Professor calls Bush war on terror "mostly rhetoric"

Tuesday, March 07, 2006 at 05:56 PM

Writing in the Danville, KY Advocate-Messenger, Brian Cooney, a Professor at Centre College, today called President Bush's war on terror "mostly rhetoric - an excuse for invading Iraq and an election slogan to distract us from the damage he is causing at home and abroad."

I suspect that many Americans would consider that harsh.  I don't. I think that's an assessment that's fully supported by the evidence of how our President and his crew have handled their announced war on terror.

First, you really have a dichotomy between what they do overseas (war, torture of detainees, dire warnings to countries who are not "with us" in our war), and what they do here in our own country (port security remains almost nonexistent, border security seems to be slipping below what it was on 9/11, and no one on the administration, at least officially, sees any problem with a state-run company from Dubai taking over major port operations.

To me, just the dichotomy is telling.  If they were as concerned with terrorism as they publicly say, we should be seeing a consistent approach, both foreign and domestic, don't you think?  What kind of theory says we need to worry night and day about terrorists "over there," because they might make it over her, but we don't need to worry about them once they actually get close to here, like at one of our ports, or at a land border crossing?

And I'm not stretching it about our indifference domestically.  Take a gander at some of the recent news stories.

Another seemingly unqualified crony appointed to a high position in Homeland Security.  Douglas L. Hoelscher, a 28-year-old former White House staffer, is the new executive director of the Homeland Security Advisory Committees and the "primary representative" of department Secretary Michael Chertoff in dealing with more than 20 advisory boards.  Hoelscher reportedly has no management experience, and came to government in 2001 as a low-level White House staffer earning $30,000 per year to arrange presidential travel.

After graduating from the University of Iowa in 1999, Hoelscher worked for Wisconsin's Republican Party, campaign in 2000, in 2001 was a political coordinator in the White House Office of Political Affairs run by Ken Mehlman, and went to work for the RNC in 2004, before becoming Homeland Security's White House liaison.

Then there's the story about the $202,000 Homeland Security grant given to Dillingham, Alaska, which that city of 2,400 citizens reportedly used to install 80 surveillance cameras, focused on the port and the town.  Not bad for a town without a single stoplight.

Dillingham Police Chief Richard Thompson said the cameras could stop terrorism in Southwest Alaska someday. More to the point, they may also put an end to the drinking, deaths and drug deals that go down at the port every summer when the town fills up with commercial fishermen.

If the system prevents even one death, Thompson said, "I don't care what's said about me."
A quiet city like Dillingham doesn't need one camera for every 30 people, said Tim Smeekins.

It's tough to argue with Mr. Smeekins' observation, but very easy to argue that the $202,000 could have been put to far better anti-terror use if Bush was serious about his war on terror.

Finally there's the endless stream of stories about domestic events approaching panic due to some small and/or technical breach of security, simply because it's easy, it's bureaucratic, and it makes the public think the security guys are "doing things."  Recent examples include holding a plane at Burbank until everyone could be rescreened because Paula Abdul (yes, her) had been whisked through a back access to the plane so she wouldn't miss the flight after having been held up by a crush of fans, Michael Chertoff's proposal of a system that would require commercial companies to retain information about their customers which the companies could then use to answer questions that Homeland Security has about customers, and the recent event noted here on WTW where a couple's pay-down of their credit card bill triggered a Homeland Security investigation.

The only serious plan to increase domestic security that has crossed my path comes not from the White House, not from Homeland Security, bur from two senators who reportedly have proposed an "overhaul of U.S. maritime security programs, including changes aimed at beefing up cargo inspections at foreign and American ports," an idea which is "rapidly drawing bipartisan support."