THE American people were advised at the outset that this would be an unconventional war, but we were caught off guard by the truly unorthodox manner that people are being informed about it. The best information about America's case against Osam bin Laden can be found at a British government Web site, courtesy of Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Basis for U.S. policy
explained by British
The issue: A report made public
by the British provides the clearest
explanation yet of the U.S. case
against Osama bin Laden.
Blair told the House of Commons about the 15-page report in a speech yesterday morning, describing it as "a document detailing the basis for our conclusions" that bin Laden and his al-Qaida network were responsible for the Sept. 11 attack on America. Posting of the document on the Internet is welcome, but Americans should not have to rely on the British government for explanations of U.S. policy.
The report contains background information tying bin Laden's organization to attacks on U.S. military personnel in Somalia in 1993, U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and the USS Cole at a Yemen port last year. It states that at least three of the 19 hijackers in New York and Washington had been "positively identified" as al-Qaida associates, one of whom had played key roles in the embassy and the USS Cole attacks.
The report states that "bin Laden himself asserted shortly before Sept. 11 that he was preparing an attack on America," and that close associates were warned to return to Afghanistan from other countries by Sept. 10. Prior to the attack, it says, "some known associates of bin Laden were naming the date for action as on or around Sept. 11."
Investigators "have learned that one of bin Laden's closest and most senior associates was responsible for the detailed planning of the attacks," according to the document. "There is evidence of a very specific nature relating to the guilt of bin Laden and his associates that is too sensitive to release." Names of some bin Laden associates are omitted "for intelligence reasons."
Blair said British political party leaders "have seen the full basis for the document" on a confidential basis and "have absolutely no doubt that bin Laden and his network are responsible for the attacks" on Sept. 11.
American officials have been less forthright than the British in explaining, even in these summary terms, the basis for the allegation that bin Laden was behind the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In an interview with The New York Times earlier this week, Secretary of State Colin Powell said "the information is coming out in the press and other ways." Unfortunately, those "other ways" are foreign governments.
President Bush's pledge to extend unemployment benefits could lend some relief to the men and women who have lost their jobs as a result of the terrorist assaults. While this is a step in the right direction, it is uncertain how much of a benefit the additional assistance will be. Still, it's better than nothing.
Help trickling down
to the unemployed
The issue: Government leaders
plan to help workers who lost
jobs since the Sept. 11 attack.
Governor Cayetano has proposed extending benefits beyond the six months now allowed. If Bush follows through with his promise to continue benefits for an additional 13 weeks, the federal and state dollars could help the unemployed stay afloat longer.
Right now, the maximum amount a person could receive in state benefits is $383 a week and that's if the worker had been earning over $6,000 a month when last employed. Few hotel housekeepers, wait help, tour bus drivers and retail sales clerks make that kind of money. Many work in second jobs, but that income is deducted from the amount for which they are eligible.
Bush's plan would provide money for states where unemployment numbers have increased by 30 percent since the end of August. Hawaii would certainly qualify. Just before the Sept. 11 attacks, 1,400 people had applied for unemployment benefits. Between Sept. 17 and Tuesday, 9,465 claims were filed.
There is no way the people who have found themselves without jobs could have anticipated the aftermath of Sept. 11. It is doubtful many had saved enough to get by for a few weeks, much less months. With so many out of work, it will be hard to compete for whatever new positions there may be. Extended benefits would at least give these people a few more weeks to find a way to recover.
Some of Bush's proposals to stimulate the economy mirrored Cayetano's. Both proposed cuts in the capital gains tax, but the governor later backed away from that, saying the $48 million price tag was too great. He also suggested deferring excise taxes and establishing tax breaks for investors, ideas similar to Bush's.
State and national leaders were right in focusing first on assisting corporations and businesses to weather the economic storm. Now they are turning their attention appropriately to providing support for the people whose needs are just as crucial.
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