Scuds vs. Spuds: Is the Potato Capital Next?

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I don’t know about you folks, but I love me some mashed potatoes. Love ’em. French fries, potato chips, loaded baked potatoes—you just can’t go wrong with potatoes. And it would be a horrible tragedy if our nation’s top potato-producing state suffered a devastating terrorist attack (okay, the same for any state, but come on, I’m trying to correlate potatoes and terrorism here). Now, why the hell would terrorists attack Idaho? Jews. They don’t want Jews to have their delicious potato latkes on Chanukah.
OK, not really. But a recent study churned out by the Department of Homeland Security seems to think that Idaho should stay on its toes. Its state capital was the only Western city to be placed in the top 10 most vulnerable “urban centers,” ranked among 132 cities according to some mathematical calculation. Boise – safely stuck inside the mainland with a population of 200,000 – was considered the 10th-most vulnerable city to a terrorist attack. The top five cities seemed logical enough: New Orleans, Louisiana; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Charleston, South Carolina; New York City; and Newark, New Jersey—all of which are big cities with exposed ports. But number 10 raised some eyebrows.
“Everybody was surprised,” said Charles McClure, a spokesman for the Boise Police Department. “Basically, we don’t understand how they arrived at that conclusion.”
Well, Charlie, allow me to explain. The score that determined the city’s vulnerability to terrorists relied on three separate factors: social demographics, natural hazards and infrastructure vulnerability (roads, bridges, tunnels, skyscrapers, etc.). It would appear that Boise, the “City of Trees,” has a high risk of wildfires and a huge dam 17 miles from town that could potentially fail. Lucky Peak Dam stretches 2,340 feet long and a towering 340 feet high. Behind these 12 miles of concrete sit 300,000 acre-feet of water (an acre-foot is the volume of one acre of surface area to one foot in depth). Yikes. A lot of people and potatoes would be lost if that dam were breached or blown up. It’s possible that it could wipe out the entire town of Boise.
Cities ranked for vulnerability receive different danger-level color codes: green for low, yellow for medium and red for high. A strip of red cities runs up the east coast from Houston to New York, including Charlotte, Columbia, Raleigh/Durham and Charleston. Cities in the west and north are primarily yellow or green. Los Angeles was marked yellow.
“That dam could be a very likely target,” stated researcher Walter W. Piegorsch, a mathematics professor at the University of Arizona and co-author of “Benchmark Analysis for Quantifying Urban Vulnerability to Terrorist Incidents.” “You can’t predict the next [terrorist attack]. That’s why it’s terrorism. But you can predict vulnerability.”
I think the calculations are lacking. The World Trade Center was attacked not only because New York sits on the open coast with a high population, but also because the WTC was an important building and an international symbol. By destroying one of the centers of international business, al-Qaeda proved that it could injure the entire world with one attack. What is there to destroy in Idaho that serves as a symbol of the United States or of mankind?
Of course, terrorists delight in murdering “infidels,” and they must see that dam above Boise as a big red button waiting to be pushed. God forbid that Lucky Peak Dam breaks, but if it does, Boise can probably put its head between its legs and kiss its ass goodbye. It’ll be another day marked in infamy due to the staggering amount of lives lost, but the symbolism won’t be as great as 9/11.
I can’t claim to know where or when the next terrorist attack will be. Whether it’s Boise, Boston, San Francisco or Derry, it doesn’t really matter. As long as there are radical Muslim extremists, the United States – the entire world, for that matter – will always be in danger. In a more comparative sense, I don’t really think that Idaho is in danger. It’s on the mainland, there are no significant monuments (to my knowledge) and it’s a very rural state. If the terrorists ever acquire the means to carry out attacks on the United States at their leisure, then, yes, Boise would be in a considerable amount of danger. But let’s hope we stick it to that ignorant flock of sheep that has corrupted Islam before the bastards have the chance to snipe at us again.

AE Anteater is a second-year English major. He can be reached at emailremoved@uci.edu.

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