D.C. Held Hostage (By A Tractor?)

An unidentified man waves an American flag from the tractor he drove on the grounds near the Washington Monument, Monday, March 17, 2003, in Washington. Police were in a standoff with the man they said drove the tractor into the pond on the Washington Mall. AP

We were all awed by the power and expertise of the U.S. military last week. But if you live in Washington as I do that appreciation of the military may have been tempered by another thought: does the government have any idea of how to deal with a terrorist attack back home?

After watching Washington authorities deal with a farmer who drove his tractor into a shallow lake near the Washington Monument last week, I have to wonder.

As Tractor Man threatened to blow himself up with explosives and anyone with binoculars could tell he had none, he all but shut down a large part of the city for 48 hours. Traffic was tied up so badly that a hospital several miles away reported Fed Ex was unable to make deliveries and pick ups there.

Had Tractor Man been an escaped elephant he would have been shot with a tranquilizer dart and returned to the zoo in a matter of hours.

Yet dozens of emergency personnel wasted two days holding a dialogue with him. It was like the set up in a caper movie--thieves create a diversion, a fire or a wreck, and then steal the jewels while the cops are looking the other way.

You had to ask: Are our emergency personnel so poorly trained they would fall for the same trick during a terrorist attack?

Maybe we should forget that stuff about duct tape and those silly ads assuring us "the government is doing everything possible to protect us" and spend the money instead on realistic training and resources for our local authorities.

When one guy on a tractor can paralyze a big part of the nation's capitol for two days, we've got a problem.

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.