Q: Earlier this summer, there was talk that people were picking up chatter that reminded them of the summer before 9/11. The Germans basically said this is like pre-9/11. They said, “We are very worried.” What do you make of this?We have very strong indicators that Al Qaeda is planning to attack the West and is likely to [try to] attack, and we are pretty sure about that. We know some of the precursors from—
Well, they would like to come West, and they would like to come as far West as they can. What we don’t know is…if it’s going to be Mark Hosenball, and he’s coming in on Flight 727 out of Karachi, he’s stopping in Frankfurt, and he’s coming on through with his European Union passport, and he’s coming into New York, and he’s going to do something. I mean, we don’t have that kind of tactical detail. What we do have, though, is a couple of threads that indicate, you know, some very tactical stuff, and that's what—you know, that’s what you’re seeing bits and pieces of, and I really can’t go much more into it.
But this did not affect our threat level. We didn’t change our code.
We’re pretty high-threat right now. Until you know something that is going to make a difference, you know, you don’t necessarily change the threat level. What that does is really stir a lot of people up and get them ticked off, but it probably doesn’t accomplish very much.
And you don’t as of today see any particular reduction in that threat?It’s still there. It’s very serious, you know, and we’re watching it. We’re learning more all the time, but it’s still a very serious threat.
Last thing: Are we winning or losing the war on terrorism? This is a long war. People say, “What is this like?” I say it’s like the cold war in only two respects. Number one, there is a strong ideological content to it. Number two, it is going to be a long war. I’ll be dead before this one is over. We will probably lose a battle or two along the way. We have to prepare for that. Statistically, you can’t bat 1.000 forever, but we haven’t been hit for six years, [which is] no accident.
I will tell you this: We are better prepared today for the war on terror than at any time in our history. We have done an incredible amount of things since 9/11, across the board. Intelligence is better. They are sharing it better. We are taking the terrorists down. We are working with the allies very carefully. We are doing the strategic operational planning, going after every element in the terrorist life cycle. So we have come a long way. But these guys are smart. They are determined. They are patient. So over time we are going to lose a battle or two. We are going to get hit again, you know, but you’ve got to have the stick-to-itiveness or persistence to outlast it.
Now, compare the Admiral's assessent with this one from your run of the mill ideological hack from the lefty blogsphere, who isjust one of the many people in denial about terrorism. Glenn Greenwald claims that "fear of terrorism" has been "inflamed and exploited" by the Bush Administration for the purpose of gaining power:
Bush opponents must finally overcome the one weapon which has protected George Bush again and again: fear. Fear of terrorism is what the Administration has successfully inflamed and exploited for four years in order to justify its most extreme and even illegal actions undertaken in the name of fighting terrorism.
Let's discuss this from a psychiatric and psychological perspective since these are the terms used in the quote above.
This blogger is essentially arguing that-- instead of using a healthy and appropriate psychological defense called anticipation against terrorism and the Islamofascists (who most certainly want to kill us and destroy our society)--we should instead switch to a psychotic one, denial; and maintain that the only thing we have to fear is...President Bush. The latter is a defense mechanism called displacement that I have already discussed in an earlier post.
In fact, there is a strong element of paranoia here too. And a noticeable touch of both projection (ask yourself who is really desperate about getting and keeping power) and hysteria--though he thinks he can use it to describe normal people justifiably afraid of irrational fanatics not amenable to reason. The implication is that the only purpose such "fears" (deemed "inappropriate" by Greenwald's) are being manipulated must be to "justify illegal actions."
The basic tenor of his fear is easy to deduce: while we are fighting this illusory enemy, Bushitler has been amassing power and will soon set himself up as a dictator and destroy our freedom. I will let you decide who we have to fear more--the President of the United States or the religious fanatics of Islam who want to obtain nuclear weapons and have issued a religious fatwa justifying using them? Who do we have to fear more: those who are trying to prevent another 9/11 or those who would like nothing better than to do something even worse in our country?
