Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Having discussed this through the weekend and Monday, your host remains convinced that al Qaeda FAIL in underwear bombing is still due to a combination of factors, the most important being the jerry-bilt nature of the idea -- prone to fizzle, the inexperience and/or stupidity of the bomb-maker(s), coupled with the lack of capability or ignorance in the person trying to detonate it.

"The reason for no explosion, the acid which was meant to detonate the PETN, melted its syringe container," commented one news story today here.

"But it didn't make enough contact with the chemical for an explosion."

The picture indicates a char, something that looks like what happens when perhaps some concentrated sulphuric acid comes in contact with cloth and sugar, or a very small fire from a combination of the acid, a bit of sugar and a chlorate. (Noted by Irvine Engineer in yesterday's comments section.)

The above YouTube video illustrates the reaction.

It is not particularly impressive, obviously gives some warning time, and if you've scotched your materials by sitting on them for hours, or held your acid in a container through which it eats, you would make it even less effective. And it is not evidence of a wellspring of sophisticated creativity and capability.

The trick is to get the explosive to detonate, not char, fizzle or remain or be rendered inert by circumstances.

Which is what the US government is showing, a bit disingenuously, with this widely distributed photo sequence of a somewhat smaller quantity of PETN blowing apart a jet.

It is, unfortunately, delivered as a stock strap-down chicken test, the result of a professionally made charge worked-up by government experts, leaving out all the bugs and variables prone to creep in when one has an inferior plan for detonation, sits and sweats on one's materials for hourse, combines them stupidly, and/or stores them improperly. In other words, when a student conducts a chemical experiment for the first time without really knowing what he's doing.

That's actually a little bit of good news.

The bad news is that it might occasionally work. And that as long as the US overreacts, as it has done in this instance, it is assured that there will invariably be more Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallabs.

There is no amount of security procedure tightening or technology which can prevent a small number of them from getting onto airplanes around the world and in the US with jerry-bilt bombs sewn into their underwear or stuffed into various orifices. And with the human error present in the US, no amount of attention to names in databases will make a difference.

There will always be FAIL, not all the time, maybe not at the worst possible time, but some time. The big joke is that no one can admit the truth publicly and not be immediately chastized or sacked.

So some day, one of these guys will inevitably get lucky and a 'bomb' will actually go off.

The answer is not to be typically reflexive, to continue to do things as usual, to huff and puff on television for public consumption, to immediately instruct special forces to conduct reprisals in Yemen and step up assassinations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to considering widening the war, to stick more of the fist into the Muslim world.

A good example of the best fools today are Congressmen Pete Hoekstra and Jim DeMint, of South Carolina.

“In the past six weeks, you’ve had the Fort Hood attack, the D.C. Five and now the attempted attack on the plane in Detroit ... and they all underscored the clear philosophical difference between the administration and us,” said Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.

“I think Secretary Napolitano and the rest of the Obama administration view their role as law enforcement, first responders dealing with the aftermath of an attack,” Hoekstra said to some news organization. “And we believe in a forward-looking approach to stopping these attacks before they happen.”

DeMint added -- according to the news agency, channeling something seen on Fox: “Soft talk about engagement, closing Gitmo, these things are not going to appease the terrorists ... They’re going to keep coming after us, and we can’t have politics as usual in Washington, and I’m afraid that’s what we’ve got right now with airport security."

If there has been any appeasement observable by way of action in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, etc in the last year, you'd have been hard-pressed to see it.

Just the opposite.

One might conclude that any al Qaeda or jihadist plan, even a failed one, becomes a success when this country's political leadership exhibits the characteristics of an easily set-off bully possessed of a glass jaw.


Pete Hoekstra and his map of the United State of al Qaeda (some satire included), back in 2006.


Blogger Irvine Engineer said...

The more expected reaction
is eg

I figure poor mixing or inaccurate

BTW pyrotechnicians are taught
to fear chlorates (perchlorates
are stabler). Unmixed its just
an oxidizer. BTW although
chlorates are sold as weedkillers
in europe, they can be made
by amateurs with salt, water,
electricity, and oxidation
resistant electrodes.

Folks in Glass Empires should
wear clean underwear :-)

Apologies for the improvised
chem lesson, but apropos.

BTW Gazan rockets are nothing more
than sugar and KNO3 fertilizer,
BTW! The fertilizer is often
of israeli origin. Look up
sugar rocket.

"He who made kittens put snakes
in the grass" How about that
0.7% 235?

3:48 PM  

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