On the cover of McPaper this morning, the headline screamed …Or the Terrorists Win. Now I am not 100% sure what exactly the article was about, I only caught the flashy title. But on seeing this, I only had one thought…
The terrorists have already won.
Let me say that again. The terrorists have already won. Plain and simple. In the blink of an eye, Americans have given up rights and privileges in the name of security, driven themselves almost to bankruptcy in the name of security, and cower under the blankets, all on the off chance they too become victims of terrorism.
This is not the first time I have covered this, but certainly, on the eve of the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, it is a good time to look at what those attacks have wrought. Contrary to popular thought, September 11, 2001 was not the first act of terrorism on American soil. Contrary to popular thought, it was not the first act of terrorism in the world. Only the latest (at the time) and certainly not the last. But instead of looking to how other countries have coped (or not) with terrorism, the United States, because that is the way they roll, went their own route. They bombed uninvolved countries, threw money at cities for security and introduced legislation stripping away the rights guaranteed under the Constitution, turning it from the law of the land into little more than a set of guidelines you might want to follow if they are not too inconvenient.
Welcome to 2011. The foreign press have been doing a number of articles about how the United States has changed and what sort of progress has been made since 2001. What is funny is that it is the foreign press doing these investigations because it is not something the domestic press would ever do. To question the progress made is seen as unpatriotic as asking why the government wants us to take off our shoes when we go through security at the airport even though drug smugglers seem to have no issues using airplanes to move their product, even in these high security days. One of the most amazing facts, besides the almost completely ineffective airport security, is the amount of money thrown at cities and counties and states for the purchase of things that will help deter, defer or prepare for a terrorist attack. Most of the money has been wasted, for lack of a better term. Equipment sits unused in warehouses because the people are not trained on how to use it, foodstuff are rotting, forgotten on shelves, rather than rotated properly, and the average population is no more ready for a terrorist attack in 2011 than they were in 2001 as illustrated by something as simple as a heavy rain, the result of the remnants of a hurricane. If we are not prepared for what Mother Nature throws at us, how can we say we are prepared for a terrorist action?
And then there are the deaths. Sure, it makes news when a large number of people die. Just look at the news that is made when there is a car crash. Oh, wait. That is not news. And that is the point. More people die in traffic accidents in the United States every month than have died in terrorist actions in the world over the last generation. Heck, more people die of heart disease and smoking in a year than have died in all the terrorist actions ever. And yet we are more worried about preventing a terrorist action than we are about wrapping our cars around a telephone pole, smoking, or gun related deaths. One wonders just how skewed the priorities are.
The United States has spent billions of dollars fighting terrorism, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Meanwhile the infrastructure is crumbling, the Government is on the verge of bankruptcy, and the population is getting older, which will further strain already stressed services. You cannot kill an …ism. You cannot defeat terrorism. You can only be vigilant. But vigilance must be balanced by rational risk assessments. Hopefully, as we cross the 10 year mark, some rational risk assessment will be imposed, but I am not hopeful…not by a long shot.