As you all know, in the game of chess, a piece (usually a pawn) is sometimes sacrificed to gain a larger advantage. It’s called a gambit.


The gambit of the boys of the Bush administration is to cry “Be afraid!” every time they need to boost their standing and polls. Thing is, the American people, gullible though many are, will get wise to the false alarms. Sadly, what’s lost in the overplay of gambits is not just the game but also the credibility needed to warn Americans about real dangers.


Keith Olbermann nailed the skepticism — and the odd timing — of the NYC subway scare last night on MSNBC’s Countdown:

Overall message to New York straphangers, be afraid, but not too much, because we stepped in on this. But remember, be afraid anyway.


Timing, coincidence.


[…….]


CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC ANALYST: Hi, there. You’re sounding a bit skeptical tonight.


OLBERMANN: Well, I’m—yes, and I’m going to raise this question as skeptically and bluntly as I can. It’s not a question that doubts the existence of terror, nor the threat of terrorism. But we’ve cobbled together in the last couple of hours a list of at least 13 occasions that – on which — whenever there has been news that significantly impacted the White House negatively, there has been some sudden credible terror threat somewhere in this country. How could the coincidence be so consistent?


CRAWFORD: It’s, it is a pattern. One of the most memorable was just after the Democratic Convention in the 2004 election, when they talked about the threat to New York and even the World Trade—World Bank, and it turned out that was based on intelligence that was three years old, (INAUDIBLE) even before 9/11.


There is a pattern here. And I think it’s difficult sometimes to take it at face value. But in these moments, when it looks like a crisis, it’s (INAUDIBLE), those of us who bring it up get accused of treason. That’s what Howard Dean was accused of when he raised that after the Democratic Convention scare alert.


OLBERMANN: About, that was, I think, by the way, number 12 on the list. About the speech, and again, not to question the existence of terrorism, but if a prominent politician takes any issue and seems to be using it as a last line of personal political defense, does history, does our history not teach us, and supposedly the politician, that he risks trivializing the issue, that he risks sounding like Joe McCarthy on communist infiltration?


CRAWFORD: The president has given this speech so many times now. It was a bit stronger in his assertion that we will stay the course until the bitter end … But in many ways, he just turned up the volume on a broken record. … […]


Update [2005-10-7 15:7:49 by susanhu]: Now the Washington Monument has been evacuated. Wolf Blitzer says he knows nothing about it. No one knows why.


BELOW, Keith talks to terrrorism expert Evan Kohlmann — and Keith, in growing frustration, says, “It’s beginning to sound like one loud scream of jibberish.“:

EVAN KOHLMANN, FOUNDER, GLOBALTERRORALERT.COM: Good evening.


OLBERMANN: I have to read this. It just has crossed on the Associated Press wire. The doubts in Washington about this, while the FBI man is in New York talking about interrupting some plan or getting some people who might be involved in it out of the way, and he was talking as if they had actually reduced a tangible threat, then he said it was totally uncorroborated.


Now the Washington sources who had said that the threat was at best exaggerated, there’s now a quote attributed to a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, a man named Russ Knock (ph), who said, “The intelligence community has concluded the information, this information to be of doubtful credibility. We shared this information early on with state and local authorities in New York.”


It’s beginning to sound like one loud scream of jibberish.


KOHLMANN: Well, I mean, it’s not something we haven’t heard before. We’ve seen this kind of infighting before between federal agencies over the value of terrorist captures, over the threats to various different targets inside of the United States.


In this case, I’m not really that surprised. New York has one of the most important counterterrorist programs in the country. It is independent in some ways of the federal government. And they do consider New Yorkers to be very important, and they consider New York to be a primary target. And they treat New York as a primary target.


So everything, whether it even has the ring of truth, is taken very seriously.


I think what happened here is, there was an overabundance of caution. And I can’t necessarily blame the New York authorities for that. But are you asking, is this a credible terrorist threat? No. It doesn’t look like there’s a credible terrorist threat against the subway system.


Is it good to be alert and aware? Well, that’s a different story. It probably benefits us to be alert and aware, because even if there’s not a real plot from Iraqi insurgents going on right now, that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t happen in the future.


OLBERMANN: The coincidence factor, which is more of a political thing than a terrorism issue, but as we mentioned here, a quick hour or so of research has produced a list of 13 reasonable occasions in which events that have been politically disadvantageous to the current administration have been occurring simultaneously, or followed quickly upon, with (INAUDIBLE), with something related to terrorism on a big scale.


And I’m just—in your opinion, from your perspective on the counterterrorism threat, can they—can coincidences like that, in that volume, really be coincidences, or do we have to look at the prospect that somebody could really be playing domestic politics with terror?


KOHLMANN: Well, I would concede to you that there are those that play domestic politics with terror. And we even had an incidence of that last week.


I, unfortunately, I mean, I just disagree with the administration when they say they arrested the number-two most important al Qaeda official in Iraq. I don’t believe that they did. He was an important guy. He wasn’t number two.


However, this particular piece of terror-related news, this threat against the subway system, …


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