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After Beslan, what next?

A while ago, I read a science fiction novel about an invasion of Earth (David Gerrold's "War Against The Chtorr" series). The protagonist, over the course of several books, gains a reputation as being an "expert" on the aliens, based on his ability to uncannily predict just what they will do next. He explains his "gift" to another character (roughly paraphrased): "I just think about what would be the absolutely worst thing that could happen next, and then predict it. Then when it happens, I look like a genius."

I've always been struck by that sheer, pragmatic pessimism, and found an element of realistic honesty behind it that I respected. With that in mind, I decided to apply that sentiment to the Islamic terrorists.

(Author's note: I'm doing this "on the fly," without extensive research. The sequence of events is far more germane than other incidents that have escaped my memory, so please spare me any nit-picks.) The first real strike against non-military targets was against the Israeli athletes in Munich. Then they moved on to hijacking planes. Then they hijacked a cruise ship and killed a passenger simply for being Jewish.

Then they started moving beyond threatening death (with the hijackings) and actually carrying out killings. Bombs were used first, then they moved on to suicide bombers. They targeted areas where they were guaranteed massive civilian casualties. They blew up buses, pizza places, buses, restaurants, buses, religious gatherings, buses, discos, buses, pizza places, buses, buses, and more buses.

Then came 9/11. They returned to hijacking planes, but this time they combined it with suicide bombings and killed over 3,000 in one fell swoop. In retrospect, it should have been obvious, this blend of two previously successful tactics. But hardly anyone could have foreseen the sheer magnitude of the act.

It cost them. It cost them dearly. It led to the unleashing of the United States military, and the destruction of their most secure base in Afghanistan. It cost them one of their major sponsors in Iraq. It cost them the tolerance of Pakistan. But by god, it worked for them.

Now, in Beslan, we see the next step. They targeted a school, and killed hundreds. It may end up costing them dearly again, but they pulled it off.

But where will they strike next? What taboo will they breach? Against what will they focus their next atrocity?

What would Jim McCarthy, the protagonist of the "Chtorr" books, think? Where would he look? What would, in his words, be the absolutely worst place for the terrorists to strike next?

One thought immediately springs to my mind.

HOSPITALS.

That's right, hospitals. Maybe a veteran's hospital, where they could slaughter those who have served our nation honorably. Maybe a hospital with a full obstetrics ward, jam-packed with innocent newborns worth more than their weight in gold as hostages. Maybe a research hospital, just brimming with biologically hazardous materials. Maybe a teaching hospital, where they can strike a blow against the future of our health-care system, the envy of the world.

I hope I'm wrong. Dear god, I'd trade anything to be wrong. But that's what my gut and my intellect are telling me, and we'd damn well be prepared to deal with it if it happens. Because the type of people we're facing are like junkies when it comes to atrocities. The last fix is never enough, and the next one has to be bigger and more spectacular and more horrendous than the previous one. And I can't imagine any other way they could top their massacre at a school.

J.


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Comments (31)

Kevin:I can't spea... (Below threshold)

Kevin:

I can't speak to all terrorist groups, but I don't necessarily think that al-Qaida will go after a hospital. A-Q is often after symbolic targets as much as high-death targets.

Overall, A-Q seems interested starting a holy war between Islam and Christianity. I can think of a few things they could hit:.

* The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
* A high-profile target in the Vatican
* The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

The last one would be a bit of particularly interesting symbolism.

Otherwise, your hospital prediction seems to hold some water. But if they really want to send a message that nobody is safe, anywhere, my money is on a Christian religious site.

--|PW|--

Interesting idea, PW, but t... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Interesting idea, PW, but three points:

1) They could go after a religious hospital;

B) The Christian church has very little temporal power, and they've previously focused on hitting governments, not churches;

III) I'm not Kevin. I'll admit to a passing resemblance to Kevin's picture, but I'm quite definitely not Kevin.

I've also speculated on the notion of Al Qaeda might go after some religious targets, but that's already being done on a quiet scale by the Palestinians.

Damn, this is depressing... I need more ice cream.

J.

Museums. Destroy infidel a... (Below threshold)

Museums. Destroy infidel art (which they hold so dear that they call it "priceless"), just like the Taliban did. Just look at the uproar over "The Scream."

