Thank God some terrorists are incompetent
Latest London tube attack could have been even worse, writes Phil Gurski.
Sometimes rocket science IS rocket science and must be practised by rocket scientists. Luckily, very few people who have nefarious intent are rocket scientists, and we should be thankful for that. We have all heard stories about hapless criminals who belong to the “gang that couldn’t shoot straight” and we all have a good laugh.
On occasion, however, that hapless criminal is a terrorist. Hollywood shows such as 24 — where the bad guys are capable and devious and really scary and can only be stopped because counterterrorism good guys like Jack Bauer are more capable — are not always reflective of reality. Yes, there are some very nasty terrorists who are very good at what they do — recall 9/11, the Mumbai bombing and other incidents — but there are also many who are only slightly above incompetent.
This is what appears to have happened Friday morning in London, where an IED was detonated on a timer on the London Underground during rush hour.
At least 29 commuters were injured, some seriously, through a combination of a “flash fire” and the ensuing stampede to get out of the car.
Authorities in the United Kingdom, including MI5, are still investigating and I am confident that they will find out who was behind this heinous act, but they have already said that the damage and casualty count could have been much, much worse. The device didn’t do what it was designed to do, i.e. kill lots of people.
I was reminded of the case of Aaron Driver in Strathroy, Ont. a little more than a year ago. He was the convert jihadi on a peace bond who posted a martyrdom video online, somehow built a “bomb,” got into a taxi and detonated his device.
Fortunately — for us, unfortunately for him — his bomb was lousy and did little more than singe him. It did not even hurt the cabbie sitting less than a metre away. Driver found his martyrdom when he was killed by the RCMP on site.
I also read regularly about Taliban and ISIL terrorists in Afghanistan who die when preparing IEDs. Even some who resort to the jihadi weapon of choice these days — knives — sometimes fail, as did the latest loser in Paris, who lunged at an antiterror police officer but didn’t achieve anything.
I am not minimizing the potential of these failed attacks. Even if mass casualties are not the outcome of these efforts, they do cause fear and terror: The stampede in the London Tube is testimony to that.
But we have to recognize that the gap between intent and capability is sometimes very large. Lots of terrorists talk the big talk but can only crawl, not walk. We need to stop lionizing them and their campaigns to sow fear. We should also count our blessings that more professional terrorists appear to be in short supply.
This could change, of course. In any event, our protectors — CSIS, the RCMP, MI5 — have to take all these threats seriously as they do not have the luxury of dismissing a plot simply because they assess that the potential perpetrator is a moron. Phil Gurski is President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting. His new book, the Lesser Jihads, is out this week. This article is adapted from his blog at www.borealisthreatandrisk.com