Can you picture this? A cave in Southeastern Afghanistan. A dozen Al-Qaeda goons inside, hunkering down and awaiting the American bombs. Except Mustafa, the terrorist-cell clown and practical jokester, has snuck out through the back hole of the cave and crept around to the front. The stillness of the night is broken by a high pitch shrill sound, getting louder and louder. The bearded brethren fear a smart bomb is homing in on their hideout! But no, it's just Mustafa and his whistle again, having a little fun.
Or how about this one: It's 1969 and Phan has just finished a lovely hand dug tunnel exit in the jungles of South Vietnam. But none of the other Viet Cong down there in the dark with him appreciate his hard work and architectural skills. Miffed, he decides to exact revenge. Late at night, after bedtime, he climbs to the top of the tunnel and looks down at his slumbering comrades. In his best John Wayne impersonation he shouts "Fire in the hole!" And tosses a water balloon in the lap of one of his terrified buddies. That'll show em.
One more. 1944 Berlin. Adolf is recovering slowly from the briefcase bomb attempt on his life. The traitors severely dealt with, the Furher just wants to get on with his job of doing evil. But his underling Heinz really felt like he should have gotten that promotion over the new guy Lothar. Something about Lothar's goose-stepping really impressed Der Boss-man, however, and Heinz was passed over for the job. A disgruntled Stormtrooper is not someone with whom to be trifled, so Heinz plans his cruel revenge. For days, every time Adolf goes to the john, he stumbles over unattended luggage. No bombs, just briefcases. Each time the bunker has to be cleared out Heinz chuckles to himself.
CanÕt sell you on these scenarios? Don't believe America's enemies could be so trivial in a time of war? What about these examples?
A couple of Kentucky sorority girls decide to put powdered sugar into an envelope and send it to a "friend" with a note claiming the substance to be a deadly biological weapon.
A 37 year old firefighter in Pennsylvania chooses laundry detergent as his weapon of mass destruction, claiming to be the recipient of a tainted letter, and sticking with his story while he and his frightened children are hosed down by Haz-Mat personnel in moon suits.
A man fired from a Home Depot in Philadelphia a year and a half earlier is arrested for sending a threatening note and white powder to his former employer.
A Memphis man phones in a bomb threat to Northwest Airlines and then claims he was kidnapped and forced into making the call.
In a 2 week period after the first incident of anthrax tainted mail, over 6,300 reports of hoaxes relating to white powder and threats of biological warfare were logged on police blotters across the nation. Millions of dollars have been spent, and thousands of man hours have been wasted on chasing faux terror that is made in America, by Americans, for Americans.
Why is it not at all surprising to learn that many of us are using the slaughter of our fellow countrymen as a vehicle towards getting something that we want? Revenge. Attention. Personal gain. A really good belly laugh. Our enemies, on the other hand, seem to have a better comprehension of what it means to be at war. They find a way to forgo insignificant squabbles and childish self-interest and concentrate their ire towards us.
The egocentrism one must have to stand by as their petty games divert the resources of a nation fighting an adversary that is killing it's people by the thousands is, thankfully, beyond my ability to comprehend.
In the 1930's, during the Spanish Civil War, General Emilio Mola Vidal's army moved on Madrid in four columns. He referred to militant supporters already in the city as his fifth column, and the term has become synonymous with a subversive element working against a government in power from within on behalf of a foreign adversary.
The "Minimanual of the Urban Guerilla", the textbook of terrorism written by Carlos Marighella in 1969 and used as a blueprint for mahem by ne'er-do-wells around the world ever since, claims, "The primary task of the urban guerrilla is to distract, to wear down, to demoralize". So, by that reasoned definition, those amongst us who are either too self-absorbed or too stupid to resist the temptation and see fit to hinder those who are responsible for keeping us alive are terrorists themselves.
Unwittingly, in every sense of the word, they are our enemy's Fifth Column.
I'm sure at some point during their interrogation by the FBI the girls in Kentucky rolled their eyes, shook their heads and said,É"Damn, dude. What's the big deal?" What indeed. Aren't we, as Americans, fortified with the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of creative ways to get the day off work and get back at people that dis you? After the end of the Cold War was there not an addendum added to the Constitution, right after the Preamble (in the Amble?), that says, "Finally that's taken care of, now we can focus on some serious issues such as perfecting the practical joke"?
We are spending so much time worrying about impending subversion from the terrorists; 20-something swarthy males who keep to themselves and hang out in strip clubs to solidify their cover, that I wonder who is watching out for the real threat- bleach blond coeds and laid off hardware store employees.
Any "real" would-be terrorist in the USA must be feeling the way our bomber pilots feel flying over the broken landscape of Afghanistan. There are so few targets left to mess with.
I can imagine an energetic foreign infiltrator looking over the to-do list in the "Bring the Infidels to their Knees" section of his day planner with frustration.
Hamper public transportation. Done.
Tax already strained public resources. Done.
Create public health chaos. Done.
Limit the Government's ability to effectively respond to crisis. Done.
Panic the citizenry. Done.
Wound the economy. Done.
Notice to all of bin LadenÕs sleeper agents in America. Hit the snooze button and go back to sleep. America is handling the task of civil disobedience quite well by itself, thank you very much.
(Mark Greaney is an international account manager for Memphis-based Sofamor-Danek