Seeing What Isn’t There

Yesterday was the ten year anniversary of the start of the Beltway Sniper Attacks.  That seems so long ago; I was still in college at the time with a bright future ahead of me.  Still, seeing news reports about the anniversary made me think about parallels between this event and a more recent one, the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya and the murder of our ambassador there. You see, I unfortunately listen to a local conservative radio station, and immediately after the attack (when the White House was still telling people that the whole thing was attributable to a video on Youtube) they were eager to insist that Obama was personally at fault for the successful attack.  Why?  Because it was obvious that a terrorist strike would occur on September 11, in commemoration of the 11th anniversary of the infamous World Trade Center attack.

Going back the Beltway Snipers, I remember when everybody was caught up in a wild goose chase because the police were interested in a “white van” that had been seen near one of the shootings.  It was only then that the public became aware of how very common white vans were.  Plumbers, pet grooming services, and windshield replacement companies were just a few of the many companies that commonly used white vans in their vehicle fleets.  Sure enough, when the shooters were finally caught (and not by anybody looking for them at the time) they had no connection to a white van, which proved to just be a red herring because people are notoriously bad at separating the noise from the signal; even when it’s their job the do just that.

The Department of Homeland Security kept insisting every holiday that the terrorists were going to be more likely to strike again. Apparently the terrorists are similar to a Batman villain in that they have a compulsion to act on important days like holidays and anniversaries.  Just look at this clear pattern:

  1. World Trade Center Bombing on February 26, 1993 which was the 64th anniversary of the establishment of the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming
  2. Oklahoma City Bombing on April 19, 1995 which is Bicycle Day (but is not about bicycles)
  3. USS Cole Bombing on October 12, 2000 which was Christopher Columbus Day
  4. September 11th Attacks on September 11, 2001 which was the 23rd anniversary of the start of the Camp David Accords as well as Patriot Day (although Patriot Day was made to commemorate September 11, 2001)
  5. Bombing in Karachi, Pakistan on June 14, 2002 commemorating the important 276 day anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks (this attack was also made by al-Qaeda)
  6. There were no terrorist strikes made September 11, 2002 through 2011, because the terrorists were observing Patriot Day
  7. The Libya Embassy attack of September 11, 2012 because the day before, Patriot Day had been renamed by the President to “Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance” and terorists just weren’t going to tolerate such a ponderously long holiday name
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