August 14, 2004
Are we scared enough
By DAVID T. WRIGHT
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Another Terror Alert! One could almost hear the klaxons going off "ahOOga! ahOOga!" as the orange lights flashed, booted feet thudded, and the mighty Homeland Security apparat swung into action.
Stunned Imperial subjects huddled trembling around their telescreens while a deadly serious Tom Ridge, Reichsführer for the Preservation of the Glorious Homeland, told them that he had "new and unusually specific information about where al Qaeda would like to attack."
Fortress Trantor's Völkischer Beobachter, also known as the Washington Times, disseminated the party line in a piece by Guy Taylor on August 2, "Terrorists target finances":
The federal government increased the threat level to "high" for specific financial institutions in New York City, Washington, and New Jersey yesterday, citing intelligence about a terrorist plot to strike with car or truck bombs.
... One U.S. official told the Reuters news agency that the information was collected in the past 24 to 36 hours. It was not clear whether the intelligence was linked to the recent arrest of a top al Qaeda operative in Pakistan.
Note that the Times's article was headlined "Terrorists target finances," not "Terrorists reportedly target finances" or "Administration says terrorists target finances," continuing the paper's commitment to the highest standards of yellow journalism. A decade ago I used to enjoy reading the Times because it offered a refreshing alternative to the constipated, establishment-liberal Post. In the past few years, however, it has abandoned any pretensions to independence and inclusiveness, and has all but openly flaunted its status as a propaganda organ for the neo-Trot hyper-imperialists a dead-tree version of Fox News.
Also note that the "terror alert" was just for a few specific sites in the Washington and New York areas in Washington, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. (Assuming it was all for real, you actually couldn't fault the terrorists for their choice of targets, considering the devastation both institutions have wreaked on the economies of Third World countries.) Nevertheless, the "orange alert" rules went into effect all over Trantor, adding all sorts of inconveniences to its denizens' daily grind. At Imperial ministries, security guards now look in trunks and under cars with little mirrors to make sure that a bomb or a howitzer isn't being smuggled in. They even do it at the Ministry of Agriculture, despite the fact that the only terrorists one could imagine mounting an attack there are the cows from The Far Side. In any case, the measures are mainly for show a certified imbecile could smuggle in an RPG launcher if he put his mind to it.
While the alerts obviously add little to Trantor's "security," they do get people more used to the sight of the police strutting around in their nice black battle-dress uniforms, assault rifles at the ready, and more accustomed, too, to delays caused by roadblocks and other important activities. That is an end in itself for any regime, for by itself it expands the power of the state, making it easier to repress people's freedom. And most people seem to buy into the whole charade, accepting the necessity of this nonsense for their own protection.
My wife, for instance, is now extremely reluctant to ride the Imperial City's Metro, having succumbed to the atmosphere of controlled panic generated by constant reminders in the News Media of the Dangers of Terrorist Attack. Not that one needs a further reason to stay away from the Metro, the joys of which include escalators and elevators that chronically break down, as well as numerous frustrating delays. The Metro experience has recently been enhanced by the installation of new loudspeakers in some of the stations. The new speakers are much louder than the old ones, but to make up for that their sound is even more distorted so much so that one can enjoy getting one's eardrums blown out while not understanding a single word being said.
And then there are the little surprise incidents that one treasures. On Tuesday of the same week as the "Alert," another triumph of "public service" was celebrated when a Metro train operator walked off her train during rush hour without checking first to make sure that she had been relieved. The result was huge delays and subway cars packed like motorized sardine cans in one of which I was immobilized, forced into somewhat more intimate contact with my fellow passengers than I ordinarily would choose and obliged to savor the various samples of their B.O. wafting my way. It just keeps getting better and better here in the Imperial City.
It sure has gotten better for the Metro Transit Police. This latest emergency has given them the chance for which they have, no doubt, been waiting. A Metro policeman's lot is not a happy one. Much of his time is spent in the dark, Morlockian tunnels of the Metro subway system, resulting in the characteristic unhealthy pallor displayed by the Caucasian members of the force. Even worse, their uniforms are brown and frumpy: they look more like armed bus drivers than proper Polizei. And they don't get many chances to conduct high-speed car chases, beat up demonstrators, harass motorists, or perform other exciting and enjoyable "police work," as other local police forces regularly do; actually, there isn't a whole lot of crime on the subway. Like Rodney Dangerfield, they get no respect.
