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Complacency No More

05/23/02 12:00AM By Bill Seamans
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(Host) Now that the experts have admitted the probability of suicide bombers here at home, commentator Bill Seamans says we must become better prepared to defend ourselves.

(Seamans) We, the people, were living in a very dangerous bubble of complacency. We were put there by President Bush who, after 9/11, told us to live normally and go shopping to avoid a national panic.

Not any more!!! Stunned by the uproar of criticism for withholding terrorism information, the White House this past weekend went into a full damage control scramble, putting Dick Cheney on Tim Russert's Sunday TV talk show. With new forthrightness, Cheney said a terrorist attack is "almost certain." FBI Director Robert Mueller followed up on Monday. He warned, for the first time, that a suicide bomber attack here at home was "inevitable...that we will not be able to stop it....that it's something we will live with." They emphasized that the only question is "when?" which surely pricked my complacency bubble.

While Bush is spending billions for defense weapons that will not be ready for years, the suicide bomber is a lethal weapon that we face right now, today. The Washington Post described this new-age weapon. It is cheap - costing perhaps $150 for all the equipment and it is simple to put together. Maintenance costs are nil. It is easily concealed and once launched it is almost impossible to stop. It has the most accurate guidance system of any weapon available and can even make its own last-minute decisions and change its mission if it sees a better target. Above all, no one is safe from it anywhere. As the FBI says, an attack by this weapon, the suicide bomber, is "inevitable."

Despite the initiatives taken by the Office of Emergency Management and our local "first responders" - our firefighters, police, emergency medics and others - we are not being told by the Bush people what we can do to help in this national crisis, as civilians were mobilized during World War II. Surely the limited ranks of our first-responders will be overwhelmed by a terrorism emergency.

Borrowing the Beltway cliche du jour, I think we could "connect the dots" by suggesting that President Bush establish a voluntary civilian National Defense Corps to back up our first-responders in every area. There are tens of thousands of former servicepersons, retired medical, security and other professionals, and just ordinary citizens who would respond.

We, the people, should not be left as hapless sitting ducks. The Bush administration should at the very least launch an emergency informational campaign that would raise the public's awareness so that we would have a fighting chance to cope with what, in effect, will be an enemy invasion. Today, we the people are asking what should we do, what can we do - and President Bush must come up with some answers. It's called "leadership."

This is Bill Seamans.

Award-winning journalist Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East.
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