Chertoff’s New Math

“Had this plot been carried out, the loss of life to innocent civilians would have been on an unprecedented scale.”

These are the words of British Secretary of Home Security, Dr. John Reid, when forecasting the catastrophic outcome had the airline terrorist plot taken off.

“Unprecedented”? Compared to what?

“We cannot stress too highly the severity that this plot represented. Put simpler, this was intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale.” This is how a uniformed high ranking Brit, featured on CNN, described what he thought would be the carnage had the terrorist plot carried out.

“Unimaginable”? Compared to….

* Darfur with 200,000 innocent civilians murdered since 2003, and over 2 million current refugees?

* Rwanda with 800,000 innocent civilians slaughtered in 100 days?

* The Holocaust with 6 million innocent civilians exterminated?

* The Armenian Genocide with 1.5 million innocent civilians massacred?

Far be it from me to undermine the tragedy of innocent deaths had this alleged plot succeeded. I deplore terrorism. And murder. But when assessing the current air-scare by Drama Queens George Bush and Tony Blair, I’m shocked the Brits use the words “unprecedented” and “unimaginable” to project civilian casualties had the terrorist plot been born out.

Obviously, no life should be lost to the folly of deranged fundamentalism. Not even one!

Nonetheless, I’m dumbfounded by the catastrophic numbers forecast by British and American officials. Michael Chertoff, United States’ Secretary of Homeland Security, said the presumed plot “had the potential to kill hundreds of thousands of people.”

Really? H-O-W?

Let’s do the math. Twenty four men were arrested in England for planning to hijack ten commercial airliners. Had they hijacked Boeing’s large 767-400ER, they would have had 304 passengers at their mercy. Had they hijacked Airbus’ 330 and 340 series airliners, they would have had up to 350 passengers at their mercy.

350 innocent civilians x 10 airliners = 3,500 innocent civilians

Add innocent civilian flight crews to each fully loaded plane and these 24 supposed terrorists would have murdered somewhere around 3,600 people; 848 more victims than the 2,752 innocent civilians believed to have perished on September 11th.

The fact is, had this sorely overstated plot been realized, its ramifications would have been horrific. No one should suffer so gruesome a fate.

My purpose here is not to undermine the horror of such an act. But to diffuse the hyperbole of fear-mongers, and maintain an honest perspective of the situation. The death of even one person resulting from violence is unimaginable. But, come on, lay off the scare tactics and propaganda.

Dissenters can counter that beyond this single plot lies the potential for many others. This is true. But the propagandists aren’t discussing future plots. They’re discussing this one, which they have purposely misrepresented. They need to be challenged on their lies. They need be admonished for their distortions, lest we be permanently mired in propaganda and fear.

3,600 innocent deaths would have been reprehensible. But considering the state of our inhumane world, they fail to meet the requirements for the “unimaginable” and “unprecedented” scale.

More in line with “unimaginable” and “unprecedented” are the deaths of over 100,000 innocent civilian Iraqis, countless innocent civilian Afghanis, and the mounting deaths of innocent civilian Lebanese, Palestinians and sub-Saharan Africans.

No need for hyperbole here. These numbers are honestly appalling. How ’bout foiling them??

LINDA MILAZZO is a Los Angeles based writer, educator and activist. Her writing has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines and domestic and international journals. She’s a member of CodePink Women For Peace and Progressive Democrats of America. She can be reached at: