Wednesday, December 24, 2003

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Is Al Qaeda stuck in a rut?

Reuters reports a French Interior Ministry confirmation that, "national carrier Air France had canceled three U.S.-bound flights from Paris due to security concerns."

MSNBC has been all over this story (link via Josh Marshall):

A senior U.S. official told NBC's Robert Windrem that the United States had uncovered "plausible" intelligence that several flights originating in Paris would be the targets of terrorists, including the three Air France flights that were canceled.

The official described the intelligence as "fairly specific. ... We do not take it for lock-solid, no-doubt intelligence, but instead I would call it plausible. It's the sort of intelligence that matches up with other stuff we received."

Some of the intelligence was "date-specific, some route-specific. ... There are other flights and routes," he said, adding without elaboration that Air France was not the only airline discussed in the reports.

What's even more interesting in the story is the intelligence about Al Qaeda's grand strategy:

U.S. officials said the information indicated that al-Qaida planned to use foreign airliners as missiles, guided by al-Qaida operatives working as crew members. They said it appeared that Osama bin Laden personally approved the plan at a recent meeting.

The officials said U.S. intelligence agencies had learned that al-Qaida operatives would try to fly hijacked foreign airliners into targets in the United States....

U.S. officials and terrorism experts also have identified some potential targets, including at least one small town that would appear an unlikely objective.

The officials said al-Qaida seems particularly interested in Tappahannock, Va., a town of 2,016 people with no military base or major infrastructure. Such an attack would be intended to generate widespread fear that no one was safe, even in small rural towns, they said.

“Just remember that al-Qaida is not just looking to kill as many Americans as possible. They’re looking to seriously hurt our nation’s economy,” terrorism specialist Roger Cressey, former chief of staff of the President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board, said in an interview.

In addition to big cities like New York and Los Angeles, al-Qaida has targeted Las Vegas, the officials said, because of its economic value as the nation's No. 2 vacation destination and as home to large conventions and trade shows beginning next month....

The new intelligence adds details to information about the al-Qaida plot first reported Monday by NBC News, which quoted U.S. officials as saying the terrorist threat assessment was raised over the weekend because of indications that al-Qaida operatives may now be fully trained and licensed pilots for some foreign airlines, ideally positioning them to carry out suicide attacks.

A few thoughts:

1) Oddly, it's reassuring to hear that Al Qaeda is sticking to its tried and true strategies rather than trying to invent new methods of causing mayhem. [Unless this is an Al Qaeda prank?--ed. Yes, that's been suggested.] The last paragraph shows that they are trying to innovate within a chosen strategy. However, this is more manageable to defend against than something completely different. This variant is also less deadly than the 9/11 attacks, as Captain Ed points out.

2) The Vegas gambit confirms something I wrote a year ago about Al Qaeda's strategy -- that their enemy is not just the United States, but the pursuit of happiness that is a vital component of the American -- nay, Western -- ethos. Here's what I said about the appropriate U.S. response:

[M]any pundits criticized President Bush for his exhortation last year to fight the war on terrorism by going shopping. Both Democrats and "national greatness" Republicans said that was the time to marshall Americans towards some greater collective goal. I sympathize with this response, but it smacks of an attempt to match Al Qaeda in their humorless puritanism. I say Bush didn't go far enough in the other direction. Given Al Qaeda's current predelictions, the best way to fight the war on terror is to put our decadent brand of hedonism on full display. So my advice is to take a long, luxuriant vacation.

UPDATE: The Associated Press (link via here) reports that U.S. officials are ticked that the story is now public:

The flights scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday were called off because of information obtained "in the framework of the French-American fight against terrorism," the French prime minister's office said.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security had been meeting with French officials in recent days over concerns about a possible terrorist attack over the Christmas holiday.

One U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. government had been trying to keep the negotiations with France confidential, "hoping that we would be able to lure some of these people in."

The official said there was some frustration within the Department of Homeland Security that the flights were canceled, thus allowing the word to get out about the security concerns.

For those inclined to blame the French for this, look at the NBC story again -- it looks like U.S. officials were leaking a day before any action was taken.

posted by Dan on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM


The opposite of just go shopping is not humorless puritanism. It may be things like beefing up Neighborhood Watch, taking first aid and CPR classes and even self-defense courses, prepositioning medical supplies and food, better communication between communities, firemen, police, health, utility and construction workers (that have cranes, bulldozers, scaffolding, wood, fencing, etc.) It may be things like training citizens to watch for cars that might be bombs, and what to do when they find them.

