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Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Monday | May 19, 2003

The war on terror

As spring turns into summer, we find ourselves trying to run Iraq while hunt for Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network. Yet, at the same time, we remain unable to respond effectively to threats. Last week's anti-terrorism drills results remain classified, but the complaints about lack of preparedness will soon filter up.

Then there is the battle over anti-terrorism funding. Much of it was really going to be used as political payoffs, with New York being shortchanged for places in the South and West.

How do we fix this? Well, we first have to understand what the problem is. The Bush Administration is run by inflexible ideologues, people who have no clue as to how their ideas conflict with reality. Iraq is the perfect example of this. The refusal to fund first responders adequately, another. They refuse to commit this country to a set course of action. They dither around, sacrifice the lives of our allies and refuse to admit they are on an unsure course of action.

We cannot afford a rift with either Germany or France. It is a luxury which we cannot accept or tolerate. They are not people we bribe or deal with in convience, but out allies who share our interests, treating them with contempt is a grave threat to our security. We cannot undermine the economic stability of these countries in a fit of pique.

It was a grave mistake to not call for some sacrifice on the part of the populace after 9/11. Trying to keep a sense of normalcy failed. Now we exist in a twilight land between war and peace, security and disorder. We have no way to place the risk that Al Qaeda actually poses and instead inflate the threat of Osama to the point where it paralyzes US policy. People who otherwise live safe, surburban lives now live in mortal fear of Islamic terrorists blowing up the local mall. A fear which permeates every act and every deed in many lives. Instead of dealing with the real problems war causes, we live in fear of anything and everything and thus, are protected from nothing.

A sound, sane plan to deal with terrorism would start with the following:

1) Stop tying drugs to terrorism. True or not, it muddles the message. Osama Bin Laden doesn't deal pot and to most Americans, drugs are pot. It makes the serious message of terrorism and turns it into a punch line by an utterly clueless government. A bad campaign made worse by undermining the need to inform people of what a real terrorist threat is.

2) Inform people of what terrorism really is, what it really looks like and how people can protect themselves. We know what car bombs can do. Why keep that information hidden. We know what kinds of situations are dangerous and which ones aren't. And give people the information needed to weigh risks intelligently.

3) The color code alerts, like much done in the name of Homeland Security, is abysmally simple minded and is used in a way which creates more fear than relieves it. End the program and come back with a better plan which actually is based on more than tips. Place lights to let people know when they enter a secured area. Make the population aware of what kind of risks they're taking without scaring them.

4)Stop eroding civil liberties without reason. Not ONE person has been arrested in the US because of 9/11. We've shipped back thousands of people on minor violations of immigration laws, leaving them embittered towards the US and perfectly able to fit into American society and train others to do so, if motivated. The means do not justify the ends when we destroy families in the process.

5) Trust and respect are our allies. Fear is our enemy. Other countries have to trust we are doing the right thing. Our ideas, our prinicples, our culture have triumphed around the world. It is our policies which make us enemies. By standing with some of the most repressive dictators on earth, their people grow to hate us and what we stand for. By using a simplistic, black or white dichotomy to describe our quest for security, we make more enemies than friends.

6) Stop using the military for cheap stunts. Every antic like landing on a carrier cheapens and demeans our armed forces and their mission. Make it clear that the military's role is to defend the US at home and abroad. Not to provide nice pictures for the Bush 2004 campaign.

7) Stablize Afghanistan by expanding policing outside of Kabul. The situation there is ludicrous. If we are there to help the Afghans, letting the country devolve into yet another civil war is not helping them. Pretending it isn't devolving into one isn't helping them. Admit we are on the road to failure in Iraq and stop it. Go back to the UN and get the help we need. Stop trying to run the country like a colony. That is a road to civil war as well.

8) Simply admit life in America has changed, not until we capture Osama or find his body, but for years to come. That we will have to devote resources and lives to increasing our security in a multipolar, multiethnic world. That London and Paris are as close to us as LA and Seattle, that time and space are shrinking and that the grievences of tiny countries in far away places can land on our doorstep. That 9/11 ended a way of life where America could what it wanted with no consequence. Osama has done what Hitler and Tojo could not, attack America and cause us harm. That is real and it must be dealt with and acknowledged.

Until we change, we will be victims of our fears as much as our enemies plans.

Steve Gilliard

Posted May 19, 2003 12:32 AM | Comments (69)


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