Democrats & Liberals Archives

The Politics of Terror

Could terrorists influence the elections? Theoretically they could. Question is, what do they want? Tough question. Maybe it’s not the election they want at all, but the political controversy. They might even want to encourage us to elect reactionary leaders, so they can use them as a foil for their political ambitions.

Whatever the case is, the politics of terror are more complicated than just a mandate on one candidate or another.

This is the story that's come out of the FBI and Homeland security.

CBS News
Fox News

We have maybe a number of terrorist we're looking at, but no real dates places, and methods of attack. My brother might dismiss this as a CYA exercise, with bureacrats fielding a possible terrorist attack putting out a facts-light warning just to say they did. I myself would recall that a similar warning, minus a lot of real information showed up during a similar summer three years ago.

Still, given that something did happen at the end summer three years ago, scoffing at this warning seems a bit incautious. Still, I'd much rather be hearing about terrorist arrests and the breakup of cells within our borders than just more white noise, similar to the alerts that have peppered the months after 9/11, only to never fan out in public view.

Whatever claims this administration has had about it's terrorism prevention, we have yet to see a major operation foiled within our borders, and the participants prosecuted for the world to see. Your average American has not been given educational material by their government on how to deal with terrorist threats and attacks, nor have they been issued a call to arms of any kind with initiatives to strengthen our public health, first responders, and security in certain crucial industrial and technological areas of the country. An accident at the Union Carbide Bhopal plant twenty years ago asphyxiated tens of thousands of people with Hydrogen Cyanide and other toxic gases. An intention leak of such could prove very devastating in one of our industrial communities.

But our administration's priorities have been shifted towards military operations. Well and good, if the right targets are getting hit, and the operations are making progress. Not well and good if the terrorist nonetheless succeed in attacking the homeland. All the while we at home are told that we need not sacrifice, that in fact we should enjoy tax cut windfalls (not worrying about the debt taken out to pay for them) and simply act as if things are still normal.

If this administration has successes, they may largely be covert. Problem with that, of course is that that the failures are just as secret as the victories. Beautiful, ain't it? There's just no way to guage where we are in this fight until the next attempt comes.

The Iraq and Afghanistan wars only complicate things. One war seems to have only become a war on terrorists since we supposedly won it. The other seems incomplete, the enemy we wanted to capture in the beginning neither caught dead nor alive.

Some would say Bush is great on the war in terror, and many people might agree just because they've heard others say it enough. But many also thing Bush pretty useless on the subject or worse than useless.

Back to the original question: Could Terrorists influence the elections? And if we know they're trying to influence our elections, what should we do?

The answers, best as I can tell, in my opinion? To the first, yes. To the second: Absolutely nothing.

Let me be clear: If the terrorists are trying to throw the elections to whoever, we should do nothing about the election in the light of whatever atrocity they plan or carry out, unless gross negligence by one of the candidates is involved. In which case, it would have been an issue regardless of whether influence of elections was their goal.

This is a democracy, not a terrorist occupied state. We are not going to make decision one way or another dependent on how the terrorists want us to think. That way lies confusion, recrimination and the kind of political turmoil I'm sure the terrorists are more interested in than whether the candidate is a diplomatic or gung-ho. They are more concerned about getting our country to be dysfunctional than making it functional according to their wishes.

Let me remind all of you that want Al Quaeda wishes to do, first and foremost: degrade American influence as a great power, as a superpower.

If we spend our way into an economic slump that saps our will and our ability to project power, they couldn't be happier. If they inspire one party in this country to abuse it's power over another and make the war on terror a casualty of discontent over such abuses, I'm sure they're thanking Allah for it. If my own party becomes so enthralled in opposing the Republicans that it starts treating counterterrorism too lightly, similar things will happen.

All in all, I don't think Al Quaeda gives a crap how we screw up this country, just as long as it gets screwed up, and we're out of the way of their dreams of Puritanical Islamic revolution. What's important no matter who's in office is that things be done well. If Bush is screwing up the fight against terror, whatever sentimental feelings we may have for guy, and whatever sincere desire he may have to fight the war, He should be there, shouldn't be reelected. If Bush is doing things right in your eyes, and whatever happens (or doesn't) isn't enough to sway your opinion against him, vote as you would have voted.

My opinions on Madrid still stand. I believe the political hijinks the Popular Party pulled were more damaging to them than the bombings themselves. People will forgive mistakes, but they will crucify those who cover up those mistakes. That is how a bare victory turns into a landslide loss: disillusionment.

If we predicate our opinions of the political course of this nation on what the terrorists think, whether it is for Bush, or against them, then they have the power, and they will have won.

If we make our decision the way we feel best, and we tell the terrorists they can go to hell, then maybe the terrorists will delude themselves into thinking they've won.

History, though, will vindicate our response over time. As always A democracy is an institution of making up your own damn mind. Whoever gets elected in November will be our choice, and Osama Bin Laden cannot take that away from us, no matter what influence he might claim.

P.S. The claim that terrorists are trying to influence the elections better be more factually motivated than politically. The last thing any of Bush's people need is to follow in the Popular Party's footsteps of alienating people by cynically using the danger of terrorism to appeal to the fears of voters. If there's one thing voters hate more than a cover up, it's coverups that uses fear to manipulate public opinion. people don't like to be had.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at May 25, 2004 11:07 PM