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Front Page » July 11, 2002 » Local News » Developing definition of homeland security in Carbon Coun...
Published 4,833 days ago

Developing definition of homeland security in Carbon County area

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Staff reporter

The way society deals with war, particularly on the home front, tends to vary from conflict to conflict. In World War I and WWII, the reactions of Americans were similar, with troops facing well-defined enemies and modes of battle. The Korean War, called a police action, started to blur the lines of what people in the American homeland would support. The cold war brought the home front closer to the war front, with the atom bomb being the main focus of attention. Vietnam became a conflict of attrition rather than a gaining ground war and one of the casualties of eventually became public opinion. Currently, the war against terrorism is being waged on all fronts and could explode in America's back yard.

On April 4, 1917, the United States Congress declared war against Germany and Austria-Hungary. The action made a conflict that had been relatively European in nature, the first global war in history. The declaration of war resulted despite the best efforts of President Woodrow Wilson and his advisers to avoid joining the conflict.

It was also the first time in American history that citizens began to worry about sabotage on U.S. soil from a truly foreign power since the war of Independence had been fought in the late 1700s.

The Spanish-American War at the turn of the 20th century and the incursion by Pancho Villa into New Mexico in 1916 where he burned the town of Columbus and killed 19 people, had brought mayhem on one front in terms of homeland violence. But actual sabotage or terrorism, had either not been substantial enough to enact any kind of national program or was just not thought of.

With the coming of World War I, the situation changed. The government and the people in the country knew they were fighting a foe which had allies within the United States, largely because of the numbers of immigrants from the adversarial Central Powers, as the countries of Germany and its supporters were known.

Not long after war was declared, everything that went wrong in the country was suspected of being an act of sabotage. At that time, no one was worried about germ warfare or atomic bombs which had not been invented, but acts of violence using bombs and possibly chemical attacks seemed a possibility.

One of the first suspected acts of Sabotage took place in eastern Utah.

In late June 1917, the Mammoth Dam located above Scofield suddenly failed, breaking almost completely apart in a few hours and sending torrents of water toward Carbon County communities. Most of the towns along the Price River suffered substantial damage due to the failure and at least two mining operations were put out of business for awhile. The flood also affected the rail lines in the canyon for a time.

Immediately after Mammoth broke, officials of the Price River Irrigation Company concluded that the dam had not failed on its own. They asked for an investigation into the collapse by government officials, claiming that the dam had been inspected the morning of the failure and everything was sound. It also occurred when the water was receding in the reservoir rather than increasing in volume.

"When regarded from the standpoint of powder or dynamite, the (first) reports of the blowing out of the dam seemed somewhat weird," said J.A. Hooper, the assistant secretary of the company at the time as was reported by The Sun newspaper in Price. "However, tuluol (a highly explosive petroleum product developed during this time) and another explosive which a spy might use would render the thought quite sensible. There would have been a possibility of inserting a small bit of exceptionally high explosive down the core wall, causing the break."

The president of the company, George Austin, called the Mammoth failure a "most mysterious occurrence." The community was up in arms not only due to the damage, but because of the possibility of spies in the midst of local society.

Within a few days, it was ascertained that the dam had a fatal flaw which caused the collapse. However, some residents in the area disputed the determination for years and continued to claim German agents caused the collapse.

If the situation sounds familiar, it should. Wartime causes hysteria and rumors to run rampant. Armed conflict breeds supposition and tends to make people distrust the individuals they have lived along side for years.

World War II was no better. In fact, saboteurs did create some damage in several laces, but most of it was minor, considering the scale of the war.

During the communist scare of the 1950s and beyond, the common U.S. citizen worried little about spies in the midst of the American public. But people were often shocked when the spies were found in high places, not destroying the equipment of defense as much as stealing America's war technologies.

After Sept. 11, 2001, the citizens of the country, however, are now engaged in a new war. The violent conflict may have started overseas, in a fashion, but the war is more threatening to the home land of the United States than any in the past.

The war against terrorism has the faces of the enemy painted on it, but those faces are constantly changing and not in any one place at any one time. They are, in a sense, fighting a guerilla war against Americans, within the boundaries of the United States.

The spectre of the twin towers burning and collapsing are burnt into the American psyche, but the reality of continued attacks, more likely smaller and wide spread across the land are what people fear the most.

The blowing up the Golden Gate Bridge for instance, while powerfully psychological in effect, would no where near compare in actual damage or fear with the bombing of a thousand restaurants over the period of a year in cities and towns across the land.

At the present time, the majority of the state and local planning models view terrorism as only a remote possibility in rural areas or individual, lower profile communities.

But the shootings at LAX International Airport on July 4, while not yet officially named a terrorist act, shows the kinds of things that could happen almost anywhere.

Local terrorism models have been created by a number of state agencies across the nation since the Sept. 11 attacks. The plans are part of the solution to preventing terrorist acts or for reacting to the incidents after the violent situations have occurred.

The nature of terrorism in the past is that the perpetrators look for visible targets where they can avoid detection before or after an attack. This has meant they have usually taken place in large cities at international events or places where many people gather.

But as has been proven in many countries, particularly in Israel, bombs on buses do not go unnoticed by the members of the community.

Terrorism may include actions that will not directly cause the death of anyone. The Sept. 11 attacks created not only fear by death and destruction, but also took a good-sized chunk out of the U.S. economy by the nature of the incidents.

Of grave concern to United States officials at present is the possibility of attacks designed to disrupt public services such as power, water supplies, public transportation and communications.

One of the main goals of terrorist is to convince citizens that their government, federal, state and local, cannot protect them from direct harm.

That is why homeland defense, in this war, will be very different from the past. It will require of citizens vigilance that was apparent during World War II when the media portrayed skulking characters with thick foreign accents in black hats blowing up oil refineries. At that time it was called the Homefront.

"One front and one battle where everyone in the United States, every man, woman and child is in action," said President Franklin Roosevelt during some of the darkest days of the war in April of 1942. "That front is right here at home, in our daily lives."

So the most important cog in countering terrorism is the viewpoint uttered by President Roosevelt 60 years ago. An informed and vigilant citizenry, of all ages, backgrounds and persuasions watching for the signs and planning for the worst.

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