Rep. Jim Turner: The pillars of a Kerry plan

In late April, he released a 90-page plan to eliminate the threat of Al Qaeda to the United States. It includes over 100 specific recommendations that he and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers say should be implemented to position the United States for victory in the war on terror.

In a lengthy interview with HSToday, Turner pointed to three areas critical to winning the war on terror. “First,” he said, “we’ve got to be much more aggressive in going after the terrorist cells that exist around the world. There are estimated to be terrorist groups and Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda-related groups in about 40 countries. And I think they’re here in the United States. What we don’t know is the nature of their presence; whether they are operational cells or whether they are just cells of sympathizers or those who are helping to raise money. But you’ve got to start being more targeted in terms of the way you attack and go after these groups.

“I think it’s also clear that the vision of how you overcome this terrorist threat under a Kerry administration would be different,” Turner said. “Bush often says, you know, ‘we’ve got to fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.’ The reality of the world we live in” though, is that “we have to fight them over there and we also have to fight them here—it’s not an either-or. This kind of enemy works beneath the radar screen, and that means we’ve got to develop an intelligence capability that will allow us to infiltrate these groups. It’s disturbing to me that, here we are three years after 9/11 and we still haven’t captured or killed Osama bin Laden—he’s the man that’s responsible for 9/11.”

The second approach to the war on terror that a Kerry White House would likely take, according to Turner, “is I think we would be much more aggressive, and move much faster, to secure the homeland. There is so much that we have done only part of the way.”

Turner believes “the greatest threat that we face is that a nuclear device will be smuggled into this country. We’ve got to be a lot more aggressive to secure the loose nukes and loose nuclear material that is all around the world.” He cited this year’s defeat of his amendment to immediately deploy cargo radiation detectors at American ports as an example of Republican tardiness on that score. He also said that a Kerry administration would more promptly address the threatof bioterrorism by amassing stockpiles of the anthrax vaccine and developing a plan to protect Americans against biological attack.

The third piece of a Kerry administration approach to homeland security and the war on terror, Turner explained, “is one that has been totally ignored by [the Bush] administration. …Pursuing policies and initiatives to prevent the rise of terrorism.”

Turner said, “It’s amazing to me that it has been ignored. But I don’t know anyone—inside or outside the administration—that understands this. …We’ve got to have policies that reach out economically, policies that reach out in terms of supporting secular education in the Muslim world. All of these things have to be done in partnership with our allies—traditionally and in the Arab world. …We can be the sparkplug, we can be the initiator of these cooperative, international efforts to try to change hearts and minds in the Muslim world. It can best be described as an effort to strengthen the voices of moderation in the Muslim world—that’s what our goal should be, because they are there.”

Turner emphasized that the 9/11 Commission tackled this very thorny issue. “Ten of the recommendations have to do with preventing the rise of future terrorists. When I read the 9/11 Commission report, I read it as an indictment of our current leadership in the war on terror because it says, in essence, you have no strategy—no comprehensive global strategy—to win the war on terror. And even in the areas where you have made efforts, you haven’t done enough.” 

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