War on Terrorism perpetuates fear

    Ah, Memorial Weekend has passed once again; a holiday mostly for picnics in the warm May sun, road trips to L.A or Vegas, the ideal but probably unlikely remembrance of our soldiers, and good old sleeping in and kicking back. And quickly joining the ranks of long weekend and holiday traditions is increased security and surveillance around the United States.

    This was the time when people flocked to grab their gear and head out en masse to malls, travel destinations and national monuments. It has been almost one and a half years since Sept. 11, and the terror alerts and terrorist reports from around the world are still very much entrenched in the evening news and daily newspapers. After all the money and resources the current administration has pumped into the War on Terrorism, has it really been a success? While it is true that the al Qaeda terrorist network has been severely crippled by the United States and its allies, recent attacks and the elevation of the alert to “”orange”” indicate that the struggle with terrorism is far from over.

    In the past two weeks, attacks in both Saudi Arabia and Morocco have put many on edge. On May 12, suicide bombers killed 34 people, including eight Americans within the residential compounds of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. In addition, a tape was released to al Jazeera, a news service in Qatar, which featured an alleged al Qaeda leader urging a jihad, or holy war, against Westerners. On May 16, a mere four days after the Riyadh incident, suicide bombers attacked Casablanca, Morocco, killing 28 people. Again, after investigation of correspondence, movement and making of arms, radical Islamic fundamentalist groups were suspected, including al Qaeda.

    Perhaps before Sept. 11, Americans would have paid less attention to an already violence-ridden and volatile Middle East. However, as indicated by the almost obligatory terror alerts, American attitudes are far closer to wary than “”whatever.””

    Adding to the tense atmosphere are emergent reports about the status of senior al Qaeda officials — alive and well in Iran. According to United States intelligence, at least five operatives belonging to the terrorist network have been plotting from Iran since the American coalition-led overthrow of the Taliban government in Afghanistan.

    And in what increasingly seems to be an American Achilles heel, the supposed best army in the world can infiltrate whole countries and bombard outposts with advanced artillery, but cannot manage to kill the masterminds behind the motives. There are not yet any concrete reasons to believe that Osama bin Laden (not to mention Saddam Hussein) is dead, and if anything, these recent attacks may quite plausibly lead to the most sought-after and despised murderer himself. Questionable video and audiotapes aside, no real, substantiated evidence has been brought up to prove the mortality of bin Laden.

    A rash of serious attacks and even more serious linkages with al Qaeda, a mention of increased “”chatter”” among terrorist communication lines, and a sense of escalated but hardly new tension within the country, has deliverede you to a notch higher on the terror alert scale. Back on the home front, Americans are again warned to be on the lookout and switch mindsets from antsy to acutely attune to any stray plane or suspicious stranger in the airport.

    Is the campaign to eradicate terrorism undermining our country? Sacrifices are inevitable and the War on Terrorism is the paragon of this fact. The increased manpower, weapons and technology designed to defend America is coming at a cost. According to MSNBC, the terror alerts’ needs are aggravating already cash-strapped state governments that are suffering under budget constraints. Also, the recently released House Judiciary Reports have indicated that the USA P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act, designed to remove legal obstacles (also known as civil liberties to some dissenters) from detaining potential terrorists, has been used in non-terrorist related cases. The report asserts that the U.S. Department ofJustice used the powers endowed by the act in drug confiscation and fraud cases.

    Not surprisingly, as reported by a USA Today poll, not too many Americans were expecting a manifestation of the threats addressed by an orange alert. The government, while well intentioned, seems to be like a boy crying wolf with an AK-47 in one hand and a gas mask in the other. Yes, it’s good that Americans are living normally, but it’s also troublesome to envision the magnitude of massacre that could occur within any defiant tourist-filled destination.

    The fact is that al Qaeda and its dangerous spawns clearly are not defeated. As spring turns into summer and the two-year anniversary of Sept. 11 readily approaches, America will assess its vulnerability and the prices it has paid. One can only hope that the only red this country ever sees will be from an extreme, but false, terror alert and not from American blood drawn by the hands of an evasive enemy.

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