|Terrorist Attacks Remain Rare Events|
It should be noted that today many Americans have begun to view Snowden as more of a whistle-blower rather then as a traitor as the White House tried to paint him. What may be more important is the shift among Republicans, the percentage who said government has gone overboard in restricting civil liberties in the fight against terrorism grew to 41 percent in the new poll, this compares with 17 percent three years ago. When you join this group with far left Democrats that are antiwar and adverse to the fascist tendencies of government and with Libertarians who want "less government" the number of people opposed to these programs become quite sizable. As we go forward a question that may and should become the focus of the debate is, what is the actual cost in dollars of these programs and could the money be better spent? This question so far has been grossly ignored.
The following is part of, and contains EXCERPTS from an opinion piece written by Ted Koppel, it was printed in the WSJ on August 7th. The article was titled; America's Chronic Overreaction To Terrorism, I have dropped away parts of the original printing and simplified it where I could. It should be noted that many of the comments I viewed concerning this article talked about how Koppel was acting as a mouth piece for Obama and his views represent the left and those wishing to leave America open to harm. This is ironic because Obama is in no hurry to stop the NSA program. We have a bizarre alliance to end the program that joins the far left that often calls more government action and the Libertarians that want less government.
Koppel starts; Terrorism, after all, is designed to produce overreaction. It is the means by which the weak induce the powerful to inflict damage upon themselves—and al Qaeda and groups like it are surely counting on that as the centerpiece of their strategy. It appears to be working. Right now, 19 American embassies and a number of consulates and smaller diplomatic outposts were closed for the week due to the perceived threat of attacks against U.S. targets. Meantime, the U.S. has launched drone strikes on al Qaeda fighters in Yemen.
In 1998 al Qaeda launched synchronized attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing more than 220 and injuring well over 4,000 people. In October 2000, al Qaeda operatives rammed a boat carrying explosives into the USS Cole, which was docked in Yemen. Seventeen American sailors were killed and 39 were injured. Each of these attacks occurred during the presidency of Bill Clinton. In each case, the U.S. responded with caution and restraint. Covert and special operations were launched. The U.S. came close to killing or capturing Qsama bin Laden at least twice, but there was a clear awareness among many policy makers that bin Laden might be trying to lure the U.S. into overreacting. Clinton administration counter terrorism policy erred, if at all, on the side of excessive caution.
Critics may argue that Washington's feckless response during the Clinton years encouraged al Qaeda to launch its most spectacular and devastating attack on Sept. 11, 2001. But President George W. Bush also showed great initial restraint in ordering a response to the 9/11 attacks. Covert American intelligence operatives working with special operations forces coordinated indigenous Afghan opposition forces against the Taliban on the ground, while U.S. air power was directed against the Taliban and al Qaeda as they fled toward Pakistan.
It was only 18 months later, with the invasion of Iraq in 2003, that the U.S. began to inflict upon itself a degree of damage that no external power could have achieved. Even bin Laden must have been astounded. He had, it has been reported, hoped that the U.S. would be drawn into a ground war in Afghanistan, that graveyard to so many foreign armies. But Iraq! In the end, the war left 4,500 American soldiers dead and 32,000 wounded. It cost well in excess of a trillion dollars—every penny of which was borrowed money. Saddam was killed, but what prior U.S. administrations understood, however, was Saddam's value as a regional counterweight to Iran. It is hard to look at Iraq today and find that the U.S. gained much for its sacrifices there. Nor, as we seek to untangle ourselves from Afghanistan, can U.S. achievements there be seen as much of a bargain for the price paid in blood and treasure.
At home, the U.S. has constructed an antiterrorism enterprise so immense, so costly and so inexorably interwoven with the defense establishment, police and intelligence agencies, communications systems, and with social media, travel networks and their attendant security apparatus, that the idea of downsizing, let alone disbanding such a construct, is an exercise in futility. The Sunday TV talk shows this past weekend resonated with the rare sound of partisan agreement: The intercepted "chatter" between al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri and the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was sufficiently ominous that few questions have been raised about the government's decision to close its embassies.
It may be that an inadequate response to danger signals that resulted in the death of the U.S. ambassador in Benghazi last September contributed to an overreaction in the current instance. Clearly, it does not hurt, at a time when the intelligence community is charged with being overly intrusive in its harvesting of intelligence data, that we be presented with dramatic evidence of the program's effectiveness. Yet when all is said and done, al Qaeda—by most accounts decimated and battered by more than a decade of the worst damage that the world's most powerful nation can inflict—remains a serious enough threat that Washington ordered 19 of its embassies to pull up their drawbridges and take shelter for fear of what those terrorists still might do.
Will terrorists kill innocent civilians in the years to come? Of course. They did so more than 100 years ago, when they were called anarchists—and a responsible nation-state must take reasonable measures to protect its citizens. But there is no way to completely eliminate terrorism.The challenge that confronts us is how we will live with that threat. We have created an economy of fear, an industry of fear, a national psychology of fear. Al Qaeda could never have achieved that on its own. We have inflicted it on ourselves.
Over the coming years many more Americans will die in car crashes, of gunshot wounds inflicted by family members and by falling off ladders than from any attack by al Qaeda. There is always the nightmare of terrorists acquiring and using a weapon of mass destruction. But nothing would give our terrorist enemies greater satisfaction than that we focus obsessively on that remote possibility, and restrict our lives and liberties accordingly.
For once I find myself agreeing with Mr. Koppel, Mr. Koppel is a special correspondent for NBC News and news analyst for NPR.