After British authorities announced last week that a new terrorist plot had been uncovered, officials in the U.S. and Britain raised their threat alerts to the highest level, ramping up airline passenger and luggage searches. The British government said 21 people had been arrested, including the alleged ringleaders.

On the eve of the five-year anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001 — a tragedy that cost thousands of lives — it is clear such reports must be taken with the utmost seriousness.

However, the Bush administration is also obviously using the reports for its own purposes. President Bush learned about the situation in detail on Aug. 5. Three days later, Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman — one of the strongest supporters of the administration’s war in Iraq — was soundly defeated by antiwar candidate Ned Lamont in that state’s Democratic primary.

The administration responded by blasting Democrats as “soft on terror,” knowing full well what the public didn’t yet — that the British reports were soon to hit the news.

This is far from the first time the administration has used reports of impending threats and the resulting heightened alert status to boost its political fortunes.

The real question, though, is how to eliminate terrorist attacks once and for all. That won’t be done by denouncing those who oppose the administration’s policy in Iraq and elsewhere around the globe, or by stepping up military and surveillance measures.

Rather, it will require a fundamental shift away from the extreme right corporate drive to dominate and exploit the rest of the world, and toward working together to end war, poverty, hunger and disease.

To eliminate acts of terror, whether their origin is individual, group or state, start by ending one of the greatest acts of state terrorism — the war and occupation of Iraq. Stop the barrage of threats against Iran, Syria, North Korea. Insist on a complete cease-fire and Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon and a viable two-state solution in Israel and Palestine. Start the process of complete worldwide nuclear disarmament. Use the resources of the world’s richest country to lead the attack on hunger, poverty and disease.

These are real steps to end terrorism.