubber ends off the
cane and look inside it. If you can't look inside it, you're supposed to
tell the person he or she will have to check it and get a wheelchair for him
or her. No one ever does that to me. I'm a
jolly-looking woman with a big smile. Sooner or later the terrorists are
going to get REALLY smart and start using women, cripples and old people to do
their stuff. No one expects us to be wicked.
There are a
million and one ways to think outside the envelope. The terrorists
would only be catching up with the drug smugglers. Maybe now they'll
tell you that if you are metal you have to travel in the hold, you old
I was at a huge pet supply store today and saw a carrying case that I
could fit into fairly comfortably.
I am a sturdy woman who has worked with crazy people in the past, and I
know that people never expect a woman to fight back or to attempt to disarm an
armed person violently. I have learned that once one has had to fight
back against someone being violent, it is not as bad as one expects, and one
can do it much more easily in the future . Of course, I have never been
on a plane that is being hijacked, but hey. I think we do not do our
kids any favors when we teach them not to fight. Hell yes, its not even politically correct to teach them to
compete. I think people need to know what they are capable
of. You can fight and hurt someone when they've scratched you up
badly with a pocket knife -- I've done it, though I was pretty hysterical at
the time. Of course, we don't call it fighting when it's with a crazy
person and it's your job to do that.
When I was seven, a boy picked on
me in school, and punched me. I came home crying and my father taught me
how to punch him back. That made me much more confident about my body
and what it can do.
2. Concentrating population in small land areas makes wonderful
targets for all sorts of weapons. Cities always made me feel
claustrophobic, that looks a bit more rational now. Maybe house prices in
London will level off a bit, but I doubt it.
3. W calls this war.
Perhaps he would like to think on about the implications of that
statement. In Vietnam the US found a new kind of war that it was
ill-equipped to handle - guerilla war, and lost. If this is war, then it
has just found another one. This new sort of war is fought by global
guerillas, by a diffuse army with no base and no country, and obeys no rules,
never claims vistory and like Mary Poppins, never explains. If the US (or
the so called 'free world') reacts in the traditional manner then WW3 is a war
fought between the victims of 'globalisation' and those who exploit them, on a
civillian battlefield, and maybe it just started. Anthrax in the air cond
4. They plan to attack all countries which give shelter to
terrorists. That should sort out the IRA for us then. Will they also bomb
the states that sell arms to terrorists or train the pilots? Seems
logical, I wouldn't take a holiday in Florida just now if I were you.
Because of the things you
mentioned, I think our response is just SO stupid. I really think we should
re-think our position on Israel. (I'm Jewish, I can say that.) I've
thought that for a long time, though; this is not new.
As long as
we are dependent on foreign oil, this will happen to us. I don't approve
of our friendship with Saudi Arabia, but I understand why it is there. I
wish we would develop alternative energy sources.
And yes, I hold my
husband's SUV directly accountable for this.
No, really, I truly
think it is our fear of offending Muslim countries who sell us oil that keeps us
from taking REALLY serious action. I'm not all for the serious action,
though; I think that the Muslim world has some serious gripes against us.
Oh, heck, I'm just still so confused right now about *what* I think, I don't
know what I'm thinking. I am just through with watching TV. David is
sitting in front of it 24 hours a day, and to me, I hear the grinding sound of
spin beginning. I don't like it. I'm afraid I'm being mislead or
actually lied to by my government (a government I still don't belong still has
the right to be there), and I am upset.
Did I say this before? Our present government has made the
British heartily sick of spin. I believe that if a party wants to get
itself elected next time all it has to do is show itself to be honest. It only
hasn't happened yet because of the dearth of honest politicians. I voted
for Thatcher way back then because she had real pragmatic honest policies that
cut the idealist crap. I'd vote for that again. Being lied to by
government is a way of life in most countries including UK. A politician
sleeps with his secretary and gets fired. He is caught lying through his
teeth and he gets promoted. Whatever happened to our
I don't understand it. I
really don't care about a politician's sex life, and I don't know anyone who
does. The media just keep pumping it out: for whom, I don't
Hmmmph. I think I will go to the library and pick out some
lovely fiction to lose myself in. And I'm going to buy some candy on the
Ta-ta for now.
Yeah, where was Bruce Willis when we
Artyom points out that the Spiderman movie intro now looks dated
- he is swinging between the towers.
They whipped that out of
the theaters in the U.S. last Tuesday. They are re-editing it.
I thought you would
like to see this. Second thing from Michael Moore. Very interesting
thing at the end.
Some more random thoughts and rantings.
