While kingmaker Karl Rove attempts to spin the War in Iraq into something less momentous--a "battle in the War on Terrorism," as he's dubbed it--we might ask ourselves which side the US is really on.
I'm not saying that it's wrong for Rove, and hence the Bush administration, to attempt to redefine the war. In fact, it's a sure sign that things are unraveling fast on the ground in Iraq, that the US's post-war plans were overly optimistic, and that Republican spin doctors are worried that the US public will put too much emphasis on democracy in Iraq as the 2004 elections draw near. The backpedaling has begun.
In the meantime, Americans are asking themselves what, if anything, the War in Iraq has to do with the War on Terrorism; hence, Rove's attempt to make a link that most analysts now agree never existed. But, if we think about it awhile and really examine the Bush administration's policies, we might conclude that George W. Bush & Co. have, in fact, made it much easier for terrorists to stage an attack on US soil. Here's a list of seven such policies, in no particular order:
1. Transporting nuclear waste on our nation's highways. As part of the deal that turned Yucca Mountain, Nevada, into the nation's sole nuclear waste repository, the Bush administration laid out a plan to ship nuclear waste from sites all over the US via road and rail to Nevada. Most Americans are keenly aware that our crowded freeways are aging and in need of rebuilding and repair. For example, nuclear waste will be shipped on I-5 through Sacramento and Los Angeles, California, where truck accidents are common. In New York, the cities of Syracuse and Buffalo, and Erie, Pennsylvania, will see regular transports of nuclear waste on I-90, while rail lines through Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania will also haul radioactive waste. And so on through virtually every city in the country that hosts a major interstate or rail route.
If 19 hijackers could steal 4 airplanes and kill thousands of Americans, what could a dozen of them do with radioactive tanker trucks or rail cars winding through major urban areas?
2. Dirty bombs from Iraq. Speaking of nuclear waste, the International Atomic Energy Agency has been having fits over the US military's inability to guard known nuclear waste sites inside Iraq. The Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center, in particular, has been the favorite target of looters. UNMOVIC seals have been broken on canisters, locks removed from storage areas, and barrels full of waste have disappeared. All of this has been going on for weeks, in spite of the IAEA's repeated warnings to US Command. Former UN weapons inspectors have also expressed dismay at the looting of potential chemical and bioweapons sites. Let's all write George W. a letter, thanking him for arming future terrorists.
3. Chemical weapons in your back yard. I bet you didn't know that there are over 100 factories here in the US where an explosion or terrorist attack could create a poisonous cloud that would kill or sicken over a million people. This is in addition to the toxic stews, waiting to detonate, at poorly guarded military facilities; one of the worst, of course, is in our own state -- Hanford -- and Oregon's nerve gas facility at Umatilla is also among the most potentially deadly. But the Northwest has plenty of other tempting terror targets, too, and old beer factories aren't among them. Meanwhile, the Bush administration and congressional Republicans have bent over backwards to prevent Congress from passing any laws that would require the chemical industry or factories that handle toxic chemicals from beefing up their security.
4. Lack of port security. While the Bush administration has poured money into airport security, our docks remain largely undefended. Thousands of cargo containers pass through our ports daily without inspection. Many major cities on our coasts have their container ports within a mile (or less) of their downtown business and shopping districts and within a couple of miles of densely-populated residential areas. From Los Angeles north to Seattle, the west coast is particularly vulnerable, since many of its shipments come directly from southeast Asian nations that have large Muslim populations. Of those, the major ports closest to downtowns are Seattle and Tacoma. While our west coast Senators are pressing for a comprehensive system to inspect cargo containers, the Bush administration is actually siphoning off the small amount of funds currently available for that task and using the money elsewhere.
5. Bet you thought the airports were safe. Think again. Approximately half the security personnel who screen your luggage and man security checkpoints at our nation's airports have still not undergone complete background checks.
6. Al Qaeda and other terror suspects are walking free. While the FBI is swamped with checking out minor immigration violators here at home, foreign governments are being forced to release known Al Qaeda operatives because of a lack of evidence. A particularly bad case of this occurred in The Netherlands in late May, where four Al Qaeda suspects on trial walked free when the FBI failed to provide a Dutch court with evidence to convict the suspects. The FBI claims that the Dutch government didn't ask them for the info, but the Dutch court says otherwise. Given the FBI's track record and the obvious need to prioritize the conviction of Al Qaeda suspects who are already in custody (wherever they are in the world), a picture of FBI incompetence is absolutely unavoidable. "Proactive" is still a dirty word in the FBI--except when it comes to monitoring legal, nonviolent, domestic dissenters.
7. The paramount US foreign policy goal is to alienate the world's poor and disaffected peoples. From Iraq, where the US is bent on installing a government headed by an Iraqi exile convicted of bank fraud; to Indonesia, where the Bush administration is seeking to re-establish ties with one of the bloodiest militaries in the world (whose current project involves slaughtering civilians yearning for self-determination in Aceh province; see the following article); to the Congo, where all the other members of the UN Security Council (but not the US) are sending troops to maintain a fragile peace agreement in a nation where three million people have died from civil war; to Chechnya, where Russia has been widely condemned for egregious human rights abuses, but George W. Bush has thrown his arms around Vladimir Putin and called him his "close personal friend"...in all these places, the world is watching us. And they don't like what they see. In fact, it infuriates them.
The US is not protecting the poor, the downtrodden, the people who yearn to breathe free. The US has joined the side of those who do the oppressing, the victors who wave at media cameras from the decks of battleships and aircraft carriers, the ones whose power is built on the blood of innocents. The Bush administration is creating a world full of people who hate us: men and women who are willing to listen when terrorists speak. That, more than anything, is how the Bush administration has helped further the cause of international terrorists.
Maria Tomchick is a co-editor and contributing writer for Eat The State!, a biweekly anti-authoritarian newspaper of political opinion, research and humor, based in Seattle, Washington, where this article first appeared (www.eatthestate.org). She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Articles by Maria Tomchick