Tuesday, August 17, 2004


Is there anything that does worry the What-Me-Worry President? As Nicholas Kristof argues in the New York Times, Bush rarely bothers even to feign interest in containing the threats from:

1.) Nuclear weapons abroad.
As I wrote in my last column, there is a general conviction among many experts - though, in fairness, not all - that nuclear terrorism has a better-than-even chance of occurring in the next 10 years. Such an attack could kill 500,000 people . . . .

So what should we be doing? First, it's paramount that we secure uranium and plutonium around the world. That's the idea behind the U.S.-Russian joint program to secure 600 metric tons of Russian nuclear materials. But after 12 years, only 135 tons have been given comprehensive upgrades. Some 340 tons haven't even been touched.

The Nunn-Lugar program to safeguard the material is one of the best schemes we have to protect ourselves, and it's bipartisan, championed above all by Senator Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican. Yet President Bush has, incredibly, at various times even proposed cutting funds for it. He seems bored by this security effort, perhaps because it doesn't involve blowing anything up . . . .

Finally, Mr. Bush needs to display moral clarity about nuclear weapons, making them a focus of international opprobrium. Unfortunately, Mr. Bush is pursuing a new generation of nuclear bunker-buster bombs. That approach helps make nukes thinkable, and even a coveted status symbol, and makes us more vulnerable.
2.) Assault weapons at home.
President Bush, sidestepping a promise, is allowing the ban on assault rifles and oversized clips to expire on Sept. 14. So at a gun store here in Meridian, a bit west of Boise, the counter has a display promising "2 FREE HIGH-CAPACITY MAGAZINES."

All you have to do is purchase a new Beretta 9-millimeter handgun and you'll receive two high-capacity magazines - on the condition, the fine print states, that the federal ban expires on schedule.

President Bush promised in the last presidential campaign to support an extension of the ban, which was put in place in 1994 for 10 years. "It makes no sense for assault weapons to be around our society," Mr. Bush observed at the time.

These days Mr. Bush still says that he'll sign an extension of the ban if it happens to reach his desk. But he knows that the only way the ban can be extended on time is if he actually urges its passage, and he refuses to do that. So his promise to support an extension rings hollow - it's not exactly a lie, but it's not the full truth, either . . . .

About 100 times as many Americans are already dying from gunfire in the U.S. as in Iraq. As many Americans die from firearms every six weeks as died in the 9/11 attacks - yet the White House is paralyzed on this issue.
In light of the above we are compelled to wonder, with Ivan Eland: Does Your Government Really Have an Interest in Protecting You from Terrorism?

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