The Not Ready for Prime Time Terrorists

In a kind of "dog that didn’t bark in the night" investigation, Nation writer James K. Galbraith considers the curious lack of details about the British terrorist plot of August 10. It’s starting to look like there are some holes in the terrorist plot that spooked us all and caused countless gallons of perfume to be dumped into airport garbage cans. Like there were no plane tickets or passports for the would-be suicide bombers. Or even bombs with which to commit suicide. The initial reports about the plotters’ methods made it seem like if you accidentally spilled Gatorade and Evian on your iPod you could take down a 747. Turns out liquid bombs are difficult to transport and mix without anyone on a crowded transatlantic flight noticing. Which is good news for us all. And it’s not like terrorist masterminds have a large pool of experienced suicide bombers from which to draw to pull off tricky attacks like the one contemplated in Britain.

Galbraith also points out that the British plot seems to lack a larger rationale. These "one-off" attacks are not the type that brings the Anglo-American alliance to its knees. As any good insurgent knows, you either need a spectacular attack like 9/11, or a long series of smaller attacks that demonstrates your implacability. What did they hope to accomplish by bringing down ten airplanes? Do the terrorists plan to do anything beyond period shocks to our sense of security? Maybe, despite the catastrophe that is Iraq, we’re winning the war on terrorism after all.

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