McCaslin's Beltway Beat

Posted: Oct 24, 2001 12:00 AM
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle will be interested to read the response to our item on the calendar date of Sept. 11 becoming a designated national day of mourning and remembrance, per congressional resolution. Americans are asked on that date each year to lower U.S. flags to half-staff and observe a moment of silence. The majority of readers who wrote to us, however, oppose two points made by Daschle, D-S.D., concerning the new national day of mourning and remembrance. "The reverse of what (this) resolution proposes is needed, surely," writes Floyd W. Whitley, of Cottonwood, Idaho. "Forbid the flag to be lowered, ever, in the face of such a hideous evil terrorist assault. To lower it would give credence to the demonic acts, and acknowledge that America can indeed be cowed before such actions. "The terrorists want respect and acknowledgment in their quarter, and lowering our standard annually gives them that which they seek," Whitley explains. "It likely too would be cause for more celebrations in the warrens that breed these perverted butchers." As for giving the new national day an appropriate name, Daschle informed us that "every description has fallen short. And so we simply refer to the date: September 11." Many readers aren't so sure there's not a fitting name for the national day. "Sept. 11 shouldn't be a day of victimhood but rather a day to honor world trade and free societies," says Bobby Florentz of Falls Church, Va., urging that something else positive rise up from the terrorist attacks. Among his suggestions: World Trade Day, Free Trade Day,World Freedom Day, Ultimate Justice Day, Unity Day. Beltway Beat readers from almost 50 states submitted other names, including: Steve E. Rice, Aloha, Ore. - Homeland Defense Day Lorrie Griffith, Upper Marlboro, Md. - National Day of Unity Ann Meyer, Iowa City, Iowa - Americans United Day Carolyn Rahal, Gaithersburg, Md. - National Pride Day Donna Wilson, Alexandria, Va. - 911 Day Joe Rigney, Hurricane, W.Va. - All Patriots Day Tom Peeler, Raymond, Miss. - Worst Mistake They Every Made In Their Lives Day BRUSH WITH OSAMA It is a most amazing fact that before he was sworn into Congress, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican and a former senior speechwriter to President Reagan, was marching in Afghanistan, a member of a small mujahadeen unit engaging in battle against Russian forces in and around the city of Jalalabad. "We at one point in that march came across a camp of tents," says Rohrabacher, today a senior member of the House International Relations Committee and an authority on the Middle East. "They were white tents and you could see them in the distance," he says, "and I was told at that point I must not speak English for at least another three hours, because the people in those tents were Saudi Arabians under a crazy commander named (Osama) bin Laden, and that bin Laden was so crazy he wanted to kill Americans as much as he wanted to kill Russians. Thus, I must keep my mouth shut or we would be attacked by those forces, by those forces under bin Laden." Rohrabacher, who wore a beard at the time like many in his mujahadeen unit, did as he was told. WHAT NOW? Although the CIA was caught off guard by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the intelligence agency had known - and warned - for some time about the deadly strike strategies of Osama bin Laden and anti-American militants of his ilk. "The kind of thinking that asks: How can I negate the overwhelming military force of the United States? The kind of thinking that leads a terrorist group to seek a chemical or biological weapon. The kind of thinking that could lead a small nuclear power to blackmail us - not with the possibility of defeat, but with the threatened destruction of one of our cities," CIA Director George J. Tenet told a Town Hall of Los Angeles meeting last Dec. 7, painting for his audience a psychological terrorist profile that 10 months later became all too real. "Today, Americans must recognize that ours is a world without front lines," Tenet warned that day. "That the continental United States - and not just our embassies and forces abroad - is itself susceptible to attack. And that the potential method of assault goes well beyond a terrorist with a truck full of conventional explosives." Unfortunately, none of the nation's elected officials seemed to be listening when Tenet - who some wanted fired after last month's attacks - concluded "why we in the intelligence community believe that the chances for unpleasant - even deadly - surprise are greater now than at any time since the end of the Second World War." ... AND WHAT'S TO COME The Bush administration has gone to great lengths in recent weeks to educate Americans on the difficulties of waging a worldwide war against terrorism - an