- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Americans should be angry. They should be angry with President Bush. They should be angry with Sen. John Kerry. They should be angry with Congress. And they should vent their anger on both political parties. Then that anger must be channeled into useful action.

We are now in the third year of the global war on terror. Where do we stand? Are we winning, losing or about even? Three years into the Cold War, we had created NATO and the Marshall Plan. Three years after Pearl Harbor, World War II was almost over. Victory would come in Europe five months later and in nine months in the Pacific. Does any one think the war on terror will be over in five months, let alone five years? If not, why not?

Mr. Bush went to war in Iraq because he saw an imminent threat posed by Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. The administration assumed that Iraqis would welcome us as liberators and quickly seize the reins of government. But there were no weapons of mass destruction. And roses have been replaced with RPG-7s and suicide bombers, with no end in sight to the violence. Those misjudgments are powerful grounds for anger over the handling of the war.

John Kerry promises he will do a better job in dealing with Iraq. He also calls this the most important election in our lifetime. Yet, his proposals and policies do not carry the boldness and audacity that his description of the times seems to warrant. And his plan to put Iraq on a more stable course ( as well as how he will fight global terror), is filled with generalities that need greater definition if the public is to make an informed judgment as to which candidate will prove the better commander in chief. Americans should be angry with his campaign for that.

Congress deserves special anger. After all, Congress was largely absent without leave after September 11. It offered virtually no oversight. And now well after the fact, it is frantically debating how to reform intelligence and correct the atrocities at Abu Ghraib prison — cosmetic surgery when more radical procedures are needed.

Further, Congress approved $18.7 billion last October on a crash basis to reconstruct Iraq. About $18 billion remains. No one has inquired why so much money remains unspent. And should the argument surface that the instability in Iraq precluded judicious use of those funds, it would be as persuasive as the fellow who kills his parents and throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan. The administration had months before the insurgency took hold to act.

Finally, it is obvious that both the Republican and Democratic parties are consumed with winning the election. Governing the nation after Nov. 2 is less relevant. And, in condoning or denying any linkage with the so-called “527” groups who have run the incendiary attack ads demeaning the wartime service of John Kerry and ridiculing Mr. Bush’s time in the Air National Guard, both parties are irresponsible. The public should be angered over a campaign that seems permanently aground in the Mekong River and service in the Alabama Air National Guard.

The victims of September 11 are owed a huge debt for being the powerful motivating force behind the movement to reform intelligence. This is the lesson to replicate. The public needs to use its anger to demand an accounting by the candidates and Congress about what needs to be done to defend the nation.

Here are a few bold ideas that the public might consider in getting results that have appeared before in this column. First, with the unspent $18 billion sitting in some account, why not use that as the initial funding for a Marshall-type plan for the region aimed at eliminating the causes that motivate terrorists? Training Pakistani teachers for example to replace the horrid madrasses that impose the most radical views on the young would be one use for the money. And as Iraq becomes more peaceful, replacement funds could flow back.

Second, how about establishing a national security service corps throughout government, akin to the military?

And finally, how about Congress finally reforming and organizing itself in line with the 21st and not the 19th century? To drive this point home, constituents ought to ask their representatives when they actually last read a bill in its entirety before voting on it, something which, if the equivalent happened in the corporate world, would get CEOs fired.

The United States will defeat global terror. But unless Americans get really angry with their leaders and demand action, we may not live long enough to see that day.

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