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Sunday, September 10, 2006

How 9/11 could have been prevented (and how to prevent an airline terrorist attack from ever happening again)

Tonight ABC is going to be starting their two-part miniseries The Path to 9/11, which you probably heard is supposed to not reflect all that well on the Clinton Administration in the years leading up to the attack. So Bill Clinton and a lot of Democrats are trying to force ABC to not air the thing at all. This of course is being attacked by the Republicans... who not that long ago were trying (and succeeded) to get CBS to not run a miniseries about Ronald Reagan. I could point out the hypocrisy of the entire situation - regarding everyone involved - but I know now that it would only be an exercise in futility.

So tomorrow is the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. I'll probably make a "retrospective" post sometime during the day to reflect on where I was, how I heard about it, the moment the towers collapsed that are eerily recorded in an AOL Instant Messenger conversation between a friend and myself... what a lot of people will probably be doing tomorrow in their own ways.

But right now, I want to talk about something that's been on my mind a lot the past few days: how the 9/11 attacks could have really been stopped from happening at all... and how we could prevent such an attack from ever happening again, if we want it bad enough.

Here's the crux of the problem as I see it, and it's only gotten worse since 9/11: we are too damned dependent on the government to protect us from even the slightest threats. Somewhere along the way we forgot that we are Americans... and that means we're supposed to look after ourselves and each other, without begging Big Brother to do it for us.

Let us be candid: gone are the days when FDR told us that "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." But in the time since 9/11 the refrain has become "Be in fear because they are out to get you!!" The biggest mistake we as Americans made in the days following the attacks was to let the federal government dictate the conditions of our anger and our response to that anger. We let this government - led by a very small man who is a narcissistic exploiter of tragedy - define our identity, instead of it being We The People who determine that for ourselves. The true American response would have been to resolve to punish those who did this to the utmost of our ability and to make a solemn vow that the criminals who did would not, could not, make us change one iota of who we are and how we live.

But that didn't happen. And I've said it before but I'll say it again: Osama Bin Laden won on 9/11, because he made America choose on its own that it would not be the nation its forefathers had built it to be. The America I grew up reading about in history books didn't spy on its own citizens, or harass children and elderly people at airports, or impede travel without "proper papers", or a lot of other things that were only supposed to happen on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Yes, we have freedom of speech and I have liberty to write these words... but once a nation begins to slide even the slightest down the path of fascism, it is very hard indeed for those freedoms to persist indefinitely.

So now you know that I believe that the federal government - led by this presidential administration - has used 9/11 to gradually strip away our liberties. We didn't have to let that happen if we had refused - with force if necessary - to let it exploit this tragedy to cower us even more than Osama did when the planes hit that morning.

The short of it being: we have to stop looking to the federal government to protect us at all. Hell, it can't even secure our border with Mexico... why should we take it at its word that it's going to keep another terrorist attack from happening again?

No, don't look to the federal government. Definitely don't look to the George W. Bush, who has done little else but sell us out since the day he came to Washington.

Look to yourselves instead. The first line of defense in this country isn't its armies or navies or air forces... it's you.

So you want to know how we could have prevented 9/11, and how we can make sure this never, ever happens again? It's really very simple...

Start letting civilians carry firearms on commercial airlines.

Ask yourself this: would Mohammed Atta and the rest of the 9/11 hijackers have been able to overtake a single plane had even one responsible passenger been onboard with a gun? Would they have even considered going through with their suicide missions if it crossed their minds that there might possibly be several armed passengers aboard their intended flights? Certainly the 9/11 hijackers were crazy... but I doubt they would be so insane as to not take that into consideration had there been the slightest threat of retaliation if they tried to pull it off once in the air.

Here's the plan: as a strong believer in the Second Amendment, I hold that the right to bear arms is the most important right we have, because if all else fails it is left to us - in writing, even - to settle what is right by armed might. But I do not believe that just anybody should be allowed to bring a gun aboard a commercial airliner.

So I propose allowing civilians who have proved they are responsible individuals to become licensed as "citizen marshals". Such persons will not be affiliated with any law enforcement agency or the government at all. Being appointed "citizen marshals" merely means that they have no outstanding criminal record, that they possess qualities of good character and are otherwise sound and considerate human beings. Being a citizen marshal would be an unpaid position... but then, anyone wanting to be such a marshal for the right reasons would not want any financial compensation anyway.

Citizen marshals would be the only regular civilians who would be allowed to board commercial passenger planes with a firearm, and adequate ammunition. They could even be given a special badge that designates their status for all to see. Ideally, there would be more than one citizen marshal - with guns - aboard each flight.

The thought of becoming a citizen marshal should not be entertained lightly by anyone, and there should be incentives in place to dissuade those who might potentially abuse their appointments. The penalties for doing so - be it from impersonating a licensed citizen marshal to unholstering a firearm aboard a plane in flight without legitimate caues - should be extremely severe. As much or even more than what we expect from police officers who "cross the line".

But... a flight with an armed citizen marshal or two (or three or four) would be the safest possible airline trip in terms of passenger safety outside of technical malfunctions. Even the mere possibility that a jetliner might have a citizen marshal onboard would automatically make that plane a "poison pill" for anyone contemplating a terrorist act.

Ask yourself again: would Mohammed Atta and his fellow terrorists been so quick to pull out the box-cutters on September 11th, 2001 if the slightest thought entered their minds that not only might they not reach the cockpit, but that they would be shot dead the moment they started trying?

I don't think so. I don't believe that any terrorist - who is hoping for a "successful mission" - would ever try to pull off such an act, if they knew they would be impeded from reaching their goal by the very people they are trying to terrorize.

No, looking to the federal government is not, and will never be, the answer to the question of our safety. We must start looking at ourselves, and decide on our own that we are going to take up the rifle in our own defense against all enemies... be they foreign or domestic.

Citizen marshals: it's an idea well worth considering, I do believe.

Hell, in a sane world, every citizen in this country would be a marshal, anyway.


qemuel said...

Congratulations; you're officially my hero.

Lee Shelton said...

Well said. I've argued numerous times that had one or two passengers been armed on Sept. 11, 2001, the attacks would not have happened. But you can't even get so-called "conservatives" to agree with that.