Sitnews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska - News, Features, Opinions...


Terrorist threat not tiny
Scripps Howard News Service


January 03, 2006

The terrorist threat? Ha, ha, ha. Why, it amounts to nothing much, posing just a "microscopic risk," says Paul Campos, a law professor, in a column for Scripps Howard News Service. His concern, instead, is over domestic spying - a heinous attack on our civil liberties, he seems to feel - and of getting us out of Iraq quickly.

I myself think any domestic wiretapping should absolutely rely on court orders as the law sensibly requires, but what is really microscopic is the percentage of Americans who chat with overseas terrorists and are therefore subject to this federal eavesdropping.

The terrorist threat, on the other hand, is real and could destroy American civilization, as we are taught by focused, studious, empirically based investigation - by the kinds of hard facts and expert analyses shrugged off by people like Campos.

It's not my purpose to pick on Campos, an often insightful, almost always provocative thinker who cannot be easily identified as belonging to any particular ideological camp, but he does strike me as typical of many of the most strident critics of the war in Iraq.

This is a crowd whose members include large numbers who refuse to peer around corners at truths that don't fit snugly with their preconceptions, who find President Bush a more frightening figure than Saddam Hussein, whose assessment of the Islamic-fascist danger seems to rest more on a self-assumed intellectual sophistication than any effort at research.

As antidote, read "War Footing." Here is a book by people who know what they are talking about. Primarily, it is by Frank Gaffney, a former Defense Department official who founded the Center for Security Policy, but includes contributions from a long list of others, among them R. James Woolsey, former CIA director, and the brilliant Victor Davis Hanson, scholar, farmer and columnist.

What the book unblinkingly tells us through carefully substantiated reasoning is that the free world is in a life-and-death struggle with Muslim extremists whose totalitarian ambitions must be countered if we don't want the United States to be finished as anything approximating the kind of nation it has been, or if we don't wish for an age of ongoing, relentless terrorism.

The enemy, the book says, is not just al Qaeda; it is an ideology of Islamic fascism that has many faces but shares a hatred of democracy and secular government, that sees Muslims as victims, and that, like Nazism, has a long list of groups it wants eliminated from the face of the Earth. This enemy could someday do us terrible harm, such as through an EMP attack.

Maybe you don't know what EMP stands for, but you should. The acronym refers to electromagnetic pulse, which is what you get when a nuclear device is exploded several hundred miles in the atmosphere. What you also get is electronic incapacitation over an immense geographic area, and that is no some small thing. Power grids, cell phones, computers, automobiles, airplanes, banking - virtually everything dependent in one way or the other on electricity comes to a stop.

I know, I know: It sounds like science fiction. But as a congressionally appointed U.S. commission and any number of experts have reported, it isn't. Nor is it a stretch to suppose terrorists could get hold of missiles and nuclear weaponry and shoot these missiles into the U.S. atmosphere from freighters near our shores. There are safeguards if we do not ignore this commission report the way have important commission reports in the past, but the point I want to emphasize here is that talk of "microscopic" threats from terrorists is gibberish.

I do not endorse every word in "War Footing" (or very nearly any other book I have ever read) and I need to mention that it was recommended to me by an interested party who may represent me on a book deal. It is nevertheless highly persuasive on most counts, a serious reminder that we live in dangerous times, that what's at stake is America itself, that we can defeat our enemy - but that we will not do it if we don't fight back with the same wide-eyed awareness and fixed determination that have rescued us in other major conflicts.


Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado.
He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)

Publish A Letter on SitNews
        Read Letters/Opinions
Submit A Letter to the Editor

Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska