I phoned my friend, Sir Loquacious
Real, the other day. I was confused about this whole home security thing.
"Sir Real," says I, "I just
don't feel any safer now than I did before 9/11. Am I nuts?"
"Yes, but that's beside the point,"
said Sir Real. "The fact is that nothing has really changed, threat-wise, since
"So I'm not safer?"
"Bin-laden is still skulking about,
promising mayhem. Al-Qaida is thriving. A couple hundred vacationers were blown up in
Bali, a ship sunk, and various other horrors. The FBI warns of 'spectacular' new terrorist
attacks in the States, very soon! Name one thing the U.S. has done to neutralize Al-Qaida
or improve security at home."
"Why, Homeland Security!"
"I fail to see how merging
dozens of lumbering bureacracies into one gigantic lumbering bureacracy improves security.
It just refuels the Hindenburg. Sends Custer in on a different horse."
"Now that's pretty cynical."
"You want 'cynical?' Try this. You know
those color-codes for degree of threat? The ones Mister Rogers came up with? Can you
say annnn-thrax ?"
"Your sarcasm is brutal."
"As yours should be, Rense! After the FBI
warning---the most dire since 9/11---the color didn't change! Why? The Bush Administration
didn't want the public distracted from its hard-sell of an Iraq invasion, and didn't want
to look inept. Pure politics! Two days later, Homeland Security Godfather Tom Ridge said
the dire FBI warning was nothing new. Nonsense!"
"It does," I said, "seem
"No," said Sir Real, "I
"But. . .but. . .you're suggesting that
the administration puts its agenda ahead of protecting, or at least reassuring,
the American people. That can't be."
"No? Let me ask you something. What
is the first job of a president in times of crisis, war, or threat?"
"Get Dick Cheney underground in a
"Okay, the second job of a
president in times of crisis, war, or threat."
"Well. . .reassure the people. Calm them.
Maybe even. . .inspire them?"
"Full marks! The old 'nothing to fear but
fear itself' speeches! But President Bush is our own 'Lost in Space' robot. Danger,
Will Robinson, danger! Oh, he likes to squint like Eastwood, and mouth the 'dead or
alive' rhetoric, but Senator, I knew Clint Eastwood, and he's no Clint Eastwood. And that
stuff about the 'war' lasting for many years to come, and how more people will be lost
at home than abroad---hey, that'll make you renew your bloody passport!"
"But. . .but what about going into Iraq?
That'll stop terrorism, right?"
"If you are stung by a hornet, do
you take cover, and try to figure out the best way to avoid being stung in the future? Or
do you take a baseball bat to the hornets' nest? Uncle Sam has opted for a Louisville
Slugger. Besides, the administration planned to occupy Iraq, and distribute its oil to
corporations, even before the election. Invading has little to do with terrorism---except
that it will incite a whole lot more of it!"
"But. . .but. . .the president has
tightened up security, somehow, hasn't he?"
"Has he? What's the first
thing you do to stop terrorists from entering your country?"
"I dunno---threaten them with life
sentences of watching 'The View'?"
"No, you are."
"The first thing you do, Rense, is. . .make
it hard for them to enter the country. Seal the borders, if necessary. Lock down the
ports. Deport all potential suspects, even if it means that innocents go home. This never
happened. You know why?"
"Not enough Gore voters in Florida
mistakenly voted for Buchanan?"
"Money! It would disrupt trade
and the world economy."
"Well, that's important!"
"More important than preventing someone
floating a nuke into New York harbor?"
"But. . .but. . .at least we invaded
Afghanistan and defeated the Taliban!"
"Mr. Taliban still tally banana
in Afghanistan! Daylight come, and they not go home! And the other tribes vying
for power are just slightly less naughty. It's so pleasant now that Afghan women are
self-immolating! Uncle Sam wanted Al-Qaida, and wound up with Alka-Seltzer."
"Surely the president has done something,
"Yes. The Fatherland---I mean, Homeland---Security
Act makes any crime at all, from shoplifting to playing your stereo too loud, potentially
definable as terrorism. Gives 'em a lot of latitude."
"Am I? Remember, the president invited
millions of letter-carriers and meter-readers to play James Bond and peek in your windows
or rifle your desks, if they think you might be a terrorist."
"That's leftist propaganda.
That'll never happen."
"That's what they said about green
Ketchup. Did you know, Rense, that no one in Congress had time to read that Father-
land---I mean, Homeland---Security bill before voting? It was nearly 500 pages
long, and full of riders like, oh, enabling big corporations to continue ducking taxes by
opening up dummy headquarters in the Virgin Islands."
"Okay, but what about Total Information
Awareness? That'll help, won't it?"
"Right. TIA. Paranoid demenTIA, if you ask
me. This is an agency that seeks total information on everything. Its logo features an
omniscient eyeball---like something out of Ian Fleming, for Bond's sake! Former Admiral
John Poindexter is in charge---you know, the guy who engineered the weapons-for- hostages
deal with Iran. Plea-bargained out of a felony for lying under oath. Are you shaken or
"Well, I never trust anyone
named 'Poindexter,' anyhow. . ."
"And the Pentagon is trying to get access
to every receipt in the country, so it knows which porno videos you rent, and how many
Snickers bars you sneak on the sly---or, yes, if you've bought any large amounts of
fertilizer, or unpleasant chemicals. . ."
"Gosh, Sir Real, it almost sounds like the
president is more worried about U.S. citizens than he is about Al-Qaida."
"I don't know, but at this rate, he's
liable to find himself more worried about Al Gore."
"I can't be anything else."