“When the civilian market is threatened by the glut of foreign imports, the military’s capability is put at risk. We all know the events of [Sept. 11] highlighted the need for a stable domestic steel industry. Not just steelworkers and their families – but all Americans – are made vulnerable by unfair imports.”

Tom Ridge, Homeland Security head, in testimony before the U.S. International Trade Commission. Sept. 20, 2001

On Jan. 9, another wing of the Bush administration, the Commerce Commission, ruled that importing semi-finished steel slabs is not a threat to national security. Is the Bush administration talking out of two sides of its mouth? You bet.

In this case, homeland security is about protecting the profits of U.S. Steel and other steelmakers located in the United States. What it says for public consumption and what it does are two different things.

With globalization it’s hard to find a homeland steel industry. Worldwide steel joint ventures and ‘strategic partnerships’ now dominate the industry. U.S. Steel owns a huge steel complex in Slovakia and is looking to buy several more in Eastern Europe.

The largest integrated steel mill in the U.S., Inland Steel in Gary, Ind., is now owned by ISPAT, a Dutch-based steel conglomerate with operations in a dozen countries. NKK steel of Japan owns National Steel. There are European Union (EU) steel combinations, Japanese with European steel combinations, Taiwanese with U.S. and Taiwanese with EU steel alliances.

The beat goes on with more combinations in the works and with American, European and Japanese banks all in the mix. George Bush’s homeland security is not one bit about “the need for a stable domestic steel industry.”

By homeland security, Bush and Ridge mean mostly the phony patriotism of restricted civil liberties that will eventually result in fresh attacks on trade union and labor rights.

It’s not a big leap from current measures to outlawing strikes and unions in the name of homeland security. But the “need for a stable domestic steel industry” is real. It has little to do with military spending. Today’s tanks and smart bombs use small amounts of steel.

The real need is for rebuilding the homeland infrastructure and putting people back to work.

Steel mills operating at full capacity to produce the steel needed to rebuild badly needed bridges, water systems, schools, hospitals and rapid transit projects is real homeland security. Every trade unionist, every working family, every worker, has a stake in this kind of homeland security.

A program to solve the real needs of the country, to rebuild our crumbling cities and transportation systems will not only put steelworkers back to work, it will result in hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

Take for example Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s (D-Ill.) idea to build a new high-speed rail system linking all the states and all the major cities.

Not only would it require huge amounts of steel, it would require locomotives, passenger cars, and road bed construction.

It would require new train stations and boost travel-related industries. It would also help homeland security by cutting pollution from air and auto travel.

The Jackson proposal is a real economic stimulus plan that would work. Bush, Ridge and the ultraright have no interest in rebuilding the country.

They have little interest in the kind of security that comes with full employment and stable communities with a tax base that can support schools and health care. Why? Because there is far more profit to be made in a huge military budget.

For them military dominance to protect U.S. corporate interests and property around the world is more important than saving working class communities at home.

U.S. Steel and the other big steel companies have proven that they can run the steel industry into the ground with greed and profiteering. It’s time for public ownership of the steel industry. Our steel mills are too vital to leave in the hands of those who have ruined them.

Huge military spending and new permanent bases and troop concentrations around the world do little to protect our country.

In fact, most of the current build-up destabilizes the world and creates new war dangers. Missle defense and no ABM Treaty means big profits but no security. New military bases and permanent troop placements in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Japan and the Philippines won’t end the threat of terrorism, but will eat up the budget.

There will be no rebuilding America and no saving steel jobs and communities if the treasury is blown on wasteful military spending and tax cuts and rebates for corporations and the rich.

Real homeland security means putting people before profits. It means investing in infrastructure rebuilding programs that increase the need for steel. It means emergency action to stop the destruction of steel capacity and plant closings.

It means emergency action to protect the pensions and healthcare of retirees. It means combining immediate emergency action with a longer term outlook that challenges the “rights” of corporations to make profits off the broken lives of workers, their families and their communities.

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