Last Wednesday something strange happened. The American population was instructed to panic. Place themselves, that is, on a state of highest vigilance. Some cataclysmic act of terrorism would happen – within hours. But nothing terrible happened. Something creepy did. On Thursday there was an inconspicuous news item. John M Poindexter had been appointed to head a new agency “to counter attacks on the US”, such as Wednesday’s no-show. It is equivalent, in British terms, to Jeffrey Archer being made chancellor of the exchequer.