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Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The Nuisance of Terrorism

The Bush campaign is attacking John Kerry this week for this quote in Sunday's New York Times:
"We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives but they're a nuisance."

Kerry also told the magazine, "As a former law enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you can continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life."
Bush says Kerry misunderstands the war on terror. The Kerry campaign notes that Bush himself said, just weeks ago, that the US could not win the war on terror. It's a "weapon of the weak" and is not likely ever to go away.

Bush's father's National Security Advisor seems to side with Kerry:
The Kerry campaign says [Brent] Scowcroft, in a speech to the U.S. Institute on Peace, posed the question, "Can we win the war on terrorism? Yes, I think we can," Scowcroft said, "in the sense that we can win the war on crime. There is going to be no peace treaty on the battleship Missouri in the war on terrorism, but we can break its back so that it is a horrible nuisance and not a paralyzing influence on our societies."
I've been in London before when particular Underground (subway) stations had to be evacuated because of bomb threats. People didn't panic -- and treated the entire issue like a nuisance.

Here's an excerpt from a British House of Commons debate from October 29, 1992:
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Michael Mates) : The Irish Government share our determination that terrorism will not prevail and we work closely with them to ensure that co-operation on the ground is close. Much has been achieved, but more needs to be done and will be done. Both Governments are committed to securing improvements wherever possible....

Mr. Molyneaux : Have the Irish Government given any undertakings to introduce legislation to control those of their citizens who illegally reopen closed frontier crossings, particularly on the north Monaghan-south Tyrone terrorist supply route into the United Kingdom?

Mr. Mates : We continue to have to face that problem. As far as I know, the Irish Government have no intention of legislating on it, but together we are trying to find ways of getting rid of that nuisance.
This is not such an uncommon thing to say in the context of terrorism.

Update: The Encarta on-line encyclopedia notes that prior to 9/11, terrorism was "traditionally regarded as a nuisance." Kerry is saying that he wants to crack down on terror so that it returns to that level. Doesn't Bush want that too? Do we want a world of constant vigilence and paranoia...forever? Hell, even the cold war had an end.

Kerry is clearly not saying that he wants to return to "mere" law and order treatment. After all, Kerry is the one talking about focusing on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda in Afghanistan and elsewhere and criticizing the diversion of special forces and intelligence assets to Iraq.

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