Threat levels generate fear, not security

By By Luke Hinz

By Luke Hinz

Late this summer, I was driving through the sleepy town of Tooele and I stopped at a local gas station. Osama bin Laden was nowhere within the recesses of my mind, and Iraq, for once, was equally distant from my train of thought — that is, until I approached the gas station.

Plastered on the entrance door was the infamous Department of Homeland Security’s color-coded threat-level system. On this particular day, in the small, cozy town of Tooele, the threat level was yellow, meaning a significant risk of terrorist attacks.

Yellow is the median color on the threat-level gauge. The color below it, blue, means there is a general risk of terrorist attacks — as if there is anything general about a terrorist attack. Either way, in front of a local gas station, I was suddenly all too aware of our nation’s current predicament with terrorists.

Recently I had a connecting flight at the Denver International Airport. A calm, gentle, female voice repeatedly told me, and everyone else in the airport, that the threat level for flights had been raised to orange — a high risk of terrorist attacks. Did this mean I should be anticipating an attack?

But as I heard this voice, I realized that the threat level was not being raised. It had been the same for the past four years that I’ve sat in that airport. It has never changed.

There is a frightening Orwellian complex to this concept. In his book 1984, George Orwell showed how a country constantly at war (or believing it is at war) can be stirred into patriotic fervor.

In the same way, by having the population constantly believe that the threat level is being raised, Americans are more on their guard, and more sympathetic to the so-called War on Terror.

Some of you might laugh, calling me a conspirator, but before you do that, dwell on this: The Department of Homeland Security itself acknowledges that “raising the threat condition has economic, physical and psychological effects on the nation.” Of course it does. Who wouldn’t be afraid if your own country was telling you the chances of you being attacked on a particular day are pretty good?

Coupled with this are the recent statements by Republicans that Democrats are too soft on security issues. The criticism of Democrats reached such a fury that just a few weeks ago, the Democrats voted to expand President Bush’s surveillance program without even reading the bill. Democrats now admit that the new bill might give Bush even more powers than the original surveillance bill.

Even Barack Obama, the man who supports dialogue with South Korea and Iran, has started throwing his punches at the security issue because of the risk of being called soft on rogue states. In a speech on Aug. 1, after suffering criticism from Republican presidential candidates about security, Obama declared that he would dispatch troops to Pakistan to eradicate al-Qaida forces if that nation failed to take action. Does anyone else think that was a somewhat knee-jerk reaction?

Why do the Democrats have to remain so on edge about security and the War on Terror? Because President Bush deems it necessary to stick it in our faces. He is constantly reminding the nation of the consequences of failure. As he said in a speech on Aug. 22, if we fail, “our enemies would have a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks on the American people.” Unfortunately, that’s what Pakistan and Afghanistan, supposed allies, look like today more than Iraq.

It’s this kind of “fear mongering” that keeps Americans constantly looking over their shoulders. We have created a culture of fear. But is it necessary? Bush thinks so. It’s what got him re-elected. His foreign security record was the only good thing in his rsum at the time. How is that looking now?

Quite soon, Bush will put Tooele on the list of locations of possible terrorist attacks.

On that day, I plan on putting a color-coded threat level over my license plate. Then maybe the spy satellites won’t be able to read it.

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