Terrorism: An Emergency?

The September 11th terrorist attack on the World Trade Center will forever be in the minds of every American. It is a reality which tells us that it can happen again, anytime and anywhere. The impact of such act also tells us that it is something the government and the nation must pay attention to and be prepared for.
For many years now, terrorism is still an existent problem which gobbled up a substantial amount from the government resources. Not only that, but it also caused countless fatalities and destroyed properties. It has also put the government in an unsure position as to how it can be eliminated. The worsening situation regarding terrorism has the government taking up drastic steps for the nation’s security and considering it an emergency by which every nation must be prepared to face.
The Office of the Press Secretary of the United States (2007) announced about additional grant guidance and application kits for three grant programs (Port Security Grant Program (PSGP), Transit Security Grant Program (TSGP), and Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG)), which totaled to $827 million this year. According to Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security Secretary, the additional influx of federal dollars will be for the enhancement of security measures. Additionally, the money will enable the emergency managers to have more tools to “build on national preparedness goals.”

Allotment of these funds shows us how serious the prevention of terrorism is. The United States government will prioritize funding for training and public awareness campaigns, reducing the risks of improvised explosive devices and radiological, biological and chemical weapons, and securing transit systems. Moreover, grant funding will further improve the government’s emergency management capabilities.
According to the American National Red Cross (2001), there are many things which could happen after a terrorist attack which calls for emergency action. First is that there can be casualties and damages to properties such as buildings. Second is the involvement of the local, state and federal units due to the criminal nature of the event. Third is the possibility that the health and mental health resources can be strained or overwhelmed. Next, the prolonged existence of public fear, international implications and consequences and extensive media coverage. Fifth is the possibility of evacuation. And lastly, the clean-up which may take up very long.
With regards to weapons of mass destruction (WMD), Taylor (2000) analyzed the use of WMD as protective measure against terrorism. The author cited the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Act, which the U.S. Congress passed in 1996, and which requires the local and state governments to have access to equipment and training needed to fight against acts of terrorism. It involves access to the use of WMD such as chemical, radiological and biological. A large amount of money is funded for the program in order to train law enforcement and emergency response agencies in dealing with terrorist attacks.
Taylor (2000) added that the production of WMD might increase the number of casualties from terrorist attacks as the US population was vulnerable to such attacks. The Legionnaire’s disease alone, which struck American Legion conventioneers, tells us of the worst possible outcome of bioweapons. As this shows that the public can be attacked with these weapons, the enemies could use these for their terrorist attacks.
Weapons of mass destruction include chemical, radiological and biological weapons. Their effects could be enormous. Lives will be lost with the deployment of such dangerous weapons. And as terrorists have access to these weapons and more, they can use it to further their attacks, resulting to more and more casualties. This is clearly an emergency both ways because the 40 percent of terrorist attacks around the world is targeted at the United States despite the fact that the country has no quarrels with other countries.  The population is even more vulnerable to an attack using WMD.
According to John Bolton (2002), Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, there are risks in using WMD. The worst thing that could happen is when the weapons fall into the hands of terrorists. To prevent this from happening, a strategy called the New Strategic Framework was formed. Under the framework, defensive systems which aim to protect against missile attacks will be created, nonproliferation and counterproliferation measures will be enhanced, nuclear weapons will be reduced and cooperation with Russia to eliminate terrorism will be prioritized.
John Wolf, Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation (2002), added that these weapons of mass destruction are a threat to the United States forces around the world. The primary concern, according to Wolf, is protection and security from WMD. This entails some steps. First, there should be reduction and cessation of WMD production. The United States’ objective is to control and dispose excess materials of WMD. The second step is stopping Iran’s acquisition of these materials.
It is believed that Iran wants to improve and develop its WMD and missile programs. Third step is stopping the proliferation of nuclear and missile in and from South Asia. Wolf stated that approximately one million troops face off on the India-Pakistan border. Concerns were raised over the possibility that the WMD and missiles there might fall in the wrong hands.
Several actions are needed to be taken to prevent further proliferation of WMD and missiles. One is to make sure that the suppliers of WMD materials and missiles end their cooperation. Another is to ensure that security is at its maximum against WMD and missile proliferation. The effectiveness of the export control of the states should also be enhanced. They should also secure their WMD and missiles and help other states that do not have enough resources.
Terrorism is a rare phenomenon that must be put in perspective. Everyone knows that one attack using WMD can cause massive casualties. According to Pete du Pont (cited in Taylor, 2000), 15 terrorist incidents happen each year in the United States. Statistics also showed that approximately 42 Americans die while 115 are injured from international acts of terrorism since 1982. What the United States should do, Taylor noted, is to implement military restraint overseas but respond to terrorist incidents against U.S. targets.
Should there be a terrorist attack using WMD, there are three things that the government must address. First, responses of the government must minimize the injury and death and implement actions which prevent the public from harm. This means that the attack site should be isolated, the agent class is identified, exposure levels is evaluated and those who are exposed evacuated to facilities where they can be treated. The government must make sure that the individuals in the attack site cooperate with it (Taylor, 2000).
Second, evidence should be gathered which will be used for later prosecutions. This should be the primary concern of law enforcement officials. They should identify the attackers. Third is mitigation. How to prevent such incident from happening should be determined (Taylor, 2000).
The magnitude of these terrorist attacks and the use of WMD call for every emergency measures from both the state and local levels. One problem which hinders to the success of emergency management, according to Taylor (2000), is the difficulty of getting public support. Effective emergency management program will be the solution to the program, and this requires public support. The public should be educated about what they can do in case terrorist attacks happen. Additionally, they should be taught about the WMD and what they should do in each case.
Considering the effects of terrorism, and the things it can do to a country, it should be seen as an emergency alongside other types of disasters. This paper does not posit that terrorism should be prioritized over other disasters, but the government must also allot resources and actions to prevent or be ready in case it happens.
American National Red Cross. (2001). Terrorism: Preparing for the unexpected. Retrieved on December 16, 2007 from http://www.redcross.org/services/disaster/0,1082,0_589_,00.html
Bolton, John. (2002). The new strategic framework: A response to 21st century threats. U.S. Foreign Policy Agenda, 7, 2.
Office of the Press Secretary. (2007). DHS announces additional $260 million in supplemental grants funding. Retrieved on December 16, 2007 from the Homeland Security web site, http://www.dhs.gov/xnews/releases/pr_1187294574562.shtm
Taylor, Eric R. (2000). Are we prepared for terrorism using weapons of mass destruction? Government’s half measures. Policy Analysis, 387, 1-17.
Wolf, John. (2002). U.S. approaches to nonproliferation. U.S. Foreign Policy Agenda, 7, 2.

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New York University

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