LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF WORLD WAR 3
By Avi Davis
Why is it these days, that I feel the footsteps of terror pounding dangerously close to home? Only ten days ago I traveled on the same bus - No. 841 - that exploded Monday in Hadera in Israel killing 14 people. Three months ago I rode on a bus in Jerusalem that two days later exploded in flames. Three days ago a gunman opened fire at my former university in Melbourne Australia, killing two students. In July, a gunman opened fire at Los Angeles International airport, the day after I had passed through exactly the same area of the terminal.
It is not because I am taking unusual risks or that I am a marked man. It is because terror is here. It is all around us and it is waiting.
Last year, soon after the bombings of the World Trade Center, a friend emailed me from Melbourne. He told me that in the light of what happened in New York, he feared to send his children to synagogue on the Jewish New Year. I chuckled to myself when I read what I thought to be extreme over anxiety. After-all, Melbourne is 1,000 miles closer to the South Pole than it is to New York
I am no longer laughing. The terrorist bombings in Bali, in which nearly 100 Australian holiday makers lost their lives, should make it clear to all of us that there are no citizens of Western aligned countries who are not open targets of terrorism. While the Australian mainland may not have been struck on October 12, no one who knows Bali can believe for a moment that it was not Australians the terrorists had in mind.
Yet if Australia must mourn then so should Lisbon Portugal, Reykjavik Iceland, Montreal Canada and San Diego, Chile. Because much like the sinking of the Lusitania in the First World War or the attack on Pearl Harbor in the Second, the Bali attack crossed a threshold bringing the free nations of the world into collision with forces whose perceived purposes are global debstabilization and destruction.
Despite this bitter reality, most of us have yet to appreciate terrorism as a truly global conflict verging on world war. But the methods and mechanics used successfully in one theater of the war are already being employed by others in another and assaults once considered unthinkable are gaining encouragement from terrorist successes elsewhere. But some observers are now making this point and doing it loudly.
Louis Anemone, the security chief of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Port Authority police chief Joseph Morris, returning from a visit to Israel announced this week that Israel-style bus bombings will occur in New York. This stuff is going to be imported over here, said Mr. Anemone. It already has, and I want people to sit up and take notice.
So too with both physical and psychological preparedness. Greg Evans, the director of the Center for the Study of Bio-terrorism and Emerging Infection at St. Louis University recently returned from Israel and reported in the St. Louis Post Dispatch that the US is woefully unprepared for a chemical or biological attack. Evans was particularly impressed with the Israelis' network of volunteers and the way hospitals have developed a disaster plan for conventional chemical and bio-terror attacks that is integrated with the army, police, emergency medical system and other area hospitals. Nothing like it, observes Evans, has appeared in the United States.
If this in the United States, a country that only a year ago suffered the most devastating terror assault in history, then what of the rest of the world? Anybody who wants to know the state of psychological preparedness elsewhere needs only read the Australian papers. There they will find evidence of shock that makes the reaction to the events of September 11, 2001 in the United States look like mild disapproval.
Evidence of the emergence of a truly global conflict streams in. Reports of bombings in the Philippines, in Kuwait and in Malaysia pepper our morning newspapers. Even as I write these words, I hear a report that Chechen rebels have commandeered a theater in Moscow with several hundred patrons inside threatening to destroy the building. The unnerving postscript to the story is rendered by a telephone call from within the theater.
The terrorists, says an alarmed captive, are wearing suicide belts. Those words can't help but ricochet around the world with a desperate, chilling familiarity.
Avi Davis is the senior fellow of the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies in Los Angeles