July 14, 2004
Liberty, Vigilance and the Writing on the Wall
by Maureen Farrell
In April, I wrote a piece entitled "Will the 2004 Election Be Called Off? Why Three Out of Four Experts Predict a Terrorist Attack by November." At the time, I wrestled with the headline, wondering if it might not be too provocative. Would the Bush administration actually try to cancel or postpone the election? And would the American people actually let them get away with thwarting their will yet again?
Ah, but just when a sense of fair-mindedness tugged at my better nature, I realized that, like a gingerbread man perched atop a fox's head, it’s best not to trust the beast that’s been taking us down the river (and up the proverbial creek) for the past three and a half years. And sure enough, just three months later, a trial balloon was sent forth.
Reiterating counterrorism officials' warnings of "'alarming' intelligence about a possible Qaeda strike inside the United States this fall," Monday’s issue of Newsweek reports that the Department of Homeland Security has asked the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel "to analyze what legal steps would be needed to permit the postponement of the election were an attack to take place." Or, as Buzzflash put it: "Bush Cartel Talks of Steps to Potentially Cancel (‘Postpone’) the Presidential Election: This is For Real Folks!"
Even President Abraham Lincoln, who suspended habeas corpus and took other extra legal measures during the Civil War, refused to tamper with the 1864 presidential election -- yet during a press conference last Thursday, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan traced the writing on the wall. "I don’t think anyone can make guarantees [that the elections will be held in November]," he said, adding, "But the full intention is to move forward and hold those elections." No guarantees? Though "the full intention" is to hold the elections? Why does this administration always act as if it is granting some sort of gift, while describing rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution?
At any rate, after responding "I don't think so" to the question, "Can the President today guarantee Americans that no terrorist attack can upset the U.S. elections this November, that they will go ahead as planned?" McClellan concluded his song and dance by saying, "These are threats that we need to take seriously, and that's why it's important to keep the American people informed" -- sounding eerily similar to John "be on the lookout" Ashcroft, whose recent nonspecific terror warning "completely blindsided" the Department of Homeland Security.
But, alas, when the media confronted the Attorney General (and at long last began to question this administration’s pattern of alarming the public without due cause), Ashcroft said, "We believe the public, like all of us, needs a reminder."
Why, yes. Of course.
Though a cynic might deduce that this administration’s game plan is to either scare the public into voting for Bush or, barring that, to simply cancel or manipulate the election, it’s important to remember that eternal vigilance is, in fact, the price of liberty. So, once again: Will the 2004 election be called off?
As surreal as this sounds, for the first time in the country’s history, it looks as if could be. Or it could be postponed, while the administration and media sell us God knows what.
With that in mind, here is a brief run down of statements experts, pundits and regular Joes have been making for months that suggest even more terror -- and more unconstitutional clampdowns -- may be headed our way:
1. "The ‘October surprise’ affecting the U.S. election will be . . . a major terror attack in the United States." -- William Safire, ("From Politics to Books, My 2004 Picks," New York Times, Dec. 31, 2003
2. "White House officials 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.’ And, he added, ‘it will happen here’. . . "From the White House, A Nightmare Scenario," U.S News and World Report, May 24, 2004
3. "[A] terrorist, massive, casualty-producing event somewhere in the Western world -- it may be in the United States of America -- [would cause] our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass, casualty-producing event." -- Gen. Tommy Franks, Cigar Aficionado interview, Dec. 2003 issue, as quoted in Newsmax, Nov. 21, 2003
4. "One incident, one aircraft hijacked, a ‘dirty nuke’ set off in a small town, may well prompt the Bush regime. . . to suspend national elections for a year while his government ensures stability." -- John Stanton and Wayne Madsen, "When the War Hits Home," Counterpunch, May 14, 2002
5. "Even before the bombings in Madrid, White House officials were worrying that terrorists might strike the United States before the November elections. Now, with the Socialists' surprise election victory in Spain, analysts believe the ballot box rebuke of one of President Bush's closest allies in the war in Iraq could embolden terrorists to try the same tactics in the United States to create fear and chaos." - "Officials Worry of Pre-Election Attack," USA Today, March 15, 2004
6. "Recently, I co-chaired a meeting hosted by CNBC of more than 200 senior business and government executives, many of whom are specialists in security and terrorism related issues. Almost three-quarters of them said it was likely the United States would see a major terrorist strike before the end of 2004. . . It was the sense of the group that such an attack was likely to generate additional support for President Bush." -- David J. Rothkopf, "Terrorist Logic: Disrupt the 2004 Election," the Washington Post, Nov. 21, 2003
7. "A plot to carry out a large-scale terror attack against the United States in the near future is being directed by Osama bin Laden and other top al Qaeda members, senior intelligence officials said Thursday. . . The planned attack is ‘an effort to disrupt the democratic process’ before November's elections, Ridge said." -- "Officials: Bin Laden guiding plots against U.S. Ridge: Terrorists' aim is to influence presidential vote," CNN, July 8, 2004
8. "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, Associated Press interview, as reported by CBS News, "FBI Chief Surveys Terror Horizon," March 25, 2004
