- The Washington Times - Friday, October 5, 2001

After writing four columns on the events of Sept. 11, I went fishing to seek respite from the worrisome question of

whether the U.S. government is competent to fight a war against terrorism. Alas, the question followed me along a beautiful stretch of Florida's Gulf Coast.

My guide, an expert fisherman, was bored with the 2-pound black snapper and blue fish we were hauling aboard and scornful of my delight in light tackle sparring with acrobatic ladyfish. His excitement returned when he spotted a dark shape moving through crystal-clear waters.

"Shark," he shouted, and off we went in pursuit. His excitement was short-lived as he spit out the bitter word, "porpoises." Sure enough, two 7-footers stuck their noses into the boat and began talking to us. They were asking for a handout. As I reached into the bait bucket, my guide stopped me: "It is a $5,000 federal fine to feed a porpoise. The feds are afraid porpoises will become dependent and forget how to look after themselves."

Think about that. Porpoises are protected from welfare dependency, but not people. Wondering why government attaches more importance to the independence of porpoises than to the independence of people, it hit me. Porpoises don't vote. If they could, you can bet the Democrats would have a big budget for porpoise handouts.

This amusing thought ruined my respite by bringing to mind other glaring contradictions. The Bush administration has ruled that the U.S. Air Force can shoot down hijacked airliners to prevent their use as weapons against buildings, but airline pilots are not permitted to carry pistols.

The FAA reasons that a terrorist might take a gun away from a pilot. To avoid this risk, the FAA risks allowing terrorists to take the airliner away from the pilot, as happened four times on Sept. 11.

To avoid losing more buildings and thousands of lives, the Air Force will blow the hijacked plane out of the sky. Anything to keep down the risk of arming pilots.

I wonder if this makes any more sense to the police than it does to me. The police can't shoot a fleeing felon, but it is OK to shoot a runaway airliner.

After three weeks of flag-waving, let's make an honest assessment of our government's ability to protect us from terrorists. Many airline pilots were trained in the military and have better firearm skills than air marshals. Moreover, there are frangible bullets that will stop a person without threatening the structural integrity of the airliner.

The gun-control lobby prefers hijacked airliners to any role for self-protection. But why weren't pilots issued stun guns or pulse-wave Myotrons? The latter gadget is the size of a small cell phone and makes the slightest flight attendant more powerful than the largest ruffian. A 1-second jolt incapacitates the attacker without doing him permanent damage.

Instead, the FAA relied on "airport security" operated by noncitizens. Every time I pass through "security," I marvel at the incongruity of an FBI-vetted presidential appointee being checked out by Middle Easterners who can't speak English.

Where is the security when Arabs are servicing airliners and loading the baggage? What risks are we taking when 80 percent or more of Dulles International Airport's security personal are not citizens of the United States? The proportion is just as high at JFK, LaGuardia, Cleveland, Atlanta name your airport.

The Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt is ecstatic that the declared war on terrorism is bringing back Big Government. Liberals like Mr. Hunt are indebted to terrorists for reminding Americans of "the centrality of government in our lives."

Before this makes you feel confident, remember that in the 1970s the government declared the war against smallpox, won and stopped producing vaccine for inoculations. The fact that the disease existed in bacteriological weapons was ignored. Today, our population is totally vulnerable.

This is the same government that has only 60,000 doses of anthrax vaccine. And that's for our military, numbering many times 60,000.

"There are some things only government can do," brags Al Hunt about his beloved. Yes indeed. Only government can put regulations in place that allow a few barely armed men to hijack airliners and crash them into buildings while, on the other hand, spending 30 years maximizing the population's vulnerability to germ warfare.

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