Four years ago, on September 11, I was working in Lower Manhattan. The horrific scenes of people who worked in the twin towers leaping to their deaths will remain forever scarred in our collective memories. I saw men and women full of debris walking from the trade center. Some had torn clothes and some were also barefoot. My nephew, one of our city’s bravest, was helping with the rescue of the victims. For hours my family worried about his fate and now worry about his health as a result of the toxic fumes he was breathing. These fumes engulfed the area for months afterwards. Many of us were forced to walk around the city on that day. It was obvious to the entire world America needed a plan to safeguard its citizens. It took days before our chief executive made a trip to ground zero. He spoke through a bullhorn stating we would rebuild. It is four years later and there has been no ground broken at ground zero.
In recent days, we have seen the power of nature force a section of this nation to its knees. Before September 11, 2001, the most obvious examples of probable disasters that this nation may suffer would have been an earthquake in southern California, a levee break in New Orleans, and terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington DC. The present administration proposed that FEMA be made part of the new Homeland Security Department. This proposal was to ensure better delivery of services in these or other eventualities. When George H.W. Bush, the father of the present occupant of the Presidential Palace, was our chief executive, FEMA was criticized because of its incompetence and refuge for political cronies. Many of us remember the criticism of FEMA when Hurricane Andrew devastated Florida. During President Clinton’s administration, FEMA became a beacon of governmental responsibility and competency. After Hurricane Katrina, our nation witnessed how selecting leaders for a government agency based on partisan political criteria can hinder its operations. As we surrender many of our civil liberties in the name of homeland security, we are forced to inquire as to how secure this nation is when an administration is more concerned with a political agenda and the use of modern public relations to further its objectives. FEMA again has become a refuge for political friends.
Many Americans were upset in 2000 when the Supreme Court, considered a conservative court, decided to overlook the idea of states rights and gave American citizens the present occupant of the Presidential Palace. There is considerable evidence that Gore may have been the winner in Florida if a proper count of ballots were made. Jeb Bush, the president’s brother, is and was the Governor of Florida in 2000. It was his responsibility to ensure Florida’s electoral votes for the Republicans. Despite the close election there was no attempt to reach out to the Democrats in the selection of cabinet selection. When Kennedy ran against Nixon, the vote was close and Kennedy decided to include Republicans in his cabinet. After September 11th, it would have appeared some outreach to the democrats would have been appropriate. Our nation was united in its resolve against terrorism and many of the proposals made by the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld regime were adopted by Congress with a cursory review. The administration stated that the terrorist group led by Bin Laden would be hunted down and destroyed. As of today, Bin Laden is at large and Al-Qaeda is still a force. Last year a commuter train was bombed in Madrid and this year the Underground was attacked in London. There have been many attacks by terrorist organizations around the globe. We conquered Fascist Europe and the empire of Japan in four years during the Second World War. After four years we have a hole in the ground in Lower Manhattan and no end in sight in regards to international terror.
President Bush, after September 11th, informed the nation in January 2002 that Iraq, North Korea, and Iran were the axis of evil. He had international support in fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. International opinion backed our nation because the Taliban supported Al-Qaeda. We lost our international allies when we decided to link Saddam Hussein to Islamic terrorism. At the United Nations general assembly, Secretary of State Colin Powell stated Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and we knew where they are located. Unlike Stevenson during the Cuban Missile Crisis, no documentary evidence was supplied. Powell, in a recent interview with Barbara Walters, stated he regrets making the assertion at the UN. At best the present administration misled the world and this nation and at worst it lied. With a coalition of nations that is heavily dependent on us economically, we went to war in Iraq. Italy, a major coalition partner, was awarded a contract to build helicopters for this nation. The helicopter will be used by the White House as the Presidential helicopter. This was a major coup for the right wing Italian government. Hussein was overthrown and no weapons of mass terrorism were discovered. Now, the public relations campaign is that we went to war in Iraq to stop terrorists and bring democracy to the region. This smacks of bait and switch. There is no substantial evidence of Hussein being linked to religious terrorists. In fact, Al-Qaeda did not approve of his regime. This incursion, without of the approval of the international community, has caused tears in 1,900 American homes. It wrecked havoc to the people of Iraq. The insurgency appears to have considerable popular support in that nation.
After Katrina, promises have been made to rebuild the Gulf region. Similar to the rebuilding efforts in Iraq, Halliburton, Cheney’s alma mater, was given the first no bid contracts to rebuild New Orleans. The first steps the president did towards rebuilding New Orleans was to lift prevailing wage requirements for employers who get government contracts, suspend employment protections for veterans, (a group the president professes to revere), women, and minorities, and a voucher plan for private and parochial schools. Environmental regulations have been relaxed. All of these objectives are part of a far right agenda. There has been no rebuilding at ground zero in four years. The cost of rebuilding the Gulf coast is staggering and the president has promised no additional taxation will be allowed. It would be appropriate that instead of borrowing funds from China, Japan, India and other nations to rebuild, that a popular savings bond program for relief and rebuilding be established. Tax cuts that are slated for the future should be abolished. As Hurricane Rita approached the United States, a major campaign to show the president as a man of leadership and vision was conducted. This does not mitigate that he was on vacation for days when Katrina was heading for New Orleans and also after landfall. Cheney was also on vacation. Secretary of State Rice was in New York buying shoes and watching a popular Broadway musical. As we watched Houston and Galveston evacuate, it was apparent the use of automobiles to evacuate urban areas is not satisfactory. New York City residents would be hard pressed to leave the city. Major traffic jams, accidents, looting and preying on the weak would be the most likely scenario. (It appears that to have an effective evacuee plan, the region –the tri-state area- would have to be divided into zones with the most likely areas to be flooded leave first and other zone areas leave later.) Evacuation during a terrorist attack or attacks is problematic. There is some argument that evacuating a city similar to New York, when a hurricanes occurs or terrorists strike, needs to be examined as to whether some areas of the city would be better secured by having the population remain.
The present occupant of the White House has not secured the nation.
A breakout of mice with the Bubonic plague occurred from a lab in Newark New Jersey recently.
There was a leak of contaminated water at Indian Point as news of the approaching Rita dominated the media.
Last year, we had a flu vaccine shortage.
All the resources of this nation have not weakened international terrorists or their trade.
Our investigative services have not located the anthrax mail terrorist.
Two years ago, there was a massive blackout.
Our nation is now a debtor nation and accepts foreign aid in times of natural disaster. Our infrastructure has not been secured. The levee breakdown in New Orleans is just an example. Mr. Bush, we need results, not public relations and crony politics.