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bob maginnis - 10/4/01

November 09, 2001

Suggestions for Bush and the people



It's been three weeks and two days since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Nothing on that scale has happened since, though Wednesday's knife attack on a Greyhound bus driver by a man carrying a Croatian passport shut down bus traffic across the nation. Every incident, whether the work of a terrorist or a different sort of unbalanced person, contributes to the economy's slide as we all worry about what might happen next. President Bush certainly doesn't need my advice, but as syndicated columnist Mike Barnicle said this week, people need something to do, to feel like they're a part of the fight. So here's my two cents.

Giving blood is good, but it has to be done on a schedule, since the technology to freeze it for more than a week isn't widely available. Providing financial aid to the victims is another good thing. But after you've written the check or stuffed those bills into a canister, the glow that comes from doing something good eventually wears off, in large part because we don't know whether what we've done is enough.

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Suggestions for the president:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Begin the attack on terrorism with a public-relations offensive. As Thomas Friedman of The New York Times recently noted, the U.S. worked hard and risked American lives to keep Muslims from being slaughtered during the Balkan conflict. The U.S. is also providing a significant amount of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. That should continue, with plenty of access for the world press to see that the image of America as an anti-Islam monster is a false one.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Raise the bounty on Osama bin Laden. It's currently at $5 million; why not up the ante to $1 billion? If the rewards are commensurate with the risks, more people may be willing to take them.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Ask citizens to make some continuing sacrifice, like conserving fuel by carpooling or combining trips when they can. It can't hurt; the air will be cleaner and the nation will be less dependent on foreign oil.

n Vigorously prosecute the idiots who are harassing U.S. citizens of Middle Eastern descent because of what happened Sept. 11. The message needs to go out that America will target people for doing do the wrong things and not because of their religion or heritage.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> And speaking about wrong messages, here's a proposal that ought to be retracted right now: The co-payment for most U.S. veterans' prescriptions is due to increase from $2 to $7 per prescription. It doesn't sound like much, but for those who are on multiple medicines, it would add up, even though there'd be an $840 cap on annual out-of-pocket expenses. At a time when we need to recruit, it does not help to increase costs for those who've already served.

My suggestions for citizens:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Resolve not to do business with those companies that have laid off thousands of people. Perhaps I don't understand economics or a CEO's responsibility to the stockholders, but these layoffs seem to me to be an attempt to be the last person in the lifeboat. It won't work; we're all in this together. And if this is truly wartime, what they're doing isn't patriotic. Feel free to write and tell me I'm wrong, but if you do, tell me whether or not you still have a job.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Unbelievably, Congressional Democrats and Republicans are fighting about whether the new airport security people everyone agrees are needed should be federal employees or privately contracted. Write your Congressperson or Senator immediately, please, and tell them that these people need to be hired now. The argument about whether they'll be federal employees can wait until later.

The addresses are:

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, D.C., 20515

and

U.S. Senate

Washington, D.C., 20510

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Resolve to pay more attention to foreign affairs, particularly when the U.S. is involved. Columnist Charley Reese has gotten some heat for saying it recently, but some of the reason people in the Mideast hate America is because of some alliances we've had in the past.

When Iran was our enemy, we provided aid to Iraq, knowing that the people in power were not likely to be the Mideast versions of Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin. The people now in control of Afghanistan rose to power as a result of a U.S.-financed effort against the Soviet Union.

The nation cannot undo those things now, and refusing to retaliate against the people who attacked America Sept. 11 would only embolden the next group of cranks with real or imagined grievances. But citizens can demand that their lawmakers look carefully at what may happen tomorrow as a result of the alliances the U.S. forges today.

Are the Afghan rebels we hope will help us likely to be better or worse than the current bunch? And if the answer is "worse," would America be better off going it alone? I don't know the answer to that question, but believing that we don't have to think about it just because such countries are thousands of miles away is just one of the illusions that was shattered on Sept. 11.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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