Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Kerry Should Hit Bush on CTR

Kerry is not putting enough emphasis on the one homeland defense issue that will truly resonate with people, and on which Bush has been craven: Cooperative Threat Reduction. Bush has refused to fully fund it, even though the budget is mere pittance in comparison to it's importance. CTR is purchasing and securing nuclear weapons and materials in former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc nations which can no longer afford to adequately assure these weapons' security. If the Bush Administration were truly concerned about WMD falling into the hands of terrorists, this would be their number one priority. The personnel guarding and staffing the facilities where these materials are stored are tremendously vulnerable to bribery, blackmail, trickery, or force, and border controls lack sophistication. Materials with which terrorists could easily build a crude device, such as highly enriched uranium, are surprising insecure. A terrorist could be obtaining these materials as you read this, and the first notice we would have could be a mushroom cloud over New York harbor.

CTR is the homeland defense issue Kerry should hammer Bush the hardest and most frequently. I hate to advocate this, but there isn't a more thoroughly frightening issue out there with which to overcome Bush's own constant scare tactics by frightening people justifiably and for good reason. If Kerry works to make people understand the issue, people will come to see that loose nukes and fissile materials are the single greatest threat to US security. Failure to prioritize and fund CTR could result in a mushroom cloud over NY or LA. CTR only costs a few dollars per American - YET BUSH WON'T SPEND IT! He'll spend billions on missile defense so that large aerospace contractors can get contracts, but the real threat will probably arrive on a Liberian container ship. Bush will spend 100 billion on a war on Iraq that has failed to find a single WMD, but he won't spend a measly billion to purchase fissile materials and pay for upgraded security measures in foreign nuclear facilities where we KNOW there are precursors to WMD or even live nuclear warheads.

Cooperative Threat Reduction is a perfect frame for illustrating that Bush doesn't really care about homeland defense, and that Bush has failed to provide leadership to make America safer. CTR requires more than one line in Kerry's platform. It needs the appointment of very powerful and well supported 'czar', a pledge to support the Nunn-Lugar 1 billion dollar CTR program, and an action plan for stepping up the purchase of weapons material for reprocessing and for securing research stocks of fissile materials.

Kerry can beat Bush mercilessly with the contrast between the 100 billion and hundreds of lives the Iraq war has cost us to chase an illusory threat of an Iraqi bomb, but he won't fully fund a measly 1 billion for CTR. which goes after nuclear materials that we know exist, know where they are, and that are in the hands of people who might actually sell them to al Qaida. Most importantly, the dangers of loose nukes can be abated without any danger to our troops.


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