I think Bush blew it big time by not championing these community efforts. And I believe the US lost a major opportunity to bridge many gaps.

posted by: anne.elk on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Oh and all of these actions would be very useful during the next earthquake, hurricane, fire, tornado, ice storm, or flu outbreak.

posted by: anne.elk on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

I agree with Anne Elk about the value of these kinds of efforts. But shopping does have its place, too.

posted by: Glenn Reynolds on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Heh, heh, heh...

anne.elk said beef

posted by: Beavis on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

“Oddly, it's reassuring to hear that Al Qaeda is sticking to its tried and true strategies rather than trying to invent new methods of causing mayhem.”

I predicted soon after 9/11 that this horrible event would likely be the last of its kind. Thankfully, knock on wood, I have so far been correct. The terrorists caught us with our guard down. Most of us were previously unaware that Arab looking men desired to murder us. We treated them very fairly and went out of our way not to be influenced by unjust prejudices. It may not be politically correct and abstractly fair---but we no longer give them the benefit of the doubt. Thus, it is extremely difficult for people of Mid Eastern descent to employ deep cover tactics so that they can take advantage of us sometime in the future.

posted by: David Thomson on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Actually, Anne has a good point. I've been thinking about the same thing, or something similar, for a couple of days.

Back in The Day, I was qualified as a Shelter Manager and Shelter Medic for civil defense thrugh the Civil Air Patrol. Now that was 30 years ago, so I would want a brush-up (!) but it occurred to me to go looking for civil defense information. Other than some scanned reprints of old CD texts and a bunch -- a BUNCH! -- of survivalist stuff, I really didn't find much of anything.

I think maybe we should revive the Civil Defense program, maybe even as a Civil Defense Corps. Amend the Militia Act to make CD explicitly part of the duties of the general militia, have militia training etc. The Civil Air Patrol, the Sea Scouts, and the Coast Guard Auxiliary could have a part too.

The point would be to teach civil defense basics: what to do in case of an NBC attack (ie, nuclear, biological, or chemical, not a news program... although maybe that would be useful, come to think of it); first aid, from a one hour course to something like my Shelter Medic course; maybe weapons safety and weapons training.

Most of this cold be put together from existing programs: Red Cross courses, Eddie Eagle and Hunter Safety courses, and so on.

The big thing, though, would be to make it into a decentralized CD effort: not ranks and a pseuomilitary structure, but something more self-organizing.

Seems to me blogs could fit into this....

posted by: Charlie on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

So my advice is to take a long, luxuriant vacation.

Good idea. Now, if only I could get my employer to pay for the time off.....

posted by: Bashir Gemayel on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Anne is completely wrong and Bush is completely correct. After 9/11 medics, rescue workers, emergency aid personal were turned away from the WTC - they simply were not needed. What was needed were people to go into Chinatown, Soho, Gramercy Park, etc and buy stuff.

posted by: hen on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Perhaps these folks ought to have a chat with Richard Reid about what happens these days to anyone trying to use an airplane as a weapon.

posted by: Debra Bates on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

I think one can put too much effort into improving things like emergency reponse. I mean thar it is important not to overweight defensive efforts against Islamofascist agression. It is a war and we will not win it by showing how fast we can collect and identify the bodies after the next attack against large numbers of civilians.

I disagree with Bush on lots of things, but he is right on the one big one - taking the war back into the Mid East

posted by: Buck Smith on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Another indicator that our strategy is working: these airplanes would be almost exhausted of fuel by the time they reached their destination, and half-empty when they reached American airspace at all. Part of their destructive power on 9/11 came from full fuel tanks. If al-Qaeda is forced to stage these attacks from France, they've been forced to scale back damage from their "missiles".

posted by: Captain Ed on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Going after a small town in the US would be a massive mistake for them. It's Blue state america that they are trying to cow. Any small town is likely to be Red state america and there'd only be a massive strengthening of the Red state's will to fight.

posted by: Robin Brown on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

The only thing is a good indication of is that Alqueda is getting good at pulling our leg, and figuring out exactly where their network is compromised by survellience. As for the Vegas thing, that was completely discredited. Happy holidays folks, but this was just a red herring put out by the terrorists.

posted by: Oldman on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

I dunno, one thing that confuses me about this intelligence is how one can have intelligence of such specificity, but yet not be able catch the ppl that originated the intelligence.
I wonder if it is just crap put out by AQ to distract their adversaries from their real goals, or maybe to test the security of their information flows.

posted by: Factory on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Debra Bates writes: "Perhaps these folks ought to have a chat with Richard Reid about what happens these days to anyone trying to use an airplane as a weapon."

