Al Qaeda no longer needs its bombs to detonate. It merely needs to toy with those who have allowed themselves to be governed by fear.
By pursuing a strategy with minimal cost to itself, al Qaeda can be assured that we will inflict the maximum economic damage to ourselves because of our unwillingness to face life’s only certainty: our mortality. Neither the TSA, nor the US Government, nor the US military, nor the war on terrorism, can make us safe, because life isn’t safe.
In pursuit of an unattainable level of safety we show ourselves willing to accept all manner of indignities — all in the name of security. But as one of the latest airline passengers, recounting the humiliation he suffered at the hands of TSA officers, said: “if this country is going to sacrifice treating people like human beings in the name of safety, then we have already lost the war.”
Indeed, as al Qaeda’s planners survey the American scene, they can only marvel at the ease with which they have established their own competitive advantage.
As the New York Times reports:
In a detailed account of its failed parcel bomb plot last month, Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen said late Saturday that the operation cost only $4,200 to mount, was intended to disrupt global air cargo systems and reflected a new strategy of low-cost attacks designed to inflict broad economic damage.
The group, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, released to militant Web sites a new edition of its English-language magazine, called Inspire, devoted entirely to explaining the technology and tactics in the attack, in which toner cartridges packed with explosives were intercepted in Dubai and Britain. The printers containing the cartridges had been sent from Yemen’s capital, Sana, to out-of-date addresses for two Chicago synagogues.
The attack failed as a result of a tip from Saudi intelligence, which provided the tracking numbers for the parcels, sent via United Parcel Service and FedEx. But the Qaeda magazine said the fear, disruption and added security costs caused by the packages made what it called Operation Hemorrhage a success.
“Two Nokia mobiles, $150 each, two HP printers, $300 each, plus shipping, transportation and other miscellaneous expenses add up to a total bill of $4,200. That is all what Operation Hemorrhage cost us,” the magazine said.
It mocked the notion that the plot was a failure, saying it was the work of “less than six brothers” over three months. “This supposedly ‘foiled plot,’ ” the group wrote, “will without a doubt cost America and other Western countries billions of dollars in new security measures. That is what we call leverage.”
The magazine included photographs of the printers and bombs that the group said were taken before they were shipped, as well as a copy of the novel “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens that it said it had placed in one package because the group was “very optimistic” about the operation’s success.
Although Western security officials have insisted that at least one of the parcel bombs was hours away from exploding, it seems just as likely that this operation was designed to showcase security vulnerabilities — that indeed it was conceived as a magazine cover story.