How The US Response Turns 'Failed' Terrorist Attacks Into Successes

from the playing-the-game-they-want dept

Terrorism is a serious issue. No one's trying to downplay the fact that some very angry individuals are trying to kill an awful lot of Americans (and others as well). However, what's amazing is how incredibly bad the US appears to be at this particular game of chess. Robert Wright recently had a bit of an eye-opening discussion of how the US appears to have played into Al Qaeda's plan at almost every turn. It's another case of the US simply not understanding how to respond to a distributed threat, rather than a centralized one. The whole business is based on getting the US to overreact and overspend and get it caught in a quagmire that causes additional problems. And, increasingly, it looks like that's exactly what's happened.

Along those lines, Bruce Schneier highlights how the US response fits right into Al Qaeda's plans, since our response is quite costly, while the attacks are really, really cheap. He points to an article in Foreign Policy that explains how the TSA's security policies are exactly what Al Qaeda wants. It's not about killing Americans or even "terrorizing" them. It's about trying to get the country spending more and more to try to stop the impossible -- leading to a bankrupting of the overall economy. Now, I will say that this goal is probably a lot more difficult to reach than Al Qaeda probably thinks, but it's no excuse for the US government following through and helping Al Qaeda.

But the really striking thing about all of this is that you realize how the US has turned each failed attack into a success for Al Qaeda. A clueless guy can't light his underwear on fire to take down an airplane? We spend billions in totally ineffective and intrusive TSA security procedures and machines that wouldn't have even caught that guy.

What we're doing is creating a circular situation where all we're doing is encouraging more ridiculous attacks by Al Qaeda. Even when they don't succeed, the fact that we're costing the country so much in silly security theater encourages Al Qaeda to do more -- and (perhaps) to get more ridiculous each time, knowing that we'll continue to overreact and spend ourselves silly to try to prevent another guy from trying to light his underwear on fire on a plane. Outspending (massively) an enemy worked when that enemy was the Soviet Union -- a centralized bureaucracy that simply couldn't keep up. But this is a very different beast, and responding using the same basic thought process isn't helping. It's making matters worse. As Wright notes in that first article: "Were creating them faster than were killing them." And spending orders of magnitude to do so. Forget the fact that this isn't sustainable. It's just downright stupid from a strategic standpoint.


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  1.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 6:34am

    "The whole business is based on getting the US to overreact and overspend and get it caught in a quagmire that causes additional problems"

    I've said this before. Back on November 24, 2002 Osama bin Laden promised to destroy the economy of the west. Its eight years later and it appears his threat was carried out. But yet, no one is talking about this angle.

    Terrorism is about more than blowing things up. It's about covertly destroying systems and infrastructure. We're treating this war against terrorism as if its being fought solely in airports. It's not.

     

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  2.  
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    ChrisB (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 6:46am

    Ignore them

    Most people are terrible at risk assessment. Even if there were a couple of 9/11's every year, that is still less than the yearly deaths from Aspirin.

    The only way to beat them is to ignore them.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 6:51am

    Re: Ignore them

    Part of the problem is that "lets go over there and kick their asses" is an easier sell than "lets be rational about this".

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 7:03am

    You're defining "failed" wrong

    Sure, the US is spending billions of taxpayer dollars on ridiculous responses. But where are they spending that money? If you own the companies who are getting the billions, then it's easy to buy a few Congresscritters to keep the ball rolling. Chertoff/Rapiscan, anyone?

     

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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 7:08am

    Re: Said it before...

    I agree with everything in your post except your definitions.

    Terrorism is about influencing people with fear/intimidation. (Examples clearly visible in the news--obviously the media/government is terrorizing us).

    WAR is about destroying your enemy's systems and infrastructure.

    So, to be more accurate, Al Qaeda is (allegedly) at war with the United States; and the United States is terrorizing the United States populace.

     

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  6.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 7:13am

    Re: Re: Said it before...

    Al Qaeda is at war with the US and Terrorism is their tactic. The US is at war with it's citizens and terrorism is their excuse.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 7:15am

    im not so sure you understand something here...

    since theres been so many people saying this from the very beginning, and its so incredibly obvious, I dont think the situation is really what you think it is.

    consider this possibility instead: The attack was welcomed by those in power cause it let them spend what they wanted to spend. They were just looking for excuses to give money to their pals.

    Just assume that the outcome, where the rich get richer, and the friends of those in power gain additional power was the intended outcome and the US "response" to everything makes the most sense possible.

    There have been no mistakes in the response. This is exaclty what they wanted all along.

     

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    mariovistus (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 7:15am

    Isn't this how Reagan supposedly brought down the USSR?

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 7:18am

    The war on terror will be fought and won on the dinner table.

