1346 days …

A total of 1,346 days elapsed between the December 7 th , 1941 “surprise attack” on Pearl Harbor and the Japanese surrender on August 14 th , 1945. In the intervening days, the relatively unprepared U.S., knowing who staged the event, was able to organize its resources, decide upon a strategy, fight our powerful enemies, and achieve victory in mankind’s greatest of all conflicts. The next “surprise attack” took place on September 11th, 2001, and 1,346 days later — May 29th, 2005, to be exact — we still weren’t sure who staged the event, we still lacked organization, no sensible strategy had yet been determined, and we still weren’t sure who, or where, the real enemy was.

Here’s some of the information that has come our way, however:

• June 2, 2005 — The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner Robert Bonner and Maryland’s Governor Robert Ehrlich witnessed a demonstration at the Port of Baltimore of a new $ 6 million X-ray system that can scan cargo containers in about 30 seconds. The machine, operated by Homeland Security personnel, weighs 180,000 pounds and is 42 feet long, 32 feet wide and 21 feet high.

• June 4, 2005 — Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff announced that the Ports of LA and Long Beach will receive radiation detection systems by the end of the year. At a cost of about $ 250,000 each, these federally-funded machines will take about 5 seconds to screen each container, say officials. Secretary Chertoff added that the procedures could be optimized to reduce delays in scanning, citing officials in the Port of Baltimore who found ways to speed up the process.

Yes. That’s what it says in the newspapers. The same government agency, reporting on equipment designed to perform the same operation, quotes a price of $ 6 million apiece at one container port and $ 250,000 apiece at still another container port. And of course, ways have been found to speed up the inspection process from 5 seconds per container to 30 seconds per container. [Isn’t that what the reports say?] Is it any wonder that after 1,346 days and billions of dollars, the nation is still in a state of disarray? It becomes more and more obvious with each passing day that the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.

• Base Closings — Whatever is finalized in this regard, the bottom line means that many thousands in the U.S. will be forced into unemployment lines. The administration will convince the public of the necessity of such drastic measures in order to save a few dollars here and a few dollars there. What isn’t mentioned, however — except in the “Letters To The Editor” columns around the country — is that more than 700 overseas military bases are being sustained in more than 130 countries, and not a single one is listed for closure. Hooray for them and to hell with us!

Could this be more than just an inability to organize? The nation’s biggest problem is the imminent threat of transportation gridlock, not terrorism. If just a portion of the DHS budget had been directed to the nation’s transportation system, our ports and terminals, our truck drivers, our railroaders, our merchants, and our consumers and taxpayers, would have a lot less to worry about.