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Ducks, all in a row...BAM! BAM!
May 25, 2004 10:38 PM   Subscribe


 
"White House officials add to a chorus of recent voices, say they've got a "working premise" about terrorism and the presidential election: It's going to happen. "We assume," says a top administration official, "an attack will happen leading up to the election." "

Washington is abuzz with talk of an expected, impending pre '04 election Al Qaeda attack. The White House has floated trial balloons concerning canceling the elections (see main link) so the US won't go the way of Spain.

Says Condi Rice, "The hard thing about terrorism is that they only have to be right once, and we have to be right 100 percent of the time. And nobody can be certain there won't be another attack. But, of course, we are concerned about the election cycle."

In a wider context this talk is very strange - the Bush administration has cut Nunn-Lugar WMD nonproliferation funding (report arms control groups) and meanwhile, cash from the record Afghanistan opium crops of the post US occupation period is flowing into Al Qaeda's coffers while at a worldwide level, nuclear nonproliferation spins out of control.

Juxtaposed, these facts are disturbing, because :

".....Most [of these laws] remain a a potential source of virtually unlimited power for a President should he choose to activate them. It is possible that some future President could exercise this vast authority in an attempt to place the United States under authoritarian rule...American Weimar?
"


So, how DO you stop terrorism?
posted by troutfishing at 10:44 PM on May 25, 2004


The White House sure is consistent: they always pull out the fear just when they need to wield it.
posted by interrobang at 10:56 PM on May 25, 2004


Factoid: Condi Rice's 'being right' sound-bite was originally made by the Irish Republican Army. It's taken from a statement they issued after they blew up the Grand Hotel in Brighton with Thatcher and her cabinet in it. They told her: "Today we were unlucky, but remember, we only have to be lucky once; you will have to be lucky always. Give Ireland peace and there will be no war."

Funny how terrorist propaganda claims become government propaganda claims. Strategy of tension, anyone?
posted by carter at 11:04 PM on May 25, 2004


"We won't be like Spain"

Interesting how they're all convinced the elections in spain were won by the socialists because of the bombing. Nobody seems to remember that the populist party had been declining rapidly in the polls since the end of february.
posted by fvw at 11:38 PM on May 25, 2004



Factoid: Condi Rice's 'being right' sound-bite was originally made by the Irish Republican Army. It's taken from a statement they issued after they blew up the Grand Hotel in Brighton with Thatcher and her cabinet in it. They told her: "Today we were unlucky, but remember, we only have to be lucky once; you will have to be lucky always. Give Ireland peace and there will be no war."

Funny how terrorist propaganda claims become government propaganda claims. Strategy of tension, anyone?


Please forgive me for what I am posting now. I do not have the issue anymore, but I am pretty sure that an near identical line appears in Marvel Team Up Annual #4 from 1981, which would make it earlier than your example. I wish I did still have it, as that issue was on of the finest superhero comic books of the 80's.
posted by thirteen at 12:17 AM on May 26, 2004


Only $5
posted by scarabic at 12:45 AM on May 26, 2004


The socialists won the Spanish elections because the right-wing government lied for political reasons about who was behind the bombings. This brought out approximately ~20% extra participating voters out of the woodwork. No one in the so-called coalition wants to acknowledge that because its members don't want to go anywhere near the can of worms that is sorting out between basic facts and fiction in the sordid affair that the so-called war on terror has become.

But, hey, it's only human to belittle a clean-cut democratic process rather than admit your own mistakes.
posted by magullo at 1:08 AM on May 26, 2004


The White House has floated trial balloons concerning canceling the elections (see main link)

This wasn't in the link, troutfishing.
posted by PrinceValium at 2:48 AM on May 26, 2004


it will be interesting to see how they'll avoid charges of standing by and letting this happen since they have been waving this red flag at us for months. what with all the 'security provisions' eroding basic constitutional rights, the giant DHS buraeucracy, these fuckers should not DARE allow a terrorist attack to occur on american soil, such an attack would literally SPOTLIGHT the assholes currently in power.
posted by quonsar at 3:53 AM on May 26, 2004


but at any rate, tom ridge had better be polishing his resume.
posted by quonsar at 4:00 AM on May 26, 2004


Anthrax, anyone?

The new mylar hats are much better at deflecting negative brain vibes than the tinfoil ones.
posted by zaelic at 4:33 AM on May 26, 2004


"The more blood that the terrorists spill in [Iraq/Washington], the more important it is to stay the course. Elections at this time of instability are not an option. The [Coalition Provisional Authority / Bush administration] will hand over authority on [June 30 / January 21] to a caretaker government composed of prominent [Iraqis/Republicans]. Elections will be held when the situation has stabilized."
posted by stonerose at 4:37 AM on May 26, 2004


Yes! Moon Knight!

Sorry. I now return you to your original political discussion, already in progress.
posted by grabbingsand at 5:26 AM on May 26, 2004


such an attack would literally SPOTLIGHT the assholes currently in power.

I think any kind of catastrophic attack between now and Election Day would not only cause a huge "rally around the leader/daddy" effect, but a lot of people who wanted to vote against Bush would be convinced - not unreasonably - that to do so would allow terrorists to affect elections. (Thereby, ironically, affecting the election.)

If you were a terrorist, and you wanted to get rid of Crusader Bush, you should make sure absolutely nothing happens.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:32 AM on May 26, 2004


If we cheer for Power Man, we've let the terrorists win? I see that Stan Lee authored the working premise.
posted by ed at 5:42 AM on May 26, 2004


No, THEY have to make sure nothing happens. It would be the biggest failure of this administration (any administration) to allow another attack after all the things done supposedly "to make us safer." Let them just try canceling/postponing the election.

