Our intelligence people are saying that something bad, maybe worse than 9-11, is coming this summer. If and when it happens, the recriminations will be overwhelming. President Bush will face a political onslaught — maybe even impeachment hearings — after the next attack. Democrats who now stand in the way of taking tough measures will be the first to throw stones. In truth, we have under-reacted to the 9-11 attacks, and we will probably over-react to the next ones. Why aren’t we doing more to prevent the next attack?
More can be done. It is only reluctance to make politically difficult decisions that is preventing us from taking steps that badly need to be taken. Dubya confessed ignorance of other options when he said that if he knew what else he could do to protect Americans, he’d do it. Oh, come on. If you think about it for ten minutes, there is a whole list of things the President could do to make us safer. Here’s the Loose Canons Top Ten Things Mr. Bush Can do to Protect Americans:
10. Change the FCC rules on emergency services radios. Most major cities — New York and Washington, D.C. included — have switched their emergency services to the 800 MHz band radios because the FCC made them do so to make room for more cell phone traffic. Problem is, the 800 MHz radios don’t work inside metal-framed office buildings. Here in Washington, firefighters have to use cell phones to communicate inside burning buildings. Firefighters who can’t talk to each other can’t do their jobs.
9. Dubya asked us to lend our eyes and ears to help spot terrorists. Good idea. But what are we looking and listening for? The Israelis must have some profiles of suicide bombers that help them catch most of them before they explode. We should be training everyone who wants to learn — cops and civilians alike — about what to look for.
8. Fire Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta, and arm the airline pilots. Would you rather have your pilot able to shoot a terrorist, or have an F-16 fire a Sidewinder up your tailpipe when the pilot is dead, and some guy wearing a black turban is trying to fly the plane into the White House?
7. Establish a national “neighborhood watch.” We have about 7,500 miles of land and air borders with Canada and Mexico. We also have fewer than one Border Patrol policeman per mile. Why not have citizens with cell phones and radios voluntarily patrolling where the cops aren’t? The Border Patrol could set up small fast-deploying squads of men to respond to citizens’ calls.
6. Fire Norm Mineta: Haven’t we seen enough to know that blue-haired grannies aren’t likely to hijack any airliners? We are deluding ourselves — dangerously — by forbidding the practice of profiling. Mr. Mineta’s policy against profiling is endangering lives. Profiling should be official government policy at airports, seaports, and all border crossings.
5. Since 1996, Mexican soldiers and police have illegally crossed into the U.S. about 120 times, escorting drug smugglers and illegal aliens into the U.S. How many terrorists and how much weaponry is among them? They have fired on Border Patrol cars approaching them. We should tell Vicente Fox that any Mexican Army or police who cross the border without our written permission will be fired on. No warning shots; all center of mass. The President needs to stop fishing for votes in the Rio Grande.
4. Start a global psychological warfare on terror. They call it “jihad” for holy war. We should call it “hirabah,” which means criminal action. They call suicide murder bombers “mujaheddin” for holy warriors bound for heaven. We should call them “mufsidoon” — wrongdoers headed to hell. They should hear it 24/7 on radio and television.
3. There are about 250,000 hours of intelligence intercept tapes recorded since 9-11 that haven’t yet been listened to. We have too few Arab-speaking intelligence analysts, and even many of them are sitting on their behinds, not working on this stuff. We should put all we have to work, and hire more. In New York City alone, there are hundreds of Sephardic Jews, many who came from places like Syria and Jordan, who can translate the tapes while understanding the nuances of the Arabic language. We should hire as many as we need and work the hell out of them.
2. We have to stop the flow of people coming here from Syria, Iran, Iraq, and, yes, Saudi Arabia, which pays for most of the terror. No Iranians, Iraqis, Syrians should be able to enter the U.S. Saudis can get visas through travel agents, for heaven’s sake. Despite the obvious fact that Saudi visitors should face intense screening, the descendants of Werner von Braun who run our embassy in Riyadh think the travel agent scam is a great idea, because it saves them the trouble of doing their jobs. The process of issuing all visas should be slowed or stopped for at least long enough for controls put in, to give us a shot at stopping some of these guys.
1. Make smallpox vaccine available to every American who wants it. Smallpox is horribly contagious. If you get it, and haven’t been vaccinated, there’s no treatment. It’s also one of the biological weapons Saddam — and others — have in their arsenals right now. I’ve been trying to get it for my family since about 9-12. The vaccine is unavailable because the government doesn’t want to tell one segment of the population — those with AIDS — that they can’t have it. The damaged immune systems of AIDS sufferers can’t fight the vaccine, and it will probably kill them. Concern about “discriminating” against AIDS patients is preventing everyone else from getting the vaccine. Every American should all be able to get the vaccine if he wants it. Preventing its distribution is criminal negligence.
We probably can’t stop terrorists from attacking. But we can do things right now that may reduce the number of attacks and save a lot of lives the next time we’re hit. Let’s get cracking. Why not start by firing Norm Mineta?