Monday, September 24, 2001  Volume 67, Issue 23


World questions Bush's competence

Ellen Simonson

President George W. Bush's speech to Congress on Thursday
gave me more respect -- not necessarily for Bush, but for his
speechwriters, whose turns of phrase were by turns soothing and

Some of the points he made were surprisingly tolerant -- for
example, his words to the Muslims of the world ("We respect your
faith Its teachings are good and peaceful") and to the populace
("The enemy of America is not our many Arab friends").

Repeatedly, Bush emphasized the "new war" America is now
facing. "Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy
campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen," he said.

What can civilian Americans expect from this new war? If it serves
its purpose, we can expect an increased sense of safety and
immunity to terrorism. In the process, though, several liberties
once taken for granted may see revision or deletion.

Lines are already longer at the Canadian and Mexican borders,
as agents search cars and trailers much more thoroughly, and the
shape of air travel is rapidly changing as well to include armed
marshals on every flight.

There is also the possibility of an e-mail screening system
administered by the federal government. The form and reach of
such a system (if implemented) is unclear as yet; it may be as
innocuous as a filter that would screen for certain words or as
sinister as the collection of a J. Edgar Hoover-esque database of

There's also the possibility of new "personal identification cards"
that would contain a photograph of the bearer and genetic
information such as a handprint or even a retina scan. These
would be required for renting cars, purchasing airline tickets and
possibly even for credit card purchases, and would maintain
information on the activities of all Americans.

The Bush Administration is also considering the establishment of
"military tribunals," which allow for suspected terrorists to be tried
without some of the usual legal restrictions. This occurred in
Washington, D.C., during World War II, when German saboteurs
were tried this way. Those convicted were hanged 30 days later.

The thought is ominous, even if the intentions are good. Is such
an action necessary in a "war" that most admit will be based
around intelligence and secretiveness, not military operations? Is
an administration led by Bush qualified to take that action? The
president is experiencing the surge in popularity garnered by any
leader after a tragedy -- but outside the United States, the world is
questioning his abilities.

England's Observer recently conducted a poll in which 62 percent
of respondents said they were "not confident (Bush) would make
the right decision," as compared to just 37 percent who trusted his
judgment. It's easy to forget in a time like this that our president
was a "C" student at his father's alma mater who often has
difficulty pronouncing the names of the foreign leaders who are
rapidly becoming his allies.

The nation we live in has been wounded more deeply than ever
before, and Americans may well be willing to give up some of
their personal freedoms in exchange for protection against the
forces we now know can hurt us. Perhaps such action is even
necessary, especially on a temporary basis. But we must be
careful how far these measures stretch. Diminished liberty is

diminished liberty, no matter who takes it away.

Simonson, a senior English major wary of the 
new world order, can be reached at

To contact the Opinon Section Editor, send e-mail to

To contact other members of 
The Daily Cougar Online staff, 


Advertise in The Daily Cougar

Student Publications
University of Houston
151C Communication Bldg
Houston, Texas 77204-4015

©2005, Student Publications. All rights reserved.
Permissions/Web Use Policy


Last upMonday, September 24, 2001 :

Visit The Daily Cougar