    People empathyze with those crazy people for some reason.

    The United States have an image problem. That image problem fuel the terror ranks with fresh dumb people from around the world.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 7:31am

    Re: Ignore them

    I agree w/the sentiment, but why not actually go in the OTHER direction.

    Al Queda: We hate your way of life, and that's why we destroyed the twin towers!

    USA: Huh. Well, that was stupid of you. Now most of the world hates you. Oh well, you know what WE'RE going to do? Allow MORE freedom and show you why our way of life is the best. How does a mosque at ground zero grab you?

    Al Queda: JEWS! You support the zionists! Death to America!

    USA: And not just them, either. We're going to help Israel, because we want to. Oh, we're also going to help out other groups that are oppressed, including Muslims around the world. How does some foreign aid to the Sudan grab you?

    Al Queda: We hate your freedom!

    USA: Too bad. Just to annoy you, we're going to give our citizens MORE freedom! BWHAHAHAHA!

    It's really to bad it didn't go something like this. The USA has such a horrible PR problem....

     

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  11.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 7:36am

    Risk and how it affects you

    John Stossel did a write-up on some research into how risk plays into how many days of your life you lose.

     

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    Joe Patriot, Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 7:37am

    Re: Re: Said it before...

    Semantics aside, whenever we compromise our principles as a response to a terror attack, they win a victory, because we lose some of what made the US great.

    - Security Theater
    - Eroded Civil Liberties
    - Guantanamo Bay and Extreme Rendition
    - Two ruinously expensive conflicts

    Al Qaeda has been soundly kicking us around on that account since 2001.

     

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    BuschnicK, Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 7:39am

    economy

    Well, but is all that spending bad for the economy? I mean most of the dollars go to US contractors doing the work and building all the security gizmos - no?

     

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    justok (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 7:40am

    World War 3 has no front. Just a natural progression over the past few centuries. WW1 had trenches, WW2 had broad fronts, and now...

     

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    Darren (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 7:40am

    Re: Ignore them

    So well said. While people submit to all manner of erosion of their freedoms, they participate in activities such as riding on elevators, having drinks with friends, and driving that all have a much higher chance of ending their lives than terrorism.

     

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    Berenerd (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 7:41am

    Re: Re: Re: Said it before...

    i could not have said this better.

     

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    Joe Patriot, Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 7:42am

    Re: Re: Ignore them

    Hear, Hear!

     

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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 7:43am

    Header Typo

    Terrrrrrrrrrorist!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 7:47am

    Re: im not so sure you understand something here...

    Yes, and all life on earth was created by a creator because it looks that way and makes the most sense possible!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 7:47am

    Let's cut to the chase. These "intrusions" will stop once we are all required to fly sans clothing following a full body cavity search, perhaps even including the use of endoscopes to probe such cavities.

    On the bright side, this would be an excellent opportunity for federal officials to perform medical procedures such as colonoscopies, etc., and without the "patient" having to provide a co-pay. ;)

     

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  21.  
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    bob563, Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 8:04am

    Re: Ignore them

    Just hope that no one you love is part of the "minor" cost. But I guess that it would be interesting to see how you felt then.

     

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  22.  
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    Richard Kulawiec, Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 8:07am

    Re: economy

    Yes, it's great for the pigs at the trough -- that is, the executives and lobbyists for those companies.

    But it's bad for everyone else. This is not how one grows an economy, and definitely not how one creates jobs for the future.

    Consider: as of this morning, costofwar.com shows that the total cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is about 1.115 trillion dollars. That's just the wars -- so it doesn't includes all the money pissed away by DHS et.al.

    Do the math. That money could have been spent on college educations, on fixing infrastructure, on getting broadband (REAL broadband) to everyone, on health care, on any combination of things that would actually improve life for citizens and create long-term jobs as a byproduct.

    Instead it was spent getting a lot of people killed for absolutely no reason. Ours, theirs, neutrals, whatever: a lot of people have died to achieve nothing of lasting value. That's a human tragedy -- and a very expensive one.

     

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  23.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 8:14am

    Re: im not so sure you understand something here...

    Hanlon's razor?

    Or my favorite; Penn and Tellers "Cock up before conspiracy".

    But, even my rose colored glasses are getting dull.

     

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  24.  
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    hodgy (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 8:15am

    immune system

    from the outside it looks like america's immune system is being stimulated to attack itself...

     

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    The eejit (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 8:19am

    Re:

    Seems like a plan to me! :D

     

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  26.  
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    crade (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 8:30am

    What gets me is that the US keeps pointing the finger at us (Canada) and saying our lax security is hurting them. For goodness sake, Canada is the only country on the hit list that hasn't been hit; and not because there haven't been attempts on us, but because the attempts were foiled *before* the mission was complete. Grinds my gears I tell ya!

