Modia Minotaur

Trawling the airwaves to spare you the agony!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

August 10th: Foiled?

Reports are now coming in that a major terrorist attack has been foiled in Britain. The conspirators allegedly planned to blow up a number of aeroplanes between Britain and the US, using liquid exposives. The explosions were to take place over the Pacific Ocean, to hinder rescue efforts and destroy forensic evidence. Both countries are now on their highest alert since September 11th.

I've mentioned before that I was living in New York on September 11th. When you tell people this, they tend to probe you with slightly indecent fervour, and you tend to react by reeling off a set menu of well-worn anecdotes. After a while, you realise you have two sets of memories - the preserved, varnished and properly
arranged ones, and the ones - much deeper down; emerging much more rarely - that truly represent the real event.

By coincidence, I'm currently studying a course on the public management of crises and disasters and, minutes before reading the website headlines announcing the foiled plot, answered the question `Do you think an attack of the scale of 9/11 could occur again?'

My answer was this. If such an attack did occur, the scale - a difficult thing to quantify - would inevitably tempered by the fact that we are no longer complacent enough not to expect such an attack, as we were on September 11th. When that attack occurred, the sentiment was much like that second set of memories I just mentioned. Should another attack occur, we already have September 11th, branded, transformed into a coherent narrative, and set in its cultural picture frame as a reference point.

Given that this sense of rawness could not be replicated - could the change in public sentiment that permitted everything from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to the Tampa incident also not be replicated? One thing that I found particularly objectionable following September 11th was the lust for revenge, completely foreign to my understanding of the situation. Would the same feeling emerge if there was another attack in America? Or, realising that nothing that the Coalition of the Willing have done in Iraq or Afghanistan appears to have addressed the factors that caused 9/11 to happen, would the reaction in fact be one of restraint?

This is all in the realms of speculation, of course, but the depth of resentment of the Iraq War has already been demonstrated in the dumping of US senator Joe Lieberman for his pro-Iraq War stance, while few Australians are particularly worried about the notion of the country being over-run by gun-toting terrorists arriving on leaky boats from Indonesia. In any case, I very much hope that events do not test my theories.

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