A-Q won't go after religiou... (Below threshold)
Darby:

A-Q won't go after religious targets in the United States. Simple fact is they are warring against our very culture and not our religious beliefs. You can argue this all you want, but what it really boils down to is the good old american green-back. They hit our Service men and women aboard their boats. This being a symbol of our power. It killed people, and put a boat out of commission for a while. Over all it was not very effective. They bombed the World Trade Towers. Again, this, in their mind, is a symbol of our economic power in the world. Again, they failed to achieve what they really wanted. To knock the tower over. It took, as President Bush said in his address at the RNC, 19 men armed with knives and box cutters to finally do what they wanted to do. Inspire fear in the United States. I talked to Jay before he posted this, he told me what his piece was going to be, and the first thing that I came up with was also Hospitals... However looking back now I realize that it wouldn't have that big of an effect on me personally. When planes flew into the WTC, THAT scared the hell out of me. How many more planes were going to fly into buildings? The next attack will not be on a hospital, it will be something that, god forbid, will truely inspire fear in our nation. A dirty suitcase bomb, THAT scares me. Suicide bombings within the united states, THAT scares me. Not just one, one suicide bombing can be accredited to a wack job, but when 10-20 people start blowing themselves up on American soil, I'll start being afriad.

Anyways, Hospitals, yes that would be a tragedy. But that in and of itself isn't terror inspiring.

15 cities, 15 hospitals, 15 suicide bombers. THAT would truely inspire terror into this young Cow Hampshire resident.

That makes you wonder... Why are suicide bombings so terrible?

Someone might want to write a piece about that, I have a few idea's of my own, but you guys are the professionals....

Ta-ta for now.

I suspect the Russian Ortho... (Below threshold)
BigFire:

I suspect the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Moscow will be next. Afterall, terrorists' aim is not just killing, but to inspire a religious war. Should they take that out, I can guarentee a religious war with nuclear weapon deployed.

Actually, this is more than... (Below threshold)

Actually, this is more than just theory, Jay -- it's actually quite possible -- remember the headline from about two weeks ago?

http://washingtontimes.com/national/20040827-110035-8284r.htm

JT: Sorry about th... (Below threshold)

JT:

Sorry about the ID mixup.

The war is not merely with religion, but with the Western way of life ... that's true. However, you also have to note their continued use of religious imagery. A lot of the rhetoric seems to be oriented on restarting the Crusades. It seems to me that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre makes a particularly effective target there, as it's sacred to several Christian denominations.

Also:

You left out one of the most terrifying things: Snipers.

Remember John Allen Muhammed before he was apprehended? Now imagine about fifteen or twenty of him deployed across the United States.

I live in Northern Virginia, and, to put it frankly, the Sniper scared me shitless.

--|PW|--

Max number of innocents?<br... (Below threshold)
cirby:

Max number of innocents?
High symbolic value versus the US on an international scale?
Easy access?

Disney World.

Though I don't think they w... (Below threshold)
Steve Cormier:

Though I don't think they would do this, one of the most disasterous things they could do would be to seed Beltway sniper types in all major metropoliltan areas, hitting and running, maybe randomly invading homes, killing and leaving.

Consider the amount of terror and disruption this would cause, while using relatively few people. The main thing to remember about terrorists is that they want to create the most distruction and terror with the smallest cost. They run like a bizarre anti-business with a cost/anti-benefit calculation.

I'll tell you what next: Me... (Below threshold)
z:

I'll tell you what next: Mecca.

Putin should have the balls to say "if this happens again, the Grand Mosque is rubble". It is the only way in which such attacks can be deterred.

It's only a building. We value our children more than Moslem buildings. And so should Moslems.

Just my opinion: To date, A... (Below threshold)
Dan:

Just my opinion: To date, AQ hasn't viewed the US as people. 9-11 didn't target people, per se - it targeted three institutions- Government (capitol building), Business (The Towers) and the Military (pentagon.) The Twin Towers were taken down primarily because of the buildings and the symbolism, not primarily because of the people inside. Keep in mind, one Sunday afternoon football stadium could have killed 20 times the number of people if they just wanted to run up numbers, let alone 3 or 4 stadiums on a single Sunday afternoon in a coordinated attack.

While AQ colluded in Beslan, but that core group views Russia differently than AQ sees the US. AQ and much of the middle east does not value human life, as much as it values power and America's institutions are the symbols of our power in their eyes, not our people. I believe that they would value a flattened even if empty Whitehouse overall 10,000 dead in a field.

That said, terrorism is viral by nature - it changes, adapts based upon information and experience. Could they begin just targeting individuals, perhaps. More likely, they would first shift to secondary institutional targets like power grids, dams, refineries, communications, etc.

