Who Will Be Terrorized
by the Mock Terror Attack on New London?

Fr. Emmett Jarrett writes from New London, Connectucut: " Mock Terror Attacks have been staged in Denver (2001), Seattle and Chicago (2002) and are scheduled for New London, CT and somewhere in New Jersey this year. Ours is the week of April 4, the 37th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's martyrdom. That is a coincidence that I suspect eluded the Dept. of Homeland Terrorism. Attached is a position paper I wrote (with help from other signers) and that we distributed at the MLK parade this morning, and will speak from at a City Council meeting tomorrow night. I believe we are the first community to offer any significant resistance to these mock terror attacks (labelled TOPOFF for 'top officials,' we're number 3)."

We are deeply concerned about the forthcoming "mock terror attack" on New London, which will take place during the week of April 4, 2005. We are members of the Southeastern Connecticut Peace and Justice Network, and because of our concern, we have formed the Mock Terror Attack Task Force. We believe this exercise, which is being "sold" to the city leaders of New London as a training exercise for our community's First Responders in the event of a natural disaster or a chemical or biological attack, is in fact an exercise in terror itself: it terrorizes the citizens of New London.

We have enormous respect for the New London police, fire, and medical services. We know also from our own experience of their dedication, and their ability to meet the needs of our most endangered citizens, the homeless, the mentally ill and addicted, seniors. We are happy for them to have the highest level of training available to cope with the situations they experience every day, as well as to prepare for extraordinary circumstances. But we are not happy with a "mock terror attack," code named TOPOFF 3, for "top officials" involved.

There are two different sorts of questions we would like to raise with our fellow citizens and friends, including city officials and elected representatives on the City Council: about the process that led to New London's involvement in a mock terror attack, and about the wider issues of the "war on terror" and the creation of a climate of fear in our nation and our local community.

First, about the process: why the secrecy? We learned about the mock terror attack from a newspaper article in The Day on August 7, 2004. Andrew Ryan wrote that "in early April, terrorism will come to New London in a mock chemical attack, testing the region's response to a weapon of mass destruction and shining a rare world spotlight on the Whaling City." From the article we also learned that, far from a local training exercise for First Responders, the exercise will involve people throughout the region, Federal officials at the Cabinet level, and international observers. "The exercise will be so detailed that there will be hundreds of volunteer 'victims' that will be made up in moulage - fake injuries such as foaming mouths, missing limbs and sucking chest wounds - to test responders and local hospitals."

Several of us visited City Manager Richard Brown soon after reading the newspaper article, and learned from him that, while the City Council was informed of the exercise, there was no need to ask their permission to hold the mock terror attack. When we asked whether we and others from the local community could attend an announced "two day national seminar . . . August 25 and 26 with international experts and federal, state and local officials," at which representatives of local businesses, including Electric Boat and Pfizer would be present, we were told we could not. Attendance was on a "need to know basis." Why do ordinary citizens have no need to know about mock terror attacks on our city?

We do not think it extreme to suggest that people will be confused and upset by the appearance of "victims" on local streets and hospitals, and a profusion of local, state, and Federal officials. We have been unable to learn whether highways will be closed, or streets cordoned off, or exactly what manner of upset will be produced to test the "surge capacity" of Lawrence and Memorial Hospital. Mr. Brown assured us that the "mock terror" casualties have no effect on the work of the emergency room at L&M;, but how else would the hospital be "tested"?

What will be the effect on the emotional state of children in our public schools? What will be the effect on mentally ill persons in our population? What businesses will be affected? What areas of the city will be closed off during the exercise? All of these are questions we believe our fellow citizens will have, and for which we have been able to obtain no answers. Members of the City Council, as our elected representatives, have the responsibility to insure the safety of our families, so we are asking them for answers to these and other questions. If they have not been adequately informed about these matters, we would like to know why, and we think they would want to know also.

This exercise is the third in a series of such events, earlier ones having taken place in Seattle and Chicago, among other places. The railroad system in Seattle was "suspended" on May 12, 2002, as part of TOPOFF 2. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge described the event as "a five-day, full-scale exercise to measure and analyze a response to a terrorist attack. But . . . the attack is not real. It is simply a simulation." Also in Seattle, 68,000 notices were mailed to the local population to warn them of the exercise, and in Chicago flyers were printed and distributed in Arabic, Spanish and English. This does not seem to be a simple exercise to test the training of First Responders! Is the City Council planning to send an explanation of the mock terror attack upon them to all the citizens of New London?