This administration has built its whole reason for being on fighting terror--an attack would show that they've actually made us less safe. And scared people won't be running to polling places either--they don't care about what Spain did, or looking weak. Voter turnout is an issue, but in no way will be a rush of people trying to prove terrorists don't affect elections. Bad weather alone depresses turnout--it's a DC dream that the public actually cares about using their vote to send a message to Osama (which really would be letting the terrorists win). This is what they always do--scare people when the news is bad.

Enough already, whether it's crying wolf or for real. If it's for real, they better know enough to go after the people plotting it, or they've learned nothing from 9/11 and the investigations since. Rally round the leader is a wish of theirs--not reality.
posted by amberglow at 5:43 AM on May 26, 2004


also, the fact that Al Qaeda has fully reconstituted is just another example at Bush's failures re: terrorism.

That's the real story here--not to be on alert, but that after all was done (not done, really), we're still just at risk from them as we were on 9/10.
posted by amberglow at 5:50 AM on May 26, 2004


"I can confirm that we have seen for the past several weeks a continuous stream of reporting that talks about the possibility of attacks on the United States," Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said, "but not unlike what we've seen for the past several years."

"There's not a consensus within the administration that we need to raise the threat level. ... We do not need to raise the threat level to increase security. Right now, there's no need to put the entire country on a (elevated) national alert."


WTF?
posted by magullo at 5:56 AM on May 26, 2004


"I can tell you one thing," adds the official sternly, "we won't be like Spain," which tossed its government days after the Madrid train bombings.

Did 111 talk to this writer?
If the former leader of Spain hadn't lied to his people and aligned himself with BushCo then perhaps he would not have lost. It had zero to do with the Madrid attacks.

Same thing all over the world, democracies are rejecting BushCo and voting left.

When BushCo said he was a uniter I never imagined he would unite the entire world against himself!
posted by nofundy at 6:01 AM on May 26, 2004


Rally round the leader is a wish of theirs--not reality.


I'm not talking logic here, I'm talking emotion. Why else did Bush's approval rating suddenly go from 51% to 90% after 9/11? It wasn't just because he picked up a bullhorn on The Pile, it was a psychological need for a strong leader after a catastrophe.

If it happens again, you can argue that he can be blamed for not preventing it, but no one really believes you can prevent all terrorism and that emotional need for daddy to make it all better will be back. All you need to swing this election is a few points anyway.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:01 AM on May 26, 2004


So torturing prisoners in Iraq didn't get rid of terrorism? What went wrong with our plan? I think fear is a powerful tool, but like fire it can end up burning you. They think they know what they're doing, and maybe they do, but maybe they don't. The fact is, no one can say with absolute certainty what the political result of a major terrorist attack in the US between now and November would be. Let's hope we don't have to find out.
posted by Outlawyr at 6:03 AM on May 26, 2004


I don't think people will rush to Bush/daddy's side this time, Cunning--Over and over the admin's said that by fighting them in Iraq we don't have to worry about them here. Over and over they've said that they had Osama and Al Qaeda on the run, scattered, and unable to strike. I don't see any rush to him, but a hunkering down/staying home, or a rush to get rid of him and get someone who will actually keep us safe.

And--if the admin actually does something themselves, it'll come out, so i hope to God their power-hungry little pointy heads aren't contemplating that scenario.
posted by amberglow at 6:10 AM on May 26, 2004


troutfishing, that "how to stop terrorism" story was marvelous!


On preview: okay, amber, let's agree to disagree....And let's hope we don't find out who's right.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:15 AM on May 26, 2004


For those who may have missed it before: Operation Northwoods
posted by 2sheets at 6:34 AM on May 26, 2004


My $.02: Two major reasons why so many people rallied to President Bush after 9/11 were:
1) he was new and it came (we believed) unexpectantly.
2) people had no other choice.

If something happens again, three years after 9/11, things won't be the same. As others have said: Bush is running on a campaign of protection. If he can't protect, what good is he? And there will be the opportunity to immediately jump to someone new. In 2001, Bush was the only game in town so you have to rally to him. Not the same today.

Granted, the Bush Administration could say "Oh but the instability of changing administrations will help the terrorists" but I really dunno if the general populace would latch on to that so quickly.
posted by tittergrrl at 7:04 AM on May 26, 2004


From the bottom of the linked page:
The Bush Meter
President Bush 's science adviser, John Marburger , has some advice for anybody planning to pitch a project in the Oval Office: Tell it straight because the boss has a great BS meter. "He gets angry when people hide things or try to distort information that could be relevant to a decision."


Do I really need to add anything?
posted by signal at 7:11 AM on May 26, 2004


If you were a terrorist, and you wanted to get rid of Crusader Bush, you should make sure absolutely nothing happens.

Well, I agree with the assumption that a major terrorist attack would cause a surge of support for the President. But I think you're assuming that terrorists are using somewhat rational political logic in weighing whether, when and where to strike, CunningLinguist.

As I see it, terrorism Al-Qaeda style is not based on backing off for a 'better and brighter future'. It's designed to force an even more violent response from the U.S., so that some inveterate malcontents can elicit plenty more support by playing the 'We Are Such Victims, Sign Up for Jihad' card once again. Having Bush the Crusader in the White House is a net plus for this kind of effort, never mind rationality. Also, there's the pure spectacle factor of a huge attack, as in 'lookit us, we did it lol'. The more people killed, the better, as far they're concerned.

