A Sad Couple of Days
We just got a report here at work that the CNN Building in Los Angeles (about two blocks from my office) was evacuated due to a bomb threat. There is absolutely nothing about this on CNN or the Web, and after persisting, I learned that the source for all this was the mailman.
It's all disturbingly familiar. I can remember in the aftermath of 9/11 hearing "confirmed" reports of a hit on the Golden Gate Bridge on a day when I had to cross it. I remember the fear in people's faces and words. Now we have a series of train bombings several thousand miles away, and the fear is back, the hysteria is back. I can understand the sense of loss and compassion for the victims in London. But the whole point of defeating terrorism is to not let it run your life. Sadly, we've fallen right back into that paranoid midset.
This should be the final death blow for the ridiculous flypaper strategy as a rationale for attacking Iraq. Can we now all agree that there is not some finite supply of terrorists, that we can use our military as bait (which is totally disgusting) to draw them to a particular area? It may sound nice to say "we're fighting the terrorists abroad so we don't have to fight them at home," but it's not reality. The truth is that 4 years after September 11, al Qaeda is still in business, bin Laden is still alive and well, and we're still trying to find our way in this war on terror.
It's true that in free, urban societies, the notion that law enforcement can be right 100% of the time is pretty unlikely. But it's even more so when homeland security budgets are strained beyond credulity. Can we also all agree that we would gladly pay a few bucks a month to fully fund port, chemical plant, power plant, airline, border, mass transit and rail security? The beast is being starved right now. The New York City subway, home to 4.5 million riders every weekday, just had their funding cut. So did federal funds for mass transit, a mistake sure to be recitified now that the PR glare is squarely on Congress:
WASHINGTON -- Three weeks before London's bus and subway bombings, a Senate committee voted to slash spending on mass transit security in the United States, a decision sure to be reversed when Congress returns next week.
At a minimum, the Senate will restore the $50 million cut, G. William Hoagland, top budget aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said Friday...
There is pressure for a lot more, though adding to rail and transit security programs means cutting elsewhere in the Homeland Security Department's $32 billion budget for next year. That places severe limits on what Congress can do _ at least if it plays by its budget rules.
Despite the March 2004 bombing of Madrid's subway system, U.S. officials have been consumed with preventing a repeat of the airliner hijackings that produced the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
In a stroke of bad timing, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted last month to slash money for rail and transit security grants to state and local government by a third from the $150 million devoted to them this year. As of May, none of the money had been distributed by the Homeland Security Department.
Can we agree that homeland security is too important not to be funded? Can we agree that it's not acceptable for our CIA Chief to say "I know where bin Laden is" but explain that we're not going to be able to get him? Can we agree that the countries that continue to fund this kind of terrorism, such as Saudi Arabia, should not be given a free pass simply because they're our purported "allies"?
These are things that I feel all Americans can agree on. We can argue about the best strategy to fight radical Islamists who have no respect for human life, but these simple truths should not be in doubt. And yet we, as a country, are not doing any of them right now. London is a tragic event, but also a sad reminder that we haven't taken the lessons of 9/11 to heart.