unprecedented, dangerous undertaking that Vice President Richard B. Cheney says may not end in our lifetime. And if the present isn't enough to handle, the CIA is looking down the road to see what other obstacles might seriously impact U.S. security and stability 10 or 15 years hence, starting with population. By 2015, says the CIA, there will be more than 7 billion people on earth - a billion more than today. More than 95 percent of that growth will be in developing countries, which are least able to cope with the resulting pressures. Then comes water, or lack of it. In a dozen years, nearly half of the world's population will live in so-called "water-stressed" areas, where fresh water is consumed faster than it can be replaced. The CIA says much of the water shortage will be in the Middle East, where it will add to the current tensions, as well as in Africa, East and South Asia, where it will complicate economic growth. Finally, the CIA warns that emerging science and technology, which can be either tools for progress or weapons for evil, will only grow in capacity. Advances in the miniaturization of circuits, for one, hold the promise one day to permit the near duplication of human intelligence in machines. "Imagine," remarked CIA Director George Tenet, "what a dictator might do with power like that." SEAL THE BORDERS To help prevent future terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, Congress is rushing to increase security along the nation's borders, which today are amazingly lopsided. While the number of U.S. agents patrolling the nation's southern border with Mexico and the Caribbean has increased dramatically in recent years to 8,000, the number assigned to the 4,000-mile northern border with Canada has remained stagnant for the last decade - numbering only 300. Before adjourning due to the anthrax scare, Congress called on President Bush to immediately triple the number of U.S. Border Patrol, Immigration and Naturalization Service, and U.S. Custom Service agents along the Canadian border, the U.S. entry point of choice for several of the Sept. 11 hijackers and other militants. Just six months ago, everybody had now better recall, Islamic militant Ahmed Ressam was convicted for bringing a car loaded with explosives into the United States, where he'd planned to bomb several millennium celebrations. The 33-year-old Ressam was nabbed on Dec. 14, 1999, by U.S. Customs inspectors in Port Angeles, Wash., arriving by ferry from Canada. SOMETHING TO HOLD The House of Representatives has passed a resolution that will provide U.S. Capitol-flown flags to each surviving victim - and the family of each deceased victim, many of whose bodies will never be found - of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The special resolution immediately went into effect, not requiring Senate approval or the signature of the president. TALK ABOUT TIMING The U.S. Postal Service, at the urging of Muslim groups in this country, recently issued a postage stamp recognizing the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr - or "feast of fast-breaking" - which ends the annual fasting month of Ramadan. But one postal clerk in the Washington area informs us he's had trouble selling the 34-cent "EID" stamps - printed in Arabic writing - calling them "the least popular commemorative." Which comes as no surprise, unfortunately, given the terrorist anthrax attacks - via the U.S. mail - of recent weeks. For years, U.S. Muslim groups have urged such a stamp as "one sign that the Muslim presence in America is being recognized." The Eid ends the month when Muslims abstain from food, drink and other sensual pleasures from daybreak to sunset and concentrate on God's commandments. Observance of the fast is one of the "five pillars" of the Muslim faith. HURRY UP A coalition of nine senators, organized by Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, is asking President Bush to mobilize all available resources to speed the destruction of deadly Cold War chemical weapons still stored at depots in eight states. In the interim, the senators want military personnel to continue defending the storage sites in Indiana, Maryland, Alabama, Kentucky, Utah, Arkansas, Colorado and Oregon. "The inadvertent release of chemical agents from any of these facilities in any direction would be catastrophic," the senators warn in a letter to Bush. Already, we're told, the Bush White House has taken quick action to secure the facilities with U.S. Army troops. In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration has established restricted flight zones over the facilities, considering them "high-risk targets." Surprisingly, in their letter to Bush - reprinted for reporters - the senators identify the name of each storage depot and the state where it's located. We decided not to repeat those names and locations, for fear the "sleeper" terrorists may be reading.