There has been much speculation and discussion concerning the future threat of terrorist attacks with weapons of mass destruction against Israel, Western Europe, and the United States. If terrorist groups have weapons of mass destruction we must take an objective look at all the potential targets of opportunity for an attack and the availability of these weapons.
“Terrorists have not only long memories, they have infinite patience. They certainly learn from their mistakes.” –Edith E. Flynn, professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University.
The conventional news media and our political leadership have been less than forthcoming on this issue, either to avoid a public panic or at government direction. Nevertheless, this question still must be asked. The 9/11 terrorist attacks on Washington and New York was an operation that took years of planning and was certainly not a one-time strike on America. Although Washington’s massive response in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as against terrorist cells around the world, does appear to have caught our enemies off guard, this reprieve will not last forever. Eventually they will react with a massive counter attack designed for maximum public effect, U.S. humiliation, and economic destruction.
To determine the target, we must first explore the probable goals of the anti-Western players in this conflict. While they can not hope to destroy the United States as the world’s only remaining superpower, they are obviously interested in replacing all the existing “moderate” Arab governments with fundamentalist, Islamic regimes. Their long-term objective is to topple the existing governments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Turkey, and replace them with fundamentalist Islamic governments that are anti-American and will cooperate in destroying the nation of Israel.
Neither Israel Nor Most of Europe Is A Probable Target
The Islamic fundamentalists goal is to unite the Moslem world. Therefore, it is unlikely that they would pursue a nuclear, biological, or chemical attack against Israel. There was some concern that Saddam would launch isolated attacks against Israel when invaded by the U.S., but this did not happen. Our intelligence turned out to be completely wrong about his military capabilities. Still, I believe there is little danger of a mass, unilateral attack against Israel by Arab terrorists for the following reasons:
A weapon of mass destruction attack against Israel, when they obtain the capability, would by its very nature kill many hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. This would hurt the support for their cause from other Arab nations and peoples. Moreover, an attack here would probably destroy or render unusable the Moslem holy sites in Jerusalem and on the West Bank. Killing a large number of the Jews in Israel, along with the Palestinians, is too high of a price to be paid for the immediate destruction of Israel. Plus, an attack against Israel would be counter productive due to Israel’s nuclear arsenal and stated intentions. Every Arab terrorist leader knows that if weapons of mass destruction are used against Israel and they suffer a massive loss of lives or are even defeated, then no nation in the Middle East will avoid a final Doomsday attack with total annihilation and ultimate destruction by nuclear weapons.
The opportune terrorist target certainly is not Western Europe, with the exception of the United Kingdom and the other few remaining European supporters of American foreign policy. Most of Europe is on the sidelines in the current conflict and due to oil or geo-political considerations often side with the Arab states regarding America’s Middle East policies. Therefore, with the exception of London, I do not feel Europe is at risk of a terrorist weapon of mass destruction attack.
Washington DC Is Not the Prime Target
The primary target of opportunity is not Washington D.C. either. Although home to many military installations and commands, national intelligence, and hundreds of thousands of politicians, lobbyists and bureaucrats, America’s military might and capabilities are far too widespread around the world for an attack on Washington to cripple our military. If they had the means to hit two targets in the U.S. at the same time with weapons of mass destruction, Washington could be the shared target, but this is unlikely.
The military power of the United States’ armed forces is such that terrorists can have little impact on our capability to wage war and retribution in the event of an attack. Yes, they could target Washington. Yes, they could destroy maybe an aircraft carrier task force. And yes, they could conceivably deliver a short-term tactical defeat against us if we proceed to occupy more nations in the Middle East, but they cannot hope to defeat us as a military power. As the Japanese learned with their attack on Pearl Harbor, and as bin Laden found out after 9/11, it is not a wise course of action to provoke the United States when we can target the enemy.
It is time to discuss a very taboo subject in the establishment press.
What is the next probable target of Osama bin Laden or other Islamic militant terrorists here in the United States? We have heard over and over again that they targeted the World Trade Center because this building was the symbol of American strength, pride, and capitalism. My first question is why the World Trade Center in New York City, and not the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty? What about the U.S. Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, the White House, the Super Dome filled with spectators, or San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge? Also, why did they not wait for the Salt Lake City Olympics broadcast on world-wide television, or bide their time until a national political convention where they could have taken out half the leading politicians of the Democrat or Republican Parties?
Why did Moslem terrorists twice target the World Trade Center? Surprisingly, with all the news articles, TV talking heads on the nightly programs, and pronouncements from politicians, there has been little discussion on why this particular target was chosen above all others. Have you considered just maybe there is a reason for the code of silence and blackout on all such discussions?
What if our politicians, Wall Street, and the media fear the real reason for the terrorist targeting of the World Trade Center Towers, but our establishment has decided not to go public and disclose the risk for fear of public and financial panic? Shouldn’t we know the truth so that the citizens of New York City, specifically those working in the financial district, can judge any future risk for themselves? What about American investors? Is fear of a market panic or a wholesale withdrawal from the U.S. markets and the dollar by foreign investors another reason why there has been little press coverage of the threat?
