As a nation, we continue to face a very real threat of terrorism and yet the Bush Administration has failed to implement the suggestions of the 9-11 Commission. Congressman Ike Skelton (D-MO) is ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee and a leading authority on national security issues. I am reprinting below a weekly column by Congressman Skelton which is right on target concerning the war on terrorism.
"This month, Americans will take part in public and private remembrances marking five years since the attacks of September 11, 2001. The terrorists who hijacked our airplanes and attacked our national symbols committed acts of war, ruthlessly destroying the lives of thousands of innocent civilians. Although Al Qaeda terrorists had attacked U.S. targets before, these crimes left no room for doubt that the U.S. was at war."
"Today, we are in the midst of a long struggle against the evil of terrorism. American and allied forces deposed Afghanistan’s Taliban regime, which supported Al Qaeda operations and training camps, and American military units have fought and are fighting terrorist cells in a number of other countries. But the recent arrests in Britain of alleged terrorists plotting attacks aboard U.S.-bound airliners highlights our country’s need to regain our focus on homeland security."
"Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the American people have spent a great deal of time and money working to prevent other attacks on the United States. While we have had a number of successes and have thwarted terrorist attacks during that time, I fear that we have not dedicated sufficient financial support and manpower to homeland security."
"The independent 9/11 Commission, which was established by Congress to investigate 9/11 and suggest policy changes, made a number of recommendations (www.9-11commission.gov), but many have not been implemented. In fact, members of the Commission issued a report card in December 2005 regarding the implementation of critical homeland security initiatives. Commissioners gave a failing grade to U.S. efforts to pre-screen airline passengers, a “D” for checked bag and cargo screening policies, and a “C” for passenger explosive screening efforts. Five years after 9/11, this track record is unacceptable."
"Our first priority as elected officials is the security of the American people. Unfortunately, our priorities have been misplaced over the past five years. Rather than extending tax cuts to millionaires, Congress should have directed more attention and resources to homeland defense and worked to ensure tax dollars were spent using a risk-based analysis."
"The conflict in Iraq, which is separate and distinct from the war on terrorism, has also taken resources and focus away from efforts to fight terrorism. The Marine Corps’ announcement that it will soon involuntarily activate up to 2,500 Marines from the Individual Ready Reserve is a reminder that valuable resources are being spent on the conflict in Iraq rather than being sent to the front lines in the war on terrorism."
"We need to recognize the mistakes made over the last five years so our nation can move forward to a more secure future. In the days ahead, I look forward to working with my colleagues to create a new direction for homeland security policy that provides real security to the American people. We owe it to those who lost their lives on 9/11, as well as to those who are currently serving at home and abroad to keep America safe."
Thank you, Congressman Skelton, for your leadership on national security issues and hopefully you will assume the chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee next year.