Dorgan: The right way to wage a war

Former U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan's book "The Girl in the Photograph" tells the story of a young woman named Tamara DeMaris who was severely abused in a foster home on the Standing Rock reservation. The book published Nov. 26. Forum file photo

Waging war against a deadly virus is different than fighting a war against a foreign enemy. I understand that. But it seems to me, no matter the type of war we are fighting, it has to be a priority to call on the genius of American innovation, invention and the powerful ability to create and produce all that we need to win.

That’s not happening today. There is no effective national leadership rallying our collective will to produce on an urgent basis all of the tools needed to fight this virus, including testing, masks, gowns, gloves, ventilators, antibiotics and much more. We should be on an emergency wartime footing to produce all of that….right now!

I believe President Trump should appoint the best person he can find to be the “COVID-19 Czar” to wage this war. Then he should stop tweeting. Stop performing for the cameras. End the misinformation about the virus. Start leading.

We need a modern day General Eisenhower to fight this insidious war against the virus. My choice is Bill Gates. He is one of America’s top business executives who also understands pandemics. He has spent his life as a business executive planning and executing to get things done. The sooner we establish competent leadership by appointing a COVID-19 Czar in charge, the more likely it is we will be saving lives.


Trump should be making aggressive use of the Defense Production Act right now.

We’ve done this before. In World War II, President Roosevelt’s conversion program to shift American corporations to wartime production was relentless and it worked.

Our soldiers counted on America’s manufacturing might to operate on a wartime footing to create a staggering level of production of guns, ships, planes, trucks, tanks and more to put the best equipment in our soldiers' hands to defeat the Nazis.

In short, Roosevelt turned our economy into a powerful machine to produce all the things we needed to win the war. When the war started the Kaiser shipyards were building one 10,000-ton liberty ship every 365 days. By the end of the war they were building one a day.

Roosevelt brought in top business executives who were called the “dollar a year men” who helped ramp up production. Aided by industrialists like Henry Kaiser and others, the unprecedented levels of production of weapons and equipment became a juggernaut that the Nazi’s couldn’t overcome.

American factories that were making lingerie were converted to make camouflage netting. Factories that were producing beer cans were converted to make hand grenades. Vacuum cleaner companies were making parts for gas masks. A company making lipstick cases was converted to making bomb casings. That didn’t happen by accident. Strong national leadership mobilized the country to produce what was needed to win the war.

By contrast, in today’s war against the Coronavirus, the front line soldiers doing battle with this invisible enemy, the doctors, nurses and other health care professionals have not been able to acquire the personal protective equipment and clothing they need to protect their own health. Most say they are very short of critically needed equipment like ventilators and other equipment necessary for their patients.

Trump has the authority right now under the Defense Production Act to require companies to immediately shift their manufacturing capability to produce everything our health care workers and sick patients so desperately need.


But instead, he delays, denies responsibility and blames others.

Despite assurances from the president and others that tests are available to anyone who needs one, he’s wrong. The truth is we are desperately short of the kind of comprehensive, nationwide testing that is necessary to determine who has the virus and who is spreading the virus. Without extensive national testing we are blind to stopping the spread of the virus.

This is no way to fight a war. We need a president who leads, not one who shifts blame. His previous comments that……..”Coronavirus is a hoax, ….. it will disappear in warm weather, ……. it is like the flu, ….. it is not going to have much impact in our country”…… these comments are uninformed and dangerous.

Our country deserves better. You can’t win a war unless you fight it with all your might and with all the tools you need to win.

We will win this war. But it requires us to be smarter, tougher and more relentless in waging this war.

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