Skip to comments.A Few Larger Questions Past the Where and How (NYT News Analysis on Raised Threats)
Posted on 08/01/2004 8:01:17 PM PDT by conservative in nyc
ASHINGTON, Aug. 1 - The extraordinary and alarming specificity of the latest terror alert - different in kind than all that have come before it since Sept. 11, 2001 - poses new and heightened challenges for a government in the midst of a contested national election, and for a public both inured to the probability of further attack and profoundly unsure of what to do about it.
"We're not going to let threats or this kind of information turn us into Fortress America," Tom Ridge, the homeland security secretary, said on Sunday as he raised the threat level for the financial services sector in New York, New Jersey and Washington. "We're going to keep on being America."
But what kind of country has America already become in this strange and episodic semi-war? One that just escaped a week of the Democratic National Convention in Boston unscathed, or one that must yet fear the worst when the Republicans gather in New York at the end of the month? One that is safer for being forewarned, or more at risk for unknown months to come?
There is no ready answer, no simple response.
For all its frightening precision - a possible truck or car bomb at the New York Stock Exchange or Citigroup in Manhattan, the headquarters of Prudential Financial in Newark and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank here - the warning means one thing for the thousands of people who work in those buildings or live near them, quite another for the millions more who live in the same region, and still another for the rest of the nation.
"If there's a plane on the way, or a bomb outside, I'm not going to go into it," Thomas Schwartz, 20, in Washington for a job interview, said as he walked by the White House, just blocks from the World Bank, where police cars with flashing lights stood like silent sentinels. "But I'm not going to be changing my lifestyle or sweating bullets for terrorists. That's what they want."
A show of similar bravado led the New York Stock Exchange to announce that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg would ring the opening bell on Monday, and all the threatened institutions urged their employees to come to work, promising stepped-up but unspecified security measures . "You should go about your business," Mr. Bloomberg said.
In one sense, such advice is obvious. But in ways that are harder to measure, it may not be easy to follow. In recent months, as Mr. Ridge's periodic warnings bounced back and forth from orange to yellow without a new attack, some commentators found the whole scheme easy to mock. Earlier, internal warnings to police departments about possible instruments of terror (crop-dusting planes, scuba gear) or about targets themselves (strip malls, the Golden Gate Bridge) invariably seeped out, again without disaster in their wake.
But Mr. Ridge's personal and public warning, delivered to television audiences in the midst of baseball games and other national pastimes, seemed an altogether different matter, even for the vast majority of Americans who would not be affected in immediate or concrete ways.
"Outside of New York and Washington, this is a national problem and not a personal problem," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press here. "When terrorist warnings are elevated, people understandably react to them, but not to the point of paralysis. However, I wonder what will happen if there's a continuing drumbeat about an attack before the election."
That is a possibility that might play out at many levels.
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, doubtless spoke for much of official Washington and the public when he said on "Late Edition" on CNN that he doubted President Bush or Mr. Ridge "would raise an alert level to scare people for political reasons."
But in a larger sense, a big part of the current election is a real and sharp debate about how best to respond to the threat of terrorism in a post-Sept. 11 world, and whether Mr. Bush has made the nation safer or more at risk through his actions. The bipartisan commission on the Sept. 11 attacks recently questioned the utility of declaring war on terror without also attempting to address the root causes of poverty, anti-Americanism and violent fundamentalism in the Muslim world.
In that debate, Mr. Ridge, the former Republican governor of the vital swing state of Pennsylvania, did not shrink from taking a side on Sunday.
"We must understand that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the president's leadership in the war against terror," Mr. Ridge said. "The reports that have led to this alert are the result of offensive military operations overseas, as well as strong partnerships with our allies around the world such as Pakistan. Such operations and partnerships give us insight into the enemy so we can better target our defensive measures here at home."
The alert, and the intelligence that prompted it, puts the Bush administration in a bind. If the administration had such specific warnings of possible attack and failed to share them, it would be fairly accused of withholding vital information from the public. But the mere revelation of the new threat also serves to underscore the administration's contention that it has yet to finish the job against Al Qaeda and its ilk.
