WWe all know that Washingtonians love a good photo op. It’s been said that the most dangerous place on Capitol Hill is the no-man’s-land between oncoming Senators and a newly staked out camera.

Fair enough.

But what the hell was "the government" thinking yesterday when it ran a strange replay of 9/11, complete with a jetliner and a fighter jet? For a photo op?

Excuse me, but what the hell kinda photo did they need? How much money went down the public relations drain for that glossy 8×10? Do we all get a copy of Air Force One’s understudy set against the backdrop of Lady Liberty?

We’re all paying for this bizarre glamour shot, after all.

Then there is the money authorities in NYC and NJ had to shell out to deal with the fallout of this cruel stunt–police, ambulances and firefighters all deployed to manage the masses of frightened folks pouring out of buildings, a.k.a. targets. All while we are in a financial crisis.

Funny, but this psychological slap in the face of fear-conditioned veterans of that terrible day happened at the same time as the media spent hour after hour on the Swine Flu.

A plane menacing Lower Manhattan. Deadly outbreak of a virus. Tami-Flu. Media in a frenzy. Fear.

These stories have, for the most part, pushed the story of torture and war criminality aside. At least, for the time being.

But we’ve been there. Done that. We’ve done the non-stop fear-factored programming. The images of planes hitting buildings on a constant loop. The anthrax attacks, which did not come from evil Arabs…but from the bosom of America’s insanely terrifying biological weapons program. Some vials went missing last week…but don’t worry, authorities say they may never have existed.

Remember the mysteriously disappearing SARS scare? And we all recall the year-plus obsession with Bird Flu and, not coincidentally, the rescuing of Rumsfeld’s stock in Gilead, the patent holder for Tami-Flu.

Look back for a second and think about the Whack-A-Mole game of fear we were playing, with a new scares popping up just as we were trying to smack down the last one to emerge.

Fear that justified the War on Terror. Illegal surveillance. Torture. Iraq. A stolen election. Financial crimes like we’ve never seen. The undoing of much of the Bill of Rights.

And yesterday, for a moment, there was the plane over NYC and a deadly virus competing for the media’s attention. We’d returned to our regularly scheduled programming.

Whiplash.

Thinking back to those crazed years, we must realize that, as a people, we share collective responsibility for what we allowed in the name of fear. TortureGate, and the need to put war criminals on trial, is our biggest test thus far. If war criminals can get a pass simply because they are "American," then we are not a nation of laws…we are a nation of cowards and hypocrites.

So, with Swine Flu is being called a pandemic. With Tami-Flu is back in the news, and flying off the shelves. With this media buzzard flying aroudn us, there are two ways we can go…return to our programming, and it’s called "programming" for a reason, or we can stay focused on re-booting our system and getting rid of the real virus–the fear-mongering and psyops that convince to do things we don’t allow others to do.

At the very least, write your member of Congress and demand a copy of that photo. You paid for it. And it will look nice on the wall of a duct-tape sealed, flu-proof safe room.