I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

Can it happen here?

The Warrior Lawyer gives an excellent overview of the burning of Mumbai and posts the question:

Can it happen in Manila ?

Funny thing that, because just this morning, one of the people here in the office offered up the opinion that such a thing could never happen in Manila. The Warrior Lawyer believes otherwise, but sees the Mumbai attacks as a model for other terrorists to follow; a perverse kind of best practices thing.

And this may serve as a template for other terrorist attacks in other areas of the world, wherein a relatively small number of determined killers, estimated at a mere two dozen, could hold an entire country hostage. Our anti-terrorism forces, such as they are, should consider this as a wake-up call.

I guess Sonny Trillanes has pretty much mooted the question. Admittedly, he took over the Oakwood and the Manila Pen with a largely benign game-plan, but the fundamentals of a sudden attack, a protracted seige, and a bloody end-game were all in place. If he had wanted to turn malignant, he could have easily managed it. 

So it can be done. That shouldn’t be a question anymore. The thing to ask now is who – in the Philippines – would be able to do such a thing? And the answer to that is prolly gonna keep me up nights.

Who can do it? Practically anyone.

The most suited, of course, would be the military. Rogue elements – like Trillanes was – have access to everything they need to make it work: guns, ammo, explosives, vehicles, and warm bodies. The trick is not to expose themselves as rogues prematurely. Oh and – this is where Trillanes screwed up – not to do the deed with a political goal in mind. 

Political goals muddle operations effectivity. There should be a desire to win, above all else, regardless of the cost, without regard for tomorrow. Let politics – and considerations of whether you will be received as a hero or as a murderer when the dust settles – enervates the attack and leaves it vulnerable to defusing. 

After the military, the best suited would be radicals. Based on what limited knowledge I get as a fly on the wall, I would say that Islamic radicals have the upper hand on ideological radicals in this arena. Islamic radicals, it is said in official circles, have not cut off logistic support to their various cells scattered throughout the country despite the continuing engagements in Mindanao. In theory, therefore, when the call comes through, these groups can mobilize with significant rapidity – certainly enough to overwhelm our complacent, under-equipped, and under-manned police force.

After the military, after the radicals, who else can do this sort of thing? Practically anyone – although prolly not on a similar scale, much lesswith the same kind of coordination. But just think of all the crazies that have given our newspapers and politicians hard-ons over the years, and you’ll see what I mean. Remember that loon with the bus? Or the motorcycle bomb at the House of Representatives? Or the various bus bombs in the south?

The thing is, whoever gets it into his head that terrorism is the thing to do doesn’t only have the advantage of surprise, he can also capitalize on our society’s strident distrust for the government and its instrumentalities – particularly those instrumentalities that pack heat and have the ability  to pry into our private lives. 

Obviously, the distrust is well-earned, but even assuming that it isn’t – taking for the sake of argument that we can trust the government – a major part of our society would be up in arms the minute we see more uniformed men on the streets or we feel that we are being inconvenienced by new procedures that objectively help diminish the possibility of a surprise attack.

The goal of most human societies is to live in peace, and for the most part, we have been pretty successful. Unfortunately, we have also become the victims of our own success. In moving towards peaceful co-existence as a paradigm for human society, we have also practically bred out tolerance for the dirty work that is needed to keep the surface of things placid. We hold the peace in high esteem, but we honor our peacekeepers only when they appear genteel and polished. But when we are forced to confront them while they are doing their job – with their dirty faces and bloody hands – we shiver in disgust and we call them animals. It’s kinda like those old houses where you enjoy the food you are served until you see the dirty kitchen where the food was prepared. 

taj_230Mumbai, far from being a wake-up call to just our anti-terrorist forces, should be a wake up call to US as well. We should never forget that these things can happen, and that there are people out there who hate our way of life so much that they will suffer their own death simply to ensure that they take us to ours. Along with that acknowledgement, there must also be the willingness to give those who we expect to protect us the benefit of the doubt that they are doing everything necessary to do their job right.


Filed under: international, law and order, society, , , ,

11 Responses

  1. Jeg says:

    Reminds me of the Jack Nicholson soliloquy at that trial in A Few Good Men.

    Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives…

    That Sorkin’s good. Anyway…

    a major part of our society would be up in arms the minute we see more uniformed men on the streets or we feel that we are being inconvenienced by new procedures that objectively help diminish the possibility of a surprise attack.

    You give Metro Manilans too much credit. The major part of our society will take it, will put up with it, like we put up with long queues at mall entrances while security guards poke sticks in our bags. Like we put up with sonas where the police swarm into homes in poorer communities and round up the ‘usual suspects’ without warrants or reading of rights. To them it’s part of living in the city. Im imagining it could be worse outside the cities.

  2. rom says:

    Jeg: Ordinary folks like you or me would. But not without a lot of griping. That griping will then be fodder for populist politicians and left-wingers who will then make life difficult for cops and give them just enough gas for one full tank a month for their cars, or just enough bullets for two full magazines (if that).

