From the Albuquerque Journal:
It's hard to know what to think these days about U.S. security, what with attempted car bombings at Britain's airports, terrorist threat assessments rising in the United States, nonspecific warnings of a possible terrorist attack this summer and President Bush finally facing a serious policy showdown on Iraq.
Americans should be miffed when U.S. counterterrorism officials say al-Qaida is revived and reinvigorated and Iraq has made little to no progress toward its own independence and security - and when Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says he has "a gut feeling" that the U.S. will be attacked this summer. Nothing specific, nothing factual, nothing credible, mind you, Chertoff says. Just his uneasy gut.
Attentive Americans have figured out since Sept. 11, 2001, and the Homeland Security Advisory System of colors was introduced that it always seemed the threat level was raised whenever some otherwise unfavorable administration news was occurring. What color is gut?
Is it coincidence that with Republican senators jumping off Bush's floundering Iraq ship - like bullfrogs off a hot tin roof - the specter of a bigger, meaner al-Qaida is being raised and terrorist-attack guts are being checked? Perhaps.
But maybe from the people's perspective - those 70 percent or so of Americans who now want the United States out of Iraq - the timing is the perfect storm. The convergence is amazing for those who want to spin the news right back at an administration that:
Has obsessed over Iraq, which posed no threat to the United States when it was invaded.
Has ignored al-Qaida's growth and resurgence in Pakistan and, perhaps, parts of Afghanistan.
Hasn't a clue where Osama bin Laden is.
Continues to represent the civil war in Iraq as a terrorist threat to the United States.
Insists in the face of the brutal realities on the ground, and in its own reports and assessments, that the United States and/or the Iraqis are making progress.
One of the blunt realities of this week's al-Qaida threat assessment, which found the terrorist group "considerably operationally stronger" and "regrouped to an extend not seen since 2001," should be that Bush's policies not only permitted this to happen by waging an unnecessary and all-consumptive war in Iraq, but it also created a grand opportunity for al-Qaida to do battlefield training during our four-year occupation of Iraq.
Given that U.S. forces have been largely pinned down in the bloody Iraq occupation and civil war for the past four years, should it surprise anyone in Washington, Peoria or Albuquerque that al-Qaida has regrouped and grown stronger in its historic stomping grounds of Pakistan and Afghanistan?
Is it also coincidence that almost nobody is talking about persistent homeland vulnerabilities here, including U.S. ports, power plants, refineries, depots and other vital elements of infrastructure?
Would it really shock any American if Chertoff's gut proved right? After four years in Iraq, does it appear we have terrorism on the ropes? How many Americans believe Bush when he says, for what must be the hundredth time, that we are making progress in Iraq and we can "win." And would we know it if it happened?
Do Americans feel any safer approaching the sixth anniversary of 9/11, given the dismal performance of Homeland Security during and after Hurricane Katrina? Not to mention, of course, that two years after that gruesome tragedy, the inexcusable reality remains that much of New Orleans and the Katrina-afflicted Gulf Coast look like they belong in Iraq, not the American South.
And what of the governors who say our National Guard and Reserve units are understaffed and ill-equipped and, worse, not here to respond to domestic emergencies or natural disasters?
Americans deserve honest assessments of terrorist threats, as well as our vulnerabilities to them, and Congress must evaluate them honestly and stringently.
But more importantly, Americans deserve action from a government that has failed to focus its power, resources and precious people on the real security problems at home and abroad.
This administration's policies have completely missed the mark on all fronts.
The Senate, including the Republican minority, should be leading this nation, in the gross absence of sensible leadership from a president and commander-in-chief who continues to fail us miserably.
It is not about accepting failure in Iraq anymore. It is about recognizing and changing the policies that have utterly failed our soldiers, failed the people of Iraq and continue to fail the American people.
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