I fear the real target of both prior attacks was Wall Street and our financial system – not just some tall buildings. Could the terrorists have been trying both times to actually bring down the World Trade Center towers on the New York Stock Exchange and Wall Street? The answer could be yes. One thing is for sure-they were trying to disrupt the U.S. financial system and discover our countermeasures against this type of attack.
Those who do not want to explore this risk will claim that this is merely talk to generate panic. They will say that there is no risk of terrorist attacks to the financial markets. They will allege that our financial markets are immovable and invulnerable to such attacks. They will assure you not to worry about the terrorist risk to your portfolio, liquidity and retirement funds. Unfortunately, the experts have been wrong before.
“Well, don’t worry about it….It’s nothing.” — Lt. Kermit Tyler (Duty Officer of Shafter Information Center, Hawaii), upon being informed that Private Joseph Lockard had picked up a radar signal of what appeared to be at least 50 planes soaring toward Oahu at almost 180 miles per hour, December 7, 1941
Thanks to the repeated financial and news channel press reports during the 9/11 market closure, the location of the offsite back-up and record systems for Wall Street was revealed. I fear that terrorist networks could be in a position with a weapon of mass destruction to destroy the back-up systems as well as targeting Wall Street. This could be catastrophic to your investment records, liquidity, and portfolio values in the event of an attack.
Could the reason that no one is talking about the threat be that our politicians and the financial establishment really are deathly afraid of what could happen to the American stock and bond markets, the NYSE, NASDAQ, and the dollar, should this veiled threat become public knowledge? I feel the risk is certainly worth considering if you have the majority of your portfolio undiversified and only in the American dollar and US-based investments like stocks, bonds, mutual funds, US variable annuities, or insurance products.
It is entirely possible that if another terrorist attack took place against Wall Street or the Stock Exchange, financial panic and a substantial market meltdown would ensue. But like the earlier tech stocks collapse that finally ran its course, no one in authority is willing to warn the citizens of New York City or investors to be aware of the risk to their stock and dollar denominated investment holdings. Remember in the conventional investment business, no one ever says sell or cries fire even if the theatre is filled with smoke.
Now is the time for some straight answers for the citizens of New York City who have already suffered so much. What is the chance of a third attack on Manhattan with a weapon of mass destruction, and how many hundreds of thousands could die in this attack? Every investor deserves a realistic appraisal of the terrorist risk to his or her portfolio values. However, it will be up to you to do the research, since you will hear nothing from Wall Street or your financial professional until it is too late.
These are the tough questions that our politicians, Wall Street, and the media should be asking and planning for. This is their responsibility and if they fail to do their duty, then they should be held accountable when the attack comes. Their delay and hesitancy in confronting these risks are reason enough for Americans to consider some additional diversification of their portfolios into non-U.S. dollar and quality foreign equity investments. Still, rest assured most Americans will trust “the experts” until it is far too late. Maybe George Santayana had the vast majority of American investors in mind when he said, “People never believe in volcanoes until the lava actually overtakes them.”
The Primary Target of Opportunity Is Wall Street and America’s Financial Infrastructure
The terrorists understand America’s Achilles heel is the vulnerability of our financial markets. The 9/11 attack costing approximately $250,000 to organize destroyed up to $30 billion in property damage in New York City and caused a market panic destroying over $1 trillion in stock market valuations. It pushed many airlines in the U.S. and Europe to bankruptcy. When compared to an attack involving weapons of mass destruction, 9/11 would be considered a minor strike, yet even this created a serious global recession. Just as the last two attacks were on the World Trade Center, I believe a future WMD attack will also be directed against New York City. This center of our American stock and bond markets has already proven vulnerable to attack and impossible to defend against attacks of terrorism.
An attack with weapons of mass destruction on New York City would, by its nature and scope, also take out our back-up financial systems that would be crucial for surviving this type of attack. Now, thanks to the news coverage and short-sighted attempt to generate confidence in our financial system after the World Trade Center attack, the world knows that most of the back-up operational centers, crisis re-location, and records storage for the major U.S. banks and Wall Street investment firms are by necessity located within close proximity to Manhattan. These crisis centers are worthless without the trained personnel to run them and keep the firms operational, so they must be near enough to their present locations for the workers to get to the alternative working places. A successful attack with weapons of mass destruction would probably take out these sites thus destroying the stock markets, firms, and records for some indefinite period. While this is the real threat to the U.S. financial markets, there are other even more vengeful reasons for Islamic terrorists to strike New York City.
The high-density population in Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs means this type of weapon would generate the highest population kill ratio, in addition to taking out the guts of the U.S. financial infrastructure. They would consider most of the population deaths surrounding New York City as acceptable collateral damage due to demographic and political reasons relating to their goal of destroying the state of Israel.