Whether they shift to a different approach - say suicide bombers in shopping malls in the Christmas season, etc. has much to do with the type of resources they can get into the country. I hope they are not being successful enough at getting new ops types into the country to carry out that kind of an attack on a massive scale.

If it's true that their operational numbers remain relatively small inside the US, they will have to content themselves with targets that have a significant and direct domino effect, or unique symbolic effect, itmes like I mentioned above. Unfortunately, the bottom line is that we cannot really know - and that's precisely why it's called terrorism.

Our only option is to take what hits we must and continue to eradicate this particular evil overseas, primarily in the Middle-East. Which, according to today's Kerry is the wrong war, wrong time, etc. There really hasn't been this significant an election in our history since WWII. Vote!

How about crowded polling p... (Below threshold)
Amelia:

How about crowded polling places on the day of the election? Not trying to scare anybody away from voting, just saying. They have done so well with the school thing, that also would get major attention and could happen in this country. Hospitals and nursing homes are good as well. Dorms everywhere, malls, filled with infidels Christmas shopping, and yes, football stadiums.

But over all, the more bang for the buck would be the kids and voters. Ever think about how easy it would be to blow up a gasoline service station? I wonder how liberals keep from thinking these things and how they remain so in denial about it all. How about hijacking a truck loaded with liquid propane and driving it into a school or other soft target? The list of possibilities is just endless and I do not want someone who is so unsure with control of our lives.

My fav line from Bush's speech and ever: Whatever it takes!
~Anna

From Mirror.co.uk t/o DRUDG... (Below threshold)
John M.:

From Mirror.co.uk t/o DRUDGE

PUTIN SLAMS CALL FOR CHECHEN TALKS

Sep 7 2004


By Neil Roberts


OUTRAGED Russian President Vladimir Putin has slammed Western critics who called on the Russian premier to hold talks with Chechen separatists in the wake of the Beslan hostage siege.

He told reporters: "Why don't you meet Osama bin Laden, invite him to Brussels or to the White House and engage in talks, ask him what he wants and give it to him so he leaves you in peace?

"You find it possible to set some limitations in your dealings with these bastards, so why should we talk to people who are child-killers?"

Mr Putin has ruled out a public inquiry into the storming of the North Ossetian school by the military after a three day stand-off, despite calls from his own country's liberal newspapers, and the French Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin for as much information as possible to be made public."


Kind of funny, reminds me of a post here re: someones nightmare of Kerry being President during Pearl Harbor. Its this sort of thing that seperates leadership (Putin) from those who use the facade of intellect so that their fear and indecisveness isn't called to account (90% of Europes leadership).

I'm not sure why no one her... (Below threshold)
Val:

I'm not sure why no one here picked up on it, since you all seem well informed. However, it was very briefly in the MSM before they realized they didn't want people thinking about increasing terrorism and dead school children while they attempt to get traitor waffler into the white house. The Russians arrested a Chechen Islamic Terrorist disguised as a nurse attempting to gain access to a hospital while the other group was taking the school. In fact, it seems that this Islamic Terrorist group split enroute into three seperate groups, one to the school, and I don't remember hearing of the other destinations except for the hospital event.

While AQ understands some a... (Below threshold)

While AQ understands some aspects of our society and political realities, they don't fully get us, and it's working in our favor. If they really wanted to hurt our economy, all they would have to do is start a pile of distributed small-scale bombings in malls, toy stores, etc., right before the start of the Christmas buying season. You'd only need, what, 10-15 pulled off simultaneously to put US retail sales into a tailspin?

I would also think that these kinds of attacks would be much easier to pull off. Thank God (literally) that they are too concentrated on their symbolic/massive attacks to do something simpler that would really hurt us. It helps us that they are, in fact, deranged.

Hospitals would be extremel... (Below threshold)

Hospitals would be extremely vulnerable targets since most do not have realistic security programs or internal disaster plans. I know that as a matter of fact since I set up security/safety programs at two New York metro hospitals. In addition, the security officers are more concerned with service-oriented functions rather than security-oriented functions. They're more concerned with the number of visitors entering than with the purpose of visitors entering their hospitals. They are an easy target. And yes, there are HazMat concerns, as well.

Oh, the reason I stopped se... (Below threshold)

Oh, the reason I stopped setting up security at the hospitals was that the administrations kept asking me to cut corners and reduce costs.

I envision a bad 70's movie... (Below threshold)
marvin:

I envision a bad 70's movie: seizing a ski gondala and throwing hostages off to the hungry journalists below (the Eiffel tower would work too).