     

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  27.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 8:34am

    Re:

    I like to think that it's because uneducated Al Queda terrorists set foot on Canadian soil, take one look at a moose, and immediately think that it is one of those great horned devil jews they've heard so much about (a la Borat), and immediately run away....

     

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  28.  
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    teka, Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 8:38am

    Re: Re: Ignore them

    Odds on someone you know and love being part of the "minor" cost of automobile travel is much higher.

    Odds of someone you know and love being part of the "minor" cost of slippery tile in the bathroom or that cough that "didn't seem that bad" are much higher.

    You still drive your car, you still do everything else and you still Would continue to drive, etc, after they die. You wouldnt advocate tripling the national debt to Possibly Maybe prevent a few of these deaths, would you?

    Especially when its still just a big maybe, and when the price being paid is freedoms rather then just money.

    we can always hope that our loved ones stay safe, and we can take reasonable steps to keep them that way, but kneejerk emotional responses (like everything we have been doing since 9/11 it seems) are a deadlier then the disease they fight.

     

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  29.  
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    crade (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 8:41am

    Re: Re:

    Yeah, if they were educated they would know Canada drove out all the Jewish people back in the 40's and 50's with our incredibly over the top anti-semitism.

     

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  30.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 8:45am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Was there actually a lot of antisemitism in Canada during that time? I hadn't been aware of that....

     

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  31.  
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    DCX2, Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 8:48am

    Re: economy

    "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

    This world in arms is not spending money alone.

    It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

    The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement.

    We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.

    We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people."

    Excerpt from the Chance for Peace
    by Dwight D. Eisenhower
    April 16, 1953

     

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  32.  
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    crade (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 8:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Canada has a nasty history for that actually; not just at that time. (Or so I'm told, I wasn't actually around at that time :)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisemitism_in_Canada

    Contrary to popular opinion, though, we do have a secret service and they do seem to be doing a rather decent job so far as far as I can tell.

     

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  33.  
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    Brent Ashley (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 9:12am

    Follow The Money

    Somebody does bad things.
    Somebody makes decisions on how to react, chooses expensive solution.
    Lots of money is transferred from the state to somebody who is the chosen solution provider.
    The solution is not only ineffective but accelerates the situation.

    Who is each of the somebodies?
    How to each of them benefit?
    Follow the money.

     

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  34.  
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    Free Capitalist (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 9:32am

    Re:

    Isn't this how Reagan supposedly brought down the USSR?

    Hehe, actually it is pretty much the story isn't it. But in the case of the USSR, turns out there was never enough money in communism to begin with. Was it Wright who called that one first?

     

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  35.  
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    Chris in Utah (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 9:35am

    Re: Follow The Money

    Agreed! You want to know who has the most to gain, follow the money!

    "Government's view of the economy[substitute this for foreign policy] could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."
    -- Ronald Reagan

     

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    DanVan (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 9:39am

    What we have learned the last 10 years is that whenever a terrorism attacks with a Republican in office, the terrorists are mad b/c of past Democratic actions When a terrorist attack happens under Democratic rule, it is the Democrats problem for being "stupid" When a terrorist attack doesn't happen under Democratic rule, it is the Republicans to praise for past actions Make sense?

     

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  37.  
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    Free Capitalist (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 9:44am

    Re:

    ... vector graphics on a virtual front? Just like that sweet tank arcade game from the 80's. Well that, and actions that more resemble the types of guerrilla tactics in the U.S. Revolution where destructive forces, to the enemy, seem to coalesce out of thin air and then evaporate back into the landscape and populous.

    Only now the guerrillas have instant global communications capabilities.

     

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  38.  
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    Free Capitalist (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 9:49am

    Re:

    Not sure where you're going with that... are you trying to say nobody likes Snookie?

     

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    gouda, Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 9:51am

    Re: immune system

    Excellent analogy. We're suffering a full blown autoimmune response. I remember standing in line at a Dunkin Donuts watching one of the towers come down on the TV hanging from the ceiling.
    I turned to my coworker and said "You're gonna hear the sound of a giant barn door being shut now" I meant that we would react massively, and futilely. I grossly underestimated our response.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 9:57am

    Re:

    In part yes, but even in that case there was just as much bluff about how much we were spending as there was reality to how much we were spending.

    Now we're just spending outrageous sums for the hell of it.

     

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  41.  
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    lux (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 10:07am

    Re: Re: Ignore them

    The squeaky wheel gets the grease. And are you saying that if we just ignore Al Queda, they won't continue to attack us?

     

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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 10:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Ignore them

    What is needed are simple, effective solutions based on logic and understanding. What we are getting are expensive, worthless solutions based of fear and anger.

