Congrats & Regrets
Congratulations to the Iraqi people and good luck in whatever their recent election brings them. Regrets to the American people and better luck with what our recent election has brought us.
Material below collected from "Homeland Insecurity" by William Finnegan in the current New Yorker.
Today, nearly everyone who studies the sources of potential terrorism, particularly the global jihadist movement, believes that more attacks are inevitable. Stephen Flynn, in his book “America the Vulnerable,” likens this period to the Phony War -- the eight months, beginning in September, 1939, after Hitler had invaded Poland, and Britain and France had declared war on Germany, when essentially nothing happened. The United States hasn’t been attacked for more than three years now, an extraordinarily happy fact for which the Bush Administration is quick to take the credit. If that changes, the Department of Homeland Security seems well positioned to take the blame.
Some of Finnegan's points from that article, in bullet form:
- "The Administration, responsive to the claims of the big intelligence-collecting agencies -- the Pentagon, the C.I.A., and the F.B.I. -- quietly scaled back the intelligence function of D.H.S. to the point that fifteen qualified people who were asked to become its intelligence chief turned down the job...."
- "The department was unable even to attract a full team of analysts...."
- "In November, 2001, President Bush signed a law requiring that all cargo on commercial flights be screened. That is a D.H.S. responsibility. Two years later, less than five per cent of cargo on passenger planes was being screened...."
- "Clark Ervin, a veteran of the first Bush’s White House who was appointed the department’s inspector general, found, in 2003, that he could sneak weapons and explosives past the screeners at fifteen airports...."
- "At the same time, he noted, senior managers at the Transportation Security Administration were giving themselves the largest annual bonuses of any federal agency...."
- "Ervin produced a series of reports on other gross lapses -- in contract monitoring, in port security -- in what he called a 'dysfunctional bureaucracy'...."
- "In December, the White House replaced [Ervin]...."
- "Air cargo is not comprehensively screened because the airlines don’t want to take on the expense of doing it."
- "Nearly all the nation’s chemical plants, refineries, and storage facilities remain basically unprotected, and, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, seven hundred are in locations where an attack could cause more than a hundred thousand casualties...."
- "Yet the chemical industry has effectively lobbied against legislation that would require plants to improve security in favor of what is essentially self-regulation, and D.H.S. has accepted that...."
- "Michael Chertoff, barring unforeseen difficulties, will soon inherit [the D.H.S.]. Chertoff was, by most accounts, a brilliant prosecutor. But his main experience on national-security issues came in the Ashcroft Justice Department, where he headed the criminal division for two years...."
- "He was a primary author of the U.S.A. Patriot Act, and a leader in the controversial prosecutions of John Walker Lindh and Zacarias Moussaoui...."
- "He was, moreover, a zealous proponent of the arrest of more than a thousand people, mostly Muslims, after September 11th-a roundup that resulted in widespread mistreatment of detainees but not a single terrorism-related charge...."
- "The next Secretary of Homeland Security will need to be much tougher than Tom Ridge -- capable of energizing the department, beating back its rivals, standing up to powerful industries, winning larger budgets, and, perhaps most important, making certain that our ideals won’t be sacrificed in the overreaction that terrorism, by definition, seeks. Chertoff has little visible qualification for most of these tasks, and his record on the last is not promising."
- "'The United States is going through its own version of the Phony War,' Stephen Flynn writes. The French and the British did not seriously prepare, when they had the time, for the new style of blitzkrieg warfare that Hitler had introduced in Eastern Europe. By May, 1940, when he invaded France, it was too late."
Let me remind you how absurd the "we're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here" argument is. As Richard Clarke says, there's nothing stopping them from bringing the war to our shores again. Nothing at all. Close to $300 billion spent and we are just as vulnerable now, here at home, as we were on September 10, 2001.
These are the people who yawned at a Presidential Daily Briefing, dated August 6, 2001, entitled "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US" which contained this warning:
...FBI information since  indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.
This is the Bush Administration's on-going Phony War. This is what we got from our recent election. I truly, honestly hope the Iraqis fare better with the results of their election than we have with ours.
Note: See Jo Walton's informed observations on Britain's not-so-phony Phony War in the comments section.