Friday, October 12, 2012

The State Department and the Other 9/11

    The State Department has taken some heat in the aftermath of the attacks on the US Consulate in Benghazi for not being better prepared for the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. by al-Qaida.  I have written extensively on this subject, including the lack of travel warnings regarding the 2012 anniversary (unlike the global alert in 2011) and even the downplaying the potential threats as media hype.  However, the State Department was not totally complacent in regards to the potential for September 11th violence.  The following Emergency Message appeared at the State Department's Overseas Security Advisory Council website on 9/10/12:
Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens: Santiago (Chile), Potential September 11th Violence
Riots/Civil Unrest
Western Hemisphere > Chile > Santiago
Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Potential September 11th Violence
U.S. Embassy Santiago, Chile
September 10, 2012 
September 11th marks the anniversary of Chile’s 1973 coup against the government of Salvador Allende, establishing military rule from 1973 - 1990 (led by General Augusto Pinochet, who died in 2006).  Each year the anniversary is marked by demonstrations, marches, and protests, usually in downtown Santiago near government buildings and some outlying communities of the Metropolitan Region.
Demonstrations could begin as early as noon on the 11th and are expected to continue into the evening.  As these demonstrations can turn violent, U.S. citizens should monitor the media for the latest information on the locations of the demonstrations and to avoid those areas.  The demonstrations will affect transportation services in some areas.
We wish to remind U.S. citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence.  U.S. citizens are therefore urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations.
    Somehow the 39th anniversary of the coup in Chile prompted an emergency warning (undoubtedly justified) to U.S. citizens about the potential for violence in Santiago, whereas the 11th anniversary of the worst single attack on the United States since Pearl Harbor was dismissed with "often times, these concerns [over anniversaries] are the result of increased media attention to the issue."  If Congress ends up calling Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify in the Benghazi investigation, a question or two about priorities would certainly be in order.

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