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And now, today's excellent essay:

After Two Years
Real Dangers and False Solutions in the Age of Terrorism 

By Stephen R. Shalom

Kenneth Adelman, a former Reagan administration official and close
associate of the ruling neoconservatives, has offered his advice to the
Bush administration for securing its re-election. "We should not try to
convince people that things are getting better," he said. "Rather, we
should convince people that ours is the age of terrorism."[1]

The fact that upgradings of the color-coded terror alert frequently seem
to coincide with some scandal or bad news that the Bush administration
would like to keep off the front page, makes us all cynical about the
terrorism threat. But manipulation of terror warnings should not obscure
the very real dangers that terrorism poses.

So now, two years after the horrors of 9-11, given the fact that this
administration has staked its future on making its citizens safe from
terrorism, it's reasonable to ask what it has actually done to reduce
the threat of anti-U.S. terrorism. 

In March 2003, Bush's special adviser for counter-terrorism, Rand Beers,
resigned. In June he charged that the "war on terrorism" was "making us
less secure, not more secure."[2] The Bush administration, he said, put
too much emphasis on attacking terrorists overseas: "There's not enough
focus on defense and dealing with the basic sources of humiliation and
despair that exist in large segments of the Islamic population."[3]

Beers is no starry-eyed liberal. He was a 20-year veteran of the
National Security Council, where he had loyally carried out atrocious
policies under Reagan and Bush Senior, as well as Clinton. Just last
year, to help get a judge to dismiss a lawsuit opposing Plan Colombia --
the multi-billion dollar U.S. aid program -- he submitted a deposition
stating that Colombian guerrillas had received training in al Qaeda
camps in Afghanistan, a claim he was later forced to retract as
baseless.[4] Nevertheless, in his limited way Beers points to the real
problem. The key to reducing terrorism against the United States is to
eliminate as much as possible those "basic sources of humiliation and
despair." So how successful has the Bush administration been when it
comes to those "large segments of the Islamic population"?


Consider the findings of the Pew Global Attitudes Project, which
interviewed some 16,000 respondents around the world: 

"[T]the bottom has fallen out of support for America in most of the
Muslim world. Negative views of the U.S. among Muslims, which had been
largely limited to countries in the Middle East, have spread to Muslim
populations in Indonesia and Nigeria. Since last summer, favorable
ratings for the U.S. have fallen from 61% to 15% in Indonesia and from
71% to 38% among Muslims in Nigeria.... In the wake of the war, a
growing percentage of Muslims see serious threats to Islam.
Specifically, majorities in seven of eight Muslim populations surveyed
express worries that the U.S. might become a military threat to their
countries.... Support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism also has fallen
in most Muslim publics. Equally significant, solid majorities in the
Palestinian Authority, Indonesia and Jordan and nearly half of those in
Morocco and Pakistan say they have at least some confidence in Osama bin
Laden to 'do the right thing regarding world affairs.'"[5]

In Pakistan, virulently anti-American Islamicists won local elections in
two out of four of the country's provinces and are now the third largest
party in the national parliament, their best showing ever. For the first
time, their support comes not just from the areas bordering Afghanistan,
but even from urban areas. In Kuwait, elections in July returned Islamic
traditionalists and supporters of the royal family, while liberals
suffered a severe defeat. And in Indonesia, the New York Times' Jane
Perlez reports, "Jemaah Islamiyah was only the most extreme of a number
of groups that were galvanized by the events of 9/11 and the American
response in Afghanistan."[6] 

What is the impact of this growing anti-Americanism in the Islamic
world? The London-based World Markets Research Center, which assesses
terrorism threats for top corporate clients, now ranks Colombia, Israel,
and Pakistan as the only countries with a greater terror risk than the
United States. "Another Sept. 11-style terrorist attack in the United
States is highly likely," they warned in August 2003. "U.S.-led military
action in Afghanistan and Iraq has exacerbated anti-U.S. sentiment."[7]

Many al Qaeda members have been killed or captured, but the expert
consensus is not sanguine. The conservative but often canny
International Institute for Strategic Studies concluded in May 2003 that
al Qaeda was "more insidious and just as dangerous" as it was before
September 11, 2001. Jason Burke, author of a forthcoming book on al
Qaeda, has written "That the conflict in Iraq led to a rise in
recruitment for radical groups is now so clear that even U.S. officials
admit it. This is a huge setback in the 'war on terror.'"[8]

Rohan Gunaratna, a Southeast Asian expert on al Qaeda, reports that the
organization has had no trouble in recruiting fresh members among
Muslims whose anti-Western passions have been fueled by the war in Iraq.
"For every three to five members, they have five to ten more recruits.
As a result, active terrorist groups will be able to grow and become
more powerful and influential." Gunaratna told the National Commission
on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States that outside of Palestine
less than 20% of the population of any Muslim country actively supports
terrorism. But, he continued, "This may change with time. This may
change, especially after 9/11, especially after U.S. intervention in
Iraq." "America has taken a country that was not a terrorist threat" --
Iraq -- "and turned it into one," notes Jessica Stern, author of Terror
in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill.[9]

