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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, May 24, 2002

'Inevitable' attack threat raises questions

The Bush administration is mounting a full-court press to tell us that we'd better get used to the idea of another major terrorist attack, not to mention suicide bombings.

"The question is not if," said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, "but when, and where and how."

These warnings do not seem to be based on any intelligence that didn't exist prior to the report last week that President Bush had been briefed about the possibility of an al-Qaida airline hijacking before Sept. 11.

If they were helpful in increasing the nation's preparedness, that would be for the better. But there's actually little we can do to prepare for such vague threats.

So we worry that the administration's rhetoric might do more harm than good.

Rumsfeld sounded fatalistic when he said terrorists "inevitably" will get their hands on weapons of mass destruction. Similarly, the FBI director said suicide bombing are nearly impossible to stop: "I wish I could be more optimistic."

We fail to see how this kind of talk is helpful. Is this the rhetoric of defeatism, or is it a tactic to allow Attorney General John Ashcroft to advance his attack on civil rights?

Either way, it bodes ill.