There is something almost pitiable about an unexploded car bomb. It’s obviously far preferrable to having the damn thing actually go off (especially these two, which given the location near Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus would have caused a lot of casualities and horrific carnage), but there’s nevertheless a highly pathetic quality to a large device constructed by wild-eyed, frighteningly earnest wannabes, carefully planted in a strategically appreciable location, rendered an inert and leaky jalopy by sheer incompetence. I know this is a deadly serious matter, but it still recalls a botched senior prank. You just know these guys were calling their fellow jihadists the night before and saying “This is gonna be so awesome!” Woops.
The plot appears to be inspired by the tactics al-qaeda has developed on the battlestreets of Iraq, using multiple car bombs (or “vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices,” a phrase I don’t see catching on) in high-traffic areas to cause a lot of damage on the cheap. The execution of the plot, however, was characterized by a “Western official” as “less directed from al-qaeda and more a matter of a home-grown group.” Given the tenor of the rest of this man’s comments, “home-grown group” appears to be counterterrorism code for “cretins.” A separate official has stated that the construction “does not look very professional.” Ouch. These guys make bombs about as well as Lindsay Lohan writes coherent paragraphs.
I don’t know whether to be comforted by this or not, but sometimes it seems like our greatest ally in the war on terrorism is dumb terrorists. In 2000, before they actually succeeded in hitting the USS Cole over in Yemen, al qaeda bombers tried to hit the USS Sullivans with a bomb-laden boat, but they biffed it, overloading the boat with explosives and causing it to sink. Germany had a close call last July, when two Lebanese students possibly trying out for a spot with “the base” planted a pair of home-made bombs on a train that fizzled. And of course, my personal favorite, Ramzi Yousef almost blowing himself up in his kitchen in 1993.
The most compelling argument for vigilance in the matter of Islamic fascism, aside from the simple consequences of a successful attack, is the idea that “they only have to be right once,” that these nihilistic thugs are throwing nailbomb after nailbomb at us, and we must do everything in our power to block them all. All of these failed attacks remind us of that very fact – for every transatlantic liquid bomb plot that makes big news, there are dozens of less spectacular tries that don’t succeed. And so many times, they fail not because of the work of law enforcement or counterterrorism operations, but because the guys trying to blow us up pretty much suck at it.
With enemies like these, who needs warrantless wiretapping?
**UPDATE** A couple guys ram their flaming SUV into Glasgow airport, get stopped by security barriers, fail to get into the part of the airport where the civilian targets are, and then in a truly comic moment, jump out of the car on fire and get arrested. Nobody killed (thankfully), no one really hurt except for the master criminals behind the wheel. I think this eyewitness quote about sums it up: “The car didn’t actually explode. There were a few pops and bangs which presumably was the petrol.” I predict that further investigation will reveal that these men took operational inspiration from watching The Dukes of Hazzard on TV.