THE RUMSFELD WALL WON'T DEFEND AMERICA
DAVID H. HACKWORTH

Now it's the Space Wall!

Long-in-the-tooth pro-wallers, backed up by pals in the military-industrial-congressional complex (MICC), are at it again.

Solving some of tomorrow's problems with yesterday's thinking -- while ignoring real threats that should receive the highest priority -- might end up wasting more Americans than all our wars combined.

Just while I've been sucking air on planet Earth, there have been walls aplenty: Maginot, Westwall, Berlin and Robert McNamara's $2 billion electronic doozie designed by corporate America to fence in Ho Chi Minh's hordes. And let's not forget Saddam Hussein's supposedly impenetrable Kuwait Wall that Stormin' Norman turned into a monument to stupidity in just 100 hours.

None of the 20th-century walls worked. Nor did their predecessors, from the Great Wall of China to the Limes in Germany to Hadrian's Wall in Britain to the massive Coast Artillery Wall that "protected" America and fed the budding MICC around the turn of the 20th century. History clearly shows that man-made walls don't do the job.

Sure, there's an ICBM threat, but the Space Wall -- which will cost more than it would to send every kid in America to fine schools like those the Clinton and Bush girls attend, modernize every hospital to the standards of the ones that look after our lawmakers so well and eliminate the thousands of ghettos that shame America -- is decades away from functioning as a viable deterrent. And many experts say that $100 billion later, the development of this latest version of Star Wars: the defense shield will have produced nothing more than the mother of all arms races.

In any case, ICBMs launched by a few Looney Tune nations are the least of our troubles. Rogue states can be contained the way we and the Soviets did with Mutually Assured Destruction. What we do is put out the word to places like Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Pakistan: Just one missile headed our way, and there won't be a city in your land that won't glow for 250,000 years.

Instead of building another wall, we should be addressing America's No. 1 threat -- TERRORISM. And to protect us adequately, anti-terrorist preventive measures should be fast-tracked the way FDR ramrodded the Manhattan Project, which gave us the A-bomb before Hitler. With the same urgency JFK showed when he pushed the throttle to get us up into space. And with the same passion Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is displaying toward his new wall-to-be.

Enough plutonium has been slipped out of the ex-Soviet Union to build a dozen nuclear weapons. What's to stop Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden from making refrigerator-size atomic bombs, crating 'em up and shipping them to "cousins" conveniently living in key port cities such as Boston, New York City, Norfolk, Va., Savannah, Ga., Galveston, Texas, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle? All with timers ticking away to go off at exactly the same second while the "crates" await customs inspection? And if they're shipped by a cutout in France or Ireland, there'd be no fingerprints, either. Remember, we still haven't nailed the perps who blew up our Air Force billet in Saudi Arabia or the bombers who did a number on the USS Cole.

Surely the best brains and leaders should be assembled and told to figure out how to work together to stop the nukes, chemical and biological weapons now brewing in labs around the world from clobbering the USA. Quick smart before it's too late.

But so far, our anti-terrorist countermeasures against Weapons of Mass Destruction have been relegated to the back burner. Only a fraction of our defense bucks has been earmarked for anti-terrorism, and the effort's been pretty much staffed by incompetents and gridlocked by governmental turf wars. More defense money's been shipped south of the border to fight the unwinnable drug war than used to stop WMD from creating an American holocaust.

The arms race that would be created by Rumsfeld's wall might be great for Lockheed and Martin -- not to mention the rest of the MICC Cold War Millionaires Club made up of former generals and admirals and SecDefs. But long before those happy "duck and pray" days are here again, America could go down the chute from the effects of WMD.

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(c) 2001 David H. Hackworth
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