Richard Reid wasn't trying to use the airplane as a weapon. He was trying to blow it out of the sky over the ocean. The weapon was the bomb, the victims would have been the people aboard the plane.

If Al Qaeda has people working as pilots, flying the planes, then they'll be locked in the cockpit, safe from interference from the passengers. So the Richard Reid example wouldn't apply.

All the terrorist would have to do is kill or disable the other one or two people in the cockpit.

Boy, the people who wanted to arm pilots certainly never considered the possibility that they'd end up arming an Al Qaeda pilot.

posted by: Jon H on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

But a plane entering US airspace on a polar route to Los Angeles would have a fair amount of fuel if it got diverted to, say, Seattle.

posted by: Raoul Ortega on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Good point, Raoul, and MS-NBC is reporting that at least one of the flights were to have originated in Los Angeles. I stand corrected.

posted by: Captain Ed on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

The hubris demonstrated by these Jihadis is obvious. They actually seem to think that they can win a war against us by crashing planes into American buildings, along with their best operatives. Their opinion of us is truly low, not to mention that their tactics are wrongheaded and misguided.

They formed their opinion of us when we were being poorly led, by Bush 41 and BJ Clinton, who granted little victories to them at the slightest provocation, and railed against the "craven criminals". Now that our leader is a man of action instead of words, who understands that we are at war, and that our enemy are "enemy combatants", al Qaeda can wait for us to cut and run, but it will all be for naught: we won't.

They could better use their resources by contributing to the democrat party, or the Dean campaign. Their only hope for victory is a negotiated truce, which this nation will never give them, unless our government changes back into a pacifist, multi-culti, metrosexual-led koobayah campfire-girl slumber party. Under present leadership the best that they can hope for is a quick death, on their way to their whorehouse heaven, complete with 72 virgin sex toys. The crazy thing is, to them, that doesn't sound so bad. They don't even get the joke.

posted by: Michael Gersh on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

If al Qaeda has succeeded in planting terrorists as licensed airline pilots, there won't be much opportunity for passengers to stop them. Didn't we already have an airliner downed by its co-pilot, although not in an atteck on a building.

We may end up having to shoot down a few airliners full of passengers. War is tough. We need a gut check, but our media seems to be more interested in next year's election and pretending that there is no war against us.

There will be more attempts, and possibly some successful ones. I just hope we don't think that Howard Dean is the answer.

posted by: AST on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Re the several comments about "being prepared": At least in my town, Tempe AZ, there is a lot going on. Both the police and fire departments are running fairly elaborate programs to better train us "civilians". Among other things, I'm working with a group to set up an emergency center specifically to deal with the spontaneous volunteers, so they won't go clutter up the disaster site and get in the way of the trained people.

To learn more, Google "Citizens Corps"

posted by: al on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

What is it about people like Anne that makes them value sacrificing one's life to others more than looking out for oneself and so requiring no one else's sacrifice.

In true freedom, he who wishes to be left alone will be, instead of being forced to live other people's ideas of the good life.

posted by: brett on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

anne.elk represents the Florence Nightingale branch of collective response to aggression, and it's very sweet, gentle, and necessary to keep us human. It's good to respond to violent horror by reinforcing our humanity.

But the Curtis LeMay branch is right, too: it is also necessary to respond to aggression with unbelievable and brutal counter-violence, even pre-emptive violence. So long as people exist who will fly airplanes into buildings, we must do our best to hunt them down and destroy them like we would plague bacilli and rabid dogs, without mercy, empathy, or hesitation.

