By MARC McDONALD
The Great Right-Wing Propaganda Machine has kicked into high gear in the aftermath of Joe Lieberman's loss to Ned Lamont. Fox News, Limbaugh, Hannity, and their ilk would have us believe that Lamont's victory in the primary Tuesday is nothing short of a victory for Al-Qaeda.
You gotta hand it to the Republicans: they know how to talk a good talk when it comes to terrorism. But when it comes to actually fighting terrorism, they're AWOL.
The fact is almost five years after 9/11, America remains startlingly vulnerable to another major terror attack. Consider:
1. Currently, less than 5 percent of the cargo that enters the U.S. is being physically inspected these days. Last year, two teams of government investigators, using fake documents, were able to enter the country with enough radioactive sources to make two dirty bombs. (If only Bush would devote more attention to this crisis than to preventing our nation's seniors from importing affordable medications from Canada).
2. The nation's hazardous chemical plants (an obvious target if there ever was one) remain unsecured, despite the fact that a terror attack on these facilities could lead to tens of thousands of deaths.
3. Amazingly, the vast majority of airliner passengers' carry-on bags are still not being screened for explosives.
4. Air marshals remain absent from the majority of flights. Indeed, the Federal Air Marshals Service is riddled with problems these days, according to recent reports.
Is it possible that for all his tough talk, Bush doesn't take fighting terrorism seriously? You bet.
Some of us have suspected this is the case since at least Aug. 6, 2001. That day, as you may recall, is the day that Bush was handed a classified President's Daily Brief (PDB) that was titled, "Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S." Bush, on a month-long vacation at the time, declined to take any action and went fishing later that same day.
If that didn't convince you that Bush is lax on fighting terrorism, then recall how after 9/11, Bush inexplicably gave Bin Laden a two-month head start in Afghanistan before he sent the military to pursue him. No wonder Bin Laden roams free to this day.
But don't take my word for it that Bush is a failure on fighting terrorism. Ask the former Sept. 11 Commission (appointed by Bush, no less) which stated in a December report that the U.S. is not adequately protected from another terrorist attack. The former commission (which was chaired by Republican Thomas Kean) issued a report charged the Bush White House with failing to protect the country against another terrorist attack.
It's true, there have been some changes for securing America since 9/11. But most of these changes have been little more than window dressing, (such as the high-profile, but ultimately meaningless "Color Coded" alerts).
Real, substantive changes in America's terror-fighting capabilities are deemed "too expensive" by the White House. This, incidentally is the reason given for why air marshals aren't present on all flights these days. (I wonder, though, how many air marshals we could hire for the price of what we spend in a typical month embroiled in a civil war in Iraq, a nation that had nothing to do with 9/11).
If you follow the money (or the oil), you can invariably find out where Bush's real priorities are these days. And it doesn't have a damn thing to do with fighting terrorism.
Recall, how early on in the U.S. occupation of Iraq, America's military raced to secure the Oil Ministry, while leaving Iraq's massive arms depots untouched across the country. Note also that munitions from those same arms depots have been used by the insurgency since then to kill thousands of our soldiers, as well as Iraqi civilians.
Iraq is a titantic catastrophe that has seriously distracted America during a crucial time and has degraded our ability to fight an effective war on terrorism. Despite this, the GOP is brazenly working to transform the Iraq fiasco into a positive asset for the upcoming elections. If the Democrats allow the GOP to get away with this astonishing propaganda, they deserve to lose in November.