War on terror: Last thing first

By Jane Chastain

I really want to be able to get behind President George W. Bush’s war on terrorism – even if it leads straight to Baghdad. It’s just that I can’t seem to get the picture, brought to my mind a few months ago, of political strategist Dick Morris whispering in his ear.

Morris was telling our commander in chief that he needed to begin readying the troops to take out Saddam in order to take our attention off the lackluster economy and regain control of the Senate.

Bush didn’t employ Morris, as did his predecessor. Morris’ advice was a gift via a timely column he wrote for the New York Post. However, his unsolicited advice to Bush proved to be every bit as valuable as it was to former President Bill Clinton, who began flexing his muscle against Iraq before the 1996 election.

OK, so maybe Bush doesn’t read Morris’ columns. Then again, maybe he just takes a peek once in a while. Who could resist? There is no denying that shortly after that column came out, this president began focusing on the Iraqi despot with laser-like precision and everything else faded into the background.

Can we win a war against the Iraqi dictator today as we did in 1991? Surely we can, but at what cost? Hussein has had 11 long years to prepare for the day we go into Baghdad. There is little doubt that he has chemical and biological weapons at his disposal – which we must expect will be used against our troops in Iraq and may possibly be unleashed here at home.

The good citizens of this country never have backed away from a fight that needed to be fought. However, if you are under attack, before you go out and pick a fight with another bully, the very first thing you do is make sure the people back home are protected. It’s a timeless strategy. First, secure the castle. Round up all those who don’t belong and send them home. Then, pull up the drawbridge. Rid yourself of the traitors within your gates. Lop off their heads and throw them to the creatures in your moat.

Bush has put the last thing first.

The security at our borders is a joke. Anyone who crosses our borders with any frequency knows that there is little or no effort made to stop the flow of those who are coming here illegally through our checkpoints. Furthermore, the hundreds of miles of sparsely patrolled areas is a virtual no man’s land.

Immediately after 9-11, there was an attempt by some in Congress to address the problem created by the 600,000 plus foreign students attending our colleges and trade schools. When these institutions of higher learning began applying pressure on these legislators, they lost their nerve. The Patriot Act, passed last December, was their weak-kneed response. It required a new automated system to maintain information on foreign students. This was to replace the old paper-based foreign-student monitoring system – the one that routinely has been ignored.

Visitors from countries that support terrorism now must undergo a new layer of scrutiny. Under the new National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, men ages 16 to 45 visiting the U.S. from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen now are required to report to airport inspectors on their visa departure date. However, there is no requirement that these inspectors actually see them off. In other words, they simply can slip back into the fabric of this country and join some 300,000 other illegal aliens who have deportation orders pending but have not been located, including 6,000 from the above-mentioned countries.

The problems at the INS are far greater than simply putting the agency under the giant umbrella of a new Department of Homeland Security. We have to slow the flow of legal immigrants until we are capable of separating out those who belong and those who do not. Then, and only then, can we hope to get a handle on this problem that leaves us vulnerable to terrorists.

This calls for extreme measurers, but war is an extreme measure! If we are going into Iraq, shouldn’t this president first show the people – both civilians and the military – that he is serious about fighting this war on terrorism by taking the necessary steps to secure the borders here at home?