So after doing the "soft opening" thing for a couple of weeks, the government's "Terrorists Are Coming To Kill You, Part IV: The Reckoning," is ready for wide release! Yesterday the White House brought out its National Intelligence Estimate on the threat of terror. Guess what? We're all gonna die! How'd it happen? Basically, the continuing war in Iraq has provided a breeding ground for people who want to kill us. Meanwhile, over in Pakistan, the poor leadership of self-installed President Pervez Musharraf has allowed al-Qaeda there (as opposed to al-Qaeda in Iraq, who are also no slouches when it comes to blowing people up) to regain strength. Why are we hearing about this now? The Times has a theory!

The White House denied that the report was timed to the Senate debate. But the administration controls the timing of such releases and the truth is that fear of terrorism is the only shard remaining of Mr. Bush's justification for invading Iraq.

This administration has never hesitated to play on fear for political gain, starting with the first homeland security secretary, Tom Ridge, and his Popsicle-coded threat charts. It is a breathtakingly cynical ploy, but in the past it has worked to cow Democrats into silence, if not always submission, and herd Republicans back onto the party line.

Could this administration really be that cynical? Well, sure. But what if there's another motive? What if Michael Chertoff's gut is acting on the knowledge that there will be another terrorist attack on American soil and there's nothing we can do about it? Maybe they're just trying to cover their asses so that later on they can say, "Well, we told you so?"

Incompetence or prevarication? We don't hold a lot of faith in the Bush team, but these are two of the few things we think they can manage simultaneously. Maybe we will go crap our pants in fear now! And then shopping; mustn't forget to shop. Good for the economy, etc.

The Politics of Fear [NYT]