"Are we safer today than we were five years ago?" This question has been asked time and time again in recent weeks as the fifth anniversary of the terrible 9/11 attacks approached. Some asked the question in a genuine manner with no hidden nuances, while others used the question primarily for political purposes.
No matter what the situation or issue may be or how Bush critics may try to hide their bitter hatred toward President Bush, they use every possible method to paint Bush and his administration in the worst possible light. There is nothing he has done or can do in the coming months to please these critics.
The answer to the question of whether this country is safer today than it was at this time in September five years ago or before the actual attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon should be a resounding "yes." At the same time, the danger is not less; in fact, it could be even greater.
Before the deadly attacks, there was a sense of false security. Wars and terrorist attacks happened abroad but not on U.S. soil. We were protected by the vast Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and our intelligence agencies were providing effective security.
History shows Americans were living in a dream world, and, for whatever reason, citizens of this country were not aware of how much Uncle Sam was hated, resented or envied by people in many other parts of the world. Some of this hatred was based on religious beliefs, America's support for Israel, a misconception of what the United States is all about and the belief America's goal is to dominate the world. Others are simply opposed to democracy and freedom.
During the past five years, this country's intelligence agencies have become far more alert and effective and are doing a far better job of cooperating and sharing information with one another. Various laws have been put into effect allowing government officials to monitor the actions of suspicious individuals. There is far greater security in our nation's airports and other transportation centers. Our armed forces are better equipped to deal with terrorism. The public has been encouraged to report anything that appears to be suspicious, and the overall security scene is far more effective.
However, this does not mean there is any room for complacency or a relaxation of security efforts. In fact, this effort needs to be strengthened and improved, and this is likely to be the case for many years to come. Those who are committed to killing Americans and using terrorist tactics are not going to roll over and play dead. Unfortunately, there are likely to be other successful efforts to kill and terrorize Americans here within the United States in the coming months or years. For this reason, our surveillance efforts must be raised to an even higher level rather than easing off.
Our enemies are looking for any weakness in Uncle Sam's commitment, and they hope Americans will tire of the battle and the cost of the battle - in lives and in dollars. They hope Americans will tire of living in fear and dealing with what a segment of the population sees as an erosion of some freedoms Americans enjoy. Our enemies are eager to do what they can to defeat those political office holders who are unyielding in their fight against terrorists.
Again, the answer to the question of whether this country is safer today than it was five years ago is "yes," but the danger now is out in the open and, in fact, our enemies are smarter and can take advantage of the openness of our society. We cannot let our guard down. It must be strengthened, and those in our intelligence and security forces should not be handcuffed and handicapped in their efforts to protect this country and its citizens.