The Bush administration, which warned so vociferously that Saddam
Hussein might pass weapons of mass destruction on to al Qaeda or other
terrorists, has now created a situation where such fantasies could
become realities. After all, the terrorists now collecting in Iraq
potentially have access to the looted radioactive material and nuclear
waste from Iraqi facilities at Tuwaitha and elsewhere, left unguarded by
U.S. forces in the postwar weeks. These were not weapons facilities, but
some of the missing materials could be used to make a "dirty bomb."[10]

Bush always exaggerated the danger that would ensue if Saddam's Iraq had
acquired weapons of mass destruction. There is no reason to think that
deterrence wouldn't have applied to his regime as much as it did to
Stalin's or Mao's. But there is no doubt that the more countries that
have such weapons, the more dangerous a place the world becomes. So it
is reasonable to ask what the impact has been of Bush foreign policy on
the dangers of proliferation. The consequence of the Iraq war in this
regard is not likely to be positive. 

As Joseph Cirincione, author of Deadly Arsenals: Tracking Weapons of
Mass Destruction and a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, has

"U.S. officials report that North Korea is accelerating its nuclear
program, not abandoning it. Iran, too, has consciously raised the public
profile of its ostensibly civilian nuclear program and insisted that it
would acquire full nuclear fuel-cycle capability, thus enabling it to
enrich uranium to weapon-grade levels and reprocess plutonium from
reactor fuel. Like India's army chief of staff after the first Iraq war,
officials in Pyongyang and Tehran may believe that if one day you find
yourself opposed by the United States, you'd better have a nuclear

Convincing countries opposed by the United States to submit to UN
weapons inspections will no doubt become more difficult than ever, given
that when Iraq grudgingly accepted inspectors, allowed them to destroy
some of its missiles, and subjected itself to U.S. spying, it was
attacked anyway.

More generally in terms of our safety two years after September 11, the
United States has worked hard to create a more dangerous globe. It has
blocked efforts to improve compliance with the Biological and Toxin
Weapons Convention and has insisted on a reservation to the Chemical
Weapons Convention allowing the President the right to refuse an
inspection of U.S. facilities on national security grounds.[12] With
regard to nuclear weapons, the Bush administration has refused to ratify
the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and has stated that it can't rule out
a resumption of nuclear testing. It has declared that it might use
nuclear weapons in response to chemical or biological threats and that
new nuclear weapons are needed to target chemical and biological weapons
sites in potential enemy countries, as well as deeply buried and
hardened command posts. It has begun research on modifications of two
types of existing nuclear bombs and has proposed the repeal of a
ten-year old ban on low-yield nuclear weapons research and development.
As the mainstream Arms Control Association has noted, 

"Coming from the United States, the world's pre-eminent military and
political power, such policies undermine nonproliferation efforts by
suggesting to other states that nuclear weapons are legitimate and
necessary tools that can achieve military or political objectives. Such
an approach, if implemented, only increases the odds that another
country or group will race to acquire -- and perhaps someday use -- the
destructive power of these terrible weapons."[13]


If the Bush administration's foreign policy destabilizes the world at
every level, what of its domestic policies?

Under the Patriot Act and prior legislation, the Justice Department has
certainly arrested or simply incarcerated in one way or another large
numbers of people, actions that have endangered civil liberties, while
doing little to address the actual threat of terrorism. It is
conceivable, in fact, that, Attorney General Ashcroft's boasts aside, it
is even increasing the menace of terrorism at home.

The danger to basic freedoms is so clear that one doesn't have to go to
the ACLU or other left-liberal sources for substantiation. A survey of
corporate chief security officers by their professional magazine found
31 percent believing that the United States is in jeopardy of becoming a
police state.  Leading conservative ideologue and former House majority
leader Dick Armey warned that the Justice Department was "out of
control" and "the most dangerous agency of government." Three U.S.
states, including Republican-controlled Alaska, and 157 cities, towns,
and counties have passed resolutions challenging the Patriot Act.[14] 

In return for this loss of civil liberties, there has been at best a
negligible gain in security. In the weeks following 9-11, hundreds of
people were secretly arrested. Virtually all arrested were cleared of
any connection to terrorism, yet the average clearance took 80 days,
during which time they were confined under harsh, sometimes abusive
conditions, according to the Justice Department's own Inspector General.
As law professor David Cole has noted, 


