civil defense update
My lovely wife called me today about this story in the local paper: Prepare survival kit, U.S. urges/Recommendation comes days after an FBI advisory that al-Qaida is set to attack
We've actually been planning to lay in a couple days' worth of supplies anyway, although it's more a sensible precaustion against the vastly more likely prospect of a natural disaster (a blizzard, of course, seems the likely candidate these days). My wife, for example, expressed some skepticism that duct tape and plastic sheeting would be an adequate defense against a poison gas attack, and while I don't know, I would tend to agree.
It's hard to say exactly what the right course for the government is; as I've said before, I certainly fault the Bush Administration for failing to prevent the 9/11 attacks, despite the warnings that they initially claimed they didn't have. But despite the constant--and dishonest--effort for Bush to link his coveted war on Iraq with the war on terrorism, developments like this are a stark reminder what the most immediate threat to US security is--al Qaeda, of course. This warning also raises questions about the effiicacy of antiterrorism operations in general, especially given the enormous amount of attention the US is devoting to Iraq. US resources, while vast, are not infinite. Every intelligence analyst devoted to finding a justification for a US invasion of Iraq is one not devoted to nailing every last al Qaeda operative. And since the war against terrorism is primarily an intelligence game, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the Administration's obsession with Iraq is indeed distracting it from the mission it should be fighting.
Update: According to an interview with a Red Cross official I heard on NPR, plastic sheeting is effective against poisonous gas, if a room can be sealed in time. The official said the precautions recently urged by the government are similar to those the Red Cross advocates for people living near chemical plants and other potential hazards. So there you go.