It’s starting to build again – – the scare machine has been activated and by election time, is sure to be fully operational. Far more alarming, however, is that while FDR said during WWII that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”, the fact is these days we have good reason to fear our own government most of all.
Suddenly new terrorist plots have been discovered and widely publicized – – one to attack Fort Dix, the other to blow up JFK and the fuel lines connecting it to supply tanks. These were not terrorists who had followed us home from Iraq or Afghanistan but seem rather to be free-lancers entranced by fanatical Muslim rhetoric. In the Fort Dix case some of the accused were here illegally while others had work permits, had been here for years and worked at or maintained local businesses. Those accused in the JFK plot were neither from the Middle East nor members of Al Qaeda.
What they had most in common, aside from radical Muslim doctrine, was a willingness to become martyrs, motivated perhaps by the urge to affiliate with a larger struggle or “Jihad” – – something that would add a layer of significance to small lives. And their frenzy appears to have been enhanced by romanticized notions of conflicts far removed from their daily experience. Muslim suicide attacks in Iraq and elsewhere seem to resonate with supporters who long for recognition, and far from defeating or discouraging radical elements in the Muslim world, our occupation of Iraq has not only created an opportunity for Al Qaeda to flourish there but has also acted as an effective recruiting tool for splinter organizations.
Apparently assertions, by some, that Iraq would provide an opportunity for the defeat of terrorism militarily were as wrong-headed as the decisions that took us there in the first place. A destabilized Middle East and our presence have placed the focus on us and created a publicity network for terrorists they could never have established independently. Our ‘mission’ has failed at every turn except for the removal of Saddam Hussein, something of a mixed blessing as it has turned out.
And one of these days the off-shoot cells forming in this country or coming across our porous borders will develop the necessary competence to carry out their destructive wannabe missions here. That recent plots have been thwarted is due to a mixture of good police work, luck and amateurish operatives. We still lack the ability to defend our shores effectively because of this president’s stubborn insistence on appointing department functionaries light on experience and expertise in the fields for which they are responsible, but exceptionally skilled in creating a sense of dread in the American people.
Thus terrorist plots are spun and exaggerated in the first rush of news bulletins with only limited attention directed towards what substantive measures exist to protect infrastructure and safeguard citizens in the event of a serious attack or environmental crisis. Only after the initial hyperbolic assessment of what might have occurred had the JFK plot been successful, were experts knowledgeable about supply routes and storage facilities able to explain that, while the disruption planned would have been significant, it would not have destroyed Queens as first reports had suggested.
Having been inundated before the last presidential election with color-coded alerts and dire predictions, the public may be somewhat less inclined to buy into politically-motivated fear tactics this time around. However, in that strange brand of illogic that springs from the depths of Republican thought, recently elected Arkansas party chairman. Dennis Milligan, suggests that new attacks on American soil “…would encourage naysayers [to] appreciate not only the commitment [of] President Bush but the sacrifice that has been made by men and women to protect this country.” Surely a new rash of attacks would prove the futility of the Bush doctrine rather than encourage support for it. And failed homegrown plots are proof likewise that ‘fighting them over there’ does not successfully quarantine terrorist activity in distant lands.
What in fact is the rationale for Republican claims to be the defense mavens of our country – – first in military preparedness, most fearsome warriors in the field? Our president and vice president were at pains to avoid front-line service as young men and failed to take the advice of military leaders before deciding to take us to war. Wasn’t it FDR who marshaled us through WWII and JFK who confronted the Russians in Cuba; a Democratic president who pushed us into an ever-deepening commitment in Vietnam and a Republican president who pulled us out? And didn’t President Reagan recall our troops after a truck bombing in Beirut killed over 200 soldiers and more of our military were lost in naval skirmishes in the Gulf as he sought to ensure that the oil supply would not be disrupted by violence in the region?
Is it the Republican tendency to approve every conceivable weapon system that stokes their reputation as defenders of the realm or that Bush 1’s successful first Gulf War is a fresher memory? Seriously, it’s hard to justify the claims of superiority that Republicans have laid on Democrats for so many years. Democrats should reassert their bona-fides as the masters of effective campaigns and attainable goals and question the credentials of those who embroil us in poorly planned, inadequately supported, interminable conflicts.

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