So they make up for it by making the most out of the opportunities they get. People eating on the trains or in the stations furnish many of them, and, with the help of one of those idiotic policies of "zero tolerance" (which, of course, translates to "zero thought"), the Metro coppers clamp down hard. No half-measures for them! They're famous for slapping handcuffs on hapless taxpayers for surreptitiously crunching on a Necco Wafer or something.
One such incident occurred in late July when a woman popped the last bite of a candy bar into her mouth as she entered a station through the turnstiles. When a female Metro cop barked at her about the no-eating rule, the citizen foolishly suggested that the cop go fight some real crime. That shocking refusal to grovel was duly rewarded as the lady cop shoved the snacking wayfarer up against a wall and handcuffed her. The candy-terrorist was fingerprinted, mug-shot, and held for three hours before being released after paying get this a ten dollar fine. That'll show her. (See "Police Defend Metro Candy Eating Arrest," nbc4.com, July 30, 2004.)
But forget the penny-ante stuff. With the latest alarums, the Metro Transit Police have seized the chance finally to throw off their image as pathetic losers and get down to it. The Monday following the Ridge press conference, Metro cops began riding the subways dressed in body armor and helmets, and carrying really cool submachine guns. Respect at last! Meanwhile, passengers are exhorted by loudspeaker and poster to Be Alert, Inform the Authorities, and Run for Cover if someone leaves his lunch on the train.
Nor are improvements in "security" confined to the Metro the Regime has taken this opportunity to tighten the screws all around. On Capitol Hill, which wasn't even mentioned as a target, 15 new checkpoints went up, causing traffic backups up a mile away. The Presidential Palace and the adjacent Ministry of Finance were not forgotten, as the cops set up checkpoints nearby, while drivers stuck in the resulting snarled traffic wept and banged their heads on their steering wheels in frustration. The only bright side is that, this being August, a lot of people are out of town. God help us when they come back from vacation. (Some good local color is on offer at "Jitters blend with patience, bit of defiance," by Ellen Gamerman, Baltimore Sun, August 3, 2004.)
And that's not all. According to the Washington Post, at least 20 agencies of the Regime are planning to "harden" their "perimeters" and set up guard booths, vehicle barriers, etc. It seems obvious that these actions have been planned for some time, and the "security" goons have been waiting for an excuse to put them into effect. One needn't ask why: to a bureaucrat, such things need no justification. They are, in fact, rewards in themselves.
At the same time, we are now told that there is no "imminent" threat. Obviously we are getting some confused signals here. And things weren't helped by an article in the Washington Post that seemed to play down the threat. Can it be that the Post was playing politics too?
Most of the al Qaeda surveillance of five financial institutions that led to a new terrorism alert [August 1] was conducted before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and authorities are not sure whether the casing of the buildings has continued, numerous intelligence and law enforcement officials said [on August 2].
More than half a dozen government officials interviewed yesterday, who declined to be identified because classified information is involved, said that most, if not all, of the information about the buildings seized by authorities in a raid in Pakistan last week was about three years old, and possibly older.
"There is nothing right now that we're hearing that is new," said one senior law enforcement official who was briefed on the alert. "Why did we go to this level? ... I still don't know that." ("Pre-9/11 Acts Led to Alerts: Officials Not Sure Al Qaeda Continued to Spy on Buildings," by Dan Eggen and Dana Priest, Washington Post, August 3, 2004)
More than a week later, we still don't know. If the Regime's allegations are correct which we have no way of knowing, especially considering the egregious lies it has fed us in the past there might be a greater risk of attack against a small number of specific targets than was recognized before. That's pretty much it. Although the initial allegations have been elaborated upon, with other sites added to the list of threatened buildings including the newly fortified Capitol Hill we have still been given no indication that an attack is imminent or that the general threat in the two principal Imperial Cities applies to the rest of the country, too.
Meanwhile, the Emperor has found it necessary to defend his decision to scare the hell out of everybody, according to the AP:
President Bush on Friday defended the decision to issue terrorism warnings and tighten security in New York and Washington, saying "the threats we're dealing with are real" even though some of the intelligence on which the government acted was as much as four years old.