It is the combination of the carrot and the stick that wins. Not an original insight, of course, but it seems necessary to re-state these days. The world needs both the belligerent Pay Attention Right Now Or Else stand of the Bush Administration, and the sensitive new-age Can't We All Just Be Friends? bent-over-backwardness of the European Union.

posted by: arthur on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

I agree with the poster who characterized Al Qaeda's tactic of going after a small U.S. town a "mistake." If a small town in the South was decimated by foriegn terrorists, you would see some *pissed off* people. I'm talking about *not this pissed off since Reconstruction* kind of anger. There would be an increased will to fight, yes, but also a xenophobia like you wouldn't believe. If Arabs (and I mean patriotic, innocent Arab-Americans, too) thought they had it bad at this point, just wait and see what kind of treatment they'd get once Pascagoula or Huntsville or Johnson City or Blacksburg gets hit.

posted by: Jeff on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

You may see in these post another thing these threats are doing, they are compelling the general public to educate themselves about the world in general, and international intercouse in particular. For instance, how much of the french government is owned by alqueda?

posted by: jeff f on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Most countries have employed community efforts in times of conflict because,
1 It emphasises the gravity of the situation.
2 People like to feel involved and to be doing something,they don't feel as powerless.
3 Enhancing community spirit is essential at time like these and a the worst cannot do any harm.
And there are probably a lot more reasons.
In the UK all the wraught iron railings from houses were collected,ostensibly to provide metal for the "War Effort".It mostly ended up dumped out of the way.
Could not the flights have been stopped by the French government in an effort to please?

posted by: Peter UK on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

The merits of striking a small town vs. a big coastal city depend on what Al Qaeda's goals are. If they want to instill "terror" in America and cause widespread support for drastic government measures then they cannot just concentrate on coastal big cities. As long as it is NYC, DC or California that is hit, most of the country will be deeply offended as they were after 9-11 but they will not feel as if it could happen to them (after the McVeigh bombing much of the televised reaction was "How could something like that happen here").

A terrorist strike on the heartland would as Jeff said lead to some "pissed off" people. These people may then support significant curbs on civil liberties that would make the Patriot Act look like a very small first step.

If on the other hand Al Qaeda is looking for symbolic targets or higher casualty numbers then big cities make sense as targets. The impact on the American consciousness won't be as large as 9-11 or as large as if they hit something previously thought to be beyond their interest.

posted by: Stuart on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Jon H wrote:

Boy, the people who wanted to arm pilots certainly never considered the possibility that they'd end up arming an Al Qaeda pilot.

Sure we did. That's why we favor background checks.

But if an Al Qaeda pilot shoots another pilot, the people on the place are going to notice. Which means air traffic control will find out about it. Which means the plane is going to be "escorted" somewhere, and new pilots will be put on board.

It's never a smart thing to assume you're the smartest person on the planet, or the only person who's thought of something.

posted by: Greg D on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Did the officials have to leak the specific town they're targeting? I can only imagine what the people in Tappahannock, Va. are thinking right now.

posted by: Hei Lun Chan on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

In an effort to bolster our national security and posture of cultural offence I plan to look up some porno on the net.

posted by: M. Simon on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Two Middle Eastern men are being looked for by the FBI. They purchsed two tickets VIA the internet to a small village in Alaska.

The village is near the Alaska pipeline. The employees for the charter company alerted the FBI.

It is not a common occurance that two Middle Easterners with a last name of Mohammed want to take a plane ride to an Athabascan village of 97 people in the dead of winter in the interior of Alaska.

Their names appear on the FBI's alias names list.

We shall see what happens.

posted by: Loud Mouths on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Hei Lun Chan said:

Did the officials have to leak the specific town they're targeting? I can only imagine what the people in Tappahannock, Va. are thinking right now.
I imagine they're thinking the same thing those of us in the Richmond, VA, area [about 45 miles from Tappahannock] are thinking - time to buy some more ammo.

posted by: Barbara Skolaut on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Uh, I don't think the European Union is bet over backwards. I think they are bent over in the other direction.

posted by: M. Simon on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

The cynic in me thinks al Qaida chose Air France as their purported weapon this time because they wanted passengers who would surrender immediately instead of fighting it out like the people on Flight 93 did.

But the fact that one of the flights supposedly was originating from Los Angeles makes me wonder why the FBI hasn't already detained one or more people, if they are part of the flight crew currently in the U.S., or why a bulletin in Europe can't be issued for the others, assuming the agencies have an idea eactly who they are looking for. You would think if certain members of those six Air France flight crews suddenly didn't show up for work today, their names and photo IDs could be broadcast so they could be brought in for questioning.

As for the rural attacks, I would think those would be problimatical, based on the reported difficulty one of the 9/11 crews appeared to have had in locating the proper target in Washington before striking the Pentagon (supposedly the Capitol and the White House were the D.C. targets). Also a foreign hijacked plane flying over the continental United States would have to find a target away from the coastal areas pretty fast before Air Force fighters would catch it and shoot it down, and even if it was a crew member who suddenly turns suicidal, like the Egypt Air pilot off the Atlantic Coast in 2000, there are flight paths those jets have to maintain. An Air France jet, or any other airline's jet, bound for Los Angeles or New York for example, that suddenly veers off toward Las Vegas or some nuclear plant near the Canadian border would still have to elude the Air Force for about 30 minutes in order to find and strike its target.

Given al-Qaida's "rut" habit that Daniel alluded to, my main concern -- if you take the airplane terror factor out of the current alert -- would problaby be the NYC subway system. Members of the same group that bombed the World Trade Center in 1993 failed in their attempt to bomb a major subway transfer point in Brooklyn three years later. Since distruction of the WTC remained an obsession of Osama and his bunch, and since airplanes as weapons now seem to be an obsession, I would guess that the idea of striking the subway is still on their "things-to-do" list of obsessions as well.

posted by: John on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

To all those who are on the side of anti-globalization, it seems to me, if everybody in the middle east had a wide-screen TV, there'd be a lot of people staying home watching Law & Order dubbed in Arabic that would otherwise be out blowing us and each other up.

posted by: Amy Alkon on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

I would only like to point out that if that Egypt Air pilot had been yelling "Oh Jesus! Oh Jesus!", isstead of "Mahshallah" (God willing), no one would be saying he was consciously trying to crash the airliner.

posted by: Warren Baehr on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

I would only like to point out that if that Egypt Air pilot had been yelling "Oh Jesus! Oh Jesus!", instead of "Mahshallah" (God willing), no one would be saying he was consciously trying to crash the airliner.

posted by: Warren Baehr on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]


How many Christians do you know that yell 'Oh Jesus!' as they detonate bombs in cafes, wedding receptions or bar mitzvahs?

What the heck is your point?

posted by: Rick Rice on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]


How many Christians do you know that yell 'Oh Jesus!' as they detonate bombs in cafes, wedding receptions or bar mitzvahs?

What the heck is your point?

posted by: Rick Rice on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

I am very surprised that a terrorist organization with supposed "sleeper cells" hasn't taken the approach of Large medium and small attacks, anywhere, with varying damage.
Just think if folks didn't view the DC snipers as a local issue. All I can imagine is that there is "symbolic" value in spectacle..although this last report seems to indicate an evolution.

posted by: Rich Reilly on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

read the report on Batouti.
The Crash of EgyptAir 990
It was quite clearly an intentional act of suicide-murder.

posted by: Nikita on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Actually I think anne.elk is on to something. Most rural southern areas are armed better than third world countries. We could have a network similar to volunteer fire department. Maybe pagers could even be issued so when trouble started, we could all come running, guns blazing. The lucky Bubba could strap the trophy terrorist across the hood of his truck and parade him around town for a day.

If Jeff thinks an attack on Huntsville or Johnson City would be bad, let a bad guy try out Newport or Tellico Plains TN, Chatsworth GA or Murphy NC. They’d find out what being on a suicide mission really feels like.

posted by: Tim on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Tappahannock, Va? A clever poster to wonders if we misconstrued the clues-rembering back to one plot where Al Qaeda wanted to crash a hijacked jetliner into a cruise ship @ sea.

The USS Tappahannock is one of the largest refuelers in our fleet-a giant floating gas can, if they pulled it off it would be a spectacular civilian AND military target. AO/AO-43_Tappahannock.html

Before you call this farfetched when Hezbollah terrorists seized TWA 847 in '85 they were loudly interested in any American passengers who hailed from "New Jersey" in a bizarre correlation with the Destroyer that shelled terrorist strongholds in Beirut a month earlier....

posted by: don raymond on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Anyone who believes that an airliner that has been hijacked (and the new crew is bent on crashing into a target of opportunity) would be shot out of the sky by the US Air Force, hasn't really figured the numbers.