So, I wouldn't recommend being anywhere near New York City during the Republican Convention. Let them use a empty city for their blatantly cynical attempt to remind everyone that, oh yeah, here's New York City, 9/11 happened here and aren't we so diverse blah blah blah. After which they'll be happy to short-change us on public transit funds and just about everything else. This level of cheap grandstanding would be funny if New Yorkers hadn't been made into targets in the process.

NYC, boycott the GOP convention. Regardless of whether you're afraid of an attack or not.
posted by attackthetaxi at 7:12 AM on May 26, 2004


Why would terrorists want to get rid of Bush? He does their recruiting for them.
posted by signal at 7:16 AM on May 26, 2004


If the Constitution were to be suspended, would Americans just sit there? People only seem to take to the streets these days only when their sports team wins.
posted by birdherder at 9:03 AM on May 26, 2004


I have to second PrinceValium's complaint. I am fairly sympathetic to the spirit of this post, but it doesn't seem to include the promised link referring to these "trial balloons" floated by the Bushies to see how the populace would feel about the election being postponed.
posted by bingo at 9:17 AM on May 26, 2004


If the Constitution were to be suspended, would Americans just sit there? People only seem to take to the streets these days only when their sports team wins.

I don't know if I believe this is true, but I'll post it for what its worth.

We have a close friend whose father is very high ranking career Navy. A few days ago I was discussing the "terrorist attack/Bush postpones elections" scenario with this friend. His response was basically 'If he did that, it would be the "last straw" for many career military officers. You would see things happen in Washington that have never happened in the US before.'

Do I believe that he was actually hinting at a military coup if elections were postponed? I don't know. But I do honestly believe this postponement scenario is being discussed in a lot of places other than Metafilter, and by a lot of people who don't normally wear tinfoil hats. I find that to be alarming and somehow comforting at the same time.

We also should not forget that the entire idea of preparing for a day when someone feels the need to 'suspend the constitution' is the reason for existence for many of the more extreme/fringe military/survivalist groups. I think Bush might actually find some armed rebellion on his hands within the US if he tried to do this. How much we'd know about any such uprising is another question, of course....
posted by anastasiav at 9:22 AM on May 26, 2004


I think you're assuming that terrorists are using somewhat rational political logic in weighing whether, when and where to strike

Oh absolutely, I think the idea that al Qaeda wants to influence elections is dopey and way overhyped lately.
I was just saying if that were their motivation and if they would rather get rid of Bush....Basically, I was trying to be clever which is something I should never attempt before the third cup of coffee.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:26 AM on May 26, 2004


As has been previously alluded to, this conveniently comes just in time for the fall elections. Banking on the fact that people don't like to change leadership during times of fear.

We can expect these 'threats' to continue to get worse as November nears.
posted by eas98 at 9:30 AM on May 26, 2004


but no one really believes you can prevent all terrorism

Except for Bush, and, like, his entire platform.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 9:41 AM on May 26, 2004


(Thanks, thirteen, that's even more interesting. Wonder where it came from originally?)
posted by carter at 9:45 AM on May 26, 2004


Something for the political philosophers here: the fact that people treat the suspension of the constitution as a matter for speculation shows that, in spite of its expression that power is vested in the people, people believe that power remains very much vested in the state (or perhaps the armed forces). Apart from the people stockpiling guns in the mountains, of course, and probably taking lessons from the Iraqi insurgents.
posted by riviera at 9:49 AM on May 26, 2004


Riviera - A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Funny how discussion is leading towards the correct interpretation of this particular amendment.
posted by linux at 10:11 AM on May 26, 2004


The Bush administration has already failed to prevent three terrorist attacks in the US (September 11, anthrax in 2001, and ricin in 2003), two of which involved WMD[!], and failed to punish the people responsible for the attacks in all three cases.

One could argue that the anthrax and ricin attacks are more criminal matters than the action of terrorists, and that antrhax and ricin aren't WMD, but according to the administration's definitions they're terrorist WMD attacks.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:13 AM on May 26, 2004


[ I was going to comment a few hours ago, but Metafilter seemed to go down for bit, so this addresses a few comment up the post a bit ] - PrinceValium - I interpreted the statements of the "unnamed White House official", quoted in the US News & World Report, as the trial balloon. It was floated - and successfully so, I'd say. Public outcry at the "unnamed official's" "stern" warning that the US "won't got the way of Spain" was minimal. And - US N&W is a big, mostly reputable operation. It's relationship with the White House provides some of it's daily bread and butter of sources and insider interviews. Such "gossip" as my linked article doesn't go to print without vetting, and it's very likely that vetting came from the White House. There was a purpose behind that story.

Of course, you're free to contest my judgement call.

It does not state explicitly that the elections would be cancelled - it merely alludes to that.

amberglow - I'm looking at this as a high stakes type of brinksmanship : if the widely expected terrorist attack occurs, the White House will say "We've ALREADY foiled many terrorist plots - we can't prevent EVERY act of terrorism. This is going to be a long, long war and we're in it for the long run. But we MUST not allow the terrorists to tamper with out democratic process, and that's why we are postponing the elections".

__________________________________________

anastaziav - I've no doubt you've heard of the widely circulated Parameters piece, from the Winter 1992-1993 edition, by Charles Dunlap Jr. entitled The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012 that's been making the rounds recently.

"....His response was basically 'If he did that, it would be the "last straw" for many career military officers. You would see things happen in Washington that have never happened in the US before.' " - I'm both comforted and troubled by this, and it is all the more striking for the fact that officer corps across the entire USA military tend to lean fairly heavily Republican.

I'm comforted to know that there are those in the US military establishment who might oppose a naked power grab.