We can all
say "Our side good, your side evil" but if someone does something horrendous, we
are fools if we don't ask ourselves in detail why they did it.Yes. And that voice is being silenced
The BBC radio news is regularly reading out (among others)
letters from people of similar opinion. One said: "The people killed
were not innocent civilians, they were the footsoldiers of capitalism."
OK, that is a broad and perhaps unfair brush, but it makes the point.
Well, they were the footsoldiers
of capitalism and the Thai consulate. Your Michael Moore piece refers
to a feeling that there is a groundswell of opinion the same way there, but that
is not the media image we see. I'm
afraid it's a very quiet groundswell here. It doesn't show up in any media
here. It's scary.
Why do our and your politicians not pick
up on this? Like you say, the grinding noise of the spin machine starting
up. One would not imagine that our (wonderful, moral, decisive,
independent .. .. ..) UK leaders might be just a tiddy bit scared of saying
anything that might offend our large and rumbustuous friend? A true friend
will tell you when they think you are wrong. I am reminded of Cruella
DeVil "What sort of sycophant are you anyway?" and her sidekick "Uh, what sort
of sycophant would you like me to be?"
It seems to be politically incorrect
to even consider that the other side may have a point. David is constantly screaming at me because I
consider the other side's point. I've been sooooo quiet this past week.
We just went through all this in Ireland. We started off in a
position of saying "We won't have terrorists in the government while they still
have guns. Final answer." Then we find that there is a significant
minority who will vote for the terrorists, so we have to look at what it is that
makes them popular. So we end up having terrorists in government, and not
a single gun destroyed. (But then, Nelson Mandela was called a
terrorist.) I don't like it a bit, but I've learnt enough law to know it
isn't enough to take a moral stand. We lost that round, the terrorists'
politicians were better at it than ours. Even if you are whiter than the
driven snow, unless you can prove it beyond reasonable doubt, it always ends in
horse trading. Being upset that you don't get your 'rights' is a waste of
energy, and anyway none of us is moral enough to cast the first stone.
stand up and imply that America/NATO/The West/G7/The heavenly host (or whoever)
is fault free and everything is the other guy's fault is disingenuous. Are
there still people around naive enough to fall for that rot? About 200 million of my compatriots.
Get real, we have a problem and what we need is to solve the problem,
not to frighten it back under the carpet. Emotive talk of good and evil
obscures the real issue and does no-one any favours. It may be good for
rousing the people to give their lives in a good old fashioned face to face
battle, but kicking the shit out of the enemy doesn't usually make them agree
with you, only genocide does that. The enemy has grown up past that
stage. Can we?
I can't reconcile the fact that we are expected to
admire the dam busters in WW2 who killed 2000 enemy civilians (was it, I can't
remember) by a technically brilliant attack, but we must throw our hands up in
horror when it is done to us. I'm sorry, my emotions don't work that way,
they both look the same to me. I admire the technique and am frightened
and horrified by the killing in both cases. I appear to be odd that I can
think about the method and the result separately, yet I'm not, all soldiers at
least must do that.
"PS. Three days ago, I learned
from someone at ABC News that ABC had videotape -- an angle of the second
plane crashing into the tower -- that showed an F-16 fighter jet trailing the
plane at a distance."
Well, weren't they on the
ball. Presumably they didn't get authorisation to shoot down a civil
airliner over a city quickly enough. The news has come out that they were scrambled, but could not
catch up with the second plane. The Pentagon has confirmed that two
National Guard jets were dispatched to shoot it down but did not achieve
that. Cheney (the vice president) says that he ordered them scrambled, but
never was asked for the go-ahead to shoot because they didn't catch up.
Can you imagine giving that order and taking the rap for wiping out a
few hundred because -maybe- it was going to hit the tower and -maybe- the tower
would fall. I can just see explaining that at the inevitable court-martial
and when the bereaved families sue. I don't imagine they -knew- at that
time that the towers would collapse, and before everyone got out. And I don't
imagine the plane flew safely out over the sea either.
We have since also learned that the buildings were engineered to
take a hit by a 707, but at a low speed as if it was lost in the
It wasn't the
speed that killed it, it was the heat.
There was an article on this in New
Scientist, but anyway it was fairly obvious from the way the buildings fell
that it was thermal.
A plane on a normal landing approach would have empty
tanks. They obviously hadn't accounted for a plane that had just taken
I think even at stall speed an airliner would penetrate, insert its
fuel load and knock the cladding off the steel. Removing the cladding in
the fire area lets the steel heat up quicker and to a higher
temperature. If the heating is slowed then the rest of the building can
act as a cooling fin and keep the structure temperature lower. I wonder
how much of this the terrorists had researched, or whether it just seemed like
a good idea at the time.
I'd like to think it
was dumb luck, but I'm afraid it wasn't.