Let's Hope They're Wrong...Again
'Winning' the War on Terror Means More Alerts
by Mike Ewens
May 21st, 2003

Feds Raise Terror Alert to ''
US: Thousands of al-Qaeda Ready to Strike

H.L. Mencken once opined:

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed – and thus clamorous to be led to safety – by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

Granted, not all of these terrorist threats are "imaginary," however, they are rarely exigent. Moreover, since when do we trust American intelligence services and politicians to tell is what is really going on? Last summer, in a stunning display of fear-mongering, the government released my favorite (false) alert: "Terror alerts on small planes, scuba divers." An FBI agent explained the problem:

"Most of the time, we have little to go on, only unconfirmed snippets of information," a second FBI agent, who also was not named in the report, said. "Most alerts are issued without any concrete data to back up the assumptions."

Now, if I ran a simple mathematical regression investigating the correlation between acts of terrorism and US military intervention around the globe, I predict that the relationship would be positive. A few studies tend to agree, relating their conclusions to a phenomenon commonly referred to as "blowback."

Ignorant (willfully?) of such a concept, the neocons claim that terrorism occurring today is less than would have happened without the "War on Terror." Clearly, this assumes that our intelligence services have thwarted repeated attempts to inflict damage upon the "homeland" and not bragged about it. Here, I plead ignorance and suspicion.

Where is the government, protector of our persons and property, in all of this? Apparently, rather than obviate these threats, the government appeals to the "fear factor" with their continuous equivocations about terrorism. I swore that the function of the NSA, FBI and CIA was to maintain a semblance of prescience about threats. Can't say that I am surprised; a government that can't efficiently deliver mail or save money entrusted to it, surely can't protect us from the problems it creates. Why must we citizens be patient with the government – our servant – while it demands we relinquish our privacy, income and liberties all in the name of "security"? There comes a time (now) when the government must be held accountable for its failings (much like the US is currently demanding of Saudi Arabia).

So let's hope that, once again, the government has failed, and these alerts of impending terrorism are as empty as a fat man's eating hand.

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Mike Ewens is an economics and mathematics major at Washington University in St. Louis, Student Coordinator of Antiwar.com and president of Students for a Libertarian Society. See his archives here.


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