I'm also troubled for the possibility that this high stakes game of chicken could result in another US civil war as factions within the military took sides.

That would be nightmarish : but some would call that a lesser evil compared to the dissolution of American Democracy, "for the duration".

____________________________________________


So - OK. Assume that scenario. A terrorist attack pre 'Nov '04, and the subsequent postponement of the 2004 election. Assume a dirty bomb. Those are quite easy to make. A mid sized dirty bomb could be assembled from components found fairly readily within the US - as the William Krar case demonstrates. Krar was recently sentenced for - among other things - possession of a garage-built cyanide bomb big enough to kill every single person inside a 30,000 square foot enclosed space (a stadium, for example).

Meanwhile moderately radioactive material is common enough in the US. - In fact, a smart teenager could probably assemble a moderate size dirty bomb given the fact that it's apparently possible to assemble a small nuclear breeder reactor from legally obtained materials. (see Tale of the Radioactive Boy Scout. Or, "What happened when a teenager tried a dangerous experiment in his back yard" - ".....David hit on the idea of building a model breeder reactor, a nuclear reactor that not only generates electricity, but also produces new fuel. His model would use the actual radioactive elements and produce real reactions. His blueprint was a schematic in one of his father's textbooks......Ignoring safety, David mixed his radium and americium with beryllium and aluminum, all of which he wrapped in aluminum foil, forming a makeshift reactor core....."

So an Al Qaeda attack might fall, if indeed the Bush Administration is so utterly machiavellian, into the "useful but not necessary" category :

Domestic terrorists might pose an even greater risk.

_____________________________________________

So, again : a dirty bomb or worse.

What happens then (or concurrently) ? - Well, the hotheads on the left (and some on the right too) who are outraged at the apparent power grab pour into the streets. Some of the militias and survivalists assemble to organize resistance. There might be riots here and there. Some from the organized resistance might make "come and get us - we're armed and ready" challenges to federal authority. And - remember - there was, during the period of public protest against the Vietnam war, a history of the use of agent provocateurs to discredit the war protest movement. Of course, then, there are always random idiots. And there are, sometimes, those around who egg them on.

Extreme elements who then defy the Bush Administration might serve to tarnish the position - in the eyes of the American public - of those sober critics who have been criticizing the Bush Administration on the basis of it's sheer incompetence. They could be used - rightly or not - as a pretext for draconian martial law and the severe repression of internal dissent.

That assumes, however, a relatively unified US military. If not, then...........

As I said, I'd call it a very, very high stakes game of chicken - with the Bush Administration putting on the "we're really, really badass crazy. Just try us, Just try......" attitude in hopes that internal dissent among the cognoscenti within both the Washington power structure and the US military will be cowed.
posted by troutfishing at 10:33 AM on May 26, 2004


What will you do? What... will... you... do?
posted by keswick at 10:54 AM on May 26, 2004


Tin foil hats here, $2! Get your tin foil hats here. . .
posted by David Dark at 10:55 AM on May 26, 2004


Unclear is the political impact, though most Bushies think the nation would rally around the president. "I can tell you one thing," adds the official sternly, "we won't be like Spain," which tossed its government days after the Madrid train bombings.

To say that this alludes to the elections being canceled is to take a gargantuan leap.

Again, I am not one to say that the canceling (or "postponing") of the elections is not something that the Bush administration would try and pull. But it makes a huge difference whether that is just something we're speculating about, or whether some Bush insider actually suggested that it might happen.

And it's clear as day that according to the link, he did not.
posted by bingo at 11:02 AM on May 26, 2004


I've no doubt you've heard of the widely circulated Parameters piece, from the Winter 1992-1993 edition, by Charles Dunlap Jr. entitled The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012 that's been making the rounds recently.

Previously discussed here.

Good links, trout.
posted by homunculus at 11:12 AM on May 26, 2004


We can expect these 'threats' to continue to get worse as November nears.

Of course, right up until attacks actually happen, and then you remove the quotes from "threats" in order to scream: "The administration screwed up! They knew all about the threats -- why didn't they stop the attacks?"

There are people in this thread who, although I may have disagreed from time to time, I still considered rational. But the willingness to engage in wild, uninformed speculation based on nothing makes me rethink those assumptions.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:36 AM on May 26, 2004


David, Keswick - I couldn't hear what you just said.

I was deafened by the honking, and noisy farting, of geese flying south for the summer.

From what got through of what you said, though - I'd say I got more useful information from the noisy and smelly geese.

bingo - you're entitled to you're opinion, of course.

Meanwhile, back to Earth :

"The doomsday scenario was laid out by Gen. Tommy Franks, the recently retired head of CentCom, in of all places the December edition of Cigar Aficionado magazine.

"What is the worst thing that can happen in our country?" Franks asked rhetorically. "Two steps. The first step would be a nexus between weapons of mass destruction . . . and terrorism." The second step would be "the western world, the free world, loses what it cherishes most, and that is freedom and liberty we've seen for a couple of hundred years in this grand experiment that we call democracy."

Franks suggested that a "massive casualty-producing event" might cause "our population to question our own Constitution and begin to militarize our country."

