Thursday, August 26, 2004

Bush fails to Defend the Homeland

Mother Jones' cover story this month by Matthew Brzezinski is a expose of the failings of the Bush administration to adequately address Homeland Security issues.

Selected quote:

Defending America has been a pillar of President Bush's reelection campaign. Only the president, argue his backers, has the resolve and strength of leadership to prevent another 9/11. This campaign tactic has proved surprisingly effective. Even as public opinion polls show that increasing numbers of Americans are wondering whether the White House has been fighting the right battle in Baghdad, many remain convinced that President Bush will be tougher on terror than his Democratic opponent. This view has been a mainstay of Republican campaign commercials, conservative talk radio shows, the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, and, of course, the folks at Fox. Unfortunately, like a lot of "popular" notions generated by concerted public relations drives, it's a myth not rooted in reality.

The war on terror has many fronts, not the least of which is the one right here at home. But as I learned in more than two years of reporting on the often neglected domestic front lines of the war on terror, defending the homeland simply doesn't appear to have captured the imagination of the White House the way, say, a firefight in Falluja does.

Hamstrung by special interests, staffed with B-team political appointees, and crippled by a lack of funding and political support, DHS is a premier example of how the administration's misplaced priorities—and its obsession with Iraq—have come at the direct expense of homeland security. (Emphasis mine)

Fred Six has another article in Today's Sunbeam that discusses our precarious port security and how the Bush administration has been shortchanging port security by its tax cuts and lavish spending on Iraq.

Selected quote:
An expert on homeland security and border control said Wednesday that the federal government is spending more every couple of days for the war in Iraq than it has spent in three years on port security grants. "We're a nation at war," said Dr. Stephen Flynn, a Jeanne J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies with the Council on Foreign Relations.....Wednesday's hearing was to hear from Flynn and others about recommendations for port and maritime security made in the report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States, otherwise known as the 9/11 Commission. With 26,000 miles of commercially navigable coastline, three million square miles of water and eight billion tons of freight trade for the U.S. Coast Guard to watch -- and less than 10 percent of Homeland Security funds being appropriated for port security, a real danger exists for what Flynn called "a catastrophic terrorist attack" in the United States. Flynn told the sparsely attended hearing in Washington, D.C. that an attack carried out using a cargo ship -- or even just one of the many containers that a ship carries -- could have the effect of halting shipping trade until a response could be formulated. "They'd have to shut it down and sort it out," he told the subcommittee. "A two-week shutdown of U.S. ports would collapse the global trade system. That's what we're talking about," Flynn said. "This is an extremely soft target for America's enemies to exploit," he said. (Emphasis mine)

Mother Jones has an interview with Matthew Brzezinski where they ask him what is the biggest threat to the Homeland that is being totally ignored right now, he answers:

Clearly [the biggest risk is] the petrochemical industry. We have [] plants in numerous high-population centers, and because of special interests, we are not defending them properly. I purposely decided to go see how the Israelis treat their heavy industry and I’m telling you [it's] like Fort Knox. I couldn’t get within 50 feet of these things without underground sensors already pick[ing] me up and hidden speakers were screaming at me. This was a natural gas reservoir, and they protected these things the way we protect our nuclear silos. But a few months before I visited Hamas had tried to blow it up.

We definitely have the potential for a chemical Chernobyl in this country and we knew this right after 9/11. There were measures in Congress to increase security at plants and better regulate the transportation of chemicals. A single tractor-trailer that you see on the highway or rail car full of chlorine can kill tens of thousands of people. Imagine how many tens of thousands we have every day traversing the country. But the American Petroleum Institute lobbied to stop the bill from passing in Congress, so we’re just as vulnerable today as we were on 9/11.

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