Anyone who rides the subway regularly knows just how annoying it is to have somebody invade your personal space while they try to figure out the best way to get to Times Square. Obviously if this “space invader” happens to be Osama Bin Laden, it adds a large dose of terror to the whole experience, and it begs the question, just what is homeland security doing?
Nobody actually expects Osama Bin Laden to show up in person to launch a terror attack on New York. Just like nobody really expects a full-scale chemical attack on the city, or believes that a roll of duct tape is going to save their lives if there is one. Personally, I am clinging to the assumption that my unremarkable block in Brooklyn will not be first up for a dose of chemicals if the threat of bioterrorism ever escalates beyond being sneezed on while riding the F train.
The possibility of another terrorist attack has been a constant topic of conversation, ranging from the bizarre to the downright freakish, in the wake of Sept. 11 and the U.S. government’s failure to capture Bin Laden. And with the outbreak of the current war in Iraq, the chatter has reached a roar.
People are scared and rightly so. But the U.S. government is making it scarier in a number of ways.
First there’s the constant barrage of terror alerts. Now I don’t discount them — entirely. But is it really necessary to plunge people into a state of panic every other week? It’s making life in the city a lot less bearable, and, let’s face it, living in New York was always pretty damn stressful at the best of times.
I’m getting dizzy from the back and forth between code yellow and code orange. And I really don’t want to hear one more official hold another news conference to say that they have intelligence of a “real” but “non-specific” threat to the personal safety of Americans, only to quickly add that we should go about our business “normally.” That’s not much use to me when I’m trying to plan my weekend.
Now if someone could tell me not to stand on the corner of 54th and Lexington on a particular Saturday at, say, 5 p.m., well that’s information I could use.
I think I’ve found a use for all the duct tape stockpiled around the country. Will somebody please gag these people?
More frightening is the likelihood that the current war in Iraq will spawn a whole new generation of terrorists that hate Americans, as well as further entrenching those who already do. The conflict will almost certainly alienate Arabs throughout the Middle East, not just in Iraq.
As for the Iraqis, we’ve billed ourselves as their liberators and certain news organizations would have you believe that they’re welcoming the U.S.-led coalition forces with open arms. But I’m sure if you asked terrified parents trying to calm their children during a night of bombing in Baghdad, or forced to explain the deaths of civilians in the capital in recent weeks, they would tell you differently. The average Iraqi may hate Saddam, but he probably hates the United States more.
The war has been billed as an extension of the war on terrorism, though the link with Al Qaeda and Iraq established by U.S. intelligence appears tenuous at best. It has also been sold to us as a way of eliminating weapons of mass destruction that may or may not exist and that may someday be headed in our direction, in the hands of terrorists, courtesy of Saddam Hussein. He has used them before, so he is certainly capable of using them again or making them available to somebody else. But was it really necessary to launch a full-scale invasion that inevitably kills innocent people and destroys the country’s infrastructure?
There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein’s regime is brutal. And President Bush clearly believes that what he’s doing is right. But doesn’t might always believe its right? Isn’t this war more the result of a long-standing U.S. policy of policing the globe, the consequences of which have arguably already been played out on American soil?
It was after the first Gulf War that Bin Laden called for a Muslim jihad on American military and civilian targets because he was insulted that the United States used Saudi Arabia as a staging area for its fight against Iraqi forces. His gripe? Saudi Arabia is home to Mecca — the birthplace of Mohammad and considered to be the holiest place on earth by Muslims.
Bin Laden’s kind of fundamentalist terrorism is, of course, abhorrent and the man is a murdering lunatic. But back in 1979, when the Russians invaded Afghanistan, that kind of Islamic fundamentalism was a bitter pill the U.S. government was prepared to swallow when it financed a rag-tag group of Muslim fundamentalists, or Mujahadeen, assembled to fight the Russians, the enemy du jour.
According to the best-selling “Taliban,” by London Daily Telegraph journalist Ahmed Rashid, Bin Laden helped train those U.S.-funded fundamentalists after arriving in Afghanistan in 1980 with funds from his native Saudi Arabia.
What a difference a couple of decades make.
The opinions expressed represent those of the writer, not necessarily those of the Irish Echo.