One member of the Sept. 11 commission, former Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, now president of the New School University in Manhattan, said the warning should spur Congress and the president "to put a line in the Department of Defense budget that is just for New York City, before they ever get to how much to appropriate for homeland security."
For the rest of the nation, Mr. Kerrey added: "After a while, you've got to live. You can't let these moments cause you to run aground and run away. You just can't. We've just got to stay calm and continue our lives. Enough is enough."
For an idea of how the "religion of pieces" views us!
Uhhh...what's wrong with Fortress America?
What a totally stupid article! All they are trying to do is plant doubts in the minds of Americans. And did they ever consider the fact that other terror warnings resulted in foiled attempts? Gosh, this stuff makes me sick! Vote BUSH!!!
Yes you are.
And still another for the parents of a daughter who has to go through the Newark Penn station to Penn station and then take the subway to beneath the CitiCorp building and then work all day across the street from the CitiCorp building. This is so scary to me. She survives the WTC and then is in the middle of the warnings in NY again.
We are at war. The Brits survived the Blitz. We must deal with the threat and not let the terrorists dictate how we live our lives. I hope we are made of sterner stuff.
I understand what he is saying......I will be alert, I will not hide in my home. I will go about my life as if the world is the same prior to 9/11. I may be afraid, but I will not give them the satisfaction of letting that fear rule my life.
This statement is really true. Right after the attack, we flew out of Newark to Indianapolis. The people in Indianapolis were concerned, but they didn't have the same deep grief that those of us that lived near the city had. I can still feel that grief. I was not afraid to go into Manhattan or fly out of Newark at all. But my point was that as a Mom whose daughter got out of the North Tower and is again danger I am in a different position. I am afraid for her.
My daughter used to work just a few blocks from the White House and was in her office when the Pentagon was hit. Since this May, she is no longer working downtown, which has us relieved. On the other hand, I would not tell her to change jobs just to avoid being in the city. These are the days that try men's souls.
I watched "Mrs. Miniver" last night which was on the Cleveland PBS station. They show many classic B&W films on Saturday night. This film came out in 1942, so America was just moving into the war. Since I taped it, I will share with you its final moments. The pastor is speaking in the partially bombed-out church:
"We in this quiet corner of England have suffered the loss of friends very dear to us. Some close to this church; George West (choir boy), James Ballard (station master and bell ringer and the proud winner, only an hour before his death, of the Belden Cup for his beautiful Miniver rose). And our hearts go out in sympathy to the two families who share the cruel loss of a young girl who was married at this alter only two weeks ago.
The homes of many of us have been destroyed and the lives of young and old have been taken. There's scarcely a household that hasn't been struck to the heart. And why? Surely you must have asked yourselves this question. Why in all conscience should these be the ones to suffer; children, old people, a young girl at the height of her loveliness? Why these? Are these our soldiers? Are these our fighters? Why should they be sacrificed? I shall tell you why.
Because, this is not only a war of soldiers in uniform, it is a war of the people - of all the people - and it must be fought not only on the battlefield but in the cities and in the villages; in the factories and on the farms; in the home and in the heart of every man, woman and child who loves Freedom.
Well, we have buried our dead, but we shall not forget them! Instead, they will inspire us with an unbreakable determination to free ourselves and those who come after us, from the tyranny and terror that threaten to strike us down. THIS IS THE PEOPLE'S WAR. It is our war. We are the fighters. FIGHT IT THEN. Fight it with all that is in us, and may God defend the right."
(The congregation now stands and sings "Onward Christian Soldier." Seen through the bombed-out roof are planes flying in formation to win a war against evil.)
159 posted on 05/30/2004 10:46:45 AM EDT by Socratic (Yes, there is method in the madness
I'm glad this came to mind. Much of what I type on FreeRepublic could only be termed fluff and diversion; much as the conversations I had during college days sitting around the dorm room and enjoying the community of friends. But, as in those days, there comes a time when a person reaches within his soul to reveal a depth of passion and moral conviction which they may seem to be embarrassed of expressing at other times.
I am proud of my country and the moral underpinnings which gave rise to its creation and continued existence. Little of ordinary conversation allows me to express my views on this topic, but FreeRepublic does. Thank you for being a fellow-member of this community of Patriots.
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