I just wanted to say that y... (Below threshold)

I just wanted to say that you are the only blogger I know of - besides myself - who has referenced the "War Against the Chtorr" series in a political post:

http://windowmanager.blogspot.com/2004/08/we-all-rather-be-dead-than-wrong.html

Two comments:a) you ... (Below threshold)
Pat:

Two comments:
a) you are - just like Guiliani - wrong that it started in 1972 with the massacre of Munich. It all started way before in 1970, when Palestinian terrorist hi-jacked 4 civil planes at the same time (what a coincidence) and brought three of them to an airport in Jordan. One plane, an Israely El-Al was retaken in air by sky marshall, killing one hijacker and catching the other (because the pilot went into a nose dive to get the terrorist from their feet and because luckily one handgrenade did only fizzle). The Israeli plane handed the prisoner over to British police in London at the end of the flight. Afterwards the Palestinians hi-jacked another plane to Jordan and threatened to kill all 600+ passengers and crews by exploding the planes. The British governement under Edward Heath than negotiated the release of the terrorist from the El-Al plane plus 6 other terrorists for the exchange of the hostages. The planes without the hostages were blown up later anyway. The Jordan King was so mad at the Palestinians that he than made war on those in his own country, killing thousand in what is called the "Black September". Just for our information: it was there it started on a big scale

b) adding to the above ideas and because I live hear and because it has happened before by a NeoNazi-terrorist: add the Munich Octoberfest to your list. Where-else can you catch a hundred thousand people at once, indulging in alcohol which no good muslim would do? Or, even better: start spreading a disease/virus there that will be exported all over the world from the visitors of the Octoberfest. Of course Germany does sound like an unlikely target yet, but if you want the spiral of violence and conflict to twist some more, you should go after those infidels that have been sofar neutral or supportive to your cause. Kill the Voice of reason in your enemy's camp!

Cheerio from Old Europe

Actually, hospitals usually... (Below threshold)
Nancy Reyes:

Actually, hospitals usually have security guards with guns.
Back in the 1960's, a biker's gang came in to our hospital...within five minutes, there were a hundred cops.
And unlike schools, hospitals have lots of nooks and crannies to hide in.
Nope, they will probably do a car bomb on a government office building in the heartland...whoops. Someone already did that. In Oklahoma City, over 300 were killed...

I think PW was for the most... (Below threshold)
CA:

I think PW was for the most part correct: AQ wants high visibility, symbolic targets. If I had to pick, I would say, another shot at the Pentagon, White House, and Capitol.
They want trophys so they can trumpet thier triumph. That said, I thing the administration has got most of the country in a needless panic. Do people really think AQ is going to try to set off a bomb in Peoria? I would say, that if you aren't in NYC or Washington, D.C. there is not a whole lot to worry about when it comes to your personal safety; you aren't a target. LA, Chicago (except for maybe the Sears Tower), Detroit, Houston? If you wanted to show the world how you stood up to the U.S. and spit in their faces, would you go after any of those places?

None of the scenarios descr... (Below threshold)
AMac:

None of the scenarios described here are the ones that I would commend to our Chtorr-like Islamist friends, if I was so inclined. Which I'm not. But the parameters that an Evil Brainstorming Session should consider are sufficently clear that, unfortunately, my help isn't really required.

As alluded to earlier, most of these operations require the physical presence of a number of skilled and dedicated operators and their equipment and support personnel. This January 2004 article, "The Open Borders Lobby and the Nation's Security After 9/11" is thought-provoking in that regard.

Shortly after 9/11, I had a... (Below threshold)

Shortly after 9/11, I had an ominous fear. They had hit us in our cities, but most of rural America remained untouched, or at most affected from a distance.

If you consider that the terrorists may truly want to derail President Bush's re-election bid, a potential way to do so would be to demonstrate that everyday Americans are not safe from terror, despite all that the President has done. My worst-case prediction has all the elements to do that, and the next 2 months will be the most opportunistic time to execute the attack: 20-30 synchronized bombings at small-town (10-15k people) high school football games. Very limited security, a very "American" sport, rural (read: Republican/Conservative/Evangelical Christian) crowds, and the emotion that an attack in a "school-zone" would carry.

It's one of my greater fears, and I hesitate to post it here, for fear that someone who hasn't had the idea yet may just start thinking about it.

