The following is my column from Saturday’s newspaper. What are your thoughts?
(From the Editor’s Desk, Aug. 12, 2006):
PROTECTION is not overkill.
The thwarting of a terror plot Thursday involving bombers who may be toting liquid explosives aboard commercial jets in the U.K. resulted in a ban on hair gels and toothpaste in carry-on luggage.
Insane world? You bet. Overkill? Never. Using all means to stop terrorists is never overkill, it is simply necessary.
Protection is not overkill.I was reminded of this corollary last Friday, when I stood atop Fort Point, the Golden Gate Bridge almost near enough to touch and San Francisco Bay stretching out like a vast welcome mat. The fort was rushed to the ready during the Civil War so the Union Army could stop any invading foe.Fort Point, at its zenith, had 126 cannon able to hit any ship within a two-mile radius of the Golden Gate, that is, the natural entrance to San Francisco Bay from which the bridge derived its name.
Think about it. Two miles thats pretty darn good protection. Of course, no one ever attacked California or Fort Point during the Civil War. The cannon were never fired in battle.
I guess Robert E. Lee was too busy defending the South to worry about California. It was a natural disaster, the San Francisco Earthquake and fire of exactly 100 years ago that caused the City by the Bay the most damage ever. Similar to Hurricane Katrina zapping New Orleans during heightened Homeland Security alerts.But Fort Point was there, and that was a good thing. Spending millions for protection from harm was worth it then, and worth it now. Today is not the first time this country has spent boatloads to protect itself from enemies. Even though protection from todays terrorist attack is never foolproof, doing nothing is never an argument that holds water. In fact, the opposite is true. We must do more to protect America, not less.
As I rode the ferry from Sausalito to Fishermans Wharf, Pier 41, I remembered no one checked my bags as I boarded. It would be easy for a suicide bomber to complete his mission amid the tourist crowds of San Francisco.
Just like the ride I took on BART, the Bay Areas excellent train system now runs directly from San Francisco Airport. They checked my bags before I boarded the plane at LAX, but no one checked anyone boarding the BART train, which speeds through tunnels and into crowded city centers.
In Sausalito, I watched a massive container ship pass under the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco Harbor. Did anyone check the hull or the cargo, I wondered, as it steamed beyond the unarmed ramparts of Fort Point and docked along the citys waterfront.
The forts bronze plaques spoke proudly of test cannon shots and, later, of reinforcements coming from Hawaii.
No one was going to attack the United States, or get away with it, bragged the captain. The tough guy attitude gave me goosebumps, even today especially today.
He was protecting the Union; the experiment of freedom and democracy would stand. This dispatch from 1861 was not bullying because it was defense. It wasnt like going into a country, bombing it and then looking but not finding weapons of mass destruction.
I remember the morning of 9/11, nearly five years ago, as does every American. My sons were going back to school for a new school year. They emerged that afternoon in a new era, one in which they will always be looking over their shoulders in distrust and, maybe, in fear. And, after the invasion of Iraq, a world in which they may be called on to fight a fight that is unclear in both purpose and plan.
Yet, I wouldnt object to them serving a tour of duty to stand guard over these great United States. Is there a way to figuratively put up more Fort Points to protect Americas cities? Im all for that.
While at my hotel, I read an article in the San Jose Mercury News about U.S. immigration officials deterring scientists from Iran from entering San Francisco. Some had their visas cancelled. Again, protecting America is not an overreaction. Entering this country is a privilege, not a guarantee.
Besides, theres nothing wrong in keeping us from harm. Thats what government should do.