Alexander's Column

How important IS Earth Day?

Mark Alexander · Apr. 26, 2002

The week started off with Earth Day – and did anybody else have trouble staying focused on that? Earth to the eco-nuts: It’s the terrorism, stupid! The problem for the planet this year is clearly the global-reach Jihadi threat to life and liberty.

As briefed by Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman of the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs: “Our coalition efforts in the global war on terrorism continue not only in Afghanistan, where we work to locate and destroy the al-Qa'ida and former Taliban, but continue in other regions of the world as well. A Naval Construction Task Group of about 300 armed forces members arrived over the weekend on Basilan Island in the Philippines …[joining] some 600 other U.S. military personnel assigned to Joint Task Force 510 in supporting the Philippine government in their role in the global war on terrorism. …Though we focus, understandably, I think, on Operation Enduring Freedom, it’s important to recognize that our forces remain at risk in other extremely important operations as well. For example, in Operation Northern Watch, our no-fly-zone patrols were threatened by Iraqi weapon systems three times since the first of the month. In one case, on the 19th, our fighters launched two missiles at a surface-to-air missile system near Mosul. And this particular system had threatened them during their flight. And one week ago, an operation in Southern Watch, a patrol was forced to respond, as well, with a guided bomb strike on a surface-to-air missile system radar located near Talil.”

Indeed, Iraq has been rebuilding its air defenses, in particular reconstituting its fiber optic system to coordinate surface-to-air missiles. Gen. Myers noted the Iraqi threat to aircraft “tends to be episodic in terms of threats to our aircraft, but it’s been consistent. It’s been consistent over time.” But he further remarked that the SAM movements into the no-fly zones are at the greatest pace in the last few years. Evidently Sadam is expecting another visit from Western allies! And sure looks like Iraq has something to hide. (Hint: Think Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein has or is close to having dangerously destructive, destabilizing weapons of mass death – and is pulling out all the stops to stall our “visit.”)

While strategists continue to formulate the forces necessary for the next assault on Iraq (now estimated to require 5 divisions and 200,000 troops), our sources indicate that there is a sincere effort to arrange a face-to-face meeting between Saddam and a bunker-buster, creating a sudden political vacuum in Iraq to be filled by democratic allies already there (the Afghan model). Leaders of both major Kurdish opposition groups met with U.S. officials last week to discuss the shape of a post-Saddam Iraqi government. Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party, and Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, attended a meeting in Germany with Pentagon, State Department and CIA officers to coordinate efforts to remove Hussein from power, according to the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

And we are taking the temperature of our other allies around the globe. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is off to visit Afghanistan and consult with coalition partners and allies, after a parting shot: “So there are lots of things being done, and I recognize that from time to time people write stories and say, ‘Well, why isn’t everything being done at once yesterday?’”

And Saudi Arabia’s de facto head, Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud, arrived at President Bush’s Crawford, Texas, ranch for talks about how the Israeli-Palestinian fighting complicates internal politics for “moderate” Arab governments and may thus delay and complicate our “visit” to Iraq. In the meeting, the Saudis vowed not to use oil as a weapon against the United States for continued support of Israel, though the Saudis’ position on Israel’s handling of the present crisis left no room for misunderstanding. In a press conference after the meeting, Prince Abdullah’s foreign policy advisor, Adel Jubeir, presented their case: “If Sharon is left to his own devices, he will drag the region over a cliff,” he said. “What we can do as friends of the U.S. is make the U.S. aware of the dangers that can befall it in terms of loss of credibility, and loss of interests in the Arab and Muslim world.” In an apparent effort to show solidarity with our “friends” the Saudis, President Bush’s comments emphasized his insistence on a swift Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories.

And a sidebar in that conflict: Secretary of State Colin Powell said thanks, but no thanks, to the latest bids by former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter to insert themselves into the Mideast “peace process.” “I don’t have a role for either of them at the moment, but I’m pleased that they continue to keep their interest in the region,” Powell said.

On the homeland front, The Federalist has reported extensively – and accurately, thanks to well-placed editorial advisors – on al-Qa'ida cells and their cadre of Islamic loyalists, who have established residence in American suburbs over the last three years. We cannot overemphasize the pending regional threat posed by the existence of these sleeper cells and their capability to launch lethal conventional attacks (including radiological dispersion devices) against high-profile facilities and infrastructure nodes (airports, bridges, harbors, dams, power and communication distribution grids and financial centers). And the al-Qa'ida links to Iraqi biological and nuclear weapon programs pose a very serious threat.

(Of note: Despite Leftist and European attempts to avert attention from possible Iraqi involvement in the 9-11 terrorist attacks and other Jihadi murder plots, intelligence is coalescing around mutually corroborative data and reports that Iraq has played a key role in the success of high-profile domestic terrorism attacks, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and perhaps even a financial role in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.)

These viable threats notwithstanding, the FBI is crying wolf and prompting duck-and-cover exercises by repeatedly issuing alerts for unconfirmed, unsubstantiated and often unspecified threats (most recently prompted by apprehended Jihadi field operations head Abu Zubaydah). For the second time in less than a week, the Bureau issued a nationwide bulletin Wednesday, this one warning of possible attacks on shopping malls and supermarkets, after last week’s warning of possible attacks against U.S. financial institutions. Such warnings – sent to the FBI’s 56 fields offices and nearly 18,000 state and local police agencies – do little to enhance readiness, and, in fact, serve to desensitize the public to the real threat – analogous to “aiding and abetting the enemy.”

The Homeland Security alert system is proving to be as indifferent to logical threat profiles as are excessive airport security protocols and spending on security “upgrades.” This is not to say that there will not be an assault on a mall somewhere this weekend. However, it is time for the administration to introduce some reasoned restraint in our domestic security protocols.

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