The Null Device

9/11, 10 years on

Former White House anti-terrorism czar Richard Clarke presents a frighteningly plausible scenario of the war on terrorism in 2001:
The US Government had predicted that future attacks, if they came, would likely be on financial institutions, noting that Osama bin Laden had issued instructions to destroy the US economy. Thus when the casinos were attacked, it was a surprise. It shouldn't have been; we knew that Las Vegas had been under surveillance by al-Qaeda since at least 2001. Despite that knowledge, casino owners had done little to increase security, not wanting to slow people down on their way into the city's pleasure palaces. Theme park owners were also locked into a pre-9/11, "it can't happen here" mindset, and consequently were caught off guard, as New Yorkers and Washingtonians had been in 2001. The first post-9/11 attacks on US soil came not from airplanes but from backpacks and Winnebagos. They were aimed at places where we used to have fun, what we then called "vacation destinations". These places were particularly hard to defend.
On this day neither the 160 security cameras surveying the mall nor the 150 safety officers guarding it were able to detect, deter or defend against the terrorists. Four men, disguised as private mall security officers and armed with TEC-9 submachine guns, street-sweeper 12-gauge shotguns and dynamite, entered the mall at two points and began executing shoppers at will. It had not been hard for the terrorists to buy all their guns legally, in six different states across the Midwest.
Most analysts now agree that Subway Day and Railroad Day not only caused the Senate filibuster to end, permitting the passage of Patriot Act III, but also finally triggered the withdrawal of some 40,000 troops from Iraq. The army was needed in the subways.
When Canada refused to allow US nuke squads to conduct warrantless searches at customs stations on the Canadian side of the border, we built the Northern Wall, which channelled trucks and freight trains to a limited number of monitored border crossings. Barbed wire, radar installations, and thousands of security workers made our border with Canada resemble our border with Mexico.

By the end of the story, terrorism abates (as the jihadis are too busy running what used to be Iraq and Saudi Arabia), though the US is an impoverished police state. Clarke paints this grim future as the result of several errors of judgment: invading Iraq (which simultaneously wasted resources and helped recruit many towards the anti-US jihad), failure to engage the Islamic world with ideas and not investing enough in becoming independent of Middle Eastern oil.

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