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Let's say we're expected to get three feet of snow in the next 12 hours. I'd expect the government (or at the very least, a TV weatherman who has spoken to the proper authorities) to warn me so I could prepare for it. The government's next responsibility is to plow streets so I can get out of my driveway and emergency personnel can use the streets. However, their responsibility ends there.

But let's say we're expected to get a terrorist attack in the next 12 days. Our government has some ridiculous color-coded terrorist warning chart to help people understand what's going on. Thanks a ton, but a five-day forecast doesn't shovel the walk.

They're not doing anything to help me out here.

Basically, the government gives me enough information so I know I need to clear my driveway, but they're not plowing my street, or the nearby cross streets, and I have to wonder whether the turnpikes have even been touched yet at all. So if I can even get out of the driveway, I'm going to be stuck. Which leaves me to sit and yell at the snow.

It's been a year-and-a-half since Sept. 11, 2001, and somehow it doesn't feel like we're any safer, any more protected than we were the day after that happened. In the meantime, the Bush Administration is trying to provoke Saddam Hussein into committing a diplomatic blunder so we can bomb Bagdad. And our flank is being exposed.

For months, the Administration has been promoting the notion that bin Laden and Saddam are somehow connected -- and in their eyes, why not? They're both Muslim, they both have facial hair, neither of them seems particularly pleasant. But in a ridiculous, utterly transparent display by Colin Powell -- who ought to know better -- the fact that bin Laden mentions Iraq is evidence that Iraq should be bombed. (And let's just forget all about the fact we missed our chance to kill a sickly, bearded terrorist who fled through the desert while hooked up to kidney machines.)

This is like realizing your next-door neighbor knows someone who might have sold drugs to your kids and killing your neighbor in defiance. It's the kind of thing James Bond villains do -- kill the hero's friend to show that he really means business. Of course, the Administration would probably say that as one person, bin Laden isn't that important (as they have intimated on multiple occasions in the last several months), but that raises the question as to why Saddam, as one man, is just as important? Or rather, why is he so important as to justify bombing thousands of people to kill one person? Hello? Room service?

Besides, if there was one person to try to bomb indiscriminately, it was Osama. Kill 10 of Osama's followers in an attempt to get Osama, and that's 10 people with the same bankrupt, disgusting philosophy who are dead. Kill 10 random people in Baghdad, and you've killed 10 random people in Baghdad, of which eight or nine probably hate Saddam anyway.

While all this goes on, we get these faux-warnings telling us to "be alert," someone mentions something about needing three days of provisions, and entire supermarkets in Iowa are now out of milk and bread. We can see that other people are alert -- more cops in train stations, that kind of thing -- but we don't know what they know. And some people act like panicked veal.

When it comes to being alert, I know enough to avoid bad neighborhoods, not to swing my wallet around at the ATM machine, that kind of thing. I know how to get in my car in a parking garage lest a robber come. But it's not much help to me if I'm glancing around my car when a guy is planting dynamite under the parking garage.

A motivated terrorist with a bomb isn't someone I can take myself -- which is why it's somebody's job to make sure the airports, borders, subways, roads, buildings and other such areas are fully secure. That means they take security measures that involve inspecting packages, looking closely at identifications, and providing enough police presence to make people feel more secure. Some of this is happening, as evidenced in the soldiers positioned in downtown Manhattan that are sporting chemical hoods on their belts and submachine guns.

But that's downtown -- the rest of America gets these warnings which seem designed mostly to create fear amongst the citizens of the country and provide an excuse, should something happen, that the government did know -- and yet now somehow the onus is on us because we weren't "alert" enough. "Yes, 500 people are dead, but didn't you know? We turned the color chart to purple horseshoe this morning, you dolts!"

Hence, we have "Operation Enduring Stupidity," where we prepare to bomb indiscriminately and put together plans to protect ourselves from launched missiles while Americans wander around their homes in a stupor, duct taping the windows together.

I can accept, to some extent, that the first time we just weren't prepared for such a terrible attack. But the FBI, CIA and other agencies, none of whom have seen fit to fire anyone of consequence, still have some explaining to do. And if it happens again, the onus for the lack of security shifts to us -- since the government warned us.

A smart friend said to me once -- and I'm going to modify the statement, as it's still true -- that when the day comes, and there's another horrible terrorist attack against American because of a security breach, my last dying breath is going to be expended by looking at the nearest Administration supporter and yelling, "I told you so."


David Gaffen, Mr. Know-It-All, has lived in six New York neighborhoods in six years. During that time, he has never once lost an argument with his television.