9/11 (courtesy smh.com)

I remember watching United Airlines Flight 75 plow into the second World Trade Tower. I’m sorry if this offends anyone but my first thought was “clever bastards.” I was stunned by the terrorist’s audacity. While there were some people who predicted a deliberate air crash (including recently deceased author Tm Clancy and Morgan Stanley’s head of security), it was still an enormously surprising event. Obviously, there wasn’t anything the victims of this heinous crime could do to forestall their fate. But I’ve never forgotten the fact that . . .

9/11 was perpetrated by murderers with imagination, patience, intelligence and determination.

So when I heard of Kenya’s Westgate attack, I knew it wasn’t a simple a matter of a bunch of madmen driving to the mall and shooting up the place. Yesterday’s New York Times had a photo gallery of the attack’s aftermath with new information about the way it went down.

Westgate Mall, Kenya (courtesy nytimes.com)

The initial attack was carefully planned and well rehearsed, officials say, with the building’s blueprints studied down to the ventilation ducts. The team of attackers slipped undetected through Kenya’s porous borders, often patrolled by underpaid — and often corrupt — border guards.

A day or two before the Sept. 21 attack, powerful belt-fed machine guns were secretly stashed in a shop in the mall with the help of a colluding employee, officials say.

Armed Americans are conditioned to to consider a lone wolf shooter—Adam Lanza, James Holmes, Nidal Hassan, Aaron Alexis, etc.—as their worst case scenario. They would do well to remember that terrorists are organized killers. They plan and act in groups. Like all groups of predators, they anticipate resistance and seek soft targets. They use stealth and misdirection to maximize their murderous mayhem.

Western security officials say they believe that several fighters slipped out of the mall during the attack, dropping their guns, changing clothes and blending in with fleeing civilians, an account echoed by some witnesses.

What this means to an armed self-defender is clear: don’t trust anyone.

How do you know your new friend is your friend? A civilian shepherding civilians towards an exit during an attack—this way! this way!—could be a terrorist or psycho-killer leading innocents straight to their death. This one-two punch is terrorists’ SOP (standard operating procedure): one attack to funnel the enemy in a predetermined direction or create a crowd, a second to destroy them.

When James Holmes opened fire inside a Cinemark theater in Aurora, Colorado, moviegoers stampeded out the front doors. They could have died in a secondary IED (improvised explosive device) explosion. Lest we forget, Holmes had booby-trapped his apartment with a range of IEDs.

Equally, Holmes was initially mistaken for law enforcement (he was wearing a tactical vest). How do you know the cops are cops? Would you climb into a bus taking victims to the hospital without wondering if it was a part of the terrorists’ plan? Most people wouldn’t give it a second thought. You should.

The trick is to keep thinking.

While gun gurus talk about (and instill) “muscle memory” to create quick, non-conscious reactions to life-threatening stimuli, it’s just as important to keep your rational brain spinning in an OODA loop (observe, orient, decide act). Where are the threats? Where is safety? What do I need to do to eliminate or avoid the threat or get to safety? NOW where are the threats? NOW where is safety? Wash, rinse, repeat. Until you are 100 percent safe: physically and legally.

For years, American officials have been deeply worried about the Shabab, who have claimed responsibility for killing more than 60 men, women and children in the mall attack. Viewing the deadly siege as a direct threat to its security, the United States is deploying dozens of F.B.I. agents to the mall to investigate.

They’re concerned. We should be vigilant. And prepared. To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs you may just survive a violent attack. You may not, but the odds are better. Especially if you’re armed. Considering the endless evil of our enemies, that’s as good as it gets.

49 Responses to Self-Defense Tip: Think the Unthinkable

  1. I’ve avoided malls for years. I don’t like crowds. I haven’t been to a movie in years. I’m not a sports fan so that eliminates stadiums.

    With my new job I’m on the local freeways a lot. I need to start wargaming what if’s for a congested freeway and bad guys.

    • The first thing that came to my mind is “tanker trucks.”

      Second thing, “mislabeled trucks” and then “over/underpasses.”

      Okay … I’m going to stop thinking now.

      • I see a lot of those at work. trucks loaded with cloth labelled as explosive trucks with batteries not displaying the corrosive plaque

    • Don’t worry about going to the mall, no one go’s to the mall anymore. I go all the time now! I don’t like people in general, disease infested Typhoid Mary wannabe’s bumping into you with the little snot nosed kindergardeners slinging crap everywhere. People were pretty bad years ago with no manners and even less sense. Now the only people that go where I live are those going to Radio Shack, jewelry stores, or older folks walking for exercise.

