The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Friday, June 23, 2006

Missile defense succeeds! "Terrorist cell" apprehended!

A successful futuristic missile defense system would be great. So would catching dangerous terrorists plotting to kill innocent Americans. But I have to admit to being skeptical of these new stories.

Alberto Gonzales hit the airwaves today to play up the arrest of seven men in Miami as dyed in the wool terrorists. Maybe they are. But the evidence being released is awfully flimsy-- especially when you consider the eagerness of the White House to portray every move as a stunning victory. At Salon, Richard Grieve takes stock: ". . . no apparent ties to al-Qaida or other foreign terrorist organizations . . . . no imminent threat to Miami or any other area. . . . never found evidence of a credible terrorism threat against Sears Tower that has gone beyond criminal discussions. . . ." Neighbors said the men caught in Thursday night's raid exercised at night and slept in a warehouse and sometimes had young children with them and invited couple of locals to join their karate class. Benjamin Williams, 17, said the men would "cover their faces. Sometimes they would wear things on their heads, like turbans."

If you recall the constantly fluctuating terror alert levels and dire warnings over summer of 2004-- the last election season, coincidentally-- when terrorists would reportedly be using remote-controlled planes, exploding pens and beach coolers to wreak havoc across the US (all of which was later revealed to have been pushed by the White House, not the intelligence community), this just seems unimaginative.

Also being reported (thanks to Mil Apodos for the link) is that after twenty years of unsuccessful tests of land- and air-based missile defense systems, we've suddenly perfected a sea-based interceptor-- and it's worked on seven of eight tries. And wonder of wonders, it's come during an election season and at a time when North Korea is proposing long-range missile tests. Even better, it was a joint operation with Japan (whose participation seems to have consisted of tracking a missile from a ship of their own), who not only have a historic concern over North Korea's missile tests, but recently announced their intent to leave Iraq. The reports of the successful tests are also strangely devoid of details. The last time a successful test was reported, it later emerged that the scenario was rigged to the point of absurdity.

It'd be great if these really were big successes. But after years of the White House crying wolf over imaginary terrorist threats and phony claims of SDI success, it's a little too much to ask that these latest stories be taken at face value. Not only is it election season, but their disapproval ratings are higher than ever-- and their only two campaign tactics are inciting fear and promising victory.