America continues to go about its business completely oblivious to the prospect of widespread social disruption posed by the Y2K millennium bug.

Out of sight, out of mind. Whoever it was that accused the U.S. media of being sensationalist ought to have his head examined. The American press is either asleep at the switch or is being deliberately manipulated into virtual silence over the threat of a breakdown in the cyber-infrastructure Jan. 1, 2000.

I say this not as a doomsayer or alarmist — just as an observer of some of the less-than-public activities of the U.S. government.

The U.S. Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem (how’s that for “government shorthand”?) has been quietly conducting Y2K hearings in recent months. Some of the testimony deserves attention.

On Oct. 2, Maj. General Edward Philbin, executive director of the National Guard Association, told the committee that he saw a vital military role in preserving order and managing emergencies beginning midnight, Dec. 31, 1999.

“It is increasingly evident that an appreciable part of the nation’s infrastructure could be adversely affected in some way by what is commonly referred to as the Y2K problem,” he said. “Considering the possibilities of a large-scale disruption of governmental, commercial and other routine daily activities, it is certain that the National Guard will be among the first organizations activated to assist in the revitalization of the nation’s computer dependent infrastructure.”

What’s all that mean? It means he’s expecting the National Guard to be called out to patrol the streets of America next New Year’s Eve. He’s expecting major utility breakdowns, panic and, perhaps, riots.

As a result, General Philbin is asking the Department of Defense and the federal government to develop a plan of attack — or, as he put it, “to determine the likely, locality specific scenarios that may arise in a Y2K situation.”

But he’s got a major concern. Might the National Guard also be crippled by the Y2K bug, and hindered in its ability to mobilize quickly and efficiently.

So, naturally, it’s going to cost you more — a lot more.

He also wants to know who’s going to be in charge when the silicon chips hit the fan.

“Equally important, we must determine how the National Guard will interact with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the DoD (Department of Defense) in response to Y2K-induced emergencies,” he said.

Well, general, the decision’s already been made by President Clinton. FEMA, one of his favorite agencies — run by some hand-picked Arkansas cop-cronies — will be in charge. Yes, it’s Fox Mulder’s worst nightmare come true. FEMA will coordinate the whole show, telling not only the National Guard what to do, where to go and how long to stay, but even commanding the generals in the Pentagon.

Philbin points out that the National Guard is an important component in the Pentagon’s “Total Force” mission of national defense. Any hope of America being able to fight a two-front war depends on the rapid mobilization of National Guard units, he rightly says. But what happens if America should become engaged militarily while in the midst of defending itself from the dreaded Y2K bug?

Think of it. What an opportunity for international mischief by characters like Saddam Hussein or rogue nations such as North Korea. Here’s a date-specific crisis that will, without question, divert significant American resources — military and otherwise — from even the possibility of foreign combat.

Perhaps even more importantly, I wonder what all this military involvement in civilian life will cost us all in freedom.

If no one else is interested in debating it, talking about it, warning of the threat, then I will.

Here we are, just a little more than 14 months from perhaps the biggest predictable calamity in human history — a disaster with ominous civil liberties implications, and the ACLU is nowhere in sight. The New York Times devotes more resources to covering so-called “hate crimes” than to researching what could be one of the biggest stories ever. We are on the brink of martial law and America still isn’t certain whether it should dump a known felon, liar, power abuser and sociopath at the helm of the nation’s executive branch, where he would become, on Jan. 1, 2000, a de facto dictator.

Beam me up!

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.