Like most Americans, our police and armed forces -- command structure aside -- as well as our intelligence agencies, take their jobs seriously. Yet security is not only more elusive than ever for Americans, it's little more than an illusion. As 9/11 made clear, the fatherland, I mean homeland, is more vulnerable to attack than at any time since the War of 1812.
Furthermore, we have a gnawing suspicion that not only are we more likely than ever to be killed, but with a gruesomeness beyond imagining. Of course, like after World War II when the American government made up the Red Menace out whole cloth, this is just where the current administration wants us. As it plays the score from "Psycho" on our heartstrings, we become pushovers for NSA phone-spying and maybe even a strike on Iran.
Not only have Bush & Co. fanned the flames of our fears, they've taken a bellows to those waxing bellicose against us and fired them up as well. Thus have we all become hostage to the administration's deluded conviction that the only way to make those dreams of security come true is by first making our worst fears come true.
To expedite its vision, the administration has made non-state actors (such an innocuous term) like, al Qaeda and lately Hezbollah, and states, like North Korea and Iran, our designated enemies. In addition, it's doing its darndest to re-antagonize China and Russia and restore them to their previous status of Red Menace, or a latter-day version thereof.
Because of its isolated land mass, not to mention friendly neighbors, the US is safe from invasion. But that's backfired on us. If a state can't attack by land, sea, or air, its only recourse is missiles -- and what's a missile without a nuclear warhead?
Meanwhile, until non-state actors like al Qaeda master the magical mubtakkar -- a germ warfare dispersion device described by Ron Suskind in "The One Percent Doctrine" -- the method to their madness is also explosives.
Among the conventional is the technique in which victims are served up a medley of nails, screws, and bolts, which your better suicide bomber drizzles with anticoagulant medication to keep the blood flow refreshed. When not instant, this kind of death can stake a claim on that overused adjective "horrific."
Meanwhile, the anticipation wreaks havoc with our psyches, especially if we use commuter hubs. But death by suicide bombing is almost merciful compared to the second scenario.
Consciously or not, many who fly come to terms with the possibility of a plane crash. After all, those of us who drive have made some kind of peace with the prospect of a fatal car crash. But, when it comes to horrific, death by crushing or exploding doesn't hold a candle to a bomb exploding on a plane.
What could be worse than getting sucked out of a hole a bomb has blown in the side of the plane? Unless it's being blown sky high. To appreciate the horror of surviving the blast, if only for a couple of seconds, think World Trade Center jumpers.
Now, the other explosive -- nuclear. These days, it's not just an attack by a state with which we need to be concerned, but by those pesky non-state actors. They seek -- or, just as likely, have actually bought -- materials directly from a nuclear state like Pakistan or North Korea, or stolen "loose nukes" from the Russian mob.
According to nuclear anti-terrorism expert Graham Allison, nuclear suitcase bomb parts and enriched uranium can be hidden in bales of marijuana, and we all know how easy that it to smuggle. (Hope that uranium doesn't leach into the pot. Otherwise the market for reefer laced with angel dust or crack will go up in smoke.)
If you're just outside the blast range, you may be spared a fate as a charred corpse, but the humiliation you are about to experience will be complete. You'll lose face -- literally: your face will slide off -- in front of your co-workers. If you don't die from your injuries, you'll die of embarrassment.
After all, who wants to melt to death in front of others? Of course, a slow death over the course of a nuclear winter -- like the dinosaurs after a meteor strike blotted out the sun -- is no bargain either.
Our security then is vulnerable to breaching by not only two separate forces, but two types of threats. For that we owe a debt of thanks to Bush & Co., who, as is common knowledge by now, thought 9/11 gave them carte blanche to make the world safe for free markets (free, that is, to run rampant over local economies).
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