We must also address the fact that most Islamic fundamentalists have extreme hatred for Israel and seek to destroy the State of Israel. However, as stated earlier, it would be counterproductive for these terrorists to target the nation of Israel for an attack due to the existing Moslem holy sights, massive Palestinian deaths, and the likely nuclear retribution by the Israeli armed forces. Remember the demographic breakdown in that region is around 5 million Jews in Israel, and its occupied territories, and close to 4 million Arabs.
Where is the next largest concentration of Jews in the world after Israel? New York City. With a population of almost 2 million Jews, this accounts for over 1/3 of the entire Jewish population in the United States. Therefore, Moslem extremists would view the prospect of wiping out much of New York City as a positive development. Not only would it decimate the U.S. financial markets but also the substantial American based Jewish financial and political support for Israel.
In other words, from the terrorists’ point of view, taking out Israel directly is a dangerous risk because of possible nuclear retaliation. On the other hand, taking out New York City destroys America’s investment markets, our financial infrastructure, and a substantial percentage of the Jewish population. The latter consequence in and of itself is important to them because with the strong Jewish population in New York City goes much of the American-based financial and political support for Israel.
Moreover, the government of Israel would have little to lose in nuking their Arab adversaries if the continuity of their tiny nation state ended due to extremist attack by deadly weapons of mass destruction where as it is doubtful if the United States would respond in a similar manner. While an outraged United States would go after the guilty parties and nations with nuclear weapons if New York City were destroyed, they probably would not attack the other Arab states not involved in the conflict. This might be an acceptable cost to the Islamic extremists.
The question at hand is do terrorists have weapons of mass destruction at the present time? I hope and pray the answer is no. The Jewish people and others have already suffered one holocaust in Europe from fanatics who believed in their evil cause. The Nazi’s believed the end justified the means and this is the same mindset of the Moslem terrorists in the world today. We must avoid and defend against the possibility of a terrorist attack using biological, nuclear, or chemical weapons of mass destruction on New York City.
Terrorist Attack Defense Options
What can we do to protect ourselves, both individually and our larger financial markets, from the risk and destruction of an attack? First, do not count on our intelligence services to warn us. It is apparent from the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, the attack on the Cole, the ’93 World Trade Center bombing, the cruise missile attacks on the Aspirin factory in the Sudan, as well as in the invasion of Afghanistan to get Osama, that U.S. intelligence has failed miserably in dealing with anti-Washington terrorist forces. Why should we have any confidence in them now?
Do not trust the federal government to warn you. No one really knows the amount of risk here and politicians will always do what they must to prevent panic in the streets and in the investment markets, or risk their chances for re-election. The public reaction to this threat could paralyze the already weak economy of New York City, as well as shatter the dollar and stock and bond markets. The government would never come out and warn of this possible threat to Wall Street and New York City anymore than a major investment brokerage firm would ever tell its clients to get out of the market because a bear market or crash was coming. A notice such as this could cause the market to crash so you must assume that no timely warning will ever be issued.
Many investment clients and readers of my books and articles have asked me over and over again: “why didn’t my broker tell me to sell my stocks at the top of the bull market? Why didn’t my investment advisor liquidate my stock portfolio near the top of the market and then go to cash? Why did the Wall Street establishment financial publications or the TV and financial news remain overly optimistic about a market turnaround on the NASD, which fell from 5,000 to under 1,500?” The simple answer is they will never tell you when to totally sell or get out of the market and nether will the same vested interests warn the citizens of NYC or stock market participants about the potential terrorist risks to their remaining savings and investment portfolios.
What is important to the political establishment is always the survival of the system, the markets and their own best interests, followed by us. Any politician that warns of this risk would forever be out of politics if they had the personal integrity and courage to give this warning and then nothing happened. Any investment firm that recommended all their investment clients to sell stocks and go to cash would be out of business if the crash did not occur, or forced out of business by the regulators for helping cause the crash if they were right. In other words, they would be damned if they did and damned if they didn’t, and thus they are in a no-win situation.
As the markets move up or down, the financial establishment and media constantly remain overly optimistic during the bull market phase. During the pullback or bear market they continually promise that an upturn is just around the corner. Thus, they prevent panic that might destroy the brokerage firm or do even more damage to the investment markets. All investors lose money in a major crash (except for the insiders) and misery loves company. In a crash or bear market, everyone looses but the financial firms and inside players. This type of outcome is certainly better for the industry than the alternative of a no-win situation where financial firms warn clients to get out and either the markets tank and the firms are blamed for starting the crash by the regulators or media or the crash doesn’t happen and the clients leave because they sold out of a market that continued to go up.
Our nation’s foreign policy of intervention around the world has undoubtedly helped cause the hatred leading up to the current conflict. But now is not the time to discuss our past mistakes or to cast blame. Do not allow pressure by the Washington politicians and financial elites to keep this important topic and threat blacklisted from the American public, or out of your mind as a potential threat to your wealth. I believe this threat to your portfolio and financial well being could well be the greatest risk to American investors since the Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression.