The terrorists are coming and we aren’t prepared
Originally published in The Citizen, Cincinnati, OH, July 1999
Recently a government commission on terrorism revealed a little known secret that raises goose bumps: The threat of a major terrorist strike against America is probable enough to take seriously. Very seriously.
What the bipartisan Commission to Assess the Organization of the Federal Government to Combat the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction actually said is that America is not ready if Washington D.C. or New York City disappear in a fiery cloud. The commission based the report on the fact that nuclear, biological and/or chemical weapons have gotten out into the hands of groups who will use those weapons of mass destruction against the U.S. America is not ready.
It’s not a crazy scenario, but one that government planners have accepted as probable enough to react with haste, at least, that what the commission recommends. The threat is real, and we need to get prepared for it like we’re waitin’ on the return of Jesus.
The government is starting to take the threat seriously, but will they react in time to prevent catastrophe. It’s no longer a question of if weapons of mass destruction are in the hands of terrorists, but how many and what kind. Case in point: Russia’s former Defense Minister and 1996 presidential candidate Aleksandr Leded claimed that several dozen suitcase-size nuclear bombs that any idiot can set off are missing, as well as other weapons of mass destruction. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happened to those bombs.
There’s a way to inflict major pain on America, but is there a will? Could some terrorist group actually pull off a major attack? The answer: Yes, it’s possible. Is anyone planning on doing it? There are people who hate the U.S. enough. Other societies feel threatened by America raining missiles around the globe and spreading its culture like a cancer (how they view our culture). Yes, someone could be planning a major attack.
Destroy most of the federal government by taking out D.C. when the president and congress are in town and you’ve cut off the governmental head. Destroy the financial centers of New York City and you’ve cut off the financial head. Then what’s left of the three-headed “beast” is the military-which is too diffuse to destroy-but most of those soldiers would have a reason to stay at home. You want to change the world, start with two or three nuclear bombs.
The chances of this terrible scenario happening are significant. There’s the will and the way; it’s no longer a Hollywood plot. Someone in the government worked out the odds and raised the alarm, leading to the commission’s report. A ranking military officer said privately that the talk around the Pentagon has changed from if a major terrorist attack could happen to when it will happen. It’s not inevitable, but there’s an old rule of statistics that applies: if there’s any probability of an event, eventually the event will occur.
The probability is much greater than most people realize. There are plenty of financed, organized and armed terrorists out there who want to cripple America’s ability to project its power around the world, and now some have the weapons to do it. And those weapons aren’t going to sit around like fine art.
So ask yourself what you would do if you woke up one morning and the world was changed: if you picked up the phone and there was no dial tone: if you turned on the faucet and there was no water: if you looked out the window and there was no country.
Readiness is the best deterrent. If America is prepared for the threat of little people with big bombs, the terrorists might decide they could inflict more damage elsewhere. Thus a new commission is being formed to work out contingency plans. But the average person should be prepared too, like the old drills in school when everyone went to the bomb shelter. Only we aren’t looking to the sky for missiles, it’s rented trucks, suspicious packages and concentrations of radioactivity. We’re looking for something that will be awfully hard to spot ahead of time. It’s no secret anymore, no longer whispers among intelligence analysts. The threat is serious and we’re only beginning to face it.