Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Michael Chertoff shouts “Boo!”

Every family used to have a zany Aunt Millie or an old Cousin Hetty who predicted a coming storm through a painful ache in her big toe. If it twitched with discomfort the rains were sure to come. It was the “rheumatiz” actin’ up, so she stated, a sure signal that we would get a downpour in July, her foot condition always preceding the rainfall. To everyone’s amazement sometimes it rained and everyone spoke admiringly of Millie’s talented toe. This was pre-television and it was a more innocent age. Through her rain predicting toe she got the attention that the lonely woman craved. When it didn’t rain few noticed or cared and Millie was given a free pass to predict again. Meteorology has advanced a bit since Aunt Millie’s toe, but fear mongering still has its Aunt Millies and Cousin Hettys. The current one is Uncle Michael Chertoff, the head of Homeland Security, and one of the authors of the Patriot Act – a former Giuliani associate and current Bush cohort who has just advised us that we are due for a terrorist attack this summer based on nothing but his hunch. He offers no evidence. Only that hunch of his which may be as reliable as the old woman’s toe. And so fear-mongering is this Administrations summer sport. They are so good at it that they should try to get it into the next Summer Olympics. We have a champion team in Bush, Cheney, Rove, and Chertoff – any one of them sure to bring home the gold.

There was a sweet innocence to Aunt Hetty’s rain predicting toe that is totally lacking in Uncle Michael’s warning. He may be basing his hunch on events in Great Britain, the attempted terrorist attacks that were thwarted in London and in Scotland, but it appears that he has no more information than you or I do about what is to happen here, or so he claims. So why speak of that hunch – instead, shut your mouth and get your hot hunch over to the FBI and the CIA and start working to see to it that such an attack is prevented. His hunch may only be that subterranean chatter on the internet that seems to hold a key to terrorist activity for some terror experts. Now I don’t know if the terrorists will strike America again this summer any more than Mr. Chertoff does, but I do know we must be prepared for such attacks, and that is always a problem under this administration which ignored the warnings prior to 9/11, so it now feels free to shout Boo! whenever their political fortunes are at a new low. Bin Laden still walks the earth and shouting “Boo!” at him has had little effect, so don’t waste a perfectly good “Boo!”- use it on the American people. Like Aunt Millie’s toe and the rainfall, the law of averages and the machinations of terrorists indicates that an attack will happen again. It may be a failed attack, a thwarted attack, or a devastating one, but it will happen again. Making announcements like Mr. Chertoff’s are clearly designed to terrify the population just as the public has grown weary and disenchanted with the Iraq war, and the administration’s handling of the so called war on terror. And it happens just as fewer people believe the Bush mantra that “fighting them there keeps us from fighting them here.” We are meant to be scared, “Be afraid…very afraid, we are told.” And let Cousin George and Uncle Mike keep watch for all of us. By escalating murderous criminal acts into a war on terror this administration has failed to see that crimes are solved by police actions not by inflated rhetoric and unilateral wars. It is hard not to believe that Bush & Co. would not welcome a new terrorist attack in the homeland (that awful word reminiscent of fatherland) as the one way to wrest power from a too cautious congress and a terrified people and seize all the reigns of government again. My paranoid fantasy? Maybe. But there is nothing in the history of this administration that contradicts such an idea. The seizure of power by any means remains their basic game plan. We have seen it in the Justice Department, in the Supreme Court, and in every decision of the Bush years. What we need from our leaders today (and here I speak to the Congress and our Presidential candidates) is a program for inoculating all of us against terror, a program that will place the value of our civil liberties and our traditional democracy against Uncle Mike’s “Boo!” And it is long past the time to start a program that emphasizes courage over fear in the event of a real attack. Interesting, but those of us who lived through 9/11 in New York City are less fearful of another attack than most in this country, although every day we live with its possibility and dread the harm that it might cause our families. Not many of us have bought into the Bush administration’s statements that they have protected us over the past five or six years, but that they can’t talk about it for national security reasons. Why is it that everything that comes from this administration has the ring of a con man’s claim, or the accuracy of Aunt Millie’s big toe?