How much of a threat is terrorism? How much should the average Joe be worried — and more importantly, how many tax dollars should he sacrifice? Is it really worth the $400 million the federal government spends per annum in counterterror programs? After all, an oft-quoted statistic states that more Americans die from slipping in their bathtub every year than have ever been killed in terrorist acts, and you don't see the FBI issuing arrest warrants for bars of soap.
Speaking seriously, it's worth every cent. That was made clear as sarin gas in a week when, as war loomed in Iraq, the threat of chemical and biological attacks was very much a Hot Zone topic. Not to mention the more conventional terrorist technique of using bullets. Last week's shooting of U.S. accountants in Pakistan — and who could be more harmless than an accountant? — was followed by the horrendous machine-gunning of 60 tourists in Luxor, Egypt. The Islamic militants were only trying to take hostages, of course — or so they say.
Back home, it seems new terrorist suspects face trial as fast as we can put them away. Take Terry Nichols, or the Unabomber (please). When a Harvard-educated Berkeley Professor starts to scribble "I intend to kill people" in his journal, you know we're all in a lot of trouble.
... and Babies
But in any time of great national insecurity, you can always count on Americans to pull together and obsess over a story filled with smiles. Such a placebo was the tale of the septuplets born to beaming Iowa couple Kenny and Bobbi McCaughey. How heartwarming — only three days old, and they've already accumulated more free gifts than a retiring ball player. At this rate, they'll have enough to pay off their combined college fees by, oh, 2015.