Monthly Archives: September 2011

Ten Years After–Don’t Ask

We’ve written about 9/11 before, recalling where we were when everything changed.  Marking the tenth anniversary it is important to see if we’re any better off than we were that morning in 2001.

According to some reasonable estimates, the US has spent somewhere around $1 Trillion dollars on Homeland Security since 9/11.  Canada has spent around $92 Billion.  The difficulty with the whole subject is four-fold. 

First, how dare one even question the wisdom of Homeland Security spending?  What kind of unpatriotic, vile, Osama FanBoy, bearded degenerate would even consider asking the question of what the government has spent to protect us? 

Second, it’s all classified Secret, so you can’t be told, as you are not trustworthy enough to know what we’ve spent a trillion dollars on, for fear you will immediately tell Osama’s fourth cousin Maurice about our defenses. You want another 9/11?  There’s plenty of room at GitMo.

Third, is the nature of terrorism.  Terrorists only have to succeed once in a million attempts.  Defenders have to succeed 100% of the time, every day, in every situation, in all circumstances against any and all attempts by mainstream enemy, fringe groups and lunatic loners determined to get their fifteen minutes of fame.

Fourth, there is a very strong emotional loading regarding 9/11 in North America that we can’t shake.  Ireland, the UK, Greece, Germany, France and Spain have had their share of violence, going as far back as the 1900’s with the ‘troubles’ in Ireland, up through Basque separatism, Communists uprisings and so forth.  A goodly piece of the architecture of Europe is no older than 1945, the originals having been erased in the Second World War. 

We’re not saying Europe is used to it, but North Americans most certainly are not used to terror strikes, which is why 9/11 left such a big dent in our collective psyches.  The last big wallop we took was the American Civil War, which ended in 1865.  The other hits we’ve taken, like the FLQ Crisis, or Pearl Harbor were smaller and regional in nature.

Tuning out the emotional component as best we can and ignoring the knee-jerk patriotism argument as intellectually vacuous, we come back to what we’ve done to make things safer and have we succeeded?

The CBC’s Adrienne Arsenault, along with Dana Priest of the Washington Post have spent significant time and effort to get a handle on what we’ve spent and the results are not encouraging.

A couple of factoids should suffice if you don’t want to follow the links: 

Liberty Crossing, the new home of Homeland Security in McLean, VA, is bigger than the Pentagon in size.  You can’t go there.  The whole project is Secret and secured.  Don’t ask.

There are some 850,000 people with Top Secret clearance in the US.  That would be more than the entire population of Washington, D.C., most involved in analyzing security data.  Again, don’t ask.

The Shoe Bomber, the Underwear Bomber and the Times Square bomber were not caught by the security apparatus put in place to protect us:  They were stopped by regular citizens who happened to have their wits about them.  There may have been other incidents that we don’t know about.  Again, don’t ask.

The 7/7/7 attacks and the Madrid attacks were not stopped, despite the expansive, extensive and expensive security infrastructure in place to detect and interdict them.  Again, don’t ask.

So far, the score isn’t very good.  Most of it is covered by the Homeland Security blanket:  Don’t Ask.

We can mark the passing of the anniversary of 9/11 with the solemnity is deserves, honouring those who fell and those who tried so hard to save them.  But we still have to ask:

Is it worth it?