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Homeland insecurity

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In his 2004 campaign for reelection, George W. Bush won the support of "red state" voters by touting 9/11 and the "war on terror" and convincing them that only he could keep America safe. A vote for Kerry would be a vote for the terrorists.

Today, the Bush administration and its right-wing pundits insist that we're making progress in the "war on terror", even in the wake of the recent terrorist bombings in London. They insist that their strategies are the right ones, even though the number of U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq has more than doubled in the past year, since Bush stood under a banner that read "Mission Accomplished" and proclaimed that major combat operations had ended. They claim the moral high ground even though all of their original justifications for attacking Iraq have been proven false. And they keep telling us that their policies have made us safer.

Why, then, do polls show that a majority of Americans do not feel safer? Are Americans finally waking up to find that their emperor has no clothes?

Consider the following:

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1. Today, almost four years after 9/11, our airline cargo is still not screened. Security officers go through my suitcase, fondle my underwear, and spill my toiletries in the name of "security", but they don't bother to check those mysterious boxes and bags that find their way into the airplane's cargo hold.

2. The authorities have still not secured our ports. With all the resources spent on sniffing our shoes at airport security checkpoints, why do we not enforce a similar level of scrutiny on the more than 20 ‚000 cargo containers that pass through U.S. ports each day?

3. Our power plants are vulnerable. While the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has strengthened its regulations regarding security at nuclear power plants, critics contend that further measures are needed, and the NRC itself concedes that there are still some concerns to be addressed. Last year, a drunken pilot flew his small plane dangerously close to the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant near Philadelphia. Imagine the potential consequences had the pilot been a terrorist rather than a stray drunk.

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Billions of our tax dollars have been spent on the invasion and occupation of Iraq - a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 and posed no threat to the U.S. The Bush administration keeps telling us that we're bringing freedom and security to the Iraqi people. But Bush's Texas-tough-guy tactics have not led to security in Iraq, and they have not made Americans feel any safer either.

Bush keeps telling us that "we are fighting the enemy there so we won't have to fight them here." But 9/11 and the more recent London bombings have shown us otherwise.

Consider how much safer we might feel if that money had instead been spent on security here at home.

Consider how much safer we might feel if our military had stayed focused on capturing Osama bin Laden rather than Saddam Hussein.

And consider how much safer we might feel if we had not stirred up a hornet's nest in Iraq, giving rise to a new generation of terrorists and putting ourselves at greater risk of retribution by killing thousands of Iraqi civilians and torturing our prisoners.

I strongly urge all of our elected representatives to stop wasting money in Iraq and allocate sufficient funds to secure the homeland. Develop a reasonable exit strategy for our troops. Empower and enable the Iraqi people to rebuild their country, since we're not doing a very good job of it. Enlist the United Nations to manage the peacekeeping there. And focus on making us safer here at home.

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Until that happens, homeland security is merely a sound bite and a dream.


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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)

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