Dean correct on Saddam’s capture

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(Host) Commentator Barrie Dunsmore reflects on homeland security, the capture of Saddam and Howard Dean.

(Dunsmore) Howard Dean said he didn’t believe the capture of Saddam Hussein had made us any safer here at home. Ever since then, his opponents have claimed that this proves he is na ve on matters of foreign affairs and ill equipped to guide the country in such perilous times.

Let’s face it. The capture of Saddam Hussein was bad news for any Democrat hoping to run against George W. Bush in November. Nearly all the other Democratic hopefuls chose the easy way out by publicly applauding the capture while privately lamenting their bad luck. Dean decided to stick with his anti-war supporters by saying Saddam’s incarceration was beside the point.

Politics aside, objectively speaking I believe that Dean is right.

Having Saddam locked up does not change the odds that there will be another major terrorist attack on this country. And, even if some form of representative government is cobbled together in Iraq in the coming months, this country will still be a major target for Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. Our airports, our skyscrapers, our nuclear facilities, dams, bridges, seaports, water
supplies and football stadiums will remain sitting ducks, and no ammount of Homeland Security can give us guaranteed protection.

We can hit the terrorists militarily, we can kill a lot of them, and we might even get lucky and catch Osama Bin Ladin. But history suggests that you end terrorism only by changing the political conditions in which terrorists are spawned.

For example: for decades, Israel has used just about every known form of retaliation and repression against Palestinian terrorists. It has assassinated leaders, put thousands in jails, hit them with bombs, missiles, tanks and helicopter gun-ships; used collective punishment against families and towns, bull-dozed homes, closed down schools and businesses, and periodically locked up virtually the entire Palestinian population. But by the testimony of people in Israel who have lived through the last thirty years or so, they feel less secure today than ever.

Meanwhile, American support for Israel, however proper and just, must be acknowledged as an important factor in attitudes throughout the Moslem world toward this country. So, in my view, if any President of the United States really wants to do something to improve security here at home, he should make resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute his number one foreign policy priority.

It’s a hard issue but not an impossible one. The elements of a peace agreement are known, and substantial majorities among both Israelis and Palestinians seem ready to make a deal.

So, if the United States were to use the full scope of its power and influence, I believe it could bring about a genuine peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. This would remove a major aggravation in relations between the US and the Islamic World and, I would argue, would go much further toward making this country safe, than anything that might happen in Iraq.

This is Barrie Dunsmore.

Barrie Dunsmore is a veteran diplomatic and foreign correspondent for ABC News, now living in Charlotte.

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