Some people say the terrorism threat is worse today than five years ago.
By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CANFIELD -- Five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, some Mahoning Valley residents say they don't feel any safer than they did five years ago.
People interviewed recently at the Canfield Fair differed in their opinions.
Most agreed U.S. efforts to change hearts and minds in the Middle East to a democracy-based freedom are fruitless, and some said American military intervention makes the violence and bloodshed worse.
Opinions divided on keeping troops in Iraq, however. Some said we should immediately pull out of a war they believe we can't win; others said too many American lives have been lost to leave anytime soon.
Michelle Gbur of New Springfield was working a lemonade stand at the fair. She said the government is doing pretty well in the fight against terrorism through Homeland Security efforts, but she is opposed to U.S. involvement in Iraq.
"I don't support the war," she said. "I think we should worry about our own country before we go and invade someone else's country. We spend billions in Iraq and only a few million for [Hurricane] Katrina victims."
Gbur said she doesn't think U.S. efforts in the Middle East will move ideology there closer to Western and specifically U.S. ideals.
"They have to want change themselves," she said. "We can't do it. They have to change because they want it, not by someone else coming in and telling them the way they should be."
Sam Getz of Austintown was working security at the fair. He said his son just finished eight years in the Marine Corps and recently returned from Iraq.
Getz, a North Jackson police officer, said because he works in law enforcement, he is reminded of Sept. 11 every day.
"Are we safer now? No," he said. He said from a law enforcement perspective, everyone is a potential terrorist. Getz said, however, that he is safer as a police officer because of training and equipment provided to local police departments through Homeland Security funds.
"Are we better prepared for a disaster? I hope so," he said. "Everything goes to pieces in a disaster. That's why they call it a disaster. We might not be able to stop terrorism, but we are better prepared because we are learning to better identify potential targets."
Cecil Monroe of Youngstown said the government has made some progress in the fight against terrorism, but more needs to be done. He was at the fair with his wife and children.
"I think we are safer, and we are on the right track, but there is always room for more improvement," he said. "Travel is safer, but we need to be more consistent in our efforts to control the borders and more consistent at airports. We keep finding more things that are unsafe."
He said U.S. resources are spread too thin trying to work in many places at once.
"Our presence in the Middle East is having an effect, but I'm not sure it's positive," Monroe said. "We can't be all things to all people."
Joe and Barbara McMurray of Boardman said they are still concerned about traveling.
"They can't stop terrorists from coming into this country," Joe said. "I've never flown, and that's why I won't."
They said a friend recently flew from California to Denver, then to Akron-Canton Regional Airport, and their bags were rarely checked. When their son flew from Pittsburgh to California, however, he was stopped twice in random security checks and missed connecting flights.
"It's really hard for security to check everything, and if terrorists want to get us, they'll do it," Barbara said.
Both believe the U.S. should not have attacked Iraq alone.
"We've lost so many troops," Barbara said. "It's a shame. We should have had more help, but we can't pull out. We've gone too far and had too much life lost to pull out now."
"It's all about politics and money," Joe said. "There has been so much loss of life, we need to finish it or pull out."
More harm than good
Lana Van Auker of Canfield was at the fair with her children and grandchildren. She believes U.S. military involvement and Middle East foreign policy since Sept. 11 has done far more harm than good.
"The world is a lot less safe. There's no doubt about that," Van Auker said. "We're less safe because of the Iraq war. We made their civil war worse, and now in Iraq there is more hate and more violence and more suicide bombings."
She doesn't believe U.S. presence or policy have changed much in the Middle East and probably never will.
"War was the wrong way to make change happen," she said. "Diplomacy is a good idea. Freedom is a good idea. Democracy is a good idea, but democracy can't work there because the people are ruled by their religion, and part of our freedom in a democracy is freedom of religion."
Van Auker said the keys to peace are compassion, tolerance and respect.
"Everyone needs more compassion and to be open-minded and respect differences," she said. "When we respect people and their differences, then war will be less likely. It comes down to the word tolerance. All the world isn't like us, and we shouldn't expect it to be."