_____________________________

On Dec. 31, 2003, New York Times columnist and former Nixon speech writer William Safire offered his standard New Year’s predictions. This time, however, one item stood out. In addition to speculating on everything from which country would next "feel the force of U.S. liberation" to who would win the best picture Oscar, Safire predicted that "the 'October surprise' affecting the U.S. election" would be "a major terror attack in the United States [Salt Lake Tribune]....MSNBC, CNN and other news organizations also chimed in, raising concerns about this summer's political conventions. "In the wake of what happened in Madrid, we have to be concerned about the possibility of terrorists attempting to influence elections in the United States by committing a terrorist act," FBI Director Robert Mueller told CNN......"If a terrorist group attacked the U.S. three days before an election, does anyone doubt that the American electorate would rally behind the president or at least
the most aggressively antiterror party?" David Brooks opined in the New York Times on March 16.........Sean Hannity twisted things further. "If we are attacked before our election like Spain was, I am not so sure that we should go ahead with the election," he reportedly said. "We had better make plans now because it’s going to happen.......

Richard Clarke recently told Jon Stewart, "[There
are] dozens of people, in the White House. . . writing talking points, calling up conservative columnists, calling up talk radio hosts, telling them what to say. It’s interesting. All the talk radio people, the right wing talk radio people across the country, saying the exact same thing, exactly the same words..........

In an article entitled, "When the War Hits Home: U.S. Plans for Martial Law, Tele-Governance and the Suspension of Elections," Madsen and Stanton delved into the more
frightening aspects of what might be in store. "One incident, one aircraft hijacked, a 'dirty nuke' set off in a small town, may well prompt the Bush regime, let's say during
the election campaign of 2003-2004, to suspend national elections for a year while his government ensures stability," they wrote. "Many closed door meetings have been held on
these subjects and the notices for these meetings have been closely monitored by the definitive www.cryptome.org." "
posted by troutfishing at 11:37 AM on May 26, 2004


One faulty assumption here is that the terrorists hate Bush. It's my sense that this couldn't be farther from the truth. Bush has done nothing but advance the cause of Al Qaeda and bolster its recruitment drives throughout the world.

Assuming that the goal of Al Qaeda is to remove American and European influence from the middle east and promote the formation of a unified Islamic state, the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan can be seen as creating a flashpoint for Islamic extremists. The more American and European involvement in the Arab world, the greater the chance that the middle eastern people will forswear their differences long enough to unite against the common enemy.

True Believers care only about the cause, and here the cause is to unite the Islamic peoples of the Arab world. This is the goal of Al Qaeda and all analysis should start from this point.

That being said, while Iraq initially had nothing to do with Al Qaeda, our occupation has been a godsend for the terrorists. We spend our good will and international reputation in a country that was, if not hostile, at least indifferent to the goals of Al Qaeda.

The war on terrorism is not being fought in Baghdad, Mosel or anywhere in Iraq.
posted by mygoditsbob at 11:37 AM on May 26, 2004


Oh come now, what do Tommy Franks and Richard Clarke know about history, power, strategy, intelligence, and the current administration?
posted by sudama at 11:45 AM on May 26, 2004


So troutfishing, ya got your bunker all stocked up then? Or is it still stocked from Y2K?
posted by keswick at 11:51 AM on May 26, 2004


the problem I do have with all the talk (anastasiav's right, it is neither a MeFi-only thing nor a Internet-conspiracy-buff-only thing) of postponing the elections in case of a massive Al Qaeda attack is very simple:
how massive an attack it takes.

because, frankly, do you seriously think that if a Presidential election were planned for October 2001 it would have been cancelled because of 9-11 and the 3,000 dead?

not really, no.
so the bar now has been raised to 3,000 dead and chaos in Lower Manhattan, and a large gaping hole in the Pentagon's side (incredibly, without pieces of plane fuselage anywhere in sight around that hole, but I'm digressing).

a dirty bomb could or could not kill more than 3,000 people.
so what it takes in post-911 America to cancel an election (in a state of emergency "postpone" means for all praxctical purposes "cancel", possibly sine die)? gas attack in the NY and DC metro? bah.
I've never bought the FEMA / suspend the Constitution / military government thing, sorry.

it would have happened / it will happen only in case of widespread catastrophic event -- Soviet nuclear attack during the Cold War, several cities up in flames, nuclear winter, etc

but in case of a new 9-11, with say 6,000 dead? unthinkable tragedy, yes. but no nationally widespread infrastructural/communications damage worthy of a cancellation

It would be the biggest failure of this administration (any administration) to allow another attack after all the things done supposedly "to make us safer."


if it happens, Bush's numbers will go up, at least temporarily (several weeks). "us" vs "them", remember? when scared shitless people don't care who governs "us". they just know they fear and hate "them". and Bush talks tough -- it makes him look good on TV to certain people

and: thanks for the links, trout
posted by matteo at 12:00 PM on May 26, 2004


trout, you're entitled to your opinion too, but meanwhile, back on real Earth, and not wherever you have your superior view of everything, it's a pretty big leap, when it's much more likely that this official was alluding to "American's being more able to stay the course and not take the cowards way out" or whatever such crap. Maybe there wasn't a lot of public outcry was because there was nothing to cry about. (Yet.) I have no doubt that the Administration is thinking about this. (I could be wong, I guess, but I'd be surprised,) but this quote does not automatically equal "trial balloon."

Having a bunch of qutoes from other people does not automatically make your opinion of the link true.
posted by Snyder at 12:00 PM on May 26, 2004


Bush won't be blaming Basque separatists if the terrorists hit in October. And Kerry won't be much more measured in his call for bloody vengeance, nor will he recall the bomber wings or pull out the invading divisions on January 20. Politics really does stop at the water's edge when it comes to national security.
posted by MattD at 12:06 PM on May 26, 2004


footnote:

there's one obvious exception in my argument:

if Al Qaeda manages to kill one or both Presidential candidates in the last three months of the campaign.

then, I agree, the election will be canceled. I don't see Cheney and Kerry's VP choice going ahead as Presidential candidates and simply nominating their VP
posted by matteo at 12:09 PM on May 26, 2004


Anthrax, anyone?

