Coping with terror

It was just a few months after 9/11 and the country was understandably on edge when a UK citizen named Richard Reid tried set off a bomb on a flight from Paris to Miami. Reid had embedded an explosive in one of his shoes, but his plans were foiled because trying to light your shoe on fire is not very discrete.

It did not take long for security screenings at US airports throughout the world to be forever altered. Ever since then, passengers have been required to remove their footwear. Despite this and other changes since 9/11, undercover agents were still able to smuggle in mock weapons and explosives past airport security 95 percent of the time, according to a Department of Homeland Security report leaked by The Intercept in March.

The footwear restriction is just part of a long list of post-9/11 policies that have managed to intrude in our lives without making us safer. (The National Security Agency’s monitoring of communications, as revealed by Edward Snowden perhaps being the most glaring example.) We’ve had color-coded terror alerts, fighter planes streaking across our skylines and our police forces transformed into small militaries.

Last weekend, when there were reports of a plot of ISIS supporters to contaminate Prishtina’s water supply, there was no visible panic. In the US there would have been non-stop news coverage and long lines of people stocking up on bottled water. There was plenty of water available when I bought a 20-liter jug from my neighborhood minimarket.

There’s a fine line between living a normal, relaxed life and being complacent. Complacency allowed fundamentalism to infiltrate Kosovo after the war and more recently for the stream of young men going taking up arms for ISIS and other groups in Syria and Iraq unabated for several years. Giving house arrest to people who admitted to be plotting attacks here also falls into that category.

But a country also doesn’t benefit from constantly looking over its shoulder, when ordinary people go to public places wondering and fearing if someone will blow themselves up or open fire.

Kosovo, thankfully, hasn’t faced these kind of attacks, though it certainly knows the terrors of war and periods of lawlessness and unrest in its aftermath. How much of a real danger Kosovo currently faces is anyone’s guess. But I suspect that this is more contingent on the will of would-be perpetrators than authorities’ ability to stop them.


20 July 2015 - 09:38

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