IN THE NEWS
[You take a day or two off to relax, fire up the web browser, look at the morning's online newspapers--and your blood is already boiling before the coffee finishes percolating.]
This morning's papers are carrying the story that US officials plan an "aggressive and unusually open offensive aimed at thwarting terrorist plots before and during the presidential election in November."
No, they're not. They're planning several weeks of heightening your sense of insecurity. Any relationship to actual counterterrorism is coincidental.
The word "offensive" does apply, but not in the way intended. It would be comforting to see the absence of any special precautions. Either (1) there would be no actual threat to the elections, despite the Bush Administration's continued vague warnings to the contrary, or (2) the threat is real, but being handled in the way that demonstrates the effectiveness of our extraordinary security efforts since 9/11 to keep Americans safe. Another round of highly overt precautions is a clear admission that one of two other scenarios actually fits reality: (3) the terrorists are here, but in spite of the PATRIOT Act, heightened security measures at airports, TIPS, CAPPS, and every other tool at the Bush Administration's disposal, federal officials have no idea where they are; or (4) there isn't any real threat, except to the Republicans at the polls.
Options #3 and #4 are about as bald-faced an admission of cynicism and incompetence as you can get, from the same people who promised never to politicize the deaths of thousands of people (not just Americans, in case we've forgotten) on 9/11, who are now running on their national security "accomplishments." Oddly, the one that most people can agree was a good idea, the invasion of Afghanistan, is the one the White House talks about the least. Maybe that's actually not too odd, since beyond the Administration's own alternative history version of events, we're still fighting a very hot war there, one that in the long term, we stand a good chance of losing.
Meanwhile, in countries where the officials take counterterrorism seriously, and not just as an election ploy, the real counterterrorist forces stay in the shadows. In the nation that's our closest ally in Iraq, Great Britain, the Special Air Service (SAS) isn't marching around London in a brightly colored uniform, twirling a nightstick and shouting, "'Ere, now, what's all this then?" Look anywhere else--Rome, Paris, Madrid, Toronto, Cairo, take your pick--where terrorists might strike our allies next, and the people responsible for catching these terrorists are conspicious by their invisibility. They're there, but they know that they have zero chance of catching terrorists by operating in the open.
I'd like to ask people who feel comforted by these "security measures" if they feel equally comforted by the Administration's belief that the Administration thinks they're gullible saps.