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   The War President Is Waging a Multi-Faceted Battle on the Domestic Front


OP-ED:

The War President Is Waging a Multi-Faceted Battle on the Domestic Front

by Parrish W. Jones, Ph.D.

This unseen war is being waged while the people have their heads turned in the direction of the war on terror and Iraq.

Since September 11, 2001, President Bush and his administration have been focused on the war on terror and on Iraq, blinding the public to another war that he is waging. That war is not against anyone who threatens terror. Instead, it is a multi-front war on:

Nature: Bush’s “Clear Skies” will lead to darker ones by encouraging more SUV purchases with tax breaks; relaxing regulations requiring the retrofitting of coal burning power plants with emission control devices; using the war on terror/Iraq to justify a policy for oil exploration in environmentally-sensitive areas (Florida’s coasts escaped by money and votes while the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve is on the hit list because arctic animals do not vote or make political donations); relaxing regulations on logging; road construction in previously restricted wilderness areas on federal lands; exempting the military from environmental regulations that apply to everyone else; and supporting the practice of Mountain Top Mining that fills streams with rock and debris removed to permit access to coal, thus polluting the water resources of communities downstream.

Children: Following the campaign with the theme “No Child Left Behind,” which was a sinister co-optation of the long-time motto of the Children’s Defense Fund, “Leave No Child Behind,” one can only say that for Bush, “child” must only apply to children born with silver spoons in their mouths. All other persons recognized as children in normal discourse are left behind. The “No Child Left Behind Act,” a Bush proposal focusing only on education, did not receive enough in his proposed budgets to fund the act. While every child in public school will suffer from this proposal and lack of funding, the most at-risk children will be hurt the most. Head Start, arguably the most successful government program, is under attack from every side. Schools in urban areas, where the spending per pupil is already lowest and teacher salaries at bottom, will find little to improve their conditions where demands for testing are increased, reparations for failure highest, and additional finding is too scarce to make it possible to meet the goal of a quality teacher in every classroom. The more teachers and school administrators learn about this act, the less they like it.

Families: As the Temporary Aid to Needy Families Act sought to force people off welfare and into work, the goals did not include poverty reduction. While the program goals were met in the final years of the ’90s as we reached near full employment, the families were still in poverty. Lacking adequate funding for child-care subsidy, the number of latch key children climbed. Recipients of TANF support are often restricted by states from pursuing higher education as an alternative to work, despite studies that show that few persons without a higher education degree live above the poverty line. Parents who leave their children unattended because they cannot afford childcare face the possibility of legal action for child neglect. How does one keep body and home together when so many challenges collude to overwhelm?

Human Rights: While Bush claims to fight for democracy for Afghanistan, Iraq, and the world, the rights of people in the US are under attack. In the name of National and Homeland Security, systems to invade our privacy are being designed to collect data on everything one buys from books to movie tickets. (You may find that hard to believe, but Giant Food, Safeway and others can tell you everything you have bought in the past year at their stores.) Young people from Mexico, who have been attending colleges in US border communities by daily commuting across the border, have been denied that privilege not because they are a security risk but because they “might be” a security risk. Stories come out daily of non-Anglo persons being questioned not because there is evidence that they know anything but in the wide net cast by the intelligence agencies.

This list does not even begin to give the whole story. That is a story that the news media should be telling, but is not. This war that is raging behind the scenes is possibly a more important war than the one that is drawing most of the protest. This unseen war is the one that may win the administration the name “War Presidency” because it is a war that is waged while the people have their heads turned in the direction of the war on terror and Iraq.


Dr. Jones is a minister of the Presbyterian Church (USA). He lives in Washington, DC.


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This story was published on April 5, 2003.
  
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