Say, what the hell happened to the anthrax investigation, anyway? Has everyone forgotten about it? I've actually been thinking about an AskMeFi post on this; it keeps popping into my head and I think "Did they catch the guy and I simply missed it?"

On topic, I have to agree I don't see anything resembling a government trial balloon, just the usual right-wing froth. (Unless you assume the right-wing frothers are now a de facto branch of the government, which I guess could be argued.)
posted by languagehat at 12:14 PM on May 26, 2004


Domestic terrorists might pose an even greater risk.

"I'm not afraid of Al Qaeda, I'm afraid of Al Cracker!"
- Chris Rock
posted by homunculus at 12:25 PM on May 26, 2004


Unless you assume the right-wing frothers are now a de facto branch of the government, which I guess could be argued.

Not a branch of the government, but with very little doubt a mouthpiece for the current administration. Remember Joseph Wilson?
Richard Clarke recently told Jon Stewart, "[There are] dozens of people, in the White House. . . writing talking points, calling up conservative columnists, calling up talk radio hosts, telling them what to say."
posted by sudama at 12:29 PM on May 26, 2004


sudama -- consistency of message is key, repetition is key. that's the first thing Lee Atwater taught

what the hell happened to the anthrax investigation, anyway?


oh, there's all kind os ideas/hypotheses floating around.

-- the Bush people simply couldn't catch him/her/them, hence the liberal media made the story disappear not to embarrass the FBI showing their ineptitude

-- they caught him, that's why he stopped, but it was a secret operation because the perp is a government scientist (with a possible shady past of illegal research or knowledge of illegal govt-agency actions) it would have been very unwise to have him tried (defense lawyers, the accused talking to the press, etc). so he must be dead now.

there's also a very malevolent hypothesis that I of course don't agree with:

-- the Democrat's feeble objections to the PATRIOT ACT were withdrawn. hence the letters (to Daschle et al) simply stopped coming.

case closed.

;)
posted by matteo at 12:45 PM on May 26, 2004


What Snyder said. It's also possible that the Bushie was suggesting that the country isn't going to turn socialist. But most likely, he just meant that voters are not going to make their decision based on a terrorist attack that would occur just before the election.

There's no doubt that others have speculated about Bush taking action to avoid an election, but whether or not one of his own people has actually implied to the public that it might happen is a massive difference. The fact that someone said "we won't be like Spain," combined with the fact that Spain had an election, does not mean that we won't be having an election!
posted by bingo at 12:49 PM on May 26, 2004


Dear America,

Stay home.
Vote for Bush.
posted by mkultra at 1:23 PM on May 26, 2004


"One faulty assumption here is that the terrorists hate Bush. It's my sense that this couldn't be farther from the truth. Bush has done nothing but advance the cause of Al Qaeda and bolster its recruitment drives throughout the world." - mygoditsbob, this cuts both ways though, and so you could also say that Bush and the terrorists are at the moment allies out of convenience.

languagehat - yes, I hope you're right. Still, it's not the right wing froth that concerns me but, rather, the statements of those in the US government and the Bush Administration - who have been saying for the past few months "We're taking a major pre - '04 election Al Qaeda attack for granted."

Bingo (" The fact that someone said "we won't be like Spain," combined with the fact that Spain had an election, does not mean that we won't be having an election!") - sure, but try breaking that quote in my main link down into it's logical components.

1) A pre election Al Qaeda attack WILL happen ("We assume," says a top administration official, "an attack will happen leading up to the election." And, he added, "it will happen here.") OK, the meaning of that is quite clear, I'd say.

2) Now this : We won't go the way of Spain (" I can tell you one thing," adds the official sternly, "we won't be like Spain," which tossed its government days after the Madrid train bombings.')

What does that mean?

Well, what happened in Spain? 1) pre election terrorist attack 2) the government tried to pin it on ETA 3) The public got pissed off at those lies 4) The government was voted out of office in the election.

So, does statement 2) mean a) A pre-election attack will NOT happen? No, that's contradicted by statement #1 Well then, does it mean b) "we'll have the elections anyway, but we'll win." - well, it might but would be a bit odd. Especially in the context of the "stern" tone. Does it mean, then c) "We will cancel or postpone the elections." ? Well, no that doesn't inevitably follow.

If preserving the democratic process were at the top of the agenda there, the normal way to express it would have been : "Even though we think there's a good likelihood of a pre-election Al Qaeda attack, we will do everything within our power to make sure that the 2004 election happens on schedule anyway."

"We won't go the way of Spain" is normally the sort of thing one would mutter under one's breath as sort of derogatory expletive and as an oath.

_________________________________________

matteo - think action and reaction, then counter-reaction (and so on). If the Bush Administration called off the election on a somewhat flimsy pretext, the reaction to this from the left and from sectors of the right could then supply a conveniently REAL pretext - massive public disorder.

Think of basic human psychology : taunt and infuriate your opponent until he's livid with rage. Then, pull out some really obnoxious stunt - on a semi-legitimate but trumped up pretext - which is virtually guaranteed to send him over the edge.

When the opponent comes running towards you screaming in rage, pull out the gun you've concealed in your pocket, and shoot him.

This takes, of course, planning and foresight.....and strong nerves.
posted by troutfishing at 1:34 PM on May 26, 2004


damn, frohike, you're supposed to eventually exhale.
posted by keswick at 2:19 PM on May 26, 2004


David, Keswick - I couldn't hear what you just said. I was deafened by the honking, and noisy farting, of geese flying south for the summer.

