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Red Alert 2016

It Doesn't Have to Be Like This, But...
January 2, 2004

Red Alert 2016
It Doesn't Have to Be Like This, But...

[The following is from the transcript of 250 Years of American History, a ten-hour documentary series broadcast in July, 2026 by Exile TV, a satellite channel run by U.S. citizens based in Mexico City]:

. . . For almost twelve years, 24 hours a day, fighter jets had been patrolling the skies over New York City. At twenty minutes after 9 pm on July 4, 2016, an Air Force jet suddenly dropped from its flight pattern, accelerated, and slammed into the base of the Freedom Tower. The Tower was at that time the world's tallest building and successor to the World Trade Center. In this amateur video, it can be seen to tremble for a few seconds after the impact, without collapsing.

The Tower had been closed for the holiday as a routine security measure, and that limited the number of fatalities to 27, including the pilot. This was less than one percent of the death toll experienced on the site in the September 11, 2001 tragedy, but it was the largest number killed on American soil by foreign attackers since that time.

And a foreign attack it was. The following day, the Fox/CNN News Network (now PATRIOT TV) obtained a videotape in which the jet's pilot, 1st Lt. Omar Carson, announced his reason for undertaking the suicide mission.

[Lt. Carson's image and voice]:

I was born Omar Khalaf in the city of Samarra, in Iraq. The United States invaded my country in March of 2003. I was 14 years old at the time, living with my family in Samarra. My father was an employee of the Ministry of Agriculture.

In July of 2004, American soldiers came to our house, and they took my father away. I did not see him again, and I never learned what became of him. Up to that point, I had avoided any contact with the resistance fighters, but soon after my father's disappearance, I joined and fought with them.

During that time, the Americans learned of my name from informers, so they went again to my house, but my mother and sisters did not know where I was and could not tell them. That night the soldiers took the decision to demolish our house. During the demolition, neither the soldiers nor my family members saw my 4-year-old sister run toward the house, where a wall fell on her and crushed her.

When I learned of this, I vowed to take my own revenge on the United States of America, in the names of my father and sister. I will not discuss how I managed to become high school student Omar Carson, a U.S. citizen born in Chicago, or how I became an Air Force lieutenant, except to say that this is indeed the land of opportunity for those willing to work hard. Tomorrow, on your Independence Day, I will take down your Freedom Tower, not at the behest of global terrorists, who are people I do not know, and not for Islam, which does not concern me, but to prove that your armies - those who took my father and sister - do not and cannot make you safe.

The government's response to the attack was swift - but, argued critics, it was also characteristically off-target.

[Image and voice of the Secretary of Homeland Security]: Those who have accused us in the past of "crying wolf" have now been proven very, very wrong. As of this hour, the United States and all of its installations abroad will return to Enhanced Red Terror Alert status.

[Voice of the Director of the Coalition Authority, accompanied by video of U.S. and Israeli tanks on maneuver]: Iraq's borders have been sealed until further notice. Coalition forces have quarantined Samarra, the terrorist's hometown, and are conducting house-to-house sweeps.

[Image and voice of the President]: Today, in a nation once again under attack, I am pleased to sign this bill merging the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Justice into a single Department of Homeland Defense. The Department's new motto inspires us all: "Embracing the Planet as Our Homeland."

At the end of a two-week investigation, a team of structural engineers came to a startling conclusion: The Freedom Tower could not be made "safely occupiable", and it would have to be demolished. With the world economy in crisis, the Tower had had a 60% vacancy rate at the time of the attack, so its demise was seen to make sense economically as well. History's most ambitious demolition project was scheduled, at the request of the Administration in Washington, for September 11, 2016. It was planned as a dramatic event that would galvanize the public and shake the country out of its malaise.

But the nation was in no mood for another terror spectacle. A quarter of a million American troops were stationed throughout the world - and at that point they were engaged in deadly combat in six Asian nations, as well as the Occupied Territories of Gaza, the West Bank, and Iraq. People had gradually become immune to Orange terror alerts, so the government had increasingly moved to Red alerts and, finally, had felt it necessary to create a new and very unpopular alert level called Enhanced Red Terror Status. In the process, the Bill of Rights was gradually being "transcended", in the Administration's terminology.

The economy was in its worst and most persistent downturn since the Great Depression eight decades before, and the government, stretched to the breaking point by the War on Terror, could offer little help to out-of-work and hungry citizens. Its only program addressing unemployment was the military draft. A record four and a half million Americans were locked in jails, prisons, and Homeland Detention Centers. The hapless Democratic Party was offering no convincing strategies for recovery, and was clearly incapable of mounting a serious challenge to the Republicans' sixteen-year grip on the White House.

A weary people could find consolation in one fact: Since the beginning of a decline in world oil production in 2007, Americans were considerably better off than people in other parts of the industrial world. The assured flow of oil from underexploited fields in Iraq and Central Asia had, according to many economists, justified the cost of military operations in that part of the globe. But plentiful oil could not begin to heal the many wounds that the War on Terror had opened.

On the night of September 10, several dozen square blocks of Lower Manhattan were evacuated, and at precisely 8:45 the next morning, a series of carefully timed explosions brought down the Freedom Tower. It slumped into a massive dust cloud - an eery replay of the Twin Towers' collapse fifteen years before. Small groups of people watched from distant rooftops. The television audience at that hour was small. Families of those killed in the attack grieved at home, in private. The dust cloud served chiefly as a backdrop for the Republican National Convention, which was meeting that week in New York, as it had in 2004, 2008, and 2012.

[Image and voice of Vice President Rice addressing the convention]: Once again a pall descends over this great city, and once again our nation hears the call of destiny, our people a call to heroism. This party pledges to strike at the root of the evil that has raised this cloud. Those who plotted this deed can run, but they cannot hide!

Despite saturation coverage by the media, a sullen public took little notice of the Tower's fall. By the weekend, the demolition was out of the headlines, replaced by the catastrophic Hurricane Kristi, which made landfall on the east coast of Florida on the night of the 12th.

All contents or structural materials of any value had been stripped from the Freedom Tower. With no search of the rubble required, cleanup was completed well before the November election . . .

Stan Cox lives in Salina, Kansas. He can be reached at:  t.stan@cox.net