You have an aircraft travelling at about 600 mph, that would be able to deviate from its flight path for about ten minutes, could attack anything in a radius of 100 miles before any chance of interception. That puts almost any important target within its range before action could be taken. Add to that the amount of time it would take before the decision is made to destroy an aircraft (that is full of a couple hundred passengers) and you can see that, if the bad guys decide to repeat their performance of 9/11, hoping for a shoot-down is an impossible dream.

posted by: Michael Gersh on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

The USS Tappahannock is one of the largest refuelers in our fleet-a giant floating gas can, if they pulled it off it would be a spectacular civilian AND military target.
Now that makes a ton of sense. I hope someone from the Administration is reading this, although since it's well known you get your information best by asking your staff, I fear not.
posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Their attacks show they do not understand the United States. They can do nothing that will make us fear them, all they can do is make us angrier. Attacking our soil is an attack against our brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. We will take it personally, and rather cower in panic, we will hunt them down like beasts and destroy them. Do they think that any country is powerful enough to give shelter to out attackers? Americans aren't used to being afraid, don't really know how to be. You want to guide our actions, you'd better try to win our hearts and minds.. fear will not work on us, or to use another analogy, our nation is our temple, and it knows no borders but the mind. Worship at it, ignore it, but desecrate it and you will not be forgiven.

posted by: JasonStiletto on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

With regard to anne.elks original post, such planning was done after 9/11. Just because Bush didn't tell anne about it, doesn't mean it didn't happen.

With regard to taking out a rural town leading to even more restrictions on our freedoms, that's silly. It's the soft people in the big cities that call for the government to protect them from the big bad Arab.

Piss off/frighten the rural folks and you got yourself a war. Ask the Germans what happens when the whole freakin' United States is angry with you. Ask the Japanese too.

It probably wouldn't be a good time to be an Arab in America, but that would be a lot better than being an Arab outside America.

Despite the yammering of the commie leftists (and I use that term with affection :), the Bush administration has conducted its war in a pretty restrained and professional manner. You dump a French airliner into a small town in rural America and the gloves are coming OFF. And it won't be Bush taking them off, it will be the public DEMANDING that we wipe these Oedipus emulating freaks.

It will be Total War, as only we can do it.

posted by: Gary Utter on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

I believe that to be correct. The next time we get hit inside our borders, notice will be served to leadership of Iran and Syria that they WILL give up their Radicals or else.

Notice will be served INSIDE THEIR BORDERS this time.

posted by: Tim on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

We have information but not much knowledge. This Air France stuff could be a ruse designed to mask real intelligence or not. Terrorists could have been apprehended and we might not know for days or not. Paris may be the most likely source for an incoming flight, or London or Frankfurt or Sao Paolo, or there is nothing really coming in by air, we might really think it is coming in by sea. The information we received today could be part of an elaborate deception scheme to lure terrorists out of hiding, or not.

posted by: Robert on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

At this point, I doubt they really care what they hit, red state, blue state, Muslims or non, as long as they hit something. I think they think they'll eventually prod us into making a dumb move, which will start a glorious WWIII, in which Allah will make them victorious, possibly by making all the western nations nuke each other flat.
Kind of like poodles nipping at the ankles of the door-to-door nitroglycerine salesman.

posted by: Sarah e.g. on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Thanks for the tip on the USS Tappahannock.
There's also a Rappahannock County in Virginia which is close to DC and has a lot of government buildings.

posted by: John Tillinghast on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

At the risk of sounding too "non-pussified," or "callous," I would like to say that I am not afraid of al Qaeda. I have more fear of my daughter playing that horrific Hillary Duff movie one more time than what Alfred E. Qaeda can do.

Why? Click on the name.

posted by: Ron Diamond on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]


posted by: Ron Diamond on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Hey Gary Utter,

While I agree with your passion, the commie pinko left in America has actually taken a sharp turn AGAINST the Islamists.

Oh, and Vote for Cooper!

posted by: Cooper on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

"Boy, the people who wanted to arm pilots certainly never considered the possibility that they'd end up arming an Al Qaeda pilot."

We are arming _US_ pilots after BG checks and specific training. We are not arming Air France pilots who carry prayer rugs in their luggage. Political incorrectness of above remark hereby acknowledged without apology.

