This week the House will vote on a supplemental appropriations bill that provides funding to continue the War on Terror. While I am pleased with what is in the bill, I believe we need to commit more resources to what should be our nation’s number one priority. Failing to do so could prove catastrophic for the United States and our interests abroad.
Recent history has shown us that terrorists test new presidents early in their terms. The 1993 World Trade Center bombing happened in the first year of President Clinton’s first term. 9/11 was carried out within eight months of George W. Bush’s inauguration.
Yet, actions in Washington have the world questioning America’s commitment to security and defense. While I applaud the Obama administration for listening to General Petraeus and shifting our military focus away from our successes in Iraq and to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, I believe we are falling short in other key areas.
Pakistan is an ally in the War on Terror. However, I believe aid to Pakistan must be contingent on Pakistan’s commitment to combating terrorist cells that have sought safe haven in its Tribal Areas and to reforming its education system. Last week both President Zardari and Richard Holbrooke, Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, reinforced to me the fact that Pakistani madrassas emphasize a curriculum of Islamist extremism, are breeding grounds for anti-American sentiment and serve as recruitment centers for terrorists.
The closing of Guantanamo is a mistake. I toured the facility in February, days after President Obama signed executive orders to close it, and it was a chilling experience. The prison houses some of the terrorists who are responsible for 9/11 and as we have already seen, many of the detainees would not hesitate to carry out another attack if they are allowed to go free. Placing high value terror suspects in a civilian justice system could afford them rights to which they are not entitled under military law, and could ultimately result in their release into foreign countries and their ability to rejoin their anti-American cause.
Finally, the fence works. And America must continue its commitment to securing our border with Mexico. Unfortunately, the President’s budget calls for no new authorizations of funding to extend physical barriers which work in conjunction with virtual technology. On my visit to El Paso last month the Border Patrol demonstrated to me how the newest fences have already paid off. The director of the El Paso port told me that even today, his greatest concern is that terrorists will use gaping holes in our security to enter the United States.
There is a reason America hasn’t been attacked since 2001. We need to show the world, and the terrorists that we intend to keep it that way.