  2. The only way to prevent terrorist attacks is to eliminate the terrorists. There will always be another way to attack and kill people.

    Terrorists only win if the convince the population that they can’t trust their government or society. It is crucial for a society to destroy terrorists at all costs, and kill them before they can plan an attack.

    • We need to implement the Genghis Khan plan for peace in the Mideast. We could call it “Operation Glazed Sand”.

      • Better yet, the United States needs to end all immigration for at least 40 years. We need to bring all of our troops home from every place out side the territorial United States where they are stationed. We need to end all aid to every other nation, especially the terrorist state of Israel. That will solve our “terrorism” problem.

        • While I don’t think Israel is a ‘terrorist’ state, I am compelled to agree with the premise of reduced immigration and increased isolationism, however difficult it may be to implement. But that may be neither here nor there, and as RF said, you and only you can worry about self-defense.

          Tom

        • Because Isolationism worked so well for us before. Let’s tuck our tails and flee the world stage. That won’t convince anybody we’re weak and spineless. It won’t encourage the now victious terrorists to press home their attacks.

          Why don’t we completely dismantle our navy, we won’t need it with no overseas committments. It’s not like anybody with a grudge could stick a launcher on a cargo ship and hit American cities with missiles.

      • Or stop buying oil from them and wait until they self-implode and – after a century or two – get on with their dark age / renaissance cycle and can rejoin the rest of civilization.

  3. “Who saw that one coming? No one, until it was too late.”

    Not completely true. John O’Neill, the head of WTC security on 9/11 (and former Special Agent of the FBI) had voiced his opinions on an aerial attack for many years prior to 9/11. Also, there was a TV show called ‘The Lone Gunman’, which was a spin off of the X-Files, that had an episode air in March of 2001 depicting an attempt to fly a Boeing 727 into the WTC. Further, Tom Clancy had used a commercial jet (747) as a weapon in his 1994 release, ‘Debt of Honor’. I don’t believe in the 9/11 conspiracy theories that are thrown around without any shred of evidence. However, our government and those tasked with “protecting us” have shown over and over at every level that they are prone to arrive after the crime/event/attack/etc; hence why I choose to carry a gun. I agree with the rest of what you said though.

    • Yes. But wait, there’s more! Terrorists had already repeatedly turned to the notion of airliner-as-bomb. The Algerian intent to bomb the Eiffel Tower is the best know case, but there were others. The airlines had already been lobbying against hardening the cockpit doors for years, because of the slight increase in fuel that would entail. Everyone but the average voter knows about this stuff, which I find a revolting feature of our democracy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_France_Flight_8969

    • Architects and engineers have designed facilities to survive aircraft strikes for a long time. For example I know about a nuclear electricity plant that was designed in the 1960s or 1970s to survive a direct impact from a 747 Jumbo jet.

      The truth is that there are an infinite number of ways that terrorists could seriously mess up any country — including the United States. Flying airplanes, even small ones, into different targets could cause ginormous catastrophes — both in immediate human casualties and secondary effects hours, days, or even weeks later.

      But why go through all that trouble (learn to fly and rent/steal an airplane) when a terrorist could do something equally bad with much less effort and resources? It would take almost nothing to start a huge chain reaction car accident on a crowded highway during rush hour. And terrorists could amplify that carnage exponentially if they coordinated multiple such events in the same city at the same time because that would overwhelm fire departments, ambulances, and hospitals.

      My larger concern, should something like that ever happen, is whether the catastrophe was a “simple” terrorist attack or a huge diversion for a large scale military attack from a foreign nation.

  4. I try to play the game of cover and concealment. Whether I’m out running, walking, shopping, driving, etc., I look at many things determining if it’s cover or concealment. I also look for exit signs in buildings, everywhere I go. It’s just a habit of trying to be prepared. Plus I wear a decent pair of shoes to be able to run, just in case.

  5. I too was amazed at the cleverness of those bastards and the audacity of the attack. It scares me is to think of what the next attack could be- the where, when and how of it all. It could be something truely creative and unimagined in our what -if scenerios. Keyna mall attack copycat in the US could cripple our economy worst that this government shutdown.