"Ashcroft greatly exaggerates his 'successes.' He claims to have brought
255 criminal charges in terror investigations, but the vast majority of
those charges were pretextual criminal charges (like credit card fraud
or lying to an FBI agent) used to justify holding people who turned out
to have no connection with terrorism. Similarly, he claims to have
deported 515 people in the investigation but fails to mention Justice
Department policy that authorized deportation only after the FBI cleared
immigrants of involvement in terrorism."[15] 

In some of the few cases where individuals were convicted of charges
relating to terrorism, there is reason to believe that guilty pleas were
obtained not by any real involvement in violent acts, but by the
outrageous threat to treat the defendants as "enemy combatants," and
hence beyond the protection of basic rights.[16] 

Dealing appropriately with terrorism does not require the added powers
of the Patriot Act, let alone the even more extensive powers of the
proposed Patriot Act II. But this legislation is of obvious value to
officials intent on gathering unlimited information on our citizenry.
(Well, not quite unlimited. Ashcroft wants records on gun sales in a
federal data base to be destroyed after 24 hours and to bar their use in
terrorism investigations.[17])

Police-state practices are not merely ineffective and unjust: they may
also be counterproductive. A crucial requirement for uncovering any
hidden terrorist cells in the United States is having the support of
immigrant communities. But this support is undermined by the Justice
Department's ethnic profiling, high-pressure interviewing,[18] secret
arrests, and general mistreatment of the country's Muslim communities.

There are in fact a great many measures that can and should be
undertaken domestically to reduce the threat of terrorism, many of which
measures are actively opposed by the Bush administration because they
require regulating private corporations or call for the kinds of
government spending that might preclude tax cuts for the rich.

Consider chemical plants. According to the Environmental Protection
Agency, there are 123 U.S. chemical facilities where a release of
chemicals could threaten at least one million people; another 700 that
could threaten more than 100,000 people; and 3,000 at least 10,000
people. Since October 2001, legislation has been proposed setting
minimal security standards for these plants, but the industry and the
White House have insisted on only "voluntary compliance." To take just a
single example of the problems of depending on corporate voluntarism, in
July 2003, the New York Daily News found there to be no security at all
at the Matheson Tri-Gas facility in East Rutherford, NJ, a release from
which could put up to 7.3 million people in the metropolitan New York
area at risk.[19]

Or consider nuclear power plants. Perhaps even more vulnerable than a
plant's reactor core are its waste pools where spent fuel is stored. A
terrorist-caused rupture in these tanks could start a fire leading to
the release of a radiation plume that, according to a study by physicist
Frank N. Von Hippel, "would contaminate eight to 70 times more land than
the area affected by the 1986 accident in Chernobyl." A study by
Brookhaven National Laboratory showed that a pool fire in a metropolitan
area could lead to 140,000 cancer deaths and cause over half a trillion
dollars in off-site property damage alone.

These waste pools are currently extremely insecure. There is a fairly
inexpensive technological solution to the problem: for about $45 million
a year per plant, the pools can be converted to dry storage areas,
making them much less vulnerable target for terrorists. Yet the Bush
administration has not pursued this or any other solution that might
cost the industry any money.[20]

In May Secretary of Transportation Mineta identified maritime ports as
the most vulnerable part of the nation's transportation system. "With
the number of containers coming into this country, we really don't have
a good handle on what's in those containers. And to me that is one that
we still haven't really been able to put our hands on." Just recently a
Newsweek reporter was able to drive "straight into the truck lanes of
the Port of Baltimore -- which U.S. Customs officials say is one of the
nation's best protected -- without being stopped, [and] then spent two
hours wandering, unnoticed, among stacked shipping containers. 'You just
happened to pick a day when a lot of our normal people were out,' port
spokeswoman Darlene Frank explained."[21]

When it comes to planning for responding to a terrorist act -- no less
crucial to our safety -- the record is no better. The Rand Corporation
conducted a survey for the Centers for Disease Control of emergency
workers in 40 cities and towns, and found a majority feeling
underprepared and underprotected. And a July report from the staid
Council on Foreign Relations concluded that "Although in some respects
the American public is now better prepared to address aspects of the
terrorist threat than it was two years ago, the United States remains
dangerously ill prepared to handle a catastrophic attack on American


Of course, Americans are hardly the only victims of terrorism and if the
U.S. government were genuinely concerned with reducing the global
problem of terrorism it would cease its support for states that carry
out terror against their own populations -- such as Indonesia, Colombia,
and Turkey. It would cease as well its own long-time policies of
terrorism -- whether against Cuba over many decades or Nicaragua in the
1980s, or the economic sanctions that took such a horrific toll on Iraqi
civilians, or the dropping of cluster bombs in civilian areas of
Afghanistan and Iraq. 


