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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

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For the week of December 5 - 11, 2001

  Opinion Column

Snapshots from the ‘war’ front


By PAT MURPHY
Express Staff Writer

Now Gov. Dirk Kempthorne claims in an interview with The Idaho Statesman in Boise that he’s been told about vague terrorist threats to Idaho that justifies putting the Capitol on a war footing, but won’t share what the alleged threat is with the rest of us because it’s secret.

Such doublespeak. If people of Idaho are potential terrorist targets, shouldn’t they be the first who should be told what threats are so they can be on guard and help prevent the threat?

Why is it that politicians ¾ from the president on down ¾ feel they can’t trust the public with information about threats to their country?

Terrorists presumably already know of their own threats. Politicians know about the threats. But potential victims are kept ignorant.

Until Gov. Kempthorne spells out just what that threat is, his bunker preparations at the Capitol will continue to have every appearance of macho grandstanding at reckless costs to the public purse ¾ or, God forbid, until Idahoans who’ve been kept in the dark become victims of the "secret" threats.

Is the United States legally at war?

Or are we conducting merely a "war" on terrorism ¾ as in, wars on drugs, racism, poverty, pollution, fraud, child and spouse abuse, AIDS?

The distinction is not so trifling.

Since Congress has not officially declared a state of war, and President Bush uses "war" colloquially in talking about going after "evildoers" as the enemy rather than a nation’s army, courts may be jammed with lawsuits involving disputes over the Bush definition of "war."

  • Many insurance policies, for example, include an escape clause: benefits aren’t paid as the result of war or acts of war.

  • New powers granted to the U.S. attorney general that invoke "war" as justification are open to dispute.

  • If Osama bin Laden and his followers are captured, will they insist on being treated as "prisoners of war" and entitled to protection of the Geneva Convention?

The issues may ultimately land in the U.S. Supreme Court, whose reputation for fairness was disputed by its decision virtually handing Bush the presidency during the chaos of the Florida vote count.

Time magazine’s editors are wrestling with whom to name as Time’s traditional "Man of the Year": to some, the obvious leader is master terrorist Osama bin Laden.

This surely will be a test of Time’s insistence that it picks figures who’ve had the most profound effect on the world, regardless of whether they’re well-liked or despised.

If Time sticks to its credo, and does name bin Laden the "Man of the Year," the uproar and cancellation of subscriptions will be heard all the way to Kabul.

War or not, Arizona’s Sen. John McCain is tweaking President Bush once again.

McCain, Bush’s fiercest opponent in the 2000 presidential primaries, is attempting again to close the loophole in federal gun laws that exempt gun shows.

The last time McCain pushed for the amendment, versions passed both houses of Congress, but died in conference. President Bush, whose candidacy was championed by the National Rifle Association, did nothing to help McCain or the amendment.

This time, McCain has given the law a new spin: without background checks, terrorists might walk into a gun show and buy weapons without being noticed.

Terrorists probably would be more interested in weapons of mass murder, not handguns and rifles.

But invoking the fear of terrorists may be the best politics for finally getting the loophole closed, as well as zinging Bush.

 


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.