Gut Checks Staged Wrong -- To Elicit Fear of Terrorism

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Cartoonist extraordinaire (and retired FBI agent colleague) Mr. Dennehy came through today with a great illustration of a couple of the main questions we should be asking about the Bush Administration's press conference yesterday releasing the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate of "The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland."

"Enter, stage right, the fear of terrorism," is how today's New York Times phrased their opinion on the timing of the NIE's release, coming just about a week after Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff's now famous gut check and just hours before the matter of Iraq was to be taken up in the Senate. Did Chertoff really get ahold of some bad ziti? Or was it all a part of some dramatic staging -- for politics? Chertoff's prescient gut check about "increased risk" of attack this summer just happened to totally match the NIE judgment that a regenerated Al Qaeda poses a "heightened threat" of another massive attack on the United States. No rocket science here. They're certainly right about this as numerous other terrorism experts warned all along that Al Qaeda would use the U.S. invasion of Iraq to recruit and train more disaffected Muslims. In fact Al Qaeda's regeneration has steadily been gaining steam for over four years, since March 20, 2003, the day Bush launched the war.

So you'd think this would have registered in Chertoff's gut too, that the Administration's eliciting of all the public fear of WMD and terrorism is precisely what led to the rather huge mistake in the first place of invading a country that had neither WMD nor Al Qaeda. The Administration's manipulation of our fear has, in short, boosted the true Al Qaeda threat. We'll never win the "war on terror" this way! Chertoff said he now fears Americans have become too complacent. But I don't think complacency is the problem. Since Americans have finally begun to see the truth and clearly reject Bush's continued occupation of Iraq, Chertoff's gut must have just told him it was time to inject some more good old-fashioned, dumbing-down fear into national politics.

One might well question, for example, what if any evidence is behind the NIE's most controversial judgment that "Al Qaeda in Iraq," a group which didn't even exist until months after we invaded, is the regional affiliate most capable of being "leveraged" to conduct an attack within the United States. Could that be nothing more than another gut call based on dumbing-down fear?

It's really too bad our Homeland Security Director cannot act a little more sensible, like FDR who knew that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself," or more like Irish statesman Edmund Burke who explained that "no passion so effectively robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear."

We need the truth. But we cannot continue to allow mindless fear to rob us of our ability to act, to reason or to correct course. Otherwise, the series of dumb mistakes made by Bush and his cronies will just multiply, his ill-begotten war will take more and more innocent lives, our civil rights will disappear, and our government debt will soar. The terrorist threat will continue to increase exponentially and someday soon, the experts, NIE analysts and Chertoff's gut will all be unfortunately right and we may pay an even bigger price for having given in to Bush's fear-mongering. By that time, however, it's quite possible many security moms will already have died a thousand deaths.