Thank God some ter­ror­ists are in­com­pe­tent

Lat­est Lon­don tube at­tack could have been even worse, writes Phil Gurski.

Ottawa Citizen - - EDITORIAL -

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 at­re­al­isthreatan­

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