Is talk of terrorism off limits?

Listen to some pundits and you’d think no one should ever mention the possibility of terrorist attacks in this country and that a few terrorist strikes here and there would be no big thing, anyway. Hey, we have auto accidents, don’t we?

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said he had a “gut feeling” about a possible al Qaeda hit this summer, and in rushed the commentary troops screaming their tiny little heads off about “scare tactics.” They said what the White House itself had been quick to say — there was no specific information about a plot — and overlooked the obvious, that someone immersed in minutiae about terrorist activities just might have a correct if unverifiable intuition of what’s about to happen.

But please, please, Secretary Chertoff, let Americans slumber the same as before Sept. 11, 2001, forgetting thwarted terrorist schemes here and abroad since then, and successful attacks in Spain and England. Speak up and you will only feed those who say administration mentions of some possible dangers are timed to divert attention from some criticism or the other, as if that could not be any week of the year.

So, no, don’t disturb the fantasists among us with realistic expectations, and don’t anyone ever suggest that an attack, if it should come, is something that would be all that devastating. Keep in mind, one columnist keeps reminding us, that people die for reasons other than terrorism — just since 2001, he says, 250,000 of us have been killed in auto accidents. Preventing a significant number of these deaths would have required a cost beyond the reasonable, he says, while instructing us that unsure efforts to keep us safe from inept terrorists are disproportionate to the risk.

There’s another view, and it comes from plenty of people with no possible political motive, but a considerable amount of information. It comes from people such as Graham Allison, a Harvard professor who thinks the odds are in favor of terrorists slamming us with a nuclear bomb within the next 10 years or so in the absence of a series of steps. He says al Qaeda has made clear its hopes of getting the weapons, which can be bought or stolen from a variety of places or built with enriched uranium, and observes that smuggling the bombs into the country could be accomplished using methods criminals employ to smuggle drugs into the country.

The loss of life would be horrific in a nuclear attack — maybe 100,000 dead with just one bomb, maybe many more. We wouldn’t know when it might happen again, and we would be utterly sickened and insistent on far-reaching protections that could evolve into a police state. The usually optimistic, energetic America we have known could be changed into something far different, something dour and ugly, and it could be decades before we would get back to the country as it had been, maybe longer, maybe never if the attacks continued.

Allison wants us to further secure weapons and weapons-grade materials and to prevent new nations from joining the nuclear club. For sure, we must keep Iran’s self-revealed religious maniacs from getting nuclear weapons they want to use against Israel and sooner or later us, and I would add this: We must have White House leadership willing to do whatever is necessary to secure Pakistan’s nuclear weapons if extremists take over that country’s government; we must be willing to take decisive action against any state that would work with terrorists to build these weapons, even by harboring them while they are doing it, and we must have exhaustive, though legal and rights-protecting intelligence.

We can’t just scat from Iraq, leaving the possibility of a hostile, terrorist dictatorship, although there might be ways to redeploy troops to safety there if the current strategy fizzles.

We must, in short, be vigilant — expensively vigilant, if necessary — on behalf of our preservation as an extraordinary civilization. This doesn’t mean we should be frightened into foolishness, just that we face the facts squarely, refusing to shut our eyes at what is going on in the world, and respond rationally, realizing what is at stake.

(Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)


  1. Electric Bill

    So it’s “be very afraid an don’t question the president?” But I have to question Chertoff’s gut feeling since he, along with the rest of the Bush bund, hasn’t been right about anything else. Of course we need to be vigilant and secure our borders, but the religious fanatics in America with their finger on the nuclear trigger are a lot more frightening than the religious fanatics in Iran.

  2. JoyfulC

    I don’t think anyone with common sense is suggesting that we completely ignore the probability of a terrorist attack, or that we fail to deploy intelligent and effective strategies for protecting ourselves from such.

    It’s just that this “Chicken Little” act is getting a bit stale. Every time there’s been an election since 9/11, the same tired bunch has trotted out the same tired fearmongering. Meanwhile, some of the same people have been busy pursuing strategies that have actually made Americans LESS safe from terrorism (like the Iraq war) and failing to support sensible plans (like beefing up security at chemical plants, refineries and such).

    Terrorism is a fact of life. We’ll always have terrorists because terrorism works. And the more advanced our technology, the more deadly the terrorism we face. We need to stop blaming these people or those people, or acting like terrorism is something we can stomp out.

    Terrorism exists for the same reason small children throw tantrums, for the same reason that children go to school and start shooting schoolmates and teachers. To eradicate terrorism, you’d have to eradicate humans, because it seems to spring from the very primitive core of human behaviour, especially when human beings are experiencing despair. Rather than trying to kill or capture all the possible terrorists, it would be more practical to set ourselves up so that acts of terrorism wouldn’t be as easy to commit, or cause as much harm when they were committed.

  3. Joe Lawrence

    Jay Ambrose, and the many other fellow warmongers of this worst-in-history administration, just hate it when the American people (Or have we all become “homelanders,” now?) resist their frightening scenarios. They delude themselves with the notion that, incredibly, somehow THEY are the ones with the prescient vision to see the goblins.

    Whether this grows from their own fears and insecurities or their need to suck up to the administration matters little. The plain, observable and oft-repeated fact is that these scare tactics are trotted out every time it appears the public is catching on en masse.

    It’s a right-wing thing.

