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The 'What If' Game

07/03/02 12:00AM By Bill Seamans
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(Host) Although it's no laughing matter, commentator Bill Seamans thinks that recent administration statements about the Middle East may inspire a new game.

(Seamans) It's apparent that our politicians and pundits are tiring of connecting-the-dots and, always willing to help, I very unselfishly offer them something new for their Washington dialogue. I call it the "What If" game.

And it so happens that President Bush became an inspiring contributor to the game when he drew the latest line in the Middle East sand - and right across Yasser Arafat - when Bush declared, "Peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership." Bush, in effect, told Arafat: Until you resign or are voted out of office in a free election, until Palestinian terrorism ends, until your corrupt officials are cleaned out, there will be no progress towards peace. You might hang around as the venerable figurehead emeritus of the Palestinian uprising, but we won't talk to you - only to a new leadership.

Thus Bush offers us a perfect set-up for the "What If" game. What if Arafat runs and wins in a free election scheduled for next January? And what if the Palestinian people tell President Bush: You can't run our government! What if Arafat loses or resigns but really continues to run things from behind the scenes, one of Arafat's favorite techniques? What if the terrorist groups sworn to wipe out Israel continue their suicide bombings even after a new leader is chosen? What if the hate-America terrorists launch a new bombing campaign here in our country in reply to Bush's intervention? And if the "What If" game becomes a reality, what will President Bush do?

I think the most important thing he can do right now is to make a maximum effort to protect the American people against the new terrorism campaign that our top officials say will happen here at home. We, the people, really need one authoritive, non-contradictory, non-confusing voice to inform us about security matters and we thought Bush's new Homeland Security Department would be it. But the department is still not organized.

Meanwhile, this past weekend, the FBI warned local agencies of a possible terrorist attack over the Fourth of July but thought it was not serious enough to warn the public. Then, on a Sunday talk show, Colin Powell said he did not want to exaggerate the warning. Then the Transportation Department said that in a secret nationwide test, one out of every four dummy weapons was not detected by major airport security screeners.

Thus instead of one voice we had the FBI, the State Department, and the Transportation Department all speaking at once. President Bush, please whip your Department of Homeland Security into shape now. This can't wait! There appears to be a dangerous gap between your anti-terrorism rhetoric and action. You do not appear to be responding to a national crisis with a real sense of crisis urgency.

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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