New terrorism alert

Just got this email from the US Embassy; a little more intense than usual:

PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT – WORLDWIDE CAUTION

This supersedes the Worldwide Caution dated April 21, 2003.
It is being issued to remind U.S. citizens of the
continuing threat of terrorist actions that may target U.S.
citizens, and to update these potential threats. The U.S.
Government remains deeply concerned about the security of
U.S. citizens overseas. U.S. citizens are cautioned to
maintain a high level of vigilance, to remain alert and to
take appropriate steps to increase their security
awareness. This Worldwide Caution expires on
January 26, 2004.

Tensions remaining from the recent events in Iraq may
increase the potential threat to U.S. citizens and
interests abroad, by terrorist and other groups. Terrorist
actions may include, but are not limited to, suicide
operations, hijackings, bombings or kidnappings. These may
also involve commercial aircraft. Other potential threats
include conventional weapons, such as explosive devices, or
non-conventional weapons, such as chemical or biological
agents. Terrorists do not distinguish between official and
civilian targets. These may include facilities where
American citizens and other foreigners congregate or visit,
including residential areas, clubs, restaurants, places of
worship, schools, hotels, outdoor recreation events or
resorts and beaches. U.S. citizens should remain in a
heightened state of personal security awareness when
attendance at such locations is unavoidable.

U.S. Government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened
state of alert. These facilities may temporarily close or
suspend public services from time to time to assess their
security posture. In those instances, U.S. embassies and
consulates will make every effort to provide emergency
services to U.S. citizens. Americans are urged to monitor
the local news and maintain contact with the nearest
American embassy or consulate.

______________

Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 7 Comments

The U.S. Government remains deeply concerned about the security of U.S. citizens overseas.

To me, that only says that Bush doesn’t know anything about the world other than a smattering of middle East and central Asia, as evidenced in this letter. Cosmopolitan Singapore, with orchids in the subway and nightclubs equalling those anywhere on earth, is most certainly not the epicenter of islamist terrorism, such as one might (ostensibly) find in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, hampering Bush’s efforts to lump (and have others lump) the world into two categories: USA and Terrorist. It’s moments like these that allow for the vague feeling of embarassment I feel when telling foreigners I’m American.

July 30, 2003 @ 6:56 am | Comment

There are lots of moments when I feel that way. OTOH, it’s understandable why they have to do this, strictly from a CYA standpoint.

About Singapore…. The last place I would have expected a terrorist attack is Bali, so why not Singapore? Actually, that’s what makes it terrorism at its most insidious, striking total innocents where it is the least expected….

July 30, 2003 @ 8:16 am | Comment

Strictly CYA. Or, to look at it even more cynically, an attempt to make Americans even more frightened of “Abroad” and encourage them to stay at home. I’m reminded of my SO’s sister, who had been planning a trip to France and Belgium this summer but cancelled it because she “feared for her life.”

Puh-leez.

July 30, 2003 @ 11:43 am | Comment

I’ll admit the government has often fostered unnecessary fears, but I can’t say that in this case it was an intentional deception. After all, the country doesn’t benefit from reduced travel; so what’s the government’s motive to intentionally instill such fears as you describe?

July 30, 2003 @ 1:08 pm | Comment

Well, the country DOES benefit if people decide to vacation in the U.S. instead of abroad.

But you’re right, there’s probably no conscious intent to get people to stay home. Although warnings like these may, however unintentionally, contribute to a general atmosphere of xenophobia.

July 30, 2003 @ 1:15 pm | Comment

I think this is a case of Bush looking at a map and marking the US in one color and labeling the rest of the world ‘lions and tigers and terrorists, oh my!’ It’s this attitude that allows for people (like your sister, vaara) to have this idea that if they step off of US soil, some (arab looking) guy will gun them down in the street.

That said, it is advisable to offer a warning like that to anyone going to or living in Algeria or Libya, but much less important to Americans in, say, Northern Russia. You do bring up a good point about the Bali nightclub bombing: sometimes things happen in places you wouldn’t expect it. But that is no reason to essentially cut off the rest of the world.

July 31, 2003 @ 12:11 am | Comment

Kit, I wouldn’t be quite so cynical. I suspect some messages were intercepted or some moles raised the red flag that Al Qaeda is planning something. Granted, the notice telling us all to “be vigilant” won’t make any difference, in the wake of 911 the government has little choice. Damned if you do (because it looks kind of silly) and damned if you don’t (because you’ll be blamed if another 911 occurs and you said nothing about the info you had warning about it in advance).

July 31, 2003 @ 7:16 am | Comment

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