What you don't see can hurt you
Debra J. Saunders
9/12/2002 12:00:00 AM - Debra J. Saunders
Go back in your mind to that eerie week when San Francisco Bay
Area commuters avoided driving on the bridges and we all held our breath
waiting for the next brutal explosion.
A year later, the big domestic attack everyone expected hasn't
So, if there is no big attack on U.S. civilians, will the war on
terrorism become a victim of its own success? Even President Bush said last
year he anticipates the day when Americans become "tired" of the war on
Some pundits even talk as if there have been no further attacks.
Thugs murdered American journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan. A
terrorist grenade killed five people, including the wife and daughter of a
U.S. diplomat, at an Islamabad Protestant church. A suicide bomber killed 14
people, including 11 Frenchmen, in Karachi. A lone Egyptian gunman killed
two people at the El Al Airlines counter in Los Angeles over the Fourth of
It's possible -- but not proven -- that the anthrax-laced
letters that killed five people were sent by foreign terrorists.
Then there are the thwarted attacks. A savvy air crew and
passengers stopped Richard Reid from igniting a shoe bomb over the Atlantic
Ocean. If he had succeeded, he would have killed 197 people just before
Intelligence officials say they have disrupted terrorist plans
to attack U. S. embassies in Bosnia, Paris, Rome and Singapore, as well as
U.S. military bases in Turkey.
In August, the feds charged five Detroit men, including U.S.
citizen Jose Padilla, of plotting to detonate a radioactive bomb in the
United States. The feds also indicted a Seattle man for attempting to set up
an Al Qaeda training camp in Oregon.
Last month, the Swedes caught a man trying to board a
London-bound plane carrying a loaded gun. Karim Sadok Chatty was a U.S.
flight school washout.
This month, German police arrested an Al Qaeda sympathizer and
his American fiance, who worked at a U.S. Army base in Heidelberg, for
plotting to bomb U.S. military installations in Germany. According to The
Washington Post, authorities found 290 pounds of chemicals and five pipe
bombs in their apartment.
It should be noted that many of these accused have yet to be
tried. To the anger of civil libertarians, Padilla has not yet been charged
with a crime. Reid has pleaded not guilty.
That said, when terrorists in the past hit U.S. targets, such as
the destroyer Cole, their next attack was already in the works.
Michael Nacht, dean of Berkeley's Goldman School of Public
Policy and an adviser to the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency, noted
that the war on terrorism is hobbled because America isn't fighting "one
coherent army of people, but different groups operating independently" and
from different locales. You can't easily locate the war on a map.
Then, there's the difficulty of dealing with "martyrdom
terrorism" -- since there's no real way to deter it.
With a hard-to-locate enemy that may or may not strike
successfully at any given moment, it would be natural -- if wrong -- for
some to say they prefer to save the nation's resources to combat problems
they can see.
Former California Gov. Pete Wilson, who is on the Defense Policy
Board, said that this is the wrong time to trim spending on intelligence:
"You need to prevent more tragedy, not mourn it, not wring your hands
because you have been so passive that you didn't take the steps to prevent