    • My personal opinion is that we can look at attacks, like the ones in Kenya and in Beslan and see what we can expect here. Unfortunately, I think it’s only a matter of time.

    • What is really scary is that they have years to devise and plan their attack, we have seconds to figure it out and respond to it. The success of a terrorist is not the body count of the attack itself (although more is always better) but how the society reacts to the attack by changing how they go about their daily lives. Terrorists HOPE the result is fear, paranoia, and disruption of normal social and business activities. Additionally they want to see a breakdown of government functions either through public distrust, or draconian incursions of government curtailing civil liberties, eventually leading to government distrust. Anybody here think the first stories of George Bush et al being involved on 9/11 weren’t promoted by the terr5orists themselves?

      The proper response, IMO, is reasonable precautions in our everyday lives, not overreaction and paranoia. Considering the number of malls, sports facilities, and other “soft” targets in America the chances of an attack on the one nearest you are slim. Situational awareness and the planning of options while pursuing your usual daily activities is the key, NOT going full tactical and building a useless “Doomsday House” out in the woods.

      • I do not disagree with you but think that the economic loss of 800,000 jobs is pretty bad (maybe not crippling).

  6. Rick Rescorla, the director of security for Morgan Stanley, accurately predicted 9/11. He knew it was coming and he planned for it.

    After the plane hit the first tower, MS employees successfully evacuated the second tower, which had not yet been hit. The employees gathered at their assigned assembly point. They were told by building security to go back to work. Rescorla told them not to go back in language that was direct and colorful. Minutes later, the second plane hit the second tower.

    Because of Rescorla, 3000 MS employees survived 9/11. While clearing Morgan’s floors in the building, Rescorla and several members of his security team were killed when the building collapsed. They were the only MS employees who didn’t make it.

    If Rescorla could figure it out, why couldn’t America’s vaunted security infrastructure on which we spend uncounted billions every year? My personal belief is that government just absolutely sucks at doing its job, that’s why.

    • Rescorla was the epitome of the “unsung hero”. A Brit from Rhodesia who was a US citizen, he was singing “Men of Harlech” as he led the MS employees out of the tower. (Men of Harlech, march to glory, Victory is hov’ring o’er ye,/
      Bright-eyed freedom stands before ye, Hear ye not her call?)

      From Wikipedia: “Cyril Richard “Rick” Rescorla (May 27, 1939 – September 11, 2001) was a retired United States Army officer of British birth who served with distinction in Northern Rhodesia as a member of the Northern Rhodesia Police (NRP) and as a soldier in the Vietnam War, where he was a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army.[2] As the director of security for the financial services firm Morgan Stanley at the World Trade Center, Rescorla anticipated both attacks on the towers and implemented evacuation procedures credited with saving many lives. He died in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, while leading evacuees from the South Tower.”

      • What an amazing story.

        A Brit from Rhodesia that became an American and fought in Vietnam, then helped people out of the towers on 9/11.

        What are the odds?

      • You’ve probably heard of or seen the movie “We Were Soldiers Once.” It’s based on the book “We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young,” by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway. The cover picture is Rescorla at Ia Drang.

      • First heard Men of Harlech sung in movie Zulu. Stirring tune of different age

        “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NuTaQsMNaE”

    • While it is not always possible to live our lives without occasionally being caught up in large gatherings, we are a gregarious people, after all, it should definitely be a priority to stay away from large or even medium gatherings in “Gun Free Zones.”

  7. Speaking of mall attacks, didn’t the late Tom Clancy have a similar scene in Teeth of the Tiger? Although, if I recall, it was foiled by armed and trained “civilians.”

  8. /sarc/ I don’t know what everyone is so worried about. All the major malls in the Southeast Wisconsin region have those magical gun free zone signs, so it can’t repeat can’t happen here. I think the guns evaporate when you cross the bubble layer into the mall. /sarc/

  9. Clancy’s example of a mall attack was for 5 malls. Some worked and some did not. The ones that did not were in population centers that have armed civilians.

    We are due a large attack here in the US. Remember the government is not here to protect us, but to extend it’s franchise. WWII did more to end England that any other event in her history. DHS is trying to do the same thing here in less time.

    The Mall attack in Kenya was training for one here.

