Noting an anniversary
This month marks the fifth anniversary of one of the most disastrous steps the U.S. government has taken in our lifetimes, a step taken in response to irrational fears stirred up in the wake of 9/11, a step with historic consequences that will do lasting harm to our republic for decades to come.
I speak, of course, of the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security.
DHS formally came into existence before March 2003, but most of its subsidiary agencies came under its purview just a couple of weeks before the invasion of Iraq. Ivan Eland of the Independent Institute commemorates the anniversary with suitable opprobrium:
In the wake of the federal government’s failure to prevent or stop
9/11—when the principal problem was the failure of large, slothful
security agencies to coordinate against a small, agile terrorist
group—the last thing the country needed was another ponderous
department. Yet Congress glued together 22 disparate agencies,
superimposed another layer of bureaucracy on top of them to manage the
new department, astronomically increased the department’s budget to $38
billion per year and its personnel from 170,000 to 208,000 employees,
and oversaw the department’s activities with 86 congressional
committees and subcommittees. In creating more bureaucracy to
coordinate, Congress never told the American people exactly how
security against nimble, non-bureaucratic terrorist groups would be
In fact, over its five years, the department has become the butt of
jokes for its color-coded terror warning system, grossly incompetent
response to Hurricane Katrina, pork-barrel spending, intrusive and
largely ineffectual airline security, and expensive security projects
In short, Homeland Security is a living testament to a semi-famous saying of (I believe) P.J. O'Rourke — Republicans campaign on a platform that says government is incompetent and ineffective, and once in office go about proving it.
As for that other five-year anniversary, the one that comes today… Well, I'm not the first one to point out that Iraq is just one massive failed government program.
We've already touched on its costs this month, so today I think it's worth pausing to reflect on a fact that probably will get overlooked in the partisan finger-pointing that will dominate the day's news.
Imagine, for a moment, a United States of America so torn apart by war, poverty, and strife that 45 million people have had to flee their homes. About half of them remain in the country. The other half have gone abroad. 45 million people — a figure roughly equal to the combined population of New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
That's 15 percent of the national population. And that's the percentage of Iraq's population that's had to flee their homes. More than four million souls.
By what earthly standard can anyone call that a "success?"