In 1945, Charles Brown penned the classic, “Drifting Blues,”
“I keep drifting and drifting,
Like a ship out on the sea,
You see I ain't got nobody,
In this world to care for me.”
George Bush and company might consider adopting this as their theme song; ten months into the second term of what was once described as the Bush Imperium, the Administration is drifting aimlessly, battered by one calamity after another. All those who feel that George W is an illegal and incompetent President will be tempted to savor his misfortune, to chortle that he is, at long last, getting his just desserts. Nonetheless, this is no time for celebration, as Bush’s rudderless Presidency threatens to run the good ship America onto the shoals of disaster.
Beginning with the Administration’s ineptitude after Hurricane Katrina, George and the Republicans have suffered a series of setbacks. Meanwhile, the President’s approval ratings have plunged to 35 percent, 66 percent of citizens believe that the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction, and by a 3 to 1 ratio Americans say the level of honesty and ethics in the government has declined in this Administration. While emperor Bush may have finally been exposed in all of his inadequacy, this revelation provides small consolation to those who care about America. We are stuck with George W for three more years and lifeboat America is not sailing on golden pond, but rather through the Strait of Magellan where the slightest inattention can crash us into an iceberg. The U.S. is at grave risk because of the President’s lack of leadership during a period where we are confronted with a series of perils.
Bush’s bravado and bonhomie are no substitute for sound judgement when it comes to defending America. On October 26th, a group of national security experts released a report, “Combating Catastrophic Terror: A National Security Strategy for the Nation,” which provides fresh evidence of what many have long said: The U.S. is woefully prepared for another terrorist attack. Indeed, the report makes clear that rather than strengthening the nation, the Bush Administration has weakened it. “The likelihood of a catastrophic attack in the coming ears is considerable and will grow.”
The 10/26 report disputes the Administration’s central justification for their strategy in the war on terror, “We are fighting these terrorists with our military in Afghanistan and Iraq and beyond so we do not have to face them in the streets of our own cities." The invasion of Iraq is impairing the war on terror. Noting, “There is a pool of potentially violent people who no longer need armies to make their point,” the report contains a series of sobering assertions: that since the invasion, terrorists “have established a durable base in Iraq… and are unlikely to be dislodged for many years.” “Weaponry and explosives from Saddam Hussein’s enormous stockpiles have given the terrorists ample supplies… [They] have acquired invaluable experience in such areas as urban combat, use of a wide variety of weaponry, bomb manufacturing and intelligence.” Bush and company made a major strategic error in the invasion of Iraq, assuming that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein would be welcomed by the Arab street as a harbinger of democracy in the Middle East; instead, it “has fueled hatred among many Muslims and made the fight against terrorism more difficult.”
Noting that the “the United States is living on borrowed time,” and will most likely be attacked by some form of WMD, quite possibly a biological weapon, the 10/26 report makes specific recommendations for homeland security beginning with a “50-100 percent” increase in Federal funding. Observing that three years after the authorization of the Department of Homeland Security, “crucial homeland security issues remain largely neglected,” the report recommends that a common sense approach to managing risk paying most attention to high-priority targets. Accordingly it focuses on reducing the vulnerability of chemical facilities and other sites housing hazardous materials. It reinforces the necessity for international cooperation securing dangerous radiological sources that might be used in a “dirty bomb.” It recommends a greatly increased port security initiative and an intelligent system to secure our borders.
“The Combating Catastrophic Terror” report recommends that renewed attention be given to FEMA, which should be a separate, Cabinet-level agency. When the United States is next attacked, it must be prepared to respond “to minimize the impact of the attack to the extent possible and to recover as quickly as possible.” Funds must be allocated to train and equip “first responders,” police, fire, and emergency medical personnel. In addition, there must be “a robust public health infrastructure in line with the real threat of mass casualties.”
The sobering, 10/26 report should be required reading for all Americans. As America drifts on seas laden with terrorist menace, we would do well to remember to recall the line in “Drifting Blues,” “I ain't got nobody, in this world to care for me.” Someone has to come forward to provide the leadership that America requires. Can the Democrats take the helm of the good ship U.S.A.?