    And when they fail to do their jobs well, they get punished by more public humiliation and more budget cuts. I suppose having less money is supposed to improve their performance, eh?

    I’m not advocating letting the uniforms run rampant. But I want the service that they perform to be acknowledged as something important enough to support adequately.

    As for those sonas that you mention, those things happen mostly in squatter colonies, don’t they? Places where you can’t throw a rock in any direction and not hit someone guilty.

    But go back down to root causes, man. Why are those colonies tolerated? Because they’re packed full of voters who perpetuate populist politicians in power (awesome alliteration, btw). So, when the cops go into those places to round up junkies, petty thieves, and various other lowlifes, you could say that they’re still performing a necessary service.

    It’s a systemic failure. And I cringe whenever the other elements of that system all find it too convenient to single out law enforcement as the only problem.

  3. UP n grad says:

    Hummmmm… isn’t the elitist halls of the Philippine Congress (just like squatter colonies) one of those … places where you can’t throw a rock in any direction and not hit someone guilty. ?

    Now here is food for thought. The number dead from Mumbai is plus-or-minus twenty of the number dead from Ozone-disco. And which has the higher odds —- Ozone-recurrence or Mumbai-in-Makati?

  4. BrianB says:

    No way, Trillanes et al have family to worry about. Only the MILF will have the balls. Not even the NPA.

    It’ll never happen because the powers that be are more sinister than these terrorists. They are more capable of horror, only not as show-offy as the MILF.

  5. Bencard says:

    america has so far foiled every major terrorist attack within its territory since 9/11/01. makes me wonder, guantanamo (inspite of the pompous protestations of “populist politicians and left-wingers”, liberal media, human rights extremists, and apostles of ‘political correctness’ ) may have a lot to do with it.

    sometimes, desperate problems need desperate solutions. it’s our survival or theirs.

  6. Jeg says:

    UPn beat me to it. Congress, that cesspool! Why dont they sona that place? Junkies, not-so-petty thieves, and various other lowlifes. Why are *they* tolerated? Let the cops do their jobs, sure. But do them well. Do them right. The cops violate basic civil rights and we shrug our shoulders because theyre *poor* junkies, petty thieves, and various other lowlifes. Why not go all the way and break up those communities and haul all of them back to where they came from?

    By the way, I live next door to a community like that, and I assure you that that ‘throw a rock’ bit aint true for that particular community and for the one I grew up living next to in Caloocan. Sure they got junkies and drunks, but a lot of them arent criminals. In fact they hate criminals. Woe unto the thief or purse snatcher that makes the mistake of trying to seek refuge in my old neighborhood in Caloocan.

    But your piece is about terror attacks, of course. If the cops continue to alienate themselves from the people by ignoring people’s rights, and allowing themselves to be used as goons by politicians as a matter of course in times of relative peace like now, how effective do you think theyll be fighting terrorists? That kind of thing recruits terrorists.

  7. rom says:

    Jeg: like I said, its a systemic problem; and it should be treated that way, instead of as just another excuse to slam cops in the cavalier and sweeping manner you just did.

  8. Jeg says:

    I kind of think they deserve it is why, and I was far from cavalier and sweeping. I just take rights seriously. Especially poor people’s rights because they dont know what those are. They arent even informed of their right to keep silent and to have an attorney present. That’s how those tabloid TV shows get to interview criminals in police stations.

    Why, you think they dont deserve my slamming, rom?

  9. rom says:

    Jeg: not all of ’em. especially not the guy who need to stop at a sari-sari store to load up his cell just so he can call for back-up. especially not the guy who brings a bicycle to work because he knows he can’t use the station’s motorcycle with its empty gas tank. especially not the guy who nightly cleans his father’s war time .22 because its the only thing that stands between him and criminals who don’t care about his right to life.

    i care about rights too, jeg. don’t get me wrong. but even cops have rights.

  10. UP n grad says:

    I know what I said earlier, but of course, Mumbai-in-Makati is always a probability that can be orchestrated by international sources or by local sources (MILF terrorists, NPA terrorists or right-winger anti-government destabilizers). News says the Mumbai mayhem was caused by less than 20 terrorists — twenty is less than platoon-size!!!! With an AK at about $1000, then for less than $300K, an organizer can provide twenty terrorsts to send into Makati with 2 AK’s each and satchels of ammo and grenades. $300K can be sourced locally and need not be MiddleEast or hinterlands-of-Pakistan originated.

    Community-by-community vigilantes will be unable to stop such orchestrated action can only a more organized Philippine police and/or military can. Professionalization of the police and military needs to continue and needs to be supported by all Filipinos (especially because allowing Pinas to degenerate into local vigilantes is the faster road to Mumbai-in-Makati)..

    Iyon ang aking kuro-kuro.

  11. […] think it is already painfully obvious to Philippine national security planners and to several Filipino bloggers as well: the terrorist attack that brought the city of Mumbai to its knees can […]

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