So it turns out that as the Bush Presidency enters its twilight, Vice President Cheney is managing to keep himself busy. According to Jason Burnett, who recently resigned as Associate Deputy Administrator of the EPA, the Veep’s Office has been hard at work censoring congressional testimony. Under most other Administrations, this would be a real shock and awe moment, but not for our dynamic duo! For our favorite lame duck and his (in)famous hunting guru, this is simply par for the course. Well done, boys. When it comes to sticking it to the environment, you’re nothing if not consistent. The fact that the ‘censorship’ news broke the same day the Administration announced it was lifting the Executive Order banning offshore drilling made it a red-letter day for polluters everywhere!

Before you get ahead of yourself, yes, I realize that this is a security blog and not a hangout spot for Woody Harrelson and Dennis Kucinich. That said, the sooner people recognize that ‘the environment’ is a security issue, the better. Frankly, we may be running out of time. Don’t believe me? Well, try a few fun environmental facts on for size:

  • *Water shortages in China, caused by drought and increased demand within urban areas, are beginning to impact the country’s grain production. As less water becomes available for growing, China will need to begin importing grain from the global market. Where else are the 1.2 billion people currently supported by irrigated lands in China supposed to get their grain? The problem is that as China drives up the demand for grain imports to higher and eventually impossible levels, little things like the world’s food security will be impacted. And you were upset when Costco capped your rice purchases to 80-pound bags! Give it 5 years and you’ll really be tickled. Oh well, so what, right? The Olympics are just around the corner – Beijing here we come baby!
  • *A 2007 report issued by the national security think tank The CNA Corporation and written by 11 generals and admirals entitled “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change” provides a clear warning that “projected climate change will seriously exacerbate already marginal living standards in many Asian, African, and Middle Eastern nations, causing widespread political instability and the likelihood of failed states…. The chaos that results can be an incubator of civil strife, genocide, and the growth of terrorism.” Whoa… talk about a downer! As if I wasn’t thoroughly depressed by their analysis, the generals and admirals went on to say that the United States will likely be called on to provide stability, economic and military support, and hunger relief to those nations. Sweet! Good thing we don’t hold those guys accountable to any real environmental standards as a condition of trading with them, – we wouldn’t want to miss the fun of cleaning up their mess.
  • *In case you haven’t noticed lately, we’ve had a good bit of environmental ‘action’ here in the homeland. Think I’m exaggerating? Well flip on the TV tonight and you’re guaranteed to see California burning, some part of the Mid West underwater, a town in tattered pieces from a ‘random’ tornado, and possibly a hurricane making landfall on an overpopulated barrier island off the coast of South Florida. Wow, maybe those crazy liberals aren’t so far-out with their notions about the link between climate change and extreme weather. But hey, at least the National Guard will stay busy! Do the math people: 2 + 2 = 4.
  • *Oil. Nuff said…

If there is a point to be made here it’s that whether we like it or not, the security of our nation is tied to the environmental health of the planet. Ignoring, or worse yet, covering up the facts, is like telling Lindsay Lohan she can sing – it’s plain wrong and no good can come of it.

This Administration knows better than to lie about the environment and its impact on the health of Americans. Like all of us, President Bush and Vice President Cheney need to remember the aftermath of 9/11, when heroes gathered daily to help clear debris and search out the remains of the fallen. It was there at Ground Zero, where architectural greatness and innocent life were replaced by rubble and pain that the valiant gathered to labor on behalf of a nation. When concerns about the environmental quality at Ground Zero were raised, the EPA responded by issuing statements intended to send “an overriding message that there was no significant threat to human health.” Two years later, the Agency’s Inspector General issued a different kind of statement; a report indicating that the White House had altered EPA’s findings to make the dangerous environmental realities at Ground Zero sound “less alarming.” I wish I had something funny to say about this one, something witty or otherwise entertaining, but I don’t. In their efforts to reopen Wall Street and calm fears, the Administration fudged the report. While their intentions may have been good, they lied to do it, and the problem with most lies is that they ultimately end up hurting people (not to mention that they can catch up with you). Too many of the 40,000+ rescue workers have gotten sick or died as a result of their work at Ground Zero. While it is significant to shine a light on the ‘why,’ I won’t belittle their courage by trying to get a cheap laugh out of their pain.

A series of words comes to mind about now: “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Let’s hope that this latest episode will serve as a wake-up call to this and future administrations that when it comes to the environment, our nation’s security, or any other issue – those words will mean something, or “so help us God…”

Read L. Vance Taylor’s biography.

L. Vance Taylor has worked to advance the mission of homeland security on Capitol Hill and in the private sector. One of only approximately 250 people in the nation with a Master’s degree in Homeland Security, Mr. Taylor combines specialized educational training with real-world experience to leverage successful outcomes for clients and stakeholders. Read More