Slinging a smooth stone

What, exactly, are our priorities? Aniti-terrorism, or embargoing Cuba?

by C.F. David, Editor, The Boise City News

For good reason, since we were attacked on 9/11, we have been at war with a faceless enemy in the war on terrorism.

They are faceless because we have no way of really identifying a terrorist. They can be an American, black or white, who perhaps just has sympathies with those they feel are oppressed; or perhaps they are converts to Islam. They might be from one of many nations with an Islamic base in Africa, Southeast or Central Asia. Or, they might be members of growing groups of militant environmentalists or anti-abortionists.

Often having been splintered or with individual agendas, terrorists are a slippery lot; we are chasing them in Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and even in the United States.

Not knowing exactly what a terrorist looks like, we can't have massive dragnets; so what is the answer? Like any army, terrorists need money. To win, we must find and attack their money.

According to a recent on-line AP news article written by John Solomon, we have been doing that since 1990 in a section of the Treasury Department called Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Between 1990 and 2003, according to Solomon's investigation, the OFAC has opened 93 enforcement investigations and collected $9,425 in fines for terrorism financing violations since 1994.

In contrast, in the same time-frame OFAC has opened 10,683 enforcement violation investigations for possible violations against the long-standing economic embargo against Cuba. In the process of their investigations they have collected more than $8 million in fines.

An inquiry by Sen. Max Baucus, (D-Mont.) has apparently brought to light that OFAC has had two full-time employees investigating Osama bin Laden's finances and another two full-timers tracing Saddam Hussein's money. However, over at the Cuban area, more than two dozen agents have been keeping up with who traveled to Cuba and/or bought cigars.

Can you see a certain amount of absurdity here?

The inquiry has brought together lawmakers from both sides of the aisle in an effort to get OFAC to focus on what's really important. One ally of Baucus' is Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican.

Treasury Secretary John Snow, who oversees OFAC has assured Sen. Grassley that IF President Bush's budget is approved the money will be there to double the OFAC resources from four years ago.

I assume that means we'll have eight people tracking terrorist dollars and enormous fines of nearly $20 thousand to which to look forward.

I am not impressed that this situation has brought the donkeys and elephants together in partnership. We are at war, this is as it should be. However, I am intrigued that it took two men from the American Plains to bring this situation to the forefront.

Let's face it; keeping American tourists and Cuban cigars off of Cuban shores and out of American stores means big money and votes. No senator, or congressman from Florida or any state, with a large Cuban population; or anyone wanting to be president; would dare to offend such a large and often times wealthy voting bloc.

We didn't levy $8 million in fines for illegal trade because it'll ruin our economy if we don't. We levy those fines to keep Cuban ex-patriot voters happy. How pitifully ridiculous.

In an era when we outsource American jobs to, and openly trade with, Communist China, we need to grow up and throw out our embargo against Cuba.

The word for the week is: equitable

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