For reasons of understanding what I will be getting at in this article, I need to mention that I am a third generation Californian, and a retired local elected official in a not too populated county, but a county, none the less, with a nuclear power plant. Consequently, I am acutely aware that we not only have earthquakes here, but the possibility of a terrorist attack is quite real. The first earthquake I experienced was the Long Beach earthquake in 1933, where, quite young at the time, I distinctly remember yelling, "I didn't do it, I didn't do it." The last one, the San Simeon earthquake's epicenter was about three miles from our house. Thus I have an up close and personal relationship with both earthquakes and terrorism preparedness.
Any Californian with any awareness knows that we are just waiting for 'the big one' where it is predicted to lay waste an area from Los Angeles to Central California. It is expected to last several minutes, and the resultant shaking will have a profound effect on all buildings not built to earthquake standards, to say nothing of the people inside, even though building standards are pretty stringent in California. So we are prepared for everything Mother Nature can throw at us when she decides to, which cannot be predicted nor prevented. One does what one can, and then we go on with our lives.
What is the connection between earthquakes and terrorism here? The primary difference is that one cannot predict an earthquake, yet earth scientists, building engineers, local emergency response personnel and others are constantly working on updating any and all information, trying to figure out how to predict earthquakes, and in general, how to make the general public safer, because 'the big one' will happen.
The 9/11 attack was predicted, yet the prediction was ignored. Emergency response personnel in New York were not protected either during the attack or after during the cleanup. We attacked a country, Afghanistan, with modern warfare technology when all they had were rifles. Then we attacked another country that had nothing to do with 9/11, and have achieved 30,000 casualties for our country, and hundreds of thousands in Iraq. People who are as innocent of 9/11 as New Yorkers were. Our National Guard troops, who used to be the organization the states would rely on during natural disasters, such as earthquakes, are terribly weakened by having been sent to fight in Iraq, along with the equipment needed to help dig out after a natural disaster. Our Federal Emergency Management Administration has been proven to be a joke. Our foreign diplomacy is based on a bizarre interpretation of a Book written 2,000 or more years ago.
Perhaps this is why all of this ranting about "terror, terror, terror" leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth because all our government does is rant. They have done nothing to protect the people, but have done all that is possible to derive a profit from it for their buddies in Halliburton, etc., and to derive more power for themselves at the same time. FEMA and Homeland Security are virtually useless – New Orleans is the poster child there. Our ports are unprotected, our airlines are jammed, our highways and bridges are failing. Yet we hear over and over – "terror, terror, terror".
The distortion in thinking that this mind bending game achieves can perhaps best be illustrated by a personal experience I had while still in office. We had a bomb threat in our government building, and we all had to evacuate. I was one of the last people out of the building, and as I ran out the door a lady had pulled up to the curb, and was going to enter the building. I stopped her and explained that she couldn't enter since the building had been evacuated because of a bomb threat. She said in a very distressed voice, "Oh, terrorists?" "No," I said. "Probably just some home grown nut." Her response was, "Oh, well. That's ok then." A bomb by a home grown nut is ok, but by a terrorist is not?
Although we need to use every method at our disposal to fight terrorism, including diplomacy first, and learning about the cultures and languages of other people with whom we must negotiate, was 9/11 any worse than Katrina, or the devastation that tornadoes brought to the mid-section of our country this past summer? Was it any worse than the carnage on our roads from automobile accidents, lung diseases from bad air because the corporations don't want to spend money making automobile engines run smoother, or tobacco companies to lose money? Or the devastation 'the big one' will bring? The list could go on, and on, and on.
Terrorism is obscene. So are earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes. So is corporate greed. This is a given. But we need to remember the wonderful words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." In this climate of fear that the Administration has created, all sorts of legislation, signing documents, and just plain illegal and unconstitutional actions have taken place to take advantage of it. The most egregious are first, the Patriot Act, which limits our civil liberties, executive orders that allow the President to declare martial law on a whim, signing statements that further limit our civil liberties, and emasculates our governmental system of checks and balances.
Has anyone thought about the fact that no one has demanded that we give up our civil liberties in the face of the far greater devastation and havoc that Mother Nature can hit us with? How about legislation repudiating Mother Nature? Come on, folks, let's get a grip!