Billions For The Middle East—But How Many Cents For the Border?
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On Aug. 10, 1949, the U.S. War Department was officially renamed the Department of Defense. But, for most of the last five and a half decades, American armed service personnel have been mostly on the offense, carrying the fight to foreign climes like Korea and Vietnam.

That is, until the current war on terror began. Under President Bush's command, our military has rightly been defending our country from further terrorist attacks.

But our defense has been mostly limited to Iraq and Afghanistan. What about our own borders, right here at home? Does the Bush Administration think they are somehow immune from infiltration by terrorists with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons?

Reasonable people would agree they are not.

And yet Bush, the Pentagon, and most lawmakers in Congress won't entertain the notion of deploying American troops along our vast borders with Mexico and Canada.

They worry about upsetting allies. But true friends shouldn't take offense and should understand we are at war.

The White House worries about business interests who contribute to campaigns and complain that additional security measures would hamper commerce. It's paralyzed by absurd complaints of ethnic groups who equate such border security to racism.

The only concern should be the security of our country during war.

In late May Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller warned Americans that intelligence suggested al-Qaeda or other terrorist elements could strike in spectacular fashion this summer.

The bureau chiefs warned such attacks could involve weapons of mass destruction—the kind that kill as many or more people in one fell swoop as died on Sept. 11, 2001.

U.S. officials say they are stepping up security at a number of obvious places—airports, ports of entry, train stations and the like.

But no such tightened security has been put into place along our borders.

Consider that in documents made public June 1, the Justice Department said former Chicago gang member and suspected al-Qaeda terrorist Jose Padilla—arrested by the Feds in 2002—had plans to blow up apartment complexes and hotels.

Padilla also was plotting to detonate a so-called "dirty bomb," a conventional explosive laced with radioactive materials. A "dirty bomb" is not the same as a nuclear weapon—far from it. Nuclear weapons incinerate millions of victims at once; radioactive bombs just incinerate whoever happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but kill scores later via radiation sickness.

But here's the kicker: the Justice Department says Padilla and another accomplice were going to enter the U.S. via Puerto Rico or Mexico.

If even one terrorist thinks of getting into the United States in this manner, it's not unreasonable to suspect others may try the same thing.

And why not? What's to stop them? The Border Patrol says they catch perhaps one of every five or six illegal migrants crossing from Mexico every day.

Those are devastating odds. And they're completely unacceptable during a time of war.

Did Americans survive the Cold War, when the Soviet Union possessed the ability to destroy us in a matter of minutes,—only to see us incinerated by nuclear- and chemical-armed terrorists walking into the country from south of the border?

The government has dumbed down border security to the point where Americans, during a time of war, are far too much at risk.

I agree that fighting terrorist enemies abroad, where they train, thrive and live, is sound strategy.

But leaving open the back door for those who elude us overseas is not.

Jon E. Dougherty [email him] is a reporter and columnist for, and author of the new book, Illegals: The Imminent Threat Posed by Our Unsecured U.S.-Mexico Border.

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