By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
“It’s a paranoid universe,” a Mossad agent tells Philip Roth in Operation Shylock, “but don’t overdo it.” You have to admit it’s tempting. Less than 48 hours after Lamont beat Lieberman — could the usual fear tactics be losing their teeth? — the Bush administration was pushing the British into making an overhasty roundup in the London airline bomb plot. America’s own color-coded threat level was dramatically raised to orange. So what? you may ask. Well, as Keith Olbermann reported in a terrific segment on Countdown — TV’s only essential news show — this was the 10th time in the last four years that the government made a production of announcing a deadly new threat right after potentially damaging political news for the White House. Meanwhile, Tony Blair stayed on vacation.
This doesn’t mean that the London bomb plot is phony (although many in Britain have doubts), much less that there aren’t Islamic terrorists eager to kill Americans. There undeniably are. But while our leaders were quick to behave as if they, not the Brits, had done something marvelous, they didn’t seem to care that the London case was broken through old-fashioned police work rather than, oh, toppling Middle Eastern dictators. (As James Atlas argues in the current Atlantic Monthly, the weak link in the fight against terrorism is treating it, intellectually and militarily, as a war.) With his oft-announced willingness to stay the course, the president continues to behave as if the best way to protect America is by stockpiling gaudy weaponry. Although huge new high-tech weapons systems are useless in Afghanistan or Iraq — and won’t stop a dirty bomb at Staples Center — the administration has doubled spending (up to $1.6 trillion) on such programs since 2001. It’s business as usual.
Luckily for us, al Qaeda evidently follows the same logic as movie-studio executives. Osama and Zawahiri keep looking for a blockbuster to match, even top 9/11 — something boffo like the London airline plot. As it happens, such grandiose schemes are generally easier to foil than small ones (9/11 cried out to be prevented), so we should all be grateful that the kings of Islamic terror haven’t yet grasped that a series of small attacks on places like Starbucks or a movie theater or a shopping mall would actually do more to shake American life than another Hollywood-style spectacle. Let’s just pray that Osama never hears about Sundance.
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