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By Bill Gallagher

DETROIT -- John Kerry is the moderate in this race as George W. Bush embraces radical views far outside the American mainstream and repugnant to those who embrace traditional Republican values on world affairs.

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Again and again during last week's debate, it was clear Kerry is the voice of careful thought and mature reason. He is the heir of the successful approach to national security and America's leadership role in the world embraced by Dwight Eisenhower, a president who really understood what being commander in chief means.

Bush is an immature, reckless ideologue, who, in a desperate attempt to defend what John Kerry called his colossal error in judgment by waging war in Iraq, made a feeble appeal to authority, the weakest form of argument. "I just know how the world works," Bush said with the cocky smirk of someone trying to mask incompetence with confidence.

Bush was in a rare situation in which he was questioned and criticized, and his petulance, impatience and befuddlement were apparent. His veneer of likability quickly peeled off and his arrogant testiness emerged when he found his stock campaign lines -- like "I know how to lead" and "It's hard work" -- would not carry the day.

Far away and safe from Kerry's quick mind and sharp ability to dissect Bush's failures in front of his face, the president returned to the base level of rhetoric he gets away with on the campaign stump before hand-picked Republican crowds, people who are required to sign a loyalty oath before getting a ticket to attend. What a courageous leader!

Last Friday, the day after the debate, Bush told an audience in Manchester, N.H., Kerry would subject national security decisions to vetoes by countries like France.

George W. Gutless would never have said that the night before, because he knows Kerry would have blown his cheap theatrics right off the stage. Bush went on to use the theme he'll try to sell at any cost until Nov. 2: Kerry cannot be trusted to protect the United States from terrorist attacks.

During the debate, Kerry made a brief mention of an ongoing security failure that directly imperils the security of our nation and shows how inept the Bush administration is in protecting us from the very terrorists who brought us the Sept. 11 attacks -- not the substitute enemy of Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Three years after that terrible day, the FBI still has not translated 123,000 hours of terrorism-related recordings from wiretaps, most in Arabic. The recordings come from the same al-Qaeda transmission sources the National Security Agency intercepted on Sept. 10, 2001. Those messages contained the declarations "The match is about to begin" and "Tomorrow is zero hour."

Those ominous warnings were not translated until days after Sept. 11, a tragedy that may well be repeated because George W. Bush's Justice Department and FBI still can't figure out how to produce timely translations. This is stunning incompetence and a grave threat to our national security, and shows George W. Bush cannot be trusted to protect us from more terrorist attacks.

The Justice Department's Inspector General's audit of the FBI's translation work is a stinging indictment of the people responsible and the leadership failures at the top. See above: "I know how to lead."

Sen. Patrick Leahy, the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said, "Three years after the worst terrorist attacks on American soil, the overall effectiveness of a major investigative tool in our anti-terrorism arsenal is still in doubt."

Leahy argues that it's no good to tape these phone calls and have all these e-mail messages if they are not translated in a timely fashion. The Justice Department's translation mess has become a chronic problem that has obvious implications for our national security. Recall, Leahy's the guy Vice President Dick Cheney told to "go f--- yourself."

That happened because Leahy questioned the war-profiteering of Lord Halliburton's old firm. Maybe Cheney could use his penchant for profanity and get the Justice Department to do something to protect the American people.

The audit shows that over one-third of al-Qaeda transmissions are failing FBI Director's Robert Mueller's order that they be translated and reviewed within 12 hours of intercept.

"It doesn't do anyone any good for the FBI to have the terrorists' attack plans in its hands but still not be able to see or hear what the plans are," said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).

The audit blames the FBI's limitations in technology, especially computer storage capacity, and the lack of language specialists to do the translations. Both reasons are inexcusable.

The investigation found limited storage capacity in the system, resulted in older audio recordings being automatically deleted, without being translated, to make room for newer material. We'll never know what those tapes contained. George W. Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft are responsible for that disgraceful performance.

It's hard to imagine that a few Bill Gates types couldn't have fixed the computer capacity problems three years after Sept. 11, even if they had to design and implement an entirely new system. George W. Bush is tolerating these excuses at the risk of national security.

The lack of translators claim is pure crap. They're out there, but the Bush administration has failed to come up with creative ways to recruit them.

The FBI has complained it has a hard time recruiting fluent American-born translators because the Arabic language is rarely studied in American colleges. Forget the college campuses. Set up the government's Arabic language translation center here in the Detroit area. We have thousands of Arabic-speaking American citizens who'd be happy to provide translations to protect our nation. Where is it written that all translations must be done in Washington, D.C.? Think outside the box!

If the mountain won't go to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain, so to speak.

Pay decent salaries, provide government benefit packages, and you would have no problem getting the people needed to do the job. Within one week we could provide 1,000 translators to work on the backlog and catch up in no time. We have people who could handle the regional differences, dialects and nuances of Arabic as spoken in countries like Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt and Yemen.

But what about their loyalty and security considerations? These are second-, third- and fourth-generation Americans who are devoted to this country. We even have Republican Arab-American judges who would help screen the translators.

Those within the FBI with cultural intolerance, ignorance and suspicion of the Arab-American community would oppose such a practical plan. A running joke among scholars and the Arab and Muslim groups is instructive. They say they can easily spot undercover FBI agents at their public events. They're the ones eating hummus with a spoon and who think baba ganoush is a belly dancer.

In the coldest days of the Cold War, when the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in deadly embrace, military intelligence, the CIA and FBI had Russian-language specialists all over the world, performing invaluable service in collecting transmissions and promptly translating them. Many of the translators were Soviet expatriates and refugees from Eastern Europe. Others were Americans who underwent intensive training to gain the language skills needed to protect our nation. They provided vital intelligence during that frightening period of time. That was a far more dangerous period than the present struggle with radical Islam.

President Dwight Eisenhower knew the importance of fighting smart and he supported the intelligence-gathering that gave him the information needed to make rational decisions at critical moments.

Eisenhower was deliberate and thoughtful, a master planner. He would never rush to war. He wouldn't do anything foolhardy or rash. He built the great NATO alliance with our European allies and he supported the United Nations as a way to build peace and international cooperation. Ike knew the importance of multinationalism and global coalitions.

Eisenhower called for disarmament and warned of the dangers of the military-industrial complex. By the way, that's all one word now: Halliburton. Eisenhower was a great warrior who hated war and kept the peace.

Ike's son, John Eisenhower, a distinguished military historian, after 50 years as a registered Republican has become an Independent, because of Bush's decision to invade Iraq unilaterally. He says he's going to vote for John Kerry, enthusiastically calling the Democratic candidate courageous, sober and competent.

In a letter to New Hampshire's Union Leader, John Eisenhower wrote words that surely reflect his father's views: "Responsibility used to be observed in foreign affairs. That has meant respect for others. America, though recognized as the leader of the community of nations, has always acted as a part of it, not a maverick separate from that community and at times insulting towards it. Leadership involves setting a direction and building consensus, not viewing other countries as practically devoid of significance. Recent developments indicate that the current Republican Party leadership has confused confident leadership with hubris and arrogance."

Dwight Eisenhower was a competent, confident leader, a great commander in chief who protected our nation and viewed war as a last resort. George W. Bush has none of those traits. He is the anti-Eisenhower.


Bill Gallagher, a Peabody Award winner, is a former Niagara Falls city councilman who now covers Detroit for Fox2 News. His e-mail address is gallaghernewsman@aol.com.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Oct. 5 2004