Kerry offers better plan for homeland security

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

We live in a time of unprecedented change in our history. What the United States needs now is a president who is willing to adapt to find solutions to new problems. The biggest problem for President George W. Bush is his reluctance to receive and respond to constructive criticism. September 11 was the biggest foreign attack on U.S. soil in recent history, but pressuring Bush to get to the bottom of it was like kicking a mule. Bush initially opposed forming an independent bipartisan panel to investigate intelligence and security failures of 9/11 attacks. This is a horrible response to a national tragedy, something neither LBJ nor FDR opposed when faced with the Kennedy assassination and the Pearl Harbor attack, respectively. After some cajoling from families of 9/11 victims, Bush then tried to place a rigid timetable on the commission and to appoint a controversial Cold War figurehead ? Henry Kissinger, U.S. secretary of state under Richard Nixon ? as the chair of the 9/11 Commission. Kissinger recused himself and was replaced by the Republican former governor of New Jersey, Thomas Kean. Ironically, Kean was just as critical as fellow Democrats on the panel of the President. Kean scorned the White House for refusing for several months to cooperate fully with the panel and denying access to crucial presidential briefings and other documents from the panel. Despite complaints that the panel was experiencing unnecessary delays and that it was grossly underfunded, Bush denied requests for several months to extend the deadline for the panel to produce its final report.
The 9/11 Commission released a 900-page report detailing failures in airport security, intelligence gathering, technology, domestic policy, and management. The commission refused to lay blame on any particular party, concluding that the attacks were a ?failure of imagination.? We should all be thankful for a commission that went to the end of the Earth to make Americans safer. However, it?s disappointing that the whole thing was roadblocked from the start from our President.
Of course, Bush?s reasons for trying to block the 9/11 Commission should be obvious now. The most damaging conclusion reached by the panel is the lack of evidence linking Iraq to the 9/11 attacks. Former anti-terrorist advisor Richard Clarke criticized Bush for ignoring the threat of al Qaeda and focusing efforts to scapegoat Iraq for the 9/11 attacks. Bush?s lack of patience for the UN inspections or for the 9/11 Commission leads me to believe his drive to fight terror is being tainted by ideologues in his administration.
What has been the cost of waging a war on a country on false pretenses? Even aside from the deaths of U.S. soldiers and thousands of civilians, our credibility in the world and our ability to unite countries in the fight against terror has been compromised. What reason would there be for any ally to trust and help us now if we needed to attack a hostile nation? Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is tight-lipped on discussing the threat of Iran, a country with greater weapons facilities that was recently ranked number one in state-sponsored terrorism. Despite Bush?s labeling North Korea along with Iran and Iraq in the ?Axis of Evil,? North Korea acquired nuclear capabilities under his watch. Losing sight of real threats is a disturbing trend of this administration.
Bush would have you believe Kerry is soft in bringing international criminals and terrorist sponsors to justice. They must be ignoring his record in the Senate. In late 1980s, Kerry worked with Republican Senator Hank Brown to expose and dismantle a Pakistani-based enterprise that was funding drug trafficking, money laundering, CIA-backed dictators, and Islamic terrorists. Kerry?s efforts to unravel terrorist activities often put him at odds with government officials from both political parties, many either criminally complacent with the information or hesitant to enforce the laws for ideological foreign policy reasons. The CIA later confirmed that Osama bin Laden and his allies had accounts in the bank and were laying the foundation for the terrorist network found today.
Kerry was one of the biggest fighters in the Senate to fund the COPS program, which aimed to put 100,000 new police officers on the streets. Several police and fire-fighting unions that endorsed Bush in 2000 are now supporting Kerry for his promise to increase funding and modernize training for first responders. Kerry has sponsored several anti-assault weapon bills and would have extended the deadline for the 1994 Assault Weapons ban, which many police unions say was essential to fighting crime and domestic terror.
Kerry?s ability to learn, comprehend, and adapt to the new threats is the essential character difference he has with Bush. As a district attorney, he created a unit that investigated organized crime and revamped the office to expedite indictments and prosecutions of criminals. Unlike President Bush, John Kerry would immediately accept all the resolutions suggested by the 9/11 Commission, which include creating a central intelligence czar with White House access. He would finally start looking to secure all our borders and ports and to do more inspections of packages passing through them.
Several military generals who worked under Bush are endorsing Kerry enthusiastically due to Bush?s effort to alienate allies and ignore advice of military generals who know what?s happening on the ground. In the Senate, he?s fought for veterans? rights and benefits for 20 years. Kerry will be more likely to maintain the size of the volunteer army by trying to pass a veterans? bill of rights. These reasons alone leave no doubt in my mind John Kerry has the drive and experience to adapt the strategies and laws that will bring terrorists to justice and make Americans safer.