The hypocrisy of the U.S. "war on terrorism" is quite shameless --
though this doesn't mean that anti-U.S. terrorism is a myth. It's a
deadly serious matter that requires a serious response. The Bush
administration has indeed responded -- with foreign invasions, high
profile arrests that lead nowhere in particular, the black hole of
Guantanamo Bay, endless hyped alerts, and the Patriot acts -- that is,
with publicity and fear.  But looked at practically, its "war on
terrorism" is a fraud. It has only increased the dangers of terrorism
abroad without protecting us from terrorism at home. It has used the
issue of terrorism and the "war on terrorism" to further concentrate
power and wealth in the hands of the few. Ashcroft has declared that
those who criticize the Patriot Act are aiding terrorism.[23] Bush says
we are either with him or against him in his "war on terrorism." If we
care about our safety, not to mention justice and liberty, we'd better
be against him.

[1] Dana Milbank and Mike Allen, Washington Post (WP), 8/22/03, p. A01.

[2] Laura Blumenfeld, WP, 6/16/03, p. A01.

[3] Thomas Frank, Newsday, 6/25/03, p. A35

[4] P. Mitchell Prothero, "Claim of FARC-Al Qaida link rescinded,"
United Press International, 8/9/02.


[5]  The Pew Global Attitudes Project, Views Of A Changing World, June
2003, p. 3, http://people-press.org/reports/pdf/185.pdf.

[6] David Rohde, New York Times (NYT), 10/11/02, p. A13; 10/13/02, p.
I:8; 1/17/03, p. A8; John Kifner, NYT, 7/7/03, p. A6; Perlez, NYT,
9/3/03, p. A6.

[7] Don Van Natta Jr., NYT, 8/17/03, p. I:9.

[8] Michael Evans, The Times (London), 5/14/03, p. 16; Burke, Observer,
5/18/03, p. 17.

[9] Robin Gedye, Daily Telegraph, 5/22/03, p. 4; Hearing of the National
Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, "Terrorism, Al
Qaeda, And The Muslim World," 7/9/03, p. 13,
http://www.911commission.gov/; Stern, NYT, 8/20/03, p. A21.

[10] Bob Drogin, Los Angeles Times, 6/6/03, p. I:10.

[11] Foreign Policy, July-Aug. 2003, p. 68.

[12] Jonathan Tucker, "The Fifth Review Conference of the Biological and
Toxin Weapons Convention," Feb. 2002,
http://www.nti.org/e--research/e3--7b.html; Amy E. Smithson, "U.S.
Implementation of the CWC," in Jonathan B. Tucker, The Chemical Weapons
Convention: Implementation Challenges and Solutions, Monterey Institute,
April 2001, pp. 23-29, http://cns.miis.edu/pubs/reports/tuckcwc.htm.

[13] Christine Kucia, "For Second Year Running, U.S. a No-Show at CTBT
Conference," Arms Control Today, Sept. 2003; Arms Control Association,
"New Nuclear Policies, New Weapons, New Dangers," April 2003,

[14] CSO press release, "Chief Security Officers Reveal Concerns About
U.S. Government Security Measures," 5/12/03,
http://www.csoonline.com/releases/-05120369--release.html; Armey quoted
in Nat Hentoff, Village Voice, 4/25/03,

[15] U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, The
September 11 Detainees: A Review of the Treatment of Aliens Held on
Immigration Charges in Connection with the Investigation of the
September 11 Attacks, April 2003, released June 2003; Cole, The Nation,
9/22/03, p. 26.

[16]  See Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, "LCHR Rebuts Attorney
General's Speech on USA PATRIOT ACT," 8/25/03,

[17] Eric Lichtblau with Adam Liptak, NYT, 3/15/03, p. A1. 

[18] See GAO, Justice Department's Project to Interview Aliens after
September 11, 2001, GAO-03-459, April 2003, p. 16.

[19] GAO, Voluntary Initiatives Are Under Way at Chemical Facilities but
the Extent of Security Preparedness Is Unknown, GAO-03-439, March 2003,
p. 4; "Fact Sheet on Senator Corzine's Chemical Security Legislation,"
http://corzine.senate.gov/priorities/chem--sec.html, visited 9/9/03.

[20] Stanley A. Goff, Predeployed Radiological Weapon: Reducing the
Targetability of Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant and the Risk to the North
Carolina Public, Durham, NC: North Carolina Waste Awareness and
Reduction Network, 5/1/03, http://www.ncwarn.org.

[21] Hearing of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the
United States, Civil Aviation Security, 5/23/03, p. 10; Michael Hirsh,
Newsweek, 9/15/03, p. 46.

[22] Philip Shenon, NYT, 8/21/03, p. A14; "Emergency Responders:
Drastically Underfunded, Dangerously Unprepared," Report of an
Independent Task Force, Sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations,
Warren B. Rudman, Chair, July 2003,

[23] Neil A. Lewis, NYT, 12/7/01, p. A1.

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