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Despair in Iraq Over the Forgotten Victims of US Invasion
Published on Thursday, September 9, 2004 by
Bush War on Terror Deemed ''Major Failure of Leadership" by Critics
by Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration's three-year "war on terrorism" has amounted to a "major failure of leadership and makes Americans more vulnerable rather than more secure," according to a new report by Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF), a network of mainly progressive policy and security analysts.

The report, 'A Secure America in a Secure World,' concludes that Washington's invasion of Iraq in 2003 has proven counter-productive to U.S. anti-terrorism efforts and that the administration has failed to protect likely future terrorist targets at home, such as seaports and chemical plants.

"Not only has Bush failed to support effective reconstruction in Afghanistan, but his war and occupation in Iraq have made the United States more vulnerable and have opened a new front and recruiting tool for terrorists while diverting resources from essential homeland security efforts," according to the 50-page report.

Moreover, the administration has undermined "the very values it claims to be defending" by, among other steps, weakening the rule of both international and domestic law, restricting civil liberties at home, and supporting dictatorial allies abroad, according to the report, which was issued on the eve of the third anniversary of al Qaeda's terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon Saturday.

The report, which was compiled by a task force of 23 experts, including former government officials who served under Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, was authored by FPIF director John Gershman who teaches at New York University's Robert Wagner School for Public Service. FPIF, which calls itself a ''think tank without walls'', is a joint project of the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and the Interhemispheric Resource Center (IRC) in New Mexico.

The task force included Robert Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches (NCC); William Hartung, an arms expert at the World Policy Institute (WPI) in New York City; David Cortwright, the president of the Fourth Freedom Forum; Lawrence Korb, a senior Pentagon official under Reagan who is current with the Center for American Progress; and Michael Klare, a prolific author on U.S. foreign policy and conflicts in the Third World based at Hampshire College in Massachusetts.

In addition to criticizing the Bush administrationís counter-terrorism initiatives, the report also offers detailed recommendations of its own, many of which overlap with those proposed by the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry.

The task force called generally for shifting many of the resources that have been channeled to the Pentagon to other departments consist with the report's views that the military and war itself may not be the most effective mechanisms for dealing with the many aspects of a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy.

According to one study by the Center for Defense Information (CDI), about two-thirds of the increase in last year's Pentagon's budget funded programs and activities that are largely irrelevant to either homeland security or counter-terrorism operations.

In particular, the report urges shifting some US$5 billion a year in Pentagon funds to the Container Security Initiative to increase port container inspection tenfold, while doubling Coast Guard and Border Patrol programs at an additional cost of some $11 billion annually.

It noted that the government currently is spending more money every three days on the war in Iraq than it has spent on ensuring the security of the country's 361 commercial seaports over the past three years.

It also calls for adding $10 billion a year in federal support for local first responders, including local police, firemen, hospitals, while training National Guards units to work closely with emergency responders.

But much of the report is devoted to a critique of the administration's record over the past three years -- above all, its decision to invade and occupy -- a decision which, the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) concluded in a recent study, has ''accelerated recruitment'' for al Qaeda and like-minded groups in the Islamic world, an assessment widely shared by current and former U.S. intelligence officials, including Richard Clark and "Anonymous," the senior CIA official who recently published 'Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror.'

The task force accuses the administration over-militarizing the response to al Qaeda not only in its invasion of Iraq, but also in enshrining ''preventive war'' in U.S. national security strategy, setting the stage for a sharp rise in tensions worldwide.

The White House, according to the report, has also failed to ensure sharing of critical intelligence both among intelligence agencies and between federal and local agencies, even while it cut by some $2 billion this year in crime-prevention and public-safety programs.

The administration has also taken a "hands-off approach" to ensuring the security of much of the nation's basic infrastructure, about 85 percent of which is owned or controlled by the private sector. The chemical industry, for example, has successfully stalled efforts at enhancing security at the 123 plants and facilities where a release of chemicals could threaten the lives and health of more than one million people, the report charges.

According to a recent Council on Foreign Relations report cited by the task force, the administration's plans to fund federal, state, and local first responders will fall short by about $100 billion over the next five years.

On the foreign-policy front, the administration's clear hostility to multilateral institutions has not only increased resentment towards the U.S. among foreign governments and their publics, but has also undermined prospects for arms-control efforts that are vital to efforts to control and reduce the global supply of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Washington must do far more to support the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions, the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Fissile Material Control Regime, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, according to the report which noted that Bush ambiguous, if not hostile positions on some of these treaties makes it more, rather than less likely that terrorists will acquire WMD.

Finally, Washington must enhance its ability to respond quickly to failed or failing states by expanding support for UN and other peacekeeping initiatives and devote more of its own forces to such missions, end U.S. financial and military backing for the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and reduce its dependence on oil imports from repressive governments in the Middle East and elsewhere, according to the report.

© 2004


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