That makes about as much sense as your paranoid delusions, *ahem* I mean, "theories".
posted by David Dark at 2:34 PM on May 26, 2004


Or perhaps its a comment that both Kerry and Bush have hawkish tendencies (with the primary focus of debate being the how, where and when to deploy rather than "if").

I put very little faith in anonymous gossip columns myself.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:36 PM on May 26, 2004


so, what happens if just one or the other is killed in an attack? (Say, if Kerry is killed by an attack on the convention in Boston, or if Bush is killed by an attack here during the Republican convention)
posted by amberglow at 2:52 PM on May 26, 2004


did we get the exact same warnings in May 2002? there was "definitely" going to be a terrorist attack "sooner than later" and they raised the terror alert warning.

same shit. different election year.

i scoff at you weak-ass terrorists.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:22 PM on May 26, 2004


even if one of the candidates is killed on the day before the election, i would think/hope we'll still have an election. if the convention hasn't happened, they can always pick a new guy, and if it has, there will be a running mate to assume the candidacy.

the election itself is more important than any one candidate or party.

i know it's hard to envision, but i think there would have to be something bigger than a single candidate's death to postpone the election. an occurrence that would actually affect the ability to process votes.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:27 PM on May 26, 2004


Has it ever happened that a nominee died between the convention and the election?
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:31 PM on May 26, 2004


Soo.. al quaida is stronger than ever thanks to GW Bush.. now the question is .. are they cunning enough to use reverse psychology....

Scary.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:43 PM on May 26, 2004


Has it ever happened that a nominee died between the convention and the election?

Not with the President but with other offices. Fundamentally, the primary system is party tradition rather than constitutionally mandated so the choice of how to deal with it would be left up to the party leadership.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:08 PM on May 26, 2004


If something happens again, three years after 9/11, things won't be the same. As others have said: Bush is running on a campaign of protection. If he can't protect, what good is he?

You are presuming a logical reaction from a public that has demonstrated that it does not deserve such a presumption. Put me in the camp that says that if a major attack happens before the election, Bush is a shoo-in for re-election. Fear is the little mindkiller...

Why would terrorists want to get rid of Bush? He does their recruiting for them.

Exactly. From their point of view based on self-interest, they could not have a better person as U.S. President. Which is the least disturbing explanation for why there may well be some kind of incident prior to the election.
posted by rushmc at 4:09 PM on May 26, 2004


Of course, if we are worried about possible terrorist attacks, we will have to increase security and limit protests around the two conventions and this summer G8 economic summit.

They aren't raising any alert levels at the moment. They are saying a vague thing that anyone could say. Heck, I could say "it is likely that there were be a severe hailstorm somewhere in America this summer." I'd be right, too.

My point, I guess, is that I see this as an excuse to clamp down on protest during these three big events without having to produce any pesky evidence to support the clampdown.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:38 PM on May 26, 2004




The notion that Bush might be engaged in a conspiracy to cancel the November elections seems to defy logic.

1: The presidency is not everything and the November elections are not just about the presidency. The Republican party is spending billions of dollars on state and local races that in their own way are every bit as crucial as who occupies the oval office. Nobody wants to see a year of planning, preparation and huge sums of money go to waste.

2: Suspending or delaying elections would kill Bush politically. There is already talk that this election could turn out to be a four-way race with Bush struggling to keep Libertarian Conservatives in the fold.

3: As a trial baloon, this seems to have flopped before it even inflated.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:12 PM on May 26, 2004


I'm wondering something ... aren't federal elections, by the Supreme Court's own ruling in 2000 run by the states ... if the feds cancel - what would happen if some state governors announced they were having them anyway?

It'd be hard to call the National Guard - a lot of them are over in Iraq. Or might follow their governors instead of the federal government.

I'd hope that sanity would prevail. One can't be so sure these days.
posted by pyramid termite at 6:18 PM on May 26, 2004




I'm comforted to know that there are those in the US military establishment who might oppose a naked power grab.

well thats a relief. Come on man, have you learned nothing from hamilton?

"General, would you support a military government in the event of some filmsy naked power grab?"

General: "Well....I Might.

Has it ever happened that a nominee died between the convention and the election?
No, but close. Robert Kennedy was weeks away from a certain democratic nomination. The constitution is unclear about this issue.

Soo.. al quaida is stronger than ever thanks to GW Bush.. now the question is .. are they cunning enough to use reverse psychology....

Scary.


no, they are not stronger thanks to Bush. Yes, Al qaida used reverse Psychology in the 9-11 attacks. (atta asking about crop dusters for example, then telling that one woman someone could easily open that safe behind you)
posted by clavdivs at 6:42 PM on May 26, 2004


clavdivs: No, but close. Robert Kennedy was weeks away from a certain democratic nomination. The constitution is unclear about this issue.

This is one area where I think the constitution should be unclear. In fact, I don't think the Constitution says anything about political parties. (Nor should it, freedom of association and all that.)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:48 PM on May 26, 2004


...and one more thing about al-qaida. This means roughly 'the Base'. The base as in a gathering or focal point to arabs going to jihad in afghanistan. By it's nature, it is an ad hoc organization that uses many different people from many countries. They colluded with other terrorist organizations to carry attacks and yes, the U.S. and britain and pakistan and...well you get the picture on who helped start the training. But al-qaida after russia left afghanistan still used these same methods and re-trained their recruits in much nastier methods.
posted by clavdivs at 6:49 PM on May 26, 2004


This is one area where I think the constitution should be unclear

dam i did not think of that, really. that is interesting and ingenius, like, what if the founding fathers and sons went around like Borgias' whacking the nominees, the congress would have to convene to settle the issue and inquires made.

let us call it: the Muskie factor.
posted by clavdivs at 7:12 PM on May 26, 2004


Quoting A.G. Ashcroft :

The Madrid railway bombings were perceived by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda to have advanced their cause. Al Qaeda may perceive that a large-scale attack in the United States this summer or fall would lead to similar consequences

Indeed a successful project (no matter if it is legal or illegal) is always seen as an advancement (or should we say success) in planners agenda. If the agenda is to terrorize and kill, obviously Madrid attack was a success.So far AshCroft is stating...the obvious ? Seems in line with an agenda of repeating, but ok it's normal to reinstate events happened in the past every now and then.

