Vol. 12, No. 2,856W - The American Reporter - March 18, 2006


On Native Ground
WHAT REAL 'HOMELAND SECURITY' COULD BE

by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
Dummerston, Vt.

DUMMERSTON, Vt. - "Homeland security," a phrase that came into vogue after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, has become a concept that seems to have more to do with suppressing internal dissent than in actually making the U.S. less vulnerable to terrorism.

Regardless of where you stand politically, it is clear that little is being done to really address the threat of terrorism in sensible and practical ways. What sort of things should our nation be doing rather than creating a domestic spy network or launching a new war against Iraq? Here are three ideas.

  • We must develop a national energy policy that will wean the U.S. off of fossil fuels and nuclear power and increase the use of renewable and cleaner sources of energy.

For starters, let's look at automobiles. Our friends in Europe and Japan are way ahead of the U.S. in designing energy-efficient vehicles. While General Motors is committed to building gargantuan SUVs like the $50,000 Hummer H2 (which gets under 10 MPG and is selling so fast that GM dealers can't keep them in stock) for its American customers, its European subsidiary recently unveiled the Hy-wire, a hydrogen-powered car.

American automakers are addicted to the low production costs and high profit margins that manufacturing pickup trucks and SUVs have given them. They have little interest in taking even minimal steps to make SUVs more fuel efficient - and that may end up being a huge mistake. Just as Detroit got blindsided by the 1970s energy crisis and allowed foreign automakers to gain a strong foothold in the U.S. market with better built, more fuel-efficient cars, another day of reckoning is coming for U.S. automakers.

Japanese carmakers Toyota and Honda are committed to making all their vehicles with gas-electric hybrid or hydrogen-fueled powerplants by the end of this decade. You can now buy a hybrid Honda Civic sedan that gets close to 60 MPG for only slightly more than a conventional model. Hybrid SUVs are only a couple of years away from production.

Instead of recognizing the potential of new technologies, American automakers have done everything they've can to prevent tougher fuel efficiency standards from being enacted. Considering this nation's dependency on foreign oil, one of the biggest threats to our national security may be the ever-growing fleet of gas-sucking trucks and SUVs.

  • Our national health system needs a substantial upgrade. Perhaps you saw the article by Katherine Eban entitled "Waiting For Bioterror" in the Dec. 9 issue of The Nation.

Last fall's anthrax-by-mail attacks exposed the total lack of people in the public health system trained to deal with bioterror. But Eban describes how the biggest obstacle to preparedness is the combination of staffing shortages, overcrowded hospitals and inadequate funding. While the federal government is working to prepare for a chemical or biological attack, many urban hospitals currently don't have enough staff to handle an average night of emergency room visits.

Eban concludes that while it's encouraging that the government is devoting more resources to bioterror, the effort will go for naught without a substantial increase in funding for the rest of the nation's health care system - including universal health care for all citizens.

Maybe this will become the ultimate argument in favor for health care reform - our national security depends on it.

  • Finally, there's the biggest step our nation could take to ensure domestic security - engaging in a foreign policy that is less hypocritical and more respectful of democracy and human rights. A lot of the anger and resentment directed at the U.S. can be diffused with a few simple steps.

    We should encourage Israel to return to its pre-1967 borders, support the establishment of a true Palestinian state on the West Bank, and work with both sides to ensure the safety and stability of each state. We should end our support of despots - starting in the Arab world with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan - and start supporting nations and political organizations willing to make a real commitment to democracy and human rights. And we should cooperate with the rest of the world and engage in the kind of international police work that's needed to track down the masterminds of the Sept. 11 attacks.

    The squandering of thw world's good will by the Bush administration in the weeks and months following Sept. 11 has greatly hurt this nation's standing in the world. A more humble and less bellicose and hypocritical foreign policy would go a long way toward getting the rest of the world back on our side again.

    There are many other things that our nation could do to achieve domestic security. It all comes down to political will.

    It's been clear for months that the Bush administration and its allies in the Democratic Party have been more interested in political power and economic gain than in combating terrorism. If terrorism were truly a threat to national security, there would be serious discussion about implementing the above suggestions. Instead, we got the Homeland Security Act, a bill that was loaded with pork and corporate welfare for the friends of President Bush.

    Now is the time to call the Bush administration's bluff on "homeland security." Do they really intend to make the nation safer, or does all this just disguise yet another Republican power grab?

    Don't hold your breath waiting for an answer.

    Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books).

    Copyright 2006 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

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