Editorial, Opinion

EDIT: Should we be as afraid as we’re told to be?

In light of the opening games of the 2014 Winter Olympics today, CNN and Opinion Research Corporation conducted a poll this weekend asking if Americans were fearful of a terrorist attack during the Sochi Olympic games. Now, did we really need a poll to answer that question?

According to the poll, 57 percent of Americans reported they feel an attack on the Sochi Games is likely. This compares to 51 percent who believed there was going to be a terrorist attack at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. And unfortunately, that 51 percent was right. But did anyone think to conduct such a poll before the Boston Marathon? More importantly, would this poll even have been conducted and publicized if the 2014 Winter Olympic Games were in, say, Switzerland?

Given that 55 percent of Americans reported in the same poll that they have an unfavorable view of Russia, it makes sense many are wary of sending our most talented athletes to Sochi.

Recent news surrounding the city hasn’t helped our nerves either. On Monday, The Austrian Olympic Committee received and anonymous letter threatening to kidnap Alpine skier Bernadette Schild and skeleton pilot Janine Flock during the Sochi Games.On Tuesday, U.S. officials reported they have specific reasons to worry about the security in Sochi.

In light of the Games, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Matthew Olsen said, the National Security Agency is being particularly wary of Imarat Kavkaz, one of the most prominent terrorist groups in Russia. Not disclosing specific details of the threat, Olsen said, “We think the greater danger from a terrorist perspective is in potential for attacks to occur outside of the actual venues for the Games themselves in the area surrounding Sochi or outside of Sochi in the region.”

On Wednesday night, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said The United States warned airlines with direct flights to Russia of explosives possibly being concealed in toothpaste or cosmetic tubes. So, the parameters of a possible attack “outside of Sochi in the region,” that Olsen provided us with on Monday extends pretty far — even as far as our toothpaste tubes.

Although U.S. law enforcement has emphasized that this warning was not sparked by any specific threat to the U.S., they did say notice was based on new, credible intelligence information. These American security concerns for the Games were probably heightened when a suicide bomber struck a busy railway station and killed 16 people in Southern Russia in December. This wariness could have also stemmed from when Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov called for attacks against civilians during the Sochi games. Or, perhaps, 9/11?

America’s inherent sense of xenophobia has not stemmed from an unreasonable place. It goes without saying that our experiences since 9/11 have made us wary towards other countries. The attacks engrained these fears in us, and the Boston Marathon reiterated them. Yet no matter how much the media can sensationalize the warnings, we can never be prepared.

The warnings about a possible terror attack in Russia are quite reminiscent of those we received in early August from the Obama administration. This Global Terror Warning warned of an imminent Al-Qaeda terror attack that could happen at any moment, anywhere, at anytime – between that Monday and Saturday.

As Stephen Colbert satirically said on the Global Terror Warning, “Yes, it is important to remain abundantly cautious — until Saturday. Because after that the terrorists would have to rebook their flights … plus they’d have to take off work again, reschedule the babysitter — it’s a nightmare.”

Thanks for the warning, Obama.

If a bombing is going to happen, it is going to happen, regardless if people expected it or not. No matter how thick Putin’s Iron Ring around Sochi is during the Games, no one can predict when the Adam Lanzas, the James Holmes and even the Dzhokhar Tsarnaevs of the world will act out. Caution just instills fear.

As grim and barren as it may sound, no matter where we are, whether it be a movie theatre, elementary school or international event, our safety is always threatened — but that doesn’t mean this is something we should always actively worry about. And the fact people continue to talk about how a terrorist attack “might happen,” just reiterates the fear in our minds.

So, stop taking polls, CNN and ORC, and let us keep this fear hidden away in the back of our minds and leave it to the NSA to deal with the logistics.



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