Letter to Sen. Mark Dayton, Sen. Norm Coleman (MN), Rep.Olav Sabo, March 3, 2003


The most important national security measure in our counter-terrorism war is essentially a defensive item: to account for all WMD’s (and associated chemical, biological, and radiological) substances anywhere in the world, and to prevent and detect their unauthorized movement. It would seem like plain common sense that Congress should be holding hearings (classified if necessary) on just this approach..


A freelance writer like me who dabbles into controversial political and social areas attracts a lot of contacts and comments. Some of these are mostly emotional indignation, and some have real facts and substance.


On Iraq, nobody is completely right or wrong.  It is apparent that Saddam has nurtured significant caches of WMD’s, in violation of international law and agreements. These caches do provide a significant long-term threat in increasing the likelihood of catastrophic incidents, and it is clear that Saddam must be disarmed. What Congress must determine quickly is whether there is any reasonable chance that a “progressive discipline” approach to disarming Saddam (working with the IAEA and the U.N.) can work.


Unfortunately, President Bush has left many people with the impression that what the country really wants is cheap oil and imperialistic expansion for the benefit of business and for “the rich.”  I do not believe this, but given the way the president has managed the Iraqi crisis, it is understandable that many people on the street believe this and do not take the arguments concerning eventual terrorism on the homeland seriously.


Along with this, the president leaves the impression that he is willing to take a short term risk of catastrophic revenge attacks on American soil (or perhaps against oil fields in the Gulf states) to pursue his agenda. This, objectively speaking, may be overblown. An enemy with possession of WMD’s is likely to use them eventually anyway. [The public would feel much more comfortable if the United Nations and other allies fully supported disarming Saddam by force.]


Many people, then, see the choice as simply one of choosing to spend public money on war or on social programs. Of course, this is not really so. Freedom cannot be taken for granted, and freedom can be threatened both by enemies and by measures taken by our own government to counter these enemies.


It is clear, of course, that some strategies, such as multiple radiological attacks, could so seriously damage the stability of American society and financial markets that it simply could no longer function as we know it today. One question is whether a terrorist enemy really wants to attack symbols of American financial and political power, or whether instead he wants to punish ordinary American citizens who, through the public exuberance of  culture, apparently undermine the less individualistic and more structured and religious societies in other parts of the world.


It is clear that war and homeland security are taking funds that otherwise would be in the hands of business investors or individual persons, or social programs. This problem is compounded by financial and accounting scandals on such a colossal scale that serious burdens are placed on legitimate business and ordinary Americans.


The president and Congress have not talked very openly about personal sacrifice, but it is clear that the public may have to deal with this. We would need to be able to assert that those who have benefited the most from our open society should pay the most to make it whole again.


But, in the mean time, it is important to return to the single most grave national security problem, which is the lack of control over the proliferation of materials that go into weapons of mass destruction. Just as individuals can now make themselves public personalities on the Internet, unscrupulous or hostile individuals or very small groups or rogue states can wreak tremendous destruction if they possess these materials.  Iraq, Iran and North Korea are significant source of these materials, but obviously there are many other sources, such as facilities in the remains of the original Soviet Union, and the incentive of unemployed scientists to find and sell these materials on the black market. There are even serious problems with the security of these materials in our own country: at military depots, hospitals, nuclear power plants and nuclear fuel reprocessing plants, all of which have well documented problems with lost materials. 


A national security policy should focus more upon dangerous materials than upon profiling people. Detecting and disposing of dangerous materials may require Constitutional attention as to 4th Amendment matters, and should be handled with much more determination than, say, drugs. Yet, laws aimed at detecting these materials should not normally affect ordinary Americans.


The nation is consumed with the reported antagonism of radical Islam to our freedoms. But it is important to remember than dangers to freedom can come from many sources. These can include a resurgence of communism, neo-Nazism, extreme “Christian” fundamentalism coupled with racism and homophobia, or natural threats such as new diseases or loss of the environment.  We are often surprised by new bogeymen. We can no longer afford to be.




John W. Boushka (“Bill”)

Email: Jboushka@aol.com


Permission is granted to reproduce this letter.


[note: some commentators point out that it was compliance with international law and United Nations resolutions that prevented the first President Bush from removing Saddam Hussein in 1991 after driving Iraq out of Kuwait.]