At the same time, I concede that most of the Islamic terrorists don't understand enough about American culture to realize the potential impact of such an attack, and that a higher-profile "all the major networks" attack would probably be more up their alley.

Max number of innocents?... (Below threshold)

Max number of innocents?
High symbolic value versus the US on an international scale?
Easy access?

Disney World.

Hmmmm. Thought-provoking.

Given that al-Qaeda is far from pan-Islamist -- that its ideology and rhetoric attack other Muslims as well as "infidels," and given that France has both a growing Muslim population and a growing Islamist problem, and given that one of al-Qaeda's hopes with 9/11 was to spark a global religious war by the West against all Islam...

Why not Euro Disney?

If they can't set off a global religious war between the West and all Islam, would they settle for a small one in just one country?

Didn't the Chechen branch o... (Below threshold)

Didn't the Chechen branch of AQ already strike a hospital, and the whole village along with it, a few years ago?

My biggest worry is smaller attacks, much like in Israel, with suicide bombers entering subways, restaurants and the like, both in the US as in Europe. In Madrid, where I'm blogging from, the cell responsible for the Madrid attacks on March 11 that blew itself up after an anti-terror squad had them surrounded, had prepared a number of bomb belts.

I think Niven did something... (Below threshold)
DrSteve:

I think Niven did something similar with the ARM in his Known Space books -- they took paranoid schizophrenic wargamers/weapons-designers off their meds and let them dream their terrible dreams on paper. Don't know which reference came first, though.

Shhhh I still haven't gott... (Below threshold)
firstbrokenangel:

Shhhh I still haven't gotten over 36 hours of blogging on Belsan yet. Stressed to the limit.
~C

The Superbowl.Ok, ... (Below threshold)

The Superbowl.

Ok, so I stole the idea from "Sum of All Fears". Jay stole his idea from War Against the Chtorr. ;]

Still, it does make a great deal of sense, as BoDiddly pointed out, only larger scale than highschool football. The Superbowl is an international broadcast event, football is "an American Religion" as it's been called, and the Superbowl is symbolic of American excess and decadence. And it'd be horrifying to the entire USA - the carnage would go out at least briefly nationwide on all channels until they hit the broadcast cutoff switch.

IF they hit the cutoff switch... they might not. The ratings would go through the roof.

This is very interesting, e... (Below threshold)
ZD:

This is very interesting, every bit as much for what they haven't targeted (i.e. many things which would 'make sense' to us) as for what they have.

(a) They really aren't that focused primarily on the maximum number of casualties. If they were thinking that way they would have figured out that they needed to aim the planes at the bases of the towers.

(b) We need to remember how utterly clueless these guys are about how a modern technological society works. Sometimes this is hard to keep in view for the simple reason that most of our own citizens are in truth not much better informed (to our shame). The Islamists really imagined that the twin towers played a role consistent with the name "The World Trade Center" (whereas in fact all it really reflected was a real estate developer's ego).

(c) The real core appeal for them is to go for a target which everyone across the deeply ignorant Muslim world will instantly understand was a target which we would have protected had we been able to. This is what gets them maximum kudos at home while generating maximum fear on our end, with the former being even more critical than the latter. This is the 'rush' they seek.

This has to make the area around the White House the preferred ground zero in the US, as it probably was for the flight brought down in Pennsylvania.

Add to this their demonstrated habit of returning to the scene of a failure to give it another shot (see e.g. 9/11) and there can be little doubt.

The relentless repetition is a central part of the Muslim approach to war, which deploys barbarity, relentless attacks and a total disregard for human life in a conscious effort to break down the targets' will to resist.

I believe myself that many more of us may be carrying guns in 10 years time, our whole society may look a lot more like Israel's.

Terrorism aside, this would not necessarily prove to be a bad thing. Violent crime in the US would plummet, maybe even crime against Americans overseas as well. I remember hearing about a gang of armed thugs in India some years ago who preyed on tourists staying in houseboats there. One night they picked on the wrong boat - tourists from Israel. Among the bad guys there were no survivors.

As alluded to earlier, m... (Below threshold)

As alluded to earlier, most of these operations require the physical presence of a number of skilled and dedicated operators and their equipment and support personnel.

See Trio accused of smuggling Mideasterners to U.S. No word yet on how they came over.

Or, Al-Qaida meets with Central American gang, lawmaker says: The three [Congressmen] called for an end to the practice of detaining non-Mexican undocumented immigrants known as OTMs (other than Mexicans) from the Middle East, Central America and South America and releasing most of them due to lack of jail space.




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