By Dick Morris
September 18, 2003
The 9/11 attack is a wound that healed too quickly. The skin has knit over the gash; only a scar remains visible. Yet, underneath, infection still roils and an abscess oozes.
Terror has not gone away, but fear of it has subsided. Terrorists are still at large, but the determination to catch them has ebbed. Osama and Saddam still excite our attention, but we read of the almost weekly arrests in America of potential terrorists with the same calcified apathy with which we react to drug busts.
Reports that North Korea, the most insane of criminal regimes since Hitler's, has the bomb and missiles with which to deliver it to Tokyo or Seoul find us distracted. That Iran, once the center of our disdain, may also go nuclear leaves us similarly unmoved.
What is the larger meaning of 9/11 if it was not to energize our nation and the world to obliterate terrorism from the face of the earth?
We dishonor the dead by going back to sleep. We must dedicate the balance of our lives to fulfilling the mission for which they gave the remainder of theirs: fighting international and domestic terrorism until this scourge has gone the way of poison gas and nuclear weapons - becoming a weapon that cannot be used.
Asked in the Fox News poll last month about the most important issue facing America, only 7 percent mentioned terrorism. As a result, President Bush finds no national mandate for action: His job approval in the CNN/Gallup poll has dropped back to 52 percent, its pre-9/11 level. The events of 9/11 are now in the past. How short-sighted. How ridiculously optimistic.
Since 9/11, the FBI and the CIA have unearthed scores of terrorist plots, including efforts to blow up or poison the subway system, the Brooklyn Bridge and the United Nations. It is one of the greatest tributes to the priorities and vision of the Bush administration that none has gotten through our security web, but to make light of the danger is its own form of insanity.
One particularly chilling example is the reluctance to follow Israel's lead and install missile- evasion equipment on passenger planes. In 1998, terrorists shot down a Congo Airlines jet with a shoulder-fired missile. Al Qaeda tried to destroy an Israeli jet in Kenya last year. A terror suspect trying to smuggle in shoulder-fired missiles was just caught in New Jersey.
Yet U.S. airlines and the government are loath to spend the money to protect our planes. The Israeli system costs $1.5 million per plane. It would take $10 billion to protect our 6,000 passenger planes. Airlines fret that publicity about the threat from terrorist missiles would panic the flying public. During the Clinton years, the same reasoning led them to block security measures that might have prevented 9/11.
The Bush administration seems reluctant to speak openly about Iran and North Korea. Perhaps afraid of crying wolf after failing to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, it soft-pedals its public statements about these two crazed regimes' pursuit of nuclear weapons.
This diminution of the energy, this fading of 9/11, undermines our efforts in the war against terrorism. Bush needs to ratchet up his rhetoric to remind us that threats still loom. The last thing we need is a returning sense of normalcy that robs us of the determination to see the War on Terror through to victory.
Good politics and good government both point to the same policy: Politically, Bush can only survive if the issue that brought him our support - terrorism - gets the attention and focus it deserves.
Otherwise, we will learn the
hard way. We will be jolted out of our apathy when terror strikes
again. Let's hope that we can wake from our lull of indifference
and false confidence voluntarily before we are more rudely awakened.
Dick Morris was an adviser to Bill Clinton for 20 years. Morris is a political consultant, commentator and best selling author. Look for his newest book, "Power Plays" available now and look for Dick's new book, "Off With Their Heads - Traitors, Crooks & Obstructionists In American Politics".
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