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Red Alert Blues

It looks like Bush’s Iraq attack will go down sooner before later and — if we are to believe Tom Ridge and the Ministry of Homeland Security folks — the Iraqis or maybe al-Qaeda will respond with terrorist attacks on America. In response, security officials have set up something called “Operation Liberty Shield.”

Operation Liberty Shield means the color-coded terror alert is now orange — one step below red — and new airspace regulations are in place, there is supposedly increased “vigilance” on the roadways, railroads, and at food installations and such.

Barney Fife is on the lookout for Iraqi terrorists.

In New Jersey, a former FBI man and current director of counter-terrorism, Sid Caspersen, says a red alert will restrict all personal freedom to move about and associate. “Red means all noncritical functions cease,” Caspersen explained. “Noncritical would be almost all businesses, except health-related.” In other words, you have to stay at home unless there’s a dire medical emergency.

“The state will restrict transportation and access to critical locations,” Caspersen told Gannett News. “You must adhere to the restrictions announced by authorities and prepare to evacuate, if instructed. Stay alert for emergency messages… The government agencies would run at a very low threshold… You literally are staying home, is what happens, unless you are required to be out. No different than if you had a state of emergency with a snowstorm.”

Oh, so a Code Red terror alert would be something like a snowstorm. You’d get to stay home from work, the kids would be off school. In most cases, though, even during a bad snow storm, it’s not illegal to go outside, the cops are not operating on a “low threshold,” which I guess means they can shoot you for walking around in your front yard. It would be like an Americanized version of curfew in Gaza or the West Bank. You’d be forced to stay inside, hopefully with enough duct tape and plastic sheeting on hand.

As for staying tuned to TV or radio for further instructions, I have a problem there. I own a TV, but it’s not working — and even if it did I don’t have an antenna on the thing so it can’t pick up a signal. I don’t own a radio, either. But I do have a radio in the car, so I could go outside to the parking lot and wait for further instructions in my car. But wait a minute… if I left the apartment wouldn’t I risk being arrested or even shot for breaking the curfew?

This code-red stuff is complicated.

It seems Tom Ridge didn’t think it all the way through — just like he didn’t think through the bit about duct tape and plastic sheeting.

I’m not the only one confused.

For instance, in Crawford county, Ohio, school superintendent Sam Preston has a different take on a red alert than Sid Caspersen in New Jersey. “If the president puts out a general Red Alert for the country, it will be business as usual,” Preston told the Telegraph-Forum. “Should some national crisis occur and we have forewarning, we will not open school that day. If something were to happen while our students are in school we will not have any early dismissals unless there is some imminent reason of a clear and present danger to the area.”

Wait a minute, I thought a red alert means you keep the kids home, you don’t send them to school. Did I miss something, or is Mr. Preston attempting to get his district’s kids all thrown in one of those internment camps we hear so much about? Tom Ridge needs to have the Ministry of Homeland Security print up a booklet or something — maybe put up a web page or hire an ad agency to come up with some slick TV ads to clarify all of this.

Meanwhile, in Erie, Pennsylvania, Nick Sleptzoff, director of the Erie County Emergency Management Agency, doesn’t seem real clear on what to do if we go to the Big Red. “If it is something not directly affecting Erie County, we may not initiate those activities,” he told the Erie Times-News. “We’ve got to use some common sense here. If it affects us, then we have to take the measures we put in place.” He said the last time we had an orange alert it was no big deal. “It really didn’t mean a whole lot because nothing was happening here,” he said.

Yeah, but Nick, don’t you know there are al-Qaeda sleeper cells all over the place? Ashcroft and Ridge have said as much for months. We all have to be vigilant. I’m not sure what that means exactly, but I hear it a lot these days. Be vigilant. Be aware of your surroundings. Report suspicious activities. Last time somebody called the cops about something suspicious here the cops arrived at a motel dressed in chemical suits. It turned out to be a cardboard box with some old rags stuffed in it. I’m not sure the cops in this small city would know how to handle a serious al-Qaeda type situation. Besides, why would al-Qaeda mess with our town, wouldn’t they be more interested in a big ticket item like say New York, Boston, or Washington?

In Indiana, Gov. Frank O’Bannon told the Indianapolis Star a red alert would set in motion security measures “for the Statehouse and the legislative and judicial offices and state employees… We’d be blocking streets (in the state government complex). We’d be doing the things that we did after 9/11, and then see what the red alert might bring with it.”

In other words, he’s pretty much clueless like everybody else. Of course, he will take care of government employees and legislators — apparently, the regular citizens of Indiana are on their own. Let’s hope they have enough duct tape and plastic sheeting on hand.

Down in South Carolina they’re laid back about all this homeland security and code red stuff. “We’re not going to act recklessly, and the public needs to be assured of that,” State Law Enforcement Division Chief Robert Stewart told the Myrtle Beach Sun News. South Carolina has its own emergency designations, but they aren’t in synch with the five color-coded federal alerts, Stewart said. He also said Tom Ridge hasn’t even settled on a final color code for all states, or so Stewart found out when he attended a Ministry of Homeland Security meeting in Washington last month. In South Carolina, they call their alerts “Op Con” followed by a number.

Talk about nobody being on the same page.

In fact, most of South Carolina’s National Guard doesn’t even have military police training, so they wouldn’t really know what to do if an al-Qaeda sleeper cell cropped up out of nowhere. Like most people in the country, South Carolinians probably doubt they’re on an Iraqi suicide mission short list. “If you’ve prepared yourself and your family for a natural disaster… then you’ll have done a lot to prepare for any emergency,” said Max Learner, a senior state health agency staffer who coordinates emergency response.

There it is again… a terrorist attack’s not much different than a bad snowstorm, or a flood, tornado, something like that. I bet a hurricane’s much worse than a few pissed off Iraqis bent on revenge.

I’m more worried about what Ashcroft is doing to the Fourth Amendment and the Constitution than I am about a few Iraqis with pipe bombs.

It’s obvious — Bush and Crew are trying to scare us again.

They do this when they want to divert our attention or wake us up from our TV-induced stupor and pay attention. As for Iraqis invading the heartland — they didn’t attack us when Dubya’s daddy invaded them, so why would they do it now? Back in 1991 they had a half decent military — that is until the US military pulverized it. Now they have a difficult time getting three squares a day and some decent drinking water.

No, a red alert’s not going to mean a whole lot to the majority of the 280 million people in this country. Kids will go to school, people will shop at the mall. No way will every McDonalds in the nation close down. The economy’s already screwed, imagine what five or six days without business would do to it.

I mean, if they closed down the donut shop here, where would all the cops go?

KURT NIMMO is a photographer and multimedia developer in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Visit his excellent online gallery. He can be reached at: nimmo@zianet.com

We highly recommend regular visits to Nimmo’s website, Another Day in the Empire

 

 

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KURT NIMMO is a photographer and multimedia developer in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Visit his excellent no holds barred blog at www.kurtnimmo.com/ . Nimmo is a contributor to Cockburn and St. Clair’s, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. A collection of his essays for CounterPunch, Another Day in the Empire, is now available from Dandelion Books. He can be reached at: nimmo@zianet.com

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