The troubling (to me) part is ..why say "lead to similar consequences" ? We could read this way

1) a successful attack is good for the ones who planned the attack, therefore a successful attack in U.S. is good for these who planned the attack. Now that's totally, glaringly obvious and adds absolutely nothing. Ashcroft not being a total tool, why should he reinstate the obvious two times in a row and look like a tool ?

2) given that exactly after the Madrid bombing we saw a government change in Spain, the same may happen in the event of an attack on U.S. The use of world "similar" isn't casual, imho : as "exactly the same" is far stronger then "similar" which leaves a lot of room for -later- interpretations.

3) given that after the Madrid bombing the democratically elected govt changed and is withdrawing the troops, an attack in US may lead to similar consequences (of withdrawal of troops) .Which some reads as good for Al Quaeda, at least in Iraq. Hardly so I guess because american targets in Iraq are far more easily reacheable than in U.S. Therefore one could think AshCroft thinks the next govt, if different from this one, will remove troops.

But there is also another VERY VERY interesting question
(from transcript )

QUESTION: Would it not make sense for people in Boston and New York to get out of those cities during the conventions?
ASHCROFT: We certainly don't come to that conclusion

Whoever asked the question needs to check his/her facts, you don't move cities populations like chess pieces...but one can easily very easily move the conferences away from densely populated locations !!

Why not ? U.S. is full of very sparsely populated areas ; move the conferences there and in the event of an attack the damages will be limited. As for protesters, prosters can and will organize to move to the locations of the conferences further showing their endurance and their will to stand for what they believe is right. I see no problem with that, given that U.S has no internal borders ; one doesn't even need to move the whole lot to Alaska as , afaik, the central regions of northern america are very sparsely populated, yet close enough to west and east coast to be easily reached and defended as well.



posted by elpapacito at 7:13 PM on May 26, 2004


that's a really good point, elpapa...i for one want the Republicans to stay the hell out of my town this summer. Let's put one party's convention in Joshua Tree, and the other in Death Valley or something.
posted by amberglow at 8:25 PM on May 26, 2004


I love it!

Future political conventions will - for the public safety - be held in deserts or out on the open sea.

That way, politicians won't be able to take cover amidst the innocent masses.
posted by troutfishing at 9:30 PM on May 26, 2004


clavdivs, I hope you were supplying that link to bolster my point rather than to answer my question, because the last story that even mentions the anthrax investigation is a year old, and the last one that focuses on it is from September 2002. I'm more curious than ever.
posted by languagehat at 8:19 AM on May 27, 2004


troutfishing: exactly, but not necessarily in the middle of Sahara or open sea which is an extremization done to prevent the majority of people from partecipating if they so wish ; if they wanna go directly to dem or rep convention, they still could , but not endangering others who don't care.

Of course one could held demos in cities while the politican chatter in some other place ; the media would have a good chance to show they're actually doing their work by covering both stories , because you know they usually say "I've covered the story" while they're just covering one side of the story. With two stories, congress held in place X and demo held in place Y they can't just say they covered both the event if they forget one place.
posted by elpapacito at 8:35 AM on May 27, 2004


LH, sometime in 2002, the skinny has it that the government told the media to back off the investigation.

thats all I know except for some autopsy aspects that show he suffered more damage then your average fall. Of course these were gleaned from open source material that i consider dubious at best but Wiley could have done it or knew how did it or that person supplying it to someone else. perhaps whom ever did it is dead and the case with it. Perhaps thats the way the powers that be want it and in this case I can hardly blame them. suffice it say, it is a spooky case.
posted by clavdivs at 9:58 AM on May 27, 2004


elpapacito - Think your idea, which is simultaneously very funny and very practical, deserves it's own movement.

clavdivs - In context my friend, in context! I also posted that "Military Coup of 2012" link. I'm not blithely trusting......

So, how about that anthrax case.

....and also, how many dead infectious disease researchers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
posted by troutfishing at 10:11 AM on May 27, 2004


the skinny has it that the government told the media to back off the investigation

As little as I respect our media in general, we do not (yet) live in a totalitarian state, and I don't believe the government could successfully "tell the media to back off." Sure, a lot of papers would be willing to go along, but all of them? On an issue that would sell so many papers? I can't see it. It seems more likely that the accumulation of Big Events since then, plus the lack of official word on the subject, have pushed it to the bottom of the heap. Short attention span may be even deadlier to an informed public than venality and subservience.

As for the conventions, I think Death Valley would be an appropriate venue in oh so many ways.
posted by languagehat at 11:45 AM on May 27, 2004


JFK told the media nothing then not to run the missle stories in 62' (ORTSAC, clever code word eh) Was he being Totalitarian? well, the tabloids could run a new story...opps forgot about that aspect. There is little to go on, plus that the strain was U.S. made is a touchy situation, i see no suprise in that.
posted by clavdivs at 3:58 PM on May 27, 2004


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