Anticipation is the realistic anticipation of or planning for future discomfort. This defense mechanism includes goal-directed and even overly careful planning or worrying--depending on the situation. Anticipating realistic events such as death or illness or separation and loss; and then consciously utilizing personal insight and self awareness to mitigate the worse effects, if possible is the height of maturity and healthy psychological functioning.
Let me quote George Vaillant (page 71):
Anticipation involves realistic and affect-laden planning for future discomfort. [...] of all the mature defenses, anticipation rearranges outer and inner reality the least. Rather than use self-deception, anticipation spreads anxiety out over time. It involves the self-inoculation of taking one's affective pain in small, anticipatory doses....In the worlds of the psychoanalyst Heinz Hartmann, one of the pioneers of ego psychology, "The familiar function of anticipating the future, orienting our actions according to it and correctly relating means and ends to each other...is an ego function and, surely, an adaption process of the highest significance."
Most of us, like Scarlet O'Hara would prefer to "think about it tomorrow." Making a list of worries before embarking on a trip seems like a reasonable cognitive coping strategy. But nobody likes to worry; thus we "forget" to act on such advice. We would never miss planes or forget to floss our teeth if we had consciously pondered the unpleasant consequences in advance. Moreover, it is far easier to plan voluntarily for neutral events like plane trips and tooth decay than for affect-laden events like funerals and the real costs of war.
Anticipation, and the appropriate and realistic worry that an attack like 9/11--or even worse-- are the psychological factors that are protecting us, even as I write this post. President Bush and his administration by their actions have given the American people 6 years without an attack on the homeland (not that he will get any credit for it; and not that the left will credit the Patriot Act or even the increased surveillance of the NSA; or the actions of the military in Afghanistan or Iraq). To the political left, our safety is all a big mysterious and magical state of being independent of any actions to ensure it.
Or, as Greenwald and his clueless ilk prefer to imagine: we have been safe because of "fear-mongering" and that the threat/risk is overblown.
Of course it is. Until another 9/11 happens. Or until something worse occurs. Then they will be all over Bush and Company for lying to us about the threat and screaming, "WHY DIDN'T YOU PROTECT US?" like the little children they are.
Here is what Greenwals said about dealing with terrorism:
What must be emphasized is that one can protect against the threat of
terrorism with courage, calm and resolve – the attributes which have always
defined our nation as it has confronted other threats. Hysteria and fear-mongering are the opposite of strength. The strong remain rational and unafraid.
Excuse me? What does he think we have been doing? The courage, calm and resolve of both our President and our military forces has been inspiring. it is people like Greenwald and his friends who lack "resolve."
He talks about "hysteria and fear-mongering." What is it except hysteria and fear-mongering that motivates people to believe that the President of the United States intends to eliminate our most precious civil liberties and establish a fascist state? What is it except hysteria that can only focus on the daily death counts from Iraq, and not on the context of what our soldiers are dying for? What is it except hysteria that concludes the death of 3000 innocent Americans at the hands of religious fanatics in ONE DAY is nothing to be concerned about; but the death of 2500 professional soldiers in FOUR YEARS is enough to cut and run?
I would also like to point out to Mr. Greenwald, that the strong are rational and appropriately afraid. Because if they are not afraid, they will die. If they do not take steps to protect themselves, they will die. If they ignore for too long the threats amassing to kill them, even the strong will die.
I am not arguing that there should be a carte blanche given to the executive branch of government. But even the Founding Fathers understood that during a war is no time to be arguing like children about who gets to do what. The Constitution allows the president to assume powers and responsibilities that he otherwise would not even want. It is truly hysteria and fear-mongering that motivates Greenwald and people like him. Their hatred of Bush and Republicans knows no reason and it is impossible to convince them that we are not going to become a fascist state under George Bush--just as it was impossible to convince them that the fascist state run by Saddam represented a serious threat to the world.
I'm sure Greenwald trembles in his bed at night, waiting for the Bush Gestapo to come and take him away. I say this because, underneath all the posturing about civil rights and such, paranoid people are actually very fearful people who are desperately avoiding dealing with their fear; as are people in denial of reality.
Those of us who prefer to be proactive and anticipate for future attacks are the ones who are dealing directly--and appropriately-- with our fears.