Bush said the government had an obligation to tell Americans about the threats, even though some have questioned whether the warnings were politically motivated to strengthen the president's image as commander in chief in an election year. ("Bush Defends Terror-Threat Alert, Saying Threats Are Real Despite Age of Some of the Intelligence," Associated Press, August 6)
Politically motivated? Oooh, that smarts! More:
"When we find out intelligence that is real, that threatens people, I believe we have an obligation as government to share that with people," Bush told a convention of minority journalists. "Imagine what would happen if we didn't share that information with the people in those buildings and something were to happen, then what would you write? What would you say?"
Good point, George, but you could have released the information without the drama, couldn't you? Then came one of those little moments of comedy our current Emperor blesses us with so generously:
Bush said the government has a solemn duty to follow every lead it finds.
"This is a dangerous time," Bush said. "I wish it wasn't this way. I wish I wasn't the war president. Who in the heck wants to be a war president? I don't. But this is what came our way...."
Who in the heck, indeed. John F. Kerry's doing a lot better than expected in the polls, and Bush's approval and disapproval ratings are nowhere near as good as he would like. While the "security" types have gleefully taken the opportunity to strengthen the police state and enhance their power, for Bush himself this latest episode seems to have given new meaning to the term "silly season" applied to the month of August in Washington. Tom Ridge himself, it is rumored, is pretty ticked off at being forced to make a big fuss over nothing. Certainly, he is taking much of the heat for what is almost certainly a decision that originated in the Presidential Palace:
If he did not know it already, Tom Ridge, the homeland security secretary, has learned in recent few weeks how tough this town can be, even for a prominent Republican who is close to President Bush and holds one of the most visible Cabinet posts.
Nearly three years after he left his job as governor of Pennsylvania to join the White House's campaign against terrorism, Ridge has found himself in what associates call a thankless task, buffeted by complaints that he has created confusion and fear in the public's mind. The criticism only intensified after he announced a decision to raise the terror-alert level Aug. 1.
Democrats have accused Ridge of politicizing national security by citing the warnings as an example of presidential leadership.
Bush's national security aides overshadowed Ridge during last weekend's deliberations about the threat, administration officials said. Ridge's associates said that as homeland security secretary, he had responsibilities to officials outside the White House for example, notifying hundreds of state and local authorities about the alert before making it public. ("Ridge hit by criticism over raised terror alert / Secretary defends decision, system," by David Johnston and Richard W. Stevenson, New York Times, August 8, 2004. This version is posted at the Myrtle Beach [S.C.] Sun News.)
And then came the news carried, remarkably enough, by the Beobachter that the Empire's justification of the Terror Alert queered the efforts of the Pakistani regime to uncover an al Qaeda terrorism ring:
Pakistan complained Saturday that the United States blew the cover of an al-Qaida suspect, putting an end to a sting operation against the terror network.
Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, an al-Qaida computer expert, had agreed to work for Pakistani intelligence agencies after his arrest early last month in the Pakistani city of Lahore.
After an arrangement with Pakistani agencies, he agreed to send coded e-mail messages to other al-Qaida operatives. Pakistani intelligence agents had hoped that with his cooperation they would be able to net other al-Qaida suspects as well.
But in an effort to justify the high security alert in three American cities declared last Sunday, U.S. officials told The New York Times that the decision was based on the information received from Khan. ("U.S. blew cover, says Pakistan," Washington Times, UPI dispatch, August 7, 2004)
So it seems that unthinkable as it may be the Imperium was willing to sacrifice actual progress in the War on Terrorism to achieve base political ends. It's hard to imagine which factor was more important in making this decision: rank opportunism or gross stupidity.
But no. It couldn't be that all this fuss originated as a scam to divert the sheeple's attention from things the Emperor doesn't want them looking at, such as John Kerry's doppelgänger candidacy and Bush's own problems with popularity (a certain pulverized pill factory in the Sudan springs to mind for some odd reason). Obviously, then, the truth is just too sensitive for us to know for our own security, of course.
Thank heaven we have Mr. Bush and his minions looking out for our interests. Who knows what disasters might befall us otherwise?
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