where, for the love of god, is captain vijayakanth?

A number of people have commented that I got out of India “just in time”, and others have drawn parallels to the time in September 2001 when I accidentally happened to be in Manhattan for 9/11. And a third group of people has suggested that my 3-week sojourn in the dark subcontinent gives me unique insight into the problem of terrorism (which, of course, I do not dispute).

Terrorism was a definite worry when we were in India. There were bombings in Delhi less than a month before we were there, and there had been bombings in Jaipur (on our itinerary) and Bangalore (on our itinerary) and Ahmedabad (not on our itinerary) earlier in the year. We did not go to Mumbai (Ganga doesn’t like it, as it is “too big”, and anyway it was not conveniently located for us to get there), but the hotel we stayed at in Delhi was similarly high-class to the ones that were targeted (the hotels we stayed everywhere else were a notch below), and we stayed in a Taj hotel in Khajuraho, and we used the bathroom at the Oberoi in Agra.

There was “security” in many of these places — bored-looking guards had a mirror-on-wheels with which they would inspect the underside of your car (presumably for bombs, but also possibly for leaking oil), and occasionally they would peek in the trunk (although I am pretty sure they didn’t look inside the luggage). Mostly, I suspect, the inspections were Security Theater, with an added “benefit” of keeping the riffraff auto-rickshaw drivers away from the guests. (Less of a benefit for us, as we often preferred to take auto-rickshaws, and had to, in every circumstance, leave the hotel grounds to catch one.) Guns inside luggage, or hidden inside coats, or in the backseat under a blanket would very likely have made it past the inspection and been ready for terrorizing.

The question I keep hearing is “who do you think was responsible?”, which strikes me as precisely the wrong thing to focus on. As the entire operation seems to me an extremely effective proof-of-concept, here are two questions that are much more interesting:

(1) What makes you think something like this couldn’t happen here in Amrika?
(2) What can be done to prevent the next one?

As it stands, I doubt that a similar attack could succeed here, for a couple of reasons. First, enough of us have seen Die Hard and Under Siege that we know how to use office chairs as deadly weapons, and how to make bombs out of pies and microwaves, and how to properly pronounce “Yippee Ki Yay”, and never to trust Gary Busey. And second, in many parts of the country, people are walking around strapped.

“Why,” I kept yelling at the TV as CNN continued its interminable coverage, “are hundreds of hotel guests not capable of overpowering ten cracked-out terrorists, and whyare the police not capping some of the bad guys? And where, for the love of god, is Captain Vijayakanth?”

It appears that I am not the only one to have this thought:

It is likely, but not certain, that if the hotel security had been armed, they would have lost the battle anyway, due to the planning and overpowering firepower of the terrorists. That said, they might have been able to put up some sort of resistance or slowed the attack down or maybe, possibly, have saved a few of the nearly two hundred lives lost. At the very least, it might have given the terrorists pause before committing their atrocities. One thing is certain: Unarmed, security didn’t stand a chance and, by extension, neither did the guests.

(For the record, Ganga insists that this plan will never work, and that otherwise-law-abiding armed Indians will simply shoot each other all the time, at political rallies and bus stops and cricket matches. I sort of assume they’ll get sick of this after a while.) In any event, it would be much more difficult for armed gunmen to take a bunch of armed people hostage, let alone torture and explode them and set them on fire.

(For the same reason, I’d probably try to avoid the high-profile tourist spots in New York City.)


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