So while we huddled in drunken fear here in The Homeland, Germans in Das Homeland played out a similar game.
You may have missed it among updates of our impending doom from terror attacks on New Year’s Eve, but in Munich two train stations were evacuated and closed after German officials had received a “very concrete” tip that suicide attacks were planned there. Everything got locked down and even the American Embassy in Germany Tweeted out an urgent bulletin to Americans.
And yeah, I buried the lede: Nothing happened.
Now, in the clearer light of morning, we learn more about that “very concrete” tip that set all this off.
According to Reuters, a German policespokesperson said “We received names. We can’t say if they were in Munich or in fact in Germany. At this point we don’t know if these names are correct, if these people even exist, or where they might be. We have no information that these people are in Munich or in Germany.”
Germany’s interior minister added “Security forces anticipate the high threat of international terrorism to persist.” Who knew?
The train stations were reopened by morning and the police presence significantly reduced, apparently because the vague tip from the night before was seen as even more vague a little while later. I guess “very concrete” tips have limited life spans, or Germany is really sure terrorists are always right on time with their suicide bombs. Heck, maybe they missed their bus or something, or their watches were still set to Syrian time.
Elsewhere in Europe, police in the Austrian capital Vienna said a “friendly” intelligence service had warned European capitals of the possibility of a shooting or bomb attack before New Year. Nothing happened.
In Belgium, authorities off the usual New Year’s Eve fireworks display in the capital, citing fears of a possible militant attack. Nothing happened.
Throughout the Munich alert, police kept up a stream of messages in several languages on Twitter, at times alternating incongruously between security warnings and New Year greetings. Reminder: Nothing happened.
Time to get a new catchphrase Mr. War of Terror — “out of an abundance of caution” has worn out its welcome and means little more than over reaction. Yes, yes, of course something could always happen somewhere. But that’s the point, and panic, overreacting and crying wolf does nothing to protect against that.
Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent. Reprinted from the his blog with permission.