|The worst case scenario
By Alan Caruba
On May 9, President Bush signed the "National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive" that establishes a new national continuity coordinator whose job it is to make plans for "National Essential Functions" of all federal, state, local, territorial and tribal governments as well as private sector organizations that would, in a national emergency, continue to function under directives from the president's office.
Since paranoia is now the established frame of reference for all political discussions, the conservative media focused on whether Bush was planning to become a dictator in the event of a national emergency. All modern presidents, however, have issued comparable directives or executive orders. Bush is not the first to stare the physical destruction of America in the eye on a daily basis.
To my way of thinking the entire debate over the immigration law reforms misses the real and most immediate threat. Without secure borders and, most importantly, an aggressive program to identify those who are among us for the purpose of destroying the nation, no reform is of any value.
Recently, a reporter challenged the President, asking if he was still a credible messenger of the threat posed by al-Qaida. Bush replied he is because he reads the intelligence reports every day. Maybe he needs to tell us a lot more about what they are saying and what they predict.
Maybe what all Americans need is a lot more paranoia? Or have we already forgotten those New Jersey jihadists planning mass murder at Fort Dix? Or the jihadists who planned to blow up jet fuel tanks at JFK airport?
Paul L. Williams has written The Day of Islam: The Annihilation of America and the Western World ($25.00, Prometheus Books) in which he documents the near certainty that Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida has acquired the capacity to destroy American cities with nuclear devices. After reading it, one is inclined to believe that it is not a question of if this will occur, but when.
Right now, Americans may be unhappy with events in Iraq and eager to leave, but I think the shock and horror have 9/11 has long since worn off. We may be edgy over why bin Laden has not been captured and why the focus of our efforts have not been on destroying al-Qaida, but this is not a burning issue in the midst of the national debate about Iraq.
The United States, despite many attacks orchestrated by al-Qaida, remained largely indifferent to it in the decade leading up to 9/11. As Michael Scheurer, a former CIA operative in charge of the bin Laden file and author of Imperial Hubris, has written, "We found that he (bin Laden) and al-Qaida were involved in an extraordinary sophisticated and professional effort to acquire weapons of mass destruction—in this case, nuclear weapons, so by the end of 1996, it was clear that this was an organization unlike any other one we had ever seen."
In page after page of his book, Williams documents the events and the personalities involved in the process by which al-Qaida likely has nuclear weapons. The difference between our former adversary, the Soviet Union, and al-Qaida was that the Soviets were not driven by any religious belief that demanded our destruction. Al-Qaida's mission is to establish a global Islamic Caliphate and to do that, the destruction of America, Israel and the West is an essential element.
Indeed, bin Laden hasn't even made an effort to deny al-Qaida has nuclear capabilities. Two months after 9-11, he gave an interview in which he said, "If America uses chemical or nuclear weapons, then we may respond with chemical or nuclear weapons." When the Pakistani journalist asked how he obtained such weapons, bin Laden replied, "It is not difficult, not if you have contacts in Russia with other militant groups. They are available for $10 million and $20 million."
This was not just an idle threat, but the reality of how easily off-the-shelf nuclear weapons could be purchased from Russian sources. As for the money, the poppy fields of Afghanistan in 1997 produced enough raw opium to sweeten the coffers of al-Qaida and its affiliates to the tune of upwards of $16 billion a year. They are reputed to be the source of eighty percent of the heroin sold annually these days. Al-Qaida has long been established in South America, working closely with the drug cartels. The United States and Europe are major markets.
Just how easy would it be to smuggle small nuclear devices into the United States? Stephen Flynn, a senior fellow for national security studies at the US Council of Foreign Relations, has noted that, "The United States has 16,000 ships entering its ports every day. Adding in shipments by truck, train, or air freight, the total number of import shipments to the U.S. is 21.4 million tons a year." Less than three percent of ship containers are ever inspected and that includes those from the Middle East.
The U.S. is concerned that Iran is moving toward the acquisition of nuclear weapons capabilities, but Pakistan already has nukes of its own, and those nukes in the Russian arsenal that we haven't already spent billions to decommission are still said to be extraordinarily vulnerable to the black market in fissionable uranium and plutonium.
So, in the worst-case scenario that seems closer with every passing day, we could see New York, Washington, D.C., and other key cities destroyed. If that happens, the President's latest directive may prove meaningless and the plans that al-Qaida has been making for a very long time will come true.
Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. His book, "Right Answers: Separating Fact from Fantasy", is published by Merril Press. © Alan Caruba, June 2007