On the 5 year anniversary of 9/11, it is important to remember how far we've come in some areas, and how little progress we've made in others.
A quick look at the political landscape shows we've gone from a time where both parties pledged to work together in a bipartisan fashion to go after terrorists, to a 2002 midterm campaign where President Bush accused his opponents of "not being interested in the security of the American people," to a 2004 campaign where the White House resorted to using the government's homeland security warnings to prop up its poll numbers, to a 2006 campaign where senior Republican senators like Sen. Mike DeWine (R) who behaved like irresponsible yes-men on the Intelligence Committee before 9/11 now attack their opponents for trying to fix the intelligence apparatus before disaster struck. So - in terms of politicians making solemn pledges of bipartisanship and then quickly defiling the memories of victims for their own political gain, unfortunately we've come a long way, baby.
Where we haven't moved very far is on treating the survivors of 9/11's aftermath with a minimum amount of dignity. As CBS's 60 Minutes detailed this weekend, the Bush administration and the New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's administration both ignored the plight of thousands of first responders who have become severely ill from dust inhalation at Ground Zero. Worse, it has become clear these two politicians used their power to pretend the air quality at Ground Zero was perfectly healthy, misleading these now-sickened first responders into thinking they didn't need to take more serious precautions to protect themselves. The White House had the asbestos industry lobbyist heading the government's Council on Environmental Quality doctor press releases to reassure these workers that everything was fine.
We also haven't seen much progress in actually securing this country. As I noted in a post late last week, the White House's Iraq obsession was responsible for allowing Osama bin Laden to escape, the Iraq War has turned into a giant recruiting advertisement for radical Islamic jihadists, the GOP has refused to implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations, Congress has prioritized tax cuts over homeland security priorities - and country club conservative pundits, most of them chickenhawks who refused to serve when they had their chance, cheer it all on, as President Bush behaves like a WWF wrestler, screaming "bring it on" to terrorists from the safe confines of a secret service-guaded podium that sits thousands of miles away from the frontlines. Meanwhile, as if mimmicking a real-life version of Clockwork Orange, we're all supposed to sit in a trance and watch ABC's 9/11 fantasy-fiction-as-documentary production, and forget that the Bush White House was aggressively trying to slash counter-terrorism funding before 9/11, even as it was receiving red-alert warnings of an imminent Al Qaeda attack.
In doing the Democratic Party's national radio address this weekend, Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) put this all into perspective:
"The truth is - five years after the 9/11 attacks - America is not nearly as safe as we can be and we must be...We ask our grandmothers to take their shoes off at airports, yet only 6 percent of the cargo entering our ports is inspected. Our borders remain open. Our chemical and nuclear plants remain vulnerable. Our courageous first responders lack the right equipment and sufficient resources, and not enough has been done to protect our rails, and our roads, and our metro systems. These are serious matters of national security, and they demand a serious response. Unfortunately, at the White House and in Congress, all we see is inaction and delay. The most glaring example is what's happened to the recommendations of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission...It's unacceptable that this Republican government hasn't done at all it can to protect Americans in the five years since the September 11th attacks...This anniversary of 9/11, we must refocus our efforts on the War on Terror by ending our open-ended commitment in Iraq and by redirecting our efforts to destroy al Qaeda...It's time for a new direction."
Republicans are in such a state of panic over the prospect of losing the 2006 election, they have resorted to putting Vice President Cheney on television to deny the facts in the Senate Intelligence Committee's report about Al Qaeda, and airing an ad that is nothing more than a cheap, Rocky IV-esque montage, only its not a montage of boxing training scenes, its random images of terrorists. But no matter how many GOP politicians and operatives in Washington spit on the graves of 9/11 victims, they just can't hide the facts anymore. And here's hoping that come election day, Americans will vote for a change so that we can stop just watching desperate politicians talk about security, and instead have leaders in power who actually get serious about security.
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