  4. CheckerboardStrangler

    Jesse Ventura made mention of the fact the other day that he and ten other organized persons could by themselves coordinate a series of attacks that could shut down the entire country.
    He said this to illustrate the simple and undeniable fact that THERE IS NO WAY to prevent terrorism and that anyone foolish enough to expect, demand or believe that they have a guarantee against terrorism deserves what they get.
    I believe Jesse Ventura is correct. The DC sniper incident had people afraid to walk the streets for days. Now imagine TEN CITIES buzzing with rumors of trained snipers roaming the central business district ready to pick off random persons going about their daily business.
    Now add to that the notion that these trained terrorists are well versed in the art of making explosives out of ordinary materials.
    What shall we do. ban the use of fertilizer, limit knives to the plastic kind your kid gets at school lunch?
    Shall we submit to a total surveillance society even to the point where we have “telescreens” in our homes, shouting at us, “you there, 3456709, stop slacking off get to cleaning up your mess!”
    (The UK is getting awfully close, with “talking” cameras yelling at persons on the streets, right now)
    There is no guarantee of anything in life.
    Even The Lord Almighty Himself warns us in The Bible that “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away”. If God won’t give us a guarantee in life, what makes us think that some simpering fool with the presidential seal 18 inches in front of his
    bellybutton is capable of furnishing one?

  5. Wayne K Dolik

    If you study terrorism you will often find out that much of the so-called “terrorism” is often state sponsored. Our CIA often talks of unintended consequences. They call this “blowback”. So Americans should ask themselves when they see acts of terrorism, does it have roots in our world governments? If so, we should ask who then sponsored the terrorists in the first place?

    This is good food for thought when we hear fear mongers talk about fear all of the time.

  6. Carl Nemo

    I think it’s highly unprofessional for the head of “Homeland Insecurity” to spout off that he has a so-called “gut feeling”?! Considering the amount of money we are paying for the total intelligence product for all our agencies including Homeland Security, they best not be operating by “gut feelings” and be flying by the seat of their pants or give us the impression they are doing so. When something else bad happens similar or worse compared to 9/11, are we going to suffer endless hearings with lame excuses proffered by “whining” agency heads? I surely hope not, but we live in interesting times for sure.

    They need to keep their mouths shut, do their job;; ie., detect and neutralize threats to the United States in a professional,efficient manner within the guidelines of existing statutes. I’m personally for shutting Homeland Security and TSA down and funneling all the wasted money into our long existent agencies like U.S. Customs, the U.S. Coast Guard, and funding our traditional law enforcement agencies at all levels, local, state and federal with extreme “expectations” concerning their performance. If they don’t perform to “we the people” ‘s standards then the heads of these agencies need to be moved out in a continuous fashion until we find competent individuals who can manage them in an effective manner. We don’t need political patronage when it comes for the need of having well-trained competent heads of these protective agencies. Michael Brown was an example of an individual that was given the FEMA directorship and we all know what the result was for the people of the Southland. Post “public” discovery that he was a “dud”, they decided to replace him with a professional with a background as a career firefighter to head the agency; i.e., R. David Paulison. The agency seems to be doing quite well with this man at the helm. Expertise is important!

    Maybe Judge Chertoff’s comments where well-intentioned, but the fact that there’s extreme pressure for Bushco to exit Iraq, I feel there was a motive behind the comment.

    My admonition to Americans is to be alert and start living in “condition yellow”. If you see something odd or out of place then call your local authorities. Don’t live in fear, but simply be proactive. Get personally involved with protecting your country. We’ve seen where letting others protect our nation has gotten us; i.e, the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, the 1993 attack on the WTC, and then the 9/11 tragedy/debacle. alleged that FBI had foreknowledge?!,_2001_attacks
    alleged that CIA and FBI had foreknowledge?!

    Carl Nemo **==

  7. gene

    What a f**king joke. Just watch some of the clips as those buildings were professionally blown down (911). Bush new, Cheney new, many in our gov. new before, NOT AFTER. Their is evil, global style that will attempt to create a “One World Government” and it is beginning to expose its toxic tentacals.

  8. Carl Nemo

    Hi Gene…

    When it comes to nailing them on 9/11 I consider these two links the ultimate indictment, the absolute best of the best. The first link supplies multiple imbedded clips that I urge you and other CHB readers to make the effort to watch, then think! When Larry Silverstein the lease holder on the WTC complex said “pull” he referred to a demolition industry term that means “fire in the hole”…boom…boom…boom etc., floor by floor, level by level down into it’s own foundation. Granted planes did strike the Twin Towers, but there was some explosive “hamburger helper” in place to facilitate the demolition perfect drop-down! All that was left was a “rubble-heap” with very little that was identifiable at street level. The molten steel in the sub-basements were not due to the burning fuel that splashed at the highest levels, but the effect of “thermite” cutting and melting of steel creating a virtual foundry-like cauldron of molten metal. The investigation really needs to be reopened. It’s my understanding that the Canadian government is pushing hard to reopen the case for some reason.

    The second link explains how George Bush’s brother Marvin was responsible for the security for the WTC complex. They were never debriefed and managed to skate relative to necessary and proper FBI inquiries?!

    The North and South towers including WTC 7 all came down in place, controlled demolition style. Even Dan Rather makes this comment while reporting the tragedy as it unfolds (listen to audio clip). I realize that the thought our government being involved in such a monstrous plot against “we the people” is sickening to say the least, but it’s not the first nor the last time in history that a government will use an engineered crisis to achieve Machiavellian outcomes. Remember Hitler and the Reichstag fire, FDR and their prior knowledge of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and even the blowing up of the battleship Maine in Havanna Harbor, Cuba to start the Spanish American War is another example. Wealthy, smug, cigar-smoking MIC elitists will do whatever they damn well please to “we the people” if it means they can make ever a few more bucks at our collective expense…?!

    Carl Nemo **==

  9. Arlo J. Thudpucker

    Should there be another “terrorist” attack, the nation will hunt down the agents provocateurs.

    This shouldn’t take long, since we’ve identified the PNACers long ago.


    Arlo J. Thudpucker