    Dark Helmet's solution is much closer to the best solution then what we have now.

     

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    lux (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 10:39am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Ignore them

    The offered "solution" is vague and clearly tongue-in-cheek. I agree we need better tactics, but ignoring Al Queda by sticking your head in the sand, is not a viable option.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 10:48am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Ignore them

    "The offered "solution" is vague and clearly tongue-in-cheek."

    The language is, yes. The spirit is not. Seriously, what could be better than listening to an Al Queda rant and coming back with "screw you, we're going to be even MORE free!".

    I mean, honestly, in which direction does the TSA scanning crap move us more: closer to westernized concepts of freedom, or closer to Sharia law?

    I certainly prefer my method of response to all the nonsense that's going on now. In fact, I think I'll coin a term for my proposed "solution" to terrorism.

    It's called the "nah nah nuh boo boo, stick your head in poo poo" method for combatting terrorism....

     

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  45.  
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    Freak, Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 10:50am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Ignore them

    "Dark Helmet's solution is much closer to a solution then what we have now."

    FTFY.

    You accidentally implied that what you have now might possibly be a solution.

     

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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 10:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Ignore them

    Good point, thanks for the correction.

     

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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 11:10am

    Re: Re: Ignore them

    I probably would feel different if someone close to me was killed in a terrorist attack. That's why we have so many checks and balances in the government, that's why we have the bill of rights already written out; so that cooler heads can prevail.

     

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  48.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 12:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: Said it before...

    That was.... just brilliant.

    I teared a little.

     

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  49.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 12:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: Ignore them

    It's kind of the one basic rules about trolls:

    Don't feed the trolls. Overreacting is basic troll food.

    In all reality, deaths caused by terrorism aren't even a drop in the bucket of overall deaths in the US. Even if they did continue to attack us, sure it'd be a shame, but really it's nothing to give your full undivided attention to.

     

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  50.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 1:11pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Ignore them

    It's also pretty much the best way to deal with trolling.

    Counter trolling the trolls.

     

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    nasch (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 1:26pm

    Orders of magnitude

    And spending orders of magnitude to do so.

    Minor nitpick (is there another kind?), but you can't spend an order of magnitude.

     

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    Chargone (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 2:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    might be a side effect of actually being Secret, at least to some extent.

    the NZ equivalent is like that too. (which doesn't stop common citizens and such occasionally foiling the bad guys themselves anyway, mind you.)

     

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  53.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 2:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Ignore them

    and the deaths preventable deaths in the us cant even compare to the preventable ones world wide

     

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    Chargone (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 2:28pm

    Re:

    of course, those looking from the outside mostly conclude 'if terrorists attack the USA, it's because the terrorists (or at least their leaders) are insane, but smart, while the USA (or, more specifically, it's leadership) are greedy and stupid. responses follow the same logic'

    hence the general antipathy towards both sides from third parties. (threat and risk/reward assessment, dubious or otherwise, being the reason for anyone helping one side or the other.)

     

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    opit (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 6:29pm

    'Threat'

    "No one's trying to downplay the fact that some very angry individuals are trying to kill an awful lot of Americans (and others as well)."

    I will. The essence of what is being claimed about 'We'd better fight them over there to avoid fighting them over here' ignores who exactly is 'fighting them.'

    Let's start with the 2003 NIE from 16 American intelligence agencies that declared unanimously that invading Iraq would cause an increase in terrorism. We know what followed that, don't we ?
    Let's play a short and informative video clip from Dick Cheney explaining why the U.S. did NOT invade Iraq under George Bush Sr.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YENbElb5-xY
    BTW Any surfing around the topic 'Cheney' in YouTube is bound to help one lose illusions.
    Not that I don't bust a few myself.
    http://opitslinkfest.blogspot.com/2010/12/2-december-beating-around-bush.html

     

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  56.  
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    BearGriz72 (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 6:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Said it before...

    Sometimes I really wish we had a vote up/down system with points... (+5?)

     

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  57.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2010 @ 9:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Said it before...

    Sometimes I really wish we had a vote up/down system with points... (+5?)

    Me too. I could really game that.

     

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    Bob F, Feb 7th, 2011 @ 1:24pm

    all that gives me hope

    The one thing that gives me hope in all this is that the terrorists seem pretty dumb too. Unless our intelligence agencies are foiling a lot more attacks than we hear about (which is a definite possibility) they aren't really attacking all that much. You'd think they could afford a few more freight bombs, or talk some more useful idiots into shooting sprees. As mentioned, they wouldn't even have to be sucessful. I'm also profoundly grateful for the terrorists unhealthy obsession with airplanes. They persist in trying to hit these, instead of, eg, shopping malls or what-have-you. I hope our country wises up before they do!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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