In the run-up to the RNC:
By Lee Sustar | August 6, 2004 | Page 16
GEORGE W. BUSH wasted no time in using reports of a possible attack by al-Qaeda to his political advantage. And John Kerry soon followed suit. Based on intelligence that al-Qaeda planned to carry out attacks on targets in Washington and New York, Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge announced heightened alert levels for key buildings.
The alerts will almost certainly used to justify limits on the right to protest against the Republican National Convention in New York City later this month. Bush quickly took advantage of the threat to boost his image as a "wartime president."
Of course, there's a big question as to whether the people who lied about the Iraq war can be trusted to provide reliable reports about national security. But even if the reports are accurate, does the Bush team believe that the attacks would still take place if authorities have already been tipped off?
Like the earlier discussion by government officials of a possible postponement of the November 2 elections in case of an attack, the White House's response to the threats is calculated to maximize Bush's political advantage. The heightened alerts were the backdrop to Bush's endorsement of the creation of an "intelligence czar"--a post recommended by the commission that investigated the September 11 hijackings.
That wasn't enough for Kerry, though. The Democratic presidential nominee demanded that Bush call a special session of Congress to implement all of the commission's proposals--which would give the federal government more powers like those seen in police states.
And Kerry blasted Bush for failing to step up security at the nation's nuclear facilities, chemical plants and seaports. "I believe that I can fight a more effective war on terror than George Bush is," Kerry said on CNN. "I know I can fight a more effective war." But Kerry's bluster is likely to strengthen Bush's hand--and give more political cover to the authoritarian measures like the USA PATRIOT Act.
None of this, however, will reduce the likelihood of an attack. That threat will continue until the U.S. stops its own reign of terror in Iraq--and abandons its imperial power grabs around the world.