No matter where you go today false illusions of security are in your face. In New York’s Grand Central Station, Paris’ Gare du Nord and Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof you are confronted with the black helmeted and Kevlar cossetted uniforms of the police and security services. The uniforms are complemented by assault rifles, automatic weapons and other bellicose gear. Occasionally they are enhanced by eager German shepherds straining at their leash. This is supposed to make you feel safe. Far from it, this instills fear in my heart.
This modern phenomenon has been replicated world-wide and to quote Cole Porter: “Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it.” And so, South Korea, Japan, Israel, Spain and even tiny Montenegro, population 650,000, all boast special anti-terrorist police units and forces. Their appearance with all their gear and weapons is awe inspiring and for me, frightening.
Keeping order in peace time is no longer the job for the local police – the police precinct down the street, the Irish cop on the beat. That role has been usurped by special elite units that are not answerable to the usual chain of civilian command authority, the governor, the mayor, the city council or the city manager. These forces while under the nominal control of local authorities, are controlled by the national government’s military security apparatus.
Ever since September 11, 2001 and more recently since the Nice terror attack and the Paris killings at the Stade de France and the Bataclan Theatre government security forces worldwide have become more visible, more assertive, more militarized. In the United States, they have been deployed for 15 years against terrorist forces that never seem to materialize. Internationally they have been used to justify the never-ending wars in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, while accomplishing little if anything at home.
In the United States since 1997 with the “1033 Program” the Department of Defense has transferred $5.1 billion dollars of military equipment to civilian law enforcement agencies. Last year the Department of Homeland Security supported local law enforcement with $1 billion dollars while the Department of Defense made an additional $449 million contribution.
Likewise, the European Union military and the defense departments are funding and equipping their special forces in response to the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism and the Additional Protocol of 2015. These measures are not funded by the cities of Paris, Rome or Podgorica, they are funded by national treasuries.
The present expenditure of money and resources reminds me of the Cold War and Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, the multi-billion-dollar Star Wars farce. The fear of the Soviet Union propelled the United States into a binge of defense related projects that far exceeded the actual threat that they were supposed avert. We had the Strategic Air Command, the Major Air Command and hundreds of other acronym designated entities doing all “kinds of mean, nasty, ugly things” at great expense while the Russians were doing their best to do the same.
This exercise in futility was designed to make us feel secure, to protect us from enemies real but mainly imaginary. Did it work, I ask. Had the Soviet Union been really intent on attacking and destroying the United States would it have engaged in the Cold War and the arms race? I say not.
If Nikita Khrushchev had wanted to start a nuclear war he would have smuggled nuclear devices and planted them in safe houses in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D. C. If Columbians can smuggle tons of cocaine into the United States, the NKVD could have done the same with a dozen bombs. If he had wanted a nuclear deterrent he would have done the same, a lot cheaper and far more efficient than intercontinental missiles subject to Star War defenses.
The point of the exercise was for Americans to feel secure and after all was said and done, billions of dollars and rubles spent, what was left? Not much. There are empty missile silos decaying all over the Great Plains, intercontinental ballistic missiles mothballed and in storage, B-52 Stratofortress bomber skeletons littering the Arizona desert and Air Force and Army bases waiting to be decommissioned and closed. We are witnessing a repeat of this exercise in futility.
The terrorist attacks on American soil to which the United States responded are quantifiable and measurable. Here is the tally that I come up with: New York and Washington D.C. on September 11, 2001 – 2,996 dead and 6,000 wounded; Ft Hood, Texas on September 11, 2005 – 13 dead and 31 wounded; Boston on April 15, 2013 – 3 dead and 264 wounded; Chattanooga July 16, 2015 – 5 dead and 2 wounded; San Bernardino on February 12, 2015 – 14 dead and 17 wounded; and Orlando, Florida – 49 dead and 53 wounded. There are another 20 some odd additional single and double death incidents which could possibly be attributed to terrorism for the period 2011-2016 for a total of 3,105 deaths.
If there are more and if there are some that I have missed call me out, prove me a liar, call me wrong. Post whatever facts and figures you have to prove me wrong on the comments page at the end of this article. I look forward to reading them.
Three thousand deaths are an obscene number, a number too large, but when considered in the context of 35,000 motor vehicle deaths a year the number pales, becomes insignificant. Yet in response to the 3,105 terrorist deaths the United States set up the Department of Homeland Security in 2001 with 240,000 employees and funded it with $716 billion dollars so far, a fair portion attributable to terrorist prevention programs.
Some will argue that the money and effort was well spent and that the proof of the pudding is that the United States suffered only 109 terrorist deaths since 2011. Don’t believe the false aphorism, that “you can’t prove a negative”. Evidence of absence is no evidence at all or more elegantly put “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”.
Should you continue to buy the party line that Homeland Security works and has delivered safety and security, I invite you to visit JFK airport and observe what actually goes on. Traffic lanes in front of the departure terminals are free-for-alls, with cars, vans and buses double, triple parked without a cop in sight. The arrival concourses are in the same chaotic state and it is easier to get inside the terminal using that access – it’s easier to get in while going out.
The actual preflight screening of departing passengers is done by Transportation Security Administration [TSA] agents, civil servants being paid $15.00 an hour. The minimum wage for a fast food worker in New York City will be $12 an hour starting January 1, what kind job performance do you expect for $15 an hour? You gets what you pays for.
As for the screening of incoming aliens by Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] I point to the 11 million undocumented illegals now in the United States. As for crisis management by FEMA after Hurricane Katrina remember George Bush’s comment to its Director “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job”.
Upon due reflection, it is for each us here or abroad, to decide if security measures taken in our name and paid for by our taxes are effective and necessary, worth the bother, loss of civil liberties and inconvenience.
Deyan Ranko Brashich is a contributor writing from New York. He is the author of Letters from America, Contrary Views and Dispatches. His contact and blog “Contrary Views” is at www.deyanbrashich.com