However, it does constitute a problem if the armored cockpits in US aircraft are impervious to concerted effort of the passengers to prevent diversion of the plane... Such collective heroism saved us once; it will be ironic if our sheep-herding "security" measure prevents it from saving us again.

posted by: Preston Spaulding on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Hitting a ship is hard. Where is the USS Tappahannock now? If at a naval base, it would be hard to attack. If at sea it would be impossible.

posted by: wretchard on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Hey Cooper!

I SAID I used the term with affection. And I was criticizing their yammering about "BushCo" and "Shrub" and "The Chimp"

The pinkos need to stop wasting time and energy fighting the Boss and get to work overturning Mohammedinism.

posted by: Gary Utter on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Amy Alkon writes: "To all those who are on the side of anti-globalization, it seems to me, if everybody in the middle east had a wide-screen TV, there'd be a lot of people staying home watching Law & Order dubbed in Arabic that would otherwise be out blowing us and each other up."

Actually, the US is late to the widescreen party.

Widescreen TVs have been available outside the US, cheaper than they are here, because in the US widescreen TVs are usually big-screen, and are often HDTV. Outside the US, widescreen TVs are often normal-sized regular TVs (not projection, plasma, or LCD), just with a wider aspect ratio. And not high-definition. So they're not much more expensive than regular non-widescreen TVs.

For example, wide-screen tv sets have been shown in IKEA furniture catalogs for several years, and the European website for Phillips, a Dutch manufacturer of TVs, had lots of widescreen sets for a few years while their US website had none. And the Euro widescreen sets sold for prices starting around $450-$500, rather than the thousands of dollars you had to pay in the US.

Of course, if you used "widescreen" to mean "big", then nevermind.

posted by: Jon H on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Hey Mr. Lazarus. Way to get suckered.

AO 43 *was* an oiler. She was commissioned in 42, and 'paid-off' in july of '76.

And yes, we are on top of this kind of thing, but we typically forward it to Mulder at the FBI.

Other conspiracy nuts can check it out for themselves at the Naval Vessel Register. The public site is at

Good Grief...

posted by: Art Wellesley on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Actually the USS Tappahannock was struck from the Naval Register in 1976 and, as far as I can tell, she is probably part of the National Reserve Defence Fleet (she was transfered to MARAD - the Maritime Administration - in 1987)... I don't know whether she is active or laid up at one of their three fleet sites.

Merry Christmas everyone!

posted by: Grahame Curtis on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

Hey Gary Utter,

You and I are in full agreement. Sorry if I gave you the impression that I disagree with you that the leftists are siding with the Islamists. The article I referred to was satire (showing a crack in the leftist-Islamist alliance).

You and I both know there is no such split (yet). I don't know if there ever will be.

And who's the idiot that came up with "the chimp?" Would any of the Maoists on the left cheerfully accept anyone on the right referring to Al Sharpton as a 'chimp?' Didn't think so.

Take care Gary,
and Merry Christmas everyone!
Cooper for President

posted by: Cooper on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]


I'll vote for you in 2008. :) Gotta go with W on this round tho...

posted by: Gary Utter on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

what is odd is we rank highest in pulling speeders on 360 to Tappahannock compared to all other towns in America

but i make a couple of calls about suspicious vehicles in my back yard at the field where the air tower signal is and the police ask me "do you want us to send someone to check this out?"

Guess what, bunch of foreign looking guys hung out there nearly two hours later and "no police were dispatched that I saw...the entrance to this tower is right beside my house (one way in and one way out) strange huh???

posted by: Rhonda on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

I have added your blog to what I read several times a day. Andrew Sullivan was the first blog I followed, and then branched out to many that you have linked.

As I am doing research and writing, I grabbed and printed your two papers on those subjects. My topic is 17th Century naval history from the Dutch perspective. I have started to write about current events and politics (I was hooked by Watergate), although I lack the academic background that you have.

Anyway, you are now on my short list, along with Glen Reynolds and Andrew Sullivan, because you have insight and wit that are enlightening and entertaining.

posted by: Jim Bender on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

I was a crew member aboard the U.S.S. Tappahannock AO-43 and trust me, if any terrorists tried to attack her they would fail. Five Japanese dive bomber pilots tried that on April 7, 1943. She shot down two of them and inflicted heavy damage on the others and was able to evade all five bombs they tried to drop on her.The U.S.S. Tappahannock can defend herself!!!

posted by: Paul Kuzman on 12.24.03 at 02:44 PM [permalink]

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