Avoid the needless and costly distractions that entangle us now

Five years after 9/11, why is Osama bin Laden still at large?

As families mourned the victims of that atrocity five years ago, the Bush Administration vowed to "rally the world" and win the war on terror. Our president promised to focus on the priorities that would protect the safety of all Americans. Nations around the world rushed to offer their sympathy and cooperation. We were on the verge of a swift and united response to Al Qaeda.

And then President Bush decided to invade Iraq.

Instead of strengthening our position, Bush's folly has squandered thousands more lives of our best and brightest in a continuing quagmire, and needlessly diverted valuable resources from the real war on terror.

The numbers speak for themselves. Every day, the United States spends $200 million on the war in Iraq. Funds for just one day in Iraq could help meet our urgent homeland security needs, such as:

* improving the communications gap in more than 40 small cities or 34 mid-sized cities or six large cities so that federal, state and local first responders can talk to one another during an emergency;

* providing four million households with an emergency readiness kit;

* paying for 4,000 additional Border Patrol agents for one year to better guard our borders against potential terrorists;

* providing 1,285 explosive trace detection portals for airport screening of passengers;

* purchasing 750 fire trucks for improving local emergency response capabilities;

* employing 4,700 fire fighters, 4,000 police patrol officers, or 6,800 paramedics and emergency medical technicians for an entire year;

* providing 6,000 local law enforcement agencies with bomb-detecting robots;

* providing 9,400 port container inspection units to detect hazardous materials being shipped into the country; or

* providing 4,700 detectors for dangerous particles.

Five years after 9/11, our ports, our trains, our chemical plants and our nuclear power plants remain extremely vulnerable. The State Department reported 175 significant terrorist attacks in the world in 2003. In 2005, that number grew to more than 11,000.

Today, as we remember and honor the nearly three thousand people who lost their lives in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, we must remind each other that our focus should never shift from the real challenge we face. We must find Osama bin Laden, protect our homeland and avoid the needless and costly distractions that entangle us now.

Thank you,

Senator Edward M. Kennedy

Informant: Quechick Barnyard


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