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Jewish World Review June 5, 2002 / 24 Sivan, 5762

Martin Gross

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We need a declaration of war | In the days following Sept. 11, the nation -- both the public and the government -- girded together to fight the new enemy of Islamic terrorism.

Since then, the public has performed magnificently, pushing aside its fears to travel, spend, and maintain the nation's economy and spirit.

The military has also accomplished wonders in their swift victory in Afghanistan, a fight coordinated by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, who deserves our gratitude for more than his rhetorical skills. We have now enlarged our military efforts to help the Philippines and Georgia in central Asia fight Al Qaeda.

But while the Pentagon and the White House have performed well in the war against terrorism overseas, the government -- with one exception -- has failed us in prosecuting that war at home. The domestic war against terrorism has been dogged by partisan bickering, fashionable political correctness, even incompetence in high places. Whenever citizens discuss the domestic side of the war, they shake their heads in amazement and concern over their safety.

The one exception has been Attorney General John Ashcroft, who has detained hundreds of Middle Eastern suspects who might otherwise be bombing our supermarkets, or worse. He has also resisted the cries of supposed civil-rights groups who seem little concerned about potential catastrophe.

However, the rest of the government's performance has been a near disaster.

In a piece of perfidy, congressional Democrats -- jealous about President Bush's popularity -- intimated that he somehow knew of the upcoming Sept. 11 attack and did nothing about it. This low blow sent Republicans into such a rage that they -- including Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney -- were dispatched to Sunday morning television to warn Americans that disaster, apparently including nuclear holocaust, was "inevitable" -- as if to prove that they had warned us in advance.

This piece of partisan defeatism was not in the tradition of Roosevelt and Churchill, who at the lowest point of World War II told us that victory, not defeat, was inevitable. This new defeatism has started to shake the public's confidence, threatening our economic recovery.

We are also suffering from advanced bureaucratic ignorance.

We now see that the FBI has long been near-dysfunctional in counter-terrorism, as have other agencies. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta continues to search 80-year-old women and even 7-year-old boys at the airport, while able-bodied men board our planes without being checked -- politically correct if dangerous behavior. Mineta's new security chief, Jack McGaw, seems of little help, since he was named by and reports directly to Mineta. Meanwhile, 2,000 cargo containers large enough to hold several atomic bombs each arrive at our seaports every day, few of which are ever checked.

Washington has looked even more foolish by naming a Homeland Security chief with no real power except to issue color-coded warnings. Recently, Gov. Tom Ridge announced a low-level color while other officials were telling us that disaster is inevitable.

In the atomic power arena, Richard Meserve, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, apparently another bureaucrat of the Mineta variety, tells us all is well at the nuclear plants -- even though our defense against a murderous terrorist attack is in the hands of a handful of underpaid and often aged private cops, instead of the U.S. Army.

The FBI has warned about possible attacks by light planes, one of which could hit the spent fuel in an atomic power plant and send a deadly radioactive cloud into the atmosphere. Still, we continue to train foreigners to pilot light planes without any background check -- a legislative debacle initiated by the FAA on behalf of the flight schools.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service is among the worst of federal agencies involved in this "war." The agency can't find over 300,000 visa holders, including many thousands of Middle Easterners. Worse yet, Middle Easterners -- even potential terrorists -- continue to come into America every day with visitor and student visas handed out wholesale by the State Department. That agency may do a good job diplomatically, but it is hopeless when it comes to guarding our borders.

The domestic war against terror is not going well. But there is a remedy that can restore unity and intelligence to our government.

What is that remedy?

It is quite obvious. The remedy is for Congress to vote a formal declaration of war against terrorism.

With this one step, we will eliminate partisanship, rally the public and dramatize the president's need to reorganize his Cabinet on a war footing with some new faces. It will enable the military to interject their expertise into the domestic equation. A declaration of war might even shake up the dormant bureaucracy. It will also allow the FBI and the attorney general to conduct massive security sweeps to clamp down on the large foreign Middle Eastern Fifth Column now residing in our nation.

It will do that and much more -- ideas I hope to later address.

Meanwhile, we should petition Congress to make the faltering domestic "war" against terrorism a real one.

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06/23/02: Second warning
05/16/02: Who's trying to stop the missile shield?
05/02/02: The irresponsible U.S. Senate
04/25/02: How to slice the pork out of congress' hide
04/11/02: He's no American
03/31/02: Federal Aviation Administration is a threat to our security
03/14/02: Alaskan oil -- another Saudi Arabia?
03/07/02: Secretary Mineta must go
02/28/02: How to reform the IRS tax code
02/21/02: Those darn Europeans -- again
01/31/02: Director of Homeland Insecurity
01/24/02: Musharaff -- Gorbachev of the Muslim world?
01/17/02: Can we stop a nuclear plant attack?
01/09/02: More failed federal aid to education?
12/11/01: The 'American Giant' is still sleeping

© 2002, Creators Syndicate