  10. The FBI is concerned, yet they are part of the complex that wants to turn us into a nation of defenseless sheep.

  11. Can this be made into a Aha moment for the general public, even those that would never carry a gun.
    This is no longer about mental health, gang bangers, heated arguments going ballistic or criminals robbers but defense of our country.
    We lost three thousand souls on 9/11 so we secured airports (maybe) but the protection of public spaces on the ground in this Post Westgate era is overwhelming. It just may require as stated in the 2A and as defined and understood in 1789-91, get this…….. The Militia.
    Not the Michigan or Montana type but the people being armed to defend this nation as well as themselves and their neighbor
    I think the iron is hot with this attack. American’s right, left, young and old can identify with “A Mall”.
    Mall security is designed for theft deterrence and rogue teenagers, not a Nairobi onslaught.
    Those who advocate dis-armament and the BS they are standing in just got slippery (farm folk know this one).

    Few want guns on airplanes, most fly once a year if at all. Everyone goes to the mall.
    This Mall attack may have created a whole new awareness demographic and we should get them onboard while sending the message of “how dare you” to politicos. “How dare you, attempt to disarmed us in face of this renewed threat.”
    As demonstrated by the disinterest in the thugs killing each other in Chicago because if you don’t go to that neighborhood your safe, but an attack from foreign Muslim terrorists at a mall, that is different.

    As a linguistic aside, you may have noted my use of the words “Post Westgate”. Does that sound familiar?
    As in “Post Sandy Hook, something must be done.”.
    Let us start using that term for good. The terms Post 9/11 and Post Sandy Hook acknowledges things are now different. Post Westgate is equal to those game changers. If we use the term “Post Westgate” it will drag along the assumption in people’s minds that we should not be made defenseless by laws and a GFZ.
    Please don’t accuse of waving the bloody shirt for the cause. We know that attacks occur in GFZ’s BECAUSE of disarmament, Let it be, IN SPITE OF, if it happens with a armed citizenry.

    If these attacks come to our shore, they are an act of war like 9/11 or Lexington. Whether it be by happenstance, a single man with eight rounds in an M&P Shield or a handful with AR’s out in their cars, we shall be the militia, regulated or not.

  12. Past behavior indicates future behavior. Jihadi fighters will strike the same place more than once. Bali, Sinai, and New York (WTC 2x) tell us where is next: DC, Madrid, London, and the previously mentioned targets are on the map. One of the bombers from the WTC attack in 1993 told us they would hit it again.

    Common Jihadi Tactic: Set off munitions. Wait for EMS et all to arrive. Set off more munitions. If you are a “first” (or second) responder – consider not responding.

    If you hear of a terror attack going on somewhere in the world . . . there is a good chance one will go off later that day if not that hour. Do not be in public for the second part of a back-to-back attacks.

    We should have seen 9/11. We were are attacked on land (embassy bombings), sea (USS Cole), and air (WTC). What frontier is next? Yeah, space kital & jihad are not that far off.

    O, and I got a not so untrue yarn to spin about a hijacked super tanker off the coast of Indonesia. It was loaded w/ liquid butane. The hijackers left it after only a few hours of piloting it: dry run style.

    P.S. Never take the public transportation in Jerusalem 🙂

  13. I was at a red light at the corner where the WTC was the minute the first plane hit the building. There was one car in front of me and was crushed by debris falling. As soon as i saw that and felt debris hitting my car i was gone. I knew something bad happened but had no idea at that moment what it was exactly. My first thought was to get back in the Battery tunnel and go home, which is what i should have done. I decided to make my way around by going south to Water street and going uptown on the east side. At this point i am stuck in traffic on water because everyone is standing there watching. I had no interest in because i wanted to get away from there as fast as i could. Then a loud rumble, i turn and look to my left and see it. The 2nd plane flies into the building. There is a lot more to my story even though it is a very short period of time between that and the first building falling. Point is i made it to the Brooklyn Bridge just as the first building fell and i was the only car on the bridge, not one other car. There were people walking across on the road and walkway. I just thought it was weird that i was the only car there. Either way i made it home and the way i think about and see things anywhere i go has changed forever.

  14. RF, thinking about every possible scenario can be very bad for the brain. Stress chemicals can flow continuously, induced solely by imagination, and the imagining is addictive. It’s wrecked more than one HSO who became more stressed being responsible for imagining (and creating training for) every possible scenario, than he was by actual missions. Here’s hoping you get lots of exercise in a non-range environment, just to undo the brain wear-and-tear, no matter how entertaining or rewarding you find the “what if” exercises.

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