Political Use of Terrorism Threat Alerts

The U.S. Government has once again raised the threat alert for terrorism to the “orange” level. This action requires more surveillance, more deployment of military and law enforcement personnel, more agitation of the community, and more fear on the part of the public. Raising threat assessments should be justifiable, but are they?

News reports from this week indicate that the Bush administration Office of Homeland Security has raised the threat assessment for domestic terrorism in the absence of any firm data. Our citizens are being inconvenienced and their fears heightened for no specific reason. Maybe it is, in police terms, a “hunch”.

One can see Tom Ridge and Asa Hutchinson and Donald Rumsfeld meeting privately (no stenographers or tape recorders present). Rumsfeld leads the conversation: “Men, we have a great opportunity at this time. Terrorist bombings in Morocco and Saudi Arabia are in the news. It is time to act!”, says General Rumsfeld. “How so!?” asks former Governor Ridge. Rumsfeld retorts, “Can’t you see, you imbecile!” He continues, “We have a ready-made opportunity to build on the Fear Factor!” We need to drive home to the American people how dangerous this world is nowadays!” Rumsfeld concludes, “Raise the terror alert to red, immediately!”

The Homeland Security officials seem perplexed, and stand in silence for a moment. It is not easy to contradict a man as intense as “Don the Dominator” Rumsfeld. Finally, Tom Ridge gathers himself and speaks — “But sir, we have no data to indicate an imminent attack. We have no intelligence to indicate any actions against the homeland are about to occur. How can you justify a red alert?”

“Okay, okay, Make it orange. We’ve got to work that Fear Factor in order to justify all this spending. Make it orange, and let’s hope something will occur to justify us bringing the alert status to red”, Rumsfeld continues. “And do not lower the alert status below orange until further notice”, no matter how safe things seem”, says Rumsfeld, as he heads briskly for the door.

Ridge and Hutchinson call in their best subordinates to write a convincing report on why the threat level is perceived to warrant heightened status in the absence of any intelligence or any specific threats.

The American people get played like an old ragtime piano. “Danger! Danger!” is the song, and it is played again and again. Very quickly, the public has become so accustomed to danger, that it seems oddly more comfortable to hear the “danger” tune in the background than to hear silence. Subconscious forces enter into play. Acquiescence to additional “defense” spending is a certainty. No amount is too high to pay for American security! Better to burden the unborn with humongous national debt than to feel insecure!

Of course, deep in their souls, Americans know that money does not buy security. Even in their “safe rooms”, the wealthy feel at risk. Security experts privately tell the President, the Congress and anyone paying for their information that competent terrorists or criminals can always find weaknesses to exploit. The danger is as great as ever, and perhaps greater, since “national defense” has gone on an international offensive, creating more enmity, more victims, and an increased array of revenge-minded haters of America.

However, the political use of terror threats keeps the engines of military spending humming right along. That was a Bush priority all along — after all, isn’t that how Bush Senior, Frank Carlucci, and all the other investors in the Carlyle Group and other defense investors keep getting wealthier by the minute.

Terrorism means times are good if you are a defense investor. Keep up the alerts! Keep up the war! Let the good times roll!

The writer is a member of several falconry and ornithological clubs and organizations. He contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from California, USA.