This leads to a second set of questions, about the political implications of the event. We do not believe that evil people from somewhere else - mainly Muslims, mainly Arabs - are the real danger to our country. We do not agree that dangerous radicals from somewhere else "hate us because we are free." This "foreign threat" is being used to justify the greatest expansion in US government control of people's lives, reduction in civil liberties, and militarization of our economy and society in history. Our country was led into war against Iraq under false pretenses of Iraqi possession of weapons of mass destruction, involvement with al-Quaeda, and responsibility for the events of September 11, 2001. We are still engaged in an occupation of Iraq that stokes resentment of US foreign policy, which is the true source of terrorist actions. The United States, itself the greatest repository of biological and chemical weapons, sold them to Saddam Hussein when we thought he would use them against Kurds and Iranians.

We are, however, as much concerned with the domestic consequences of the "war on terror," of which the planned mock terror attack is an example. Such actions as we are about to experience in New London instill fear in our own people, train us to compliance with government decisions over which we have no democratic control, and divert much-needed funds from our own and other people's human needs. We do not believe for a moment that we can stop terrorism by terrorizing ourselves! We stop terrorism by behaving as responsible international partners with other peoples and nations. We encourage democracy abroad by practicing it at home, and respecting the decisions of other people's about their national aspirations.

Surely with the $16,000,000 budgeted for this exercise we could provide the training needed, and have a lot left over for housing, education, and job creation, which are desperate needs in our city and region. These are the genuine threats to our security as a people and a region. Who is being paid from this appropriation? Who profits from it? Are we allowing security to be defined not in terms of justice - right relationship - among the peoples of the world but the narrow commercial interests of corporations which are redefining the world in their own interests?

What will bring genuine security to our country and the world, to all the peoples of the world? Not mock terror attacks, not more and better weapons, not greater stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in the US. Genuine security comes from living as responsible citizens of the world, cooperating with others to bring peace and democracy to all. Real security comes from appropriating money not to make profits for the military-industrial complex but to meet community needs for all our citizens, all the children of the world. Work that is creative and useful produces income that is sufficient for a good life for everyone. Education that is available to all gives all the opportunity to grow and thrive together. Health care that is available to everyone, not only rich people, makes everyone more responsible citizens and careful citizens of our planet.

The question we pose is this: To what end will the mock terror attack disrupt our lives? Are we willingly providing a cover for the failed policies of our government? Are we continuing to believe the lie that terrorism happens because we are free? Are we being programmed to obey orders from on high? Will we be safer after the exercise than we are now?

We urge the City Council to cancel New London's participation in TOPOFF 3. The event is scheduled to begin on April 4, 2005 - the 37th anniversary of the murder of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., America's hero of nonviolent resistance. A year before he died, Dr. King identified the true enemies of American freedom: racism, poverty, and militarism. Mock terror attacks represent the triple evils King spoke of. When we identify evil as outside ourselves, and project it onto people of other religions and races, we keep alive the racism that has afflicted our country from its beginning. When we spend large sums of money on protecting the property of multinational corporations, leaving millions of our own citizens, as well as billions around the globe in poverty, we grind the faces of the poor. And when we use a military model for our national security, we place our hopes in a defense that has already proved incapable of protecting our true interests.

So we ask our elected representatives on the City Council to exercise local democracy and cancel the simulation aspect that involves the general public in a mock terror attack. Needed training exercises for first responders can be held in secure areas such as the Submarine Base or the Coast Guard Academy grounds.

The mock terror attack is an exercise in terror against our citizens. It promotes a climate of fear. Let us not be instruments of our own oppression. Let us, the citizens of New London, with our leaders if possible, but without them if necessary, make the week of April 4, 2005, a week in which we honor the memory of Martin Luther King, not a week filled with fear, but one that overflows with love and joy, the love we have for one another, and the joy of being free people who can say no to tyranny.

The Mock Terror Attack Task Force

Laura Burfoot      Fr. Emmett Jarrett, TSSF
Thomas Clark     Anne Scheibner
Rick Gaumer      Joanne Sheehan

15 January 2005
Martin Luther King Day

References: Andrew Ryan, "New London to take center stage during mock disaster," The Day, August 7, 2004, p. A1. Edward Walsh and John Mintz, "Huge Homeland Security Drill Planned," The Washington Post, May 5, 2003, p. A09.

Previous