EDITORIAL: Are we safer now?

On the eve of the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedy, as ceremonies are planned to commemorate nearly 3,000 lives lost in the terrorist attacks that day, a question looms in the minds of many Americans:

Has the Bush administration’s response to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon made the world a safer place?

Growing numbers of people in our country and around the world are answering: no.

Though no evidence linked Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to the attacks, the administration used Sept. 11 as a pretext for a war in which some 3,750 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died so far, and many thousands more have been severely wounded. A war which has left Iraqis far worse off than before it started, and which has made their country a new haven for terrorists.

The Bush administration has shunted diplomatic efforts aside, while immense resources have been devoted to priming our country for a future of perpetual war.

While popular pressure at home and around the world has forced the administration to take a step back from the edge with North Korea, Bush and Cheney are ratcheting up threats to attack Iran.

Meanwhile, civil liberties are eroding at home with warrantless spying and the extreme right’s destruction of emergency response and human needs programs. These policies have fueled racism, inequality and anti-immigrant hysteria, which threatens “E pluribus unum/Out of many, one,” our national motto.

If the Bush administration’s “war on terror” hasn’t made the world safer, what could?

For openers, an end to the Iraq war, withdrawal of all U.S. troops and contractors, no bases. A foreign policy of diplomacy and cooperation instead of military might. A trade policy benefiting ordinary people here and abroad.

And at home, diverting the astronomical sums now spent on war to give people security in their everyday lives: health care for all, quality public education that promotes peace and multicultural understanding, affordable housing and transportation, environmental preservation, and fully funded safety and emergency response infrastructures.

Working for these goals is the best tribute to the victims of Sept. 11.