When the warnings come
Another terrorist attack could be imminent, says the State Department — a warning we must take seriously, yet we remain helpless in our response.
The latest alert came after an attack on a Protestant church in Pakistan in which two Americans were killed. The warnings help remind us of the possibilities of terrorist attacks remain strong, any time and any where.
But that’s the problem with sounding the alarm. The State Department could offer no specifics on who, when, when, where or how. We can only wonder how we’re supposed to react.
Surely, anybody planning to travel to an unstable country must be aware of the potential hazards by now. The State Department’s concurrent warning on Yemen, saying there is credible evidence of planned attacks by associates of al-Qaida, couldn’t have caught any travelers by surprise.
So the repeated alerts are about as effective as the new color-coded sytem introduced last week by homeland security adviser Tom Ridge.
At the moment, the United States is considered to be on a yellow alert — precisely in the middle of the warning system. What does that mean to you and me? Caution, we suppose.
On the other hand, when would it ever be possible for this country to downgrade to a green alert, the lowest level on the color-coded system? If ever we were feeling secure and peaceful, it would have been on Sept. 10, 2001. And we all know what happened the next morning.
We’re not faulting the State Department and homeland security office for keeping us on our toes with frequent reminders of the potential for terrorism, although, frankly, as long as we have troops in Afghanistan those thoughts shouldn’t be far from our minds.
But at some point, perhaps years from now, we fear Americans will no longer pay much heed to vague warnings and alerts. That’s precisely when we’ll be most vulnerable.