Homeland Security Roundup
By Ray Sharp, War Correspondent,
Reporting from the wind-swept steppes of Lower Liminga
Two Washington, D.C., postal workers have died as a result of inhaled Anthrax, and more are sick. Talk about terror. Everyone who handles a piece of mail is a potential casualty. It seems increasingly likely that there is a link between the Sept. 11 attacks and the current Anthrax scare. Most likely origin of the deadly contagion? Smart money is betting on Iraq, but my sources in Liminga
don't rule out the former Soviet Republics of central Asia. They certainly stockpiled enough of the stuff in the late days of the Cold War. It could have passed through neighboring Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan or Tajikistan into Afghanistan.
You've got to feel awful for the poor, beleaguered U.S. Postal Service. First they had to deal with the gross misconception that their workers were all the time
"going postal." Then along came email, UPS and FedEx. Now they really do have a reason to fear going to work.
In college, we used to play a card game called Hearts. You had to follow suit, and you
couldn't lead a heart until someone was void in another suit and played a heart. In other words, until hearts were
"broken." Then all hell would break loose, with hearts flying everywhere. I have a theory about bio-terrorism, and I hope
I'm wrong. People have had the means to send Anthrax letters for years but apparently never did until last month. Why not? Was there some unspoken
gentleman's agreement among terrorists? I doubt it. The simplest answer is probably that no one ever thought of it until now, or that the old standbys
-- bombings, hostages and assassinations -- were deemed sufficient. But now that hearts have been broken,
there's no telling who might have Anthrax, or where and how it might be delivered next.
Life's Little Ironies, Part 1
Here's the deal. The ground beneath Kazakhstan, the second-largest former Soviet republic, is oilier than a
teenager's pimply forehead. At an estimated 50 billion barrels, the central Asian nation has twice as much untapped crude as Saudi Arabia, or enough to drive an SUV around the perimeter of the Milky Way galaxy and drop the kids off at soccer practice. The only problem is how do you get that lovely black elixir of the American lifestyle to the nearest ocean, where it can then flow unimpeded into the gas tanks of freedom-loving people in the Home of the Brave?
You guessed it. Run a big pipe through Afghanistan. Unocal already had the pipeline. They just needed some assurance that it would remain safe as it passed through the war-torn rubble of post-Soviet Invasion Afghanistan. As Central Asian expert Ahmed Rashid describes in his book
Taliban, the United States and Pakistan funneled arms and money to the Taliban starting in 1994 to help them consolidate their power against the emerging threat posed by the Tajik Northern Alliance, thus ensuring the safety of the Unocal pipeline. As recently as 1999, U.S. taxpayers (yeah, you and I) paid the entire salary of every Taliban official, all in the name of cheap oil.
Lately, our friends the Taliban have been getting a little out of hand, what with their tolerance of the opium-dealing, embassy-bombing Al-Qaida terror network. The attack on New York by a group of Egyptian radicals carrying passports from United Arab Emirates and funded by a Saudi billionaire gave Bush and his oil company handlers a great excuse to take out the Taliban and put someone in place that they can trust to mind the pipeline for a few years until the whole situation blows up again.
Have we really thought this thing through? First we helped radicalize the Mujaheddin in their fight against the Soviets. Then we propped up the Taliban in their fight against the Northern Alliance. Now
we're providing air support for the Northern Alliance so they can advance on Kabul. Do we really think the ethnic-minority Tajiks can govern Afghanistan? Pakistan
won't stand for that. Then what? We're running out of sides to take in this conflict. Maybe we should side with the people of Afghanistan for once, because they always seem to be the losers in the ongoing war for more oil. Maybe we should drive our cars a little less.
Life's Little Ironies, Part 2
Israel has ignored U.S. demands for an immediate withdrawal of its troops from all Palestinian-controlled areas. The State Department said Israeli actions had contributed to a significant escalation in tension and violence. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said his forces would not pull out from six West Bank towns until the Palestinians handed over those responsible for killing Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam
Many Israeli actions, from the occupation of Lebanon, to the shooting of rock-throwing boys during the Palestinian Intifada, to the frenzied building of settlements in the Occupied Territories, have contributed to the spiral of violence. But does it make any sense for the United States to be telling Israel to pull out of the West Bank?
Look at it this way. Israel is responding to a direct attack, namely the assassination of a high government official. A wing of the PLO has claimed responsibility. Israel is a tiny country bordered by terrorist breeding grounds that are not much more than a
stone's throw from its major cities.
On the other hand, the United States is bombing the cities of Afghanistan, some 10,000 miles away from the American mainland. Objectively, Taliban forces pose no direct threat to the United States. The justification for the U.S.-led military action is supposed to be the
Taliban's refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden and members of Al-Qaida. But wait a minute,
isn't that the exact reason for the current Israeli occupation of six West bank towns?
Aren't they demanding that the Palestinian Authority hand over Zeevi's killers?
Let's get our stories straight.
A Hero Remembered
Mark Bingham was one of the heroes who wrested control of United Flight 93 and stopped hijackers from piloting it into the White House. Sen. John McCain wants Bingham and the other heroes of Flight 93 to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the
nation's highest civilian honor.
Bingham happened to be an openly gay man. This fact was completely irrelevant as he bravely defended America. It
shouldn't make a difference in military service either.
On the Home Front
One of the most persistent local news stories of late has been opposition to Planned Parenthood Express. Two recent clashes between clinic supporters and abortion protesters underscore the hard feelings on both sides.
On the surface, there are a few similarities between the Taliban and a radical minority that is far to the right of the Right-to-Life mainstream. Both movements sprang from religious fundamentalism, and their adherents see their causes as just, holy wars. Both seek to restrict
women's rights. Both have links to terrorism. Abortionists have been murdered. Clinics have been bombed. Over 100 Planned Parenthood offices have received copycat hoax Anthrax letters in recent weeks.
I'm sure that local Planned Parenthood opponents would never condone violence in the service of their cause. They strike me as good citizens and pious people who are moved from within to speak out against what they understand to be abominable sin. In this regard, they have much in common with those who seek world peace, universal human rights, an end to capital punishment or any other movement that sanctifies life.
What I have a harder time understanding is opposition to birth control. As contraception has become more accessible to young people over the past decade, abortion rates have dropped steadily. I understand that National Planned Parenthood is an abortion provider, but the local women who run the gauntlet of picketers on Shelden Avenue are just going to pick up their pills. I say, give
'em a break. Too many good people are caught in the crossfire of this holy war.
Learn more about the author of this guest column, Ray
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