Every time I seem to go on a long trip — this time to Muscat, Oman for a foreign policy conference — I get stuck in airports and surf the net looking for front organizations that neoconservatives and their fellow-traveling Jesse Helmsian pugnacious nationalists have set up.
I’ve just found one that gives me over-the-top creeps.
Visit www.FamilySecurityMatters.org — a site seemingly devoted to convincing a large cross-section of Americans that they must fear terrorism — really fear it, now — tomorrow — and in the many years to come. It’s high-fear exploitation of the worst kind candy-coated with slick pictures of mostly white women and their children (though I just found a graphic with an attractive Asian family on the site as well) in front of sparkly white picket fenced homes.
I understand that terrorism is serious, and I think America should deploy a multi-pronged strategy to curb terrorism, protect America and its citizens, and take serious steps to connect with the “audience” — the global silent majority — that terrorists are attempting to appeal to by exploiting various grievances held by people around the world. Shutting down terrorists doesn’t only require a military response — but it requires sophisticated and hard-headed diplomacy and outreach to steal from terrorists the applause they are dying for. This site, however, is designed to scare middle class, white, suburban America into accepting the high costs of a national security state.
FSM’s Board of Directors is packed with folks that populate dozens of other similar 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 non-profit and political activist organizations devoted to rigid and shrill national security prescriptions that if left unchecked would probably result in a cascading set of serious wars. Included on the board of “Family Security Matters” is television personality and research assistant in Richard Nixon’s last moments Monica Crowley, James DeGraffenreid who chairs Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, right wing media maven Laura Ingraham, the almost-but-not-quite Homeland Security Czar Bernard Kerik, Fox News military analyst Paul Vallely, China hawks of hawks Roger Robinson and Arthur Waldron, and of course — my favorite war-profiteer who on 9/11/2001 was the highest profile American to allege the probable involvement of Saddam Hussein in the terror attacks while not at the same time mentioning that he was Ahmed Chalabi’s lawyer and had obvious conflicts of interest — R. James Woolsey.
I know some of the other people on the board — particularly Joan Woodard of Sandia National Laboratories who has a steady hand and sober mind about these matters — and I find her presence on a board where the deck is so obviously stacked highly unlike her and Sandia. I hope after she reads this that she considers resigning.
Here is the text from the section of site for children — “It’s for Kids too — especially kids!” This really reads like something out of a Cold War era duck-under-your-school desk-when-the-nuclear-bomb-hits manual:
The danger from a terrorist attack is never more clear than when we look into the faces of our children. The 9/11 attacks showed all Americans exactly how much we can lose unless terrorism is prevented. Just as parents in the 1950’s found themselves forced to discuss the potential of nuclear war with their children, Americans must now find a way to explain to their families why people a world away want to cause such harm.
We must not frighten our children unnecessarily, but we cannot allow them to live in safe oblivion indefinitely. As long as the danger of terrorist attacks on American communities lingers, our children must know how to respond in an emergency.
As they get older, it is our responsibility to insure their education and civic awareness, in order to reduce the shock of an attack and to help foster a stronger nation. Eventually, they will be called upon to continue the struggle to defend American individuals and ideals in the face of foreign aggressors. By instilling a sense of civic responsibility and political awareness at an early age, they may help protect tomorrow what we have preserved today.
It is no longer possible to control the information that reaches our children’s eyes and ears. The same technology that helps them learn more subjects in less time than ever before also exposes them to frightening and unsettling images and ideas. It is essential that parents prepare themselves to discuss terrorism and extremism with their children in a factual, honest, and sensitive manner, to encourage awareness and participation without causing alarm or fostering hate.
To aid in this preparation, FSM has created this special “National Security is for Kids, Too” section for parents and educators. We have sources to help parents explain terrorism to their children in simple and appropriate terms. But we want FSM to be a resource to children as well and will always include educational and interactive features to help children learn about national security while understanding how they can make a difference in defending America. By educating our children about national security, we can prepare them for another unthinkable attack and cultivate a sense of civic responsibility that can last a lifetime.
And read this section designed to make those who don’t live in concentrated urban centers where a terrorism attack might be more likely feel the same sizzling fear that DC and New York City residents might feel:
As illustrated on 9/11, large cities have a certain appeal for terrorists. Places such as New York, Washington, Los Angeles, or Houston have large populations and symbolic buildings that increase the death toll and emotional impact of an attack. Additionally, if an attack by nuclear, chemical, or biological weapon rendered a large city uninhabitable, millions of refugees would need shelter, food and jobs in other areas of the country, perhaps for many years.
Other types of weapons, such as cyberterrorism or EMP attack, could eliminate the electricity, food, gas, and water supplies to massive portions of our nation. The economic toll of such displacement, job loss, infrastructure damage, and confidence erosion would be catastrophic.
There are other reasons why the rest of the United States cannot be complacent. Some locations are so sensitive that they are appealing targets for terrorists, no matter where they are placed. These include, among many other things, food production facilities, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and chemical plants. Other forms of terrorism, such as cyberterrorism or the use of a biological weapon, could spread damage and devastation over extremely large areas, quickly moving beyond the confines of a city.
Even if terrorists attack only a specific urban target, such as on 9/11, the repercussions could spread much farther. The immediate loss of public confidence could severely undermine America’s economy. Transportation, communication, and public health capabilities could be disrupted. In the event of a devastating attack, the American public could be so frightened as to demand government action on a scale that would drastically alter the traditional liberties and freedoms of every citizen in the United States.
The cumulative effect of these responses to a geographically limited terrorist attack could cause lasting changes in American society that may greatly diminish our national power and prestige and ultimately erode our entire system of laws and government.
This reminds me of my colleague Gregory Rodriguez who once wrote that after 9/11, people in Los Angeles had “rediscovered the beauty of low-density sprawl.” Rodriguez is right, and the “Family Security Matters” crowd is wrong and seems mostly intent on creating the political foundation for a national security state. They want folks who live in Missoula, Montana; Bartlesville, Oklahoma; Salina, Kansas; and Dubuque, Iowa to really worry that terrorists might be there to mess up their lives — any time, any moment.
This is disturbing manipulation, but it is also a manifestation of the seriousness and real brilliance of this movement. Progressives and moderates have nothing like the proliferating shell institutions of 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 organizations that neocons and islationist nationalists have in droves.
We need to read through these sites, understand the relationships between this organization and its allies — and learn from them.
— Steve Clemons
Ed Note: I am flying to Muscat, Oman and will be there until Wednesday night when I will fly back to Washington. TWN readers in Oman, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.