9. "To prepare [for a pre-election terror attack] the administration has been holding secret antiterrorism drills to make sure top officials know what to do. ‘There was a sense,’ says one official involved in the drills, ‘of mass confusion on 9/11. Now we have a sense of order.’ 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. . . ’" -- U.S News and World Report (5/24/04)
10. "A delay in any election would create the appearance of fascism. You think the left has ammo now, wait till a delay in the election happened." – The Free Republic Web site, post #32, "Should the U.S have elections if attacked?" March 16, 2004
11. "[The author of Imperial Hubris] thinks it quite possible that another devastating strike against the US could come during the election campaign, not with the intention of changing the administration, as was the case in the Madrid bombing, but of keeping the same one in place. "I’m very sure they can't have a better administration for them than the one they have now,’ he said. ‘One way to keep the Republicans in power is to mount an attack that would rally the country around the president.’ -- "Bush Told He Is Playing Into Bin Laden’s Hands: Al-Qaida may 'reward' American president with strike aimed at keeping him in office, senior intelligence man says," The Guardian, June 19, 2004
12. "The Federal Bureau of Investigation has warned the Texas oil industry of potential attacks by Al Qaeda on pipelines and refineries near the time of the November presidential election, although it added that the information it had received was uncorroborated. -- "F.B.I. Warns Texas Oil Companies of Potential Terror Attack," the New York Times, March 25, 2004
13. "Do [the terrorists] bide their time and wait, or do they try to replicate their success in Spain here in America before our election? . . . Who do you think the terrorists would rather have in office in this country -- socialists like those in Spain as personified by John Kerry and his friends in the Democratic Party, or George W. Bush?" – Rush Limbaugh, on his radio show, soon after the Madrid train bombing, transcript no longer available
14. "[T]he timing of any future attack is now the subject of hallway conversations in the Pentagon and the West Wing and at diplomatic dinner parties, where current and former officials mingle. A highly unscientific survey of those conversations revealed a few common strands of logic among Bush and Kerry advisers. Few doubt that an attack would bring the country together behind the president, just as it did after 9/11." – David E. Sanger, "Damage Control: Calculating the Politics of Catastrophe," New York Times, May 2, 2004
15. "Terrorists, too, can see that hard-liners tend to win after terrorist attacks. So why would they want to help them win? Perhaps because terrorists see the attacks as a win-win. They can lash out against their perceived enemies and empower the hard-liners, who in turn empower them as terrorists. How? Hard-liners strike back more broadly, making it easier for terrorists as they attempt to justify their causes and their methods." -- David J. Rothkopf (11/21/03)
16. "Given our country's current state, it shouldn't be that hard to put two and two together. Why should the 2004 Election, universally hailed as the most important in a generation, occurring at a unique moment when the stakes could not be higher, somehow be immune to the trappings of history? Or from chicanery? . . . What evidence, in the three year old record of this administration, suggests that any action taken by this President would be anything other than assured, autocratic and conveniently self-serving, regardless of political skepticism or dissent?" – Dan Sullivan, "Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me," BuzzFlash, March 17, 2004
17. "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." – John Ashcroft, press conference, "Al Qaeda 90 Percent Ready to Attack on US Soil This Summer, Ashcroft Says," CNSNews.com May 26, 2004
18. "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 that there won't be another attack. But of course we are concerned about the election cycle." – Condoleezza Rice, "Aznar Warns of Attacks Preceding U.S. Election," The Washington Times, April 14, 2004
19. "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 "Al Qaeda’s Wish List," the New York Times, March 16, 2004
20. "If we are attacked before our election like Spain was, I am not so sure that we should go ahead with the election…We had better make plans now because it’s going to happen." -- Sean Hannity, March 16, 2004, transcript unavailable
21. "Just because Hannity says something doesn't make it right. The very thought of cancellation of elections is disgusting. It would be an insult to the American people . . . and it would undermine the core values of our great Republic." – The Free Republic, post #112, "Should the U.S have elections if attacked?" March 16, 2004
22. "U.S. counterterrorism officials are looking at an emergency proposal on the legal steps needed to postpone the November presidential election in case of an attack by al Qaeda, Newsweek reported on Sunday." -- "U.S. Mulling How to Delay Nov. Vote in Case of Attack," Reuters, July 11, 2004
23. "Should the US government cancel or postpone the November election if we are attacked?" No offense, but your trial balloon needs popping with a resounding HELL NO!" – The Free Republic, post #208, "Should the U.S have elections if attacked?" June 11, 2004
24. "U.S. officials have discussed the idea of postponing Election Day in the event of a terrorist attack on or about that day, a Homeland Security Department spokesman said Sunday. . ." -- "Officials discuss how to delay Election Day," CNN, July 11, 2004
25. "You see, the Bush Cartel could claim that they have solid information of an imminent attack and postpone the election because they don't want the terrorists to influence the outcome, because, they would argue, that would give a victory to the terrorists.
"Which is all another way of saying, the Republicans don't plan on yielding power under any circumstances, the will of the people be damned.
"Chilling beyond belief." -- BuzzFlash News Analysis, "Bush Cartel Talks of Steps to Potentially Cancel ("Postpone") the Presidential Election: This is For Real Folks!" BuzzFlash, July 12, 2004
Maureen Farrell is a writer and media consultant who specializes in helping other writers get television and radio exposure.
© Copyright 2004, Maureen Farrell