So we now know that, within the first 12 days of the Bush Administration (or even sooner, during the presidential transition), the following occurred:
1. The departing Clinton national security team warned the Bush folks, with great emphasis, about the fact that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda would be the most pressing terrorist threat facing the country. This fact has been reported for some time, and will be reiterated by Clinton officials when they testify before the 9/11 Commission;
2. An urgent appeal made by Richard Clarke (a terrorism expert from the Clinton, Bush41 and Reagan Administrations) during the first week of the new Bush Administration to convene a top-level meeting about Al Qaeda was ignored until April. At that point, a lower-level meeting was finally convened, at which Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz mocked Clarke’s concerns; and, finally
3. The detailed recommendations of the Hart-Rudman, bi-partisan terrorism commission (whose members included Newt Gingrich), were submitted to the Bush Administration on its 12th day in office (January 31, 2001). Despite several years and millions of taxpayer-funded dollars spent investigating terrorism (and recommending, most notably, the formation of a Homeland Security Department), the Bushies decided to create instead another, redundant Dick Cheney-led terrorism task force to study the question some more, which never met.
This sort of asleep-at-the-switch response makes Rip Van Winkle look like a cat-napper.
I think there is a great deal of merit to the assertion that the focus on Iraq has diverted all sorts of political, military, economic and diplomatic energy away from the fight on terrorism. Notwithstanding the pedantic assertions of neo-cons like James Taranto and others who constantly say we're not distracted, the pure military calculus of the issue is irrefutable. We have roughly 11,000 military personnel in Afghanistan right now according to GlobalSecurity.Org. In terms of combat personnel, this includes a sizable special operations component and roughly one brigade combat team of light infantry. In Iraq today, we have more than 10 times that number of aggregate personnel, including 16 brigade combat teams of heavy and light forces. American infantry and special operations forces have played a cat-and-mouse game with Al Qaeda in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan for more than two years, and one has to wonder about how effective this would've been if we had put some of the combat power into Afghanistan that we have put into Iraq.
Moreover, the U.S. has devoted so much combat power to Iraq for the near term that it has substantially constrained its ability to (1) deploy additional forces to existing theaters of operations, e.g. Afghanistan and (2) deploy forces to new hotspots like Haiti or the Philippines, which may or may not be part of the global war on terrorism. So the question is not merely "How has the war on Iraq affected the U.S. war on terrorism?" -- the question is also "How has the war on Iraq constrained future exercises of American power abroad, by limiting the forces available to the President?"
And the questions which Kerry must now bring to the forefront and make the center of his campaign are "Did Bush do his best to protect you?" and "Are you safer from terrorism now than you were 4 years ago?" Clearly, the answer to both is a resounding "No!"
It continues to astound me that Bush can still receive any kind of a pass on this issue from anyone. I understand that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, people felt scared, confused and angry, and bonded with Bush as the closest thing available to a "Big Daddy", someone who can give comfort and alleviate anxiety. [Update:Paul Waldman writes: [T]he fact is, if a trained seal had been president on September 11 he would have gotten 90% approval ratings. The country (and this includes journalists) was desperate to feel that in our hour of pain, fear and anger we were being led by a strong and wise leader, not by someone who would lie to us and use those very emotions for political gain."] I also understand the rallying-around-the-flag effect when Bush launched the war against Iraq -- nobody wants to feel like an outsider in their own country or community. But at this distance from the al Qaeda attacks, 2 1/2 years on, certainly it should be possible to throw off the yoke of those emotional responses and see clearly the actuality of what Bush has done.
Let's take a quick look at the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution:
We, the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
So the defense of the country is a pretty basic thing, one of the small number of reasons given for banding the colonies together into a single country in the first place. Even most small government fanatics agree that defense is a primary legitimate function of the Federal government.
Every president is elected with an implicit promise to protect us from harm. We provide funds to pay for all the things he needs to perform that task. If he wants more, he asks for what he thinks he needs, and is usually provided with it. There may be some bargaining, and give and take about what material and equipment is appropriate or necessary, but there's never much disagreement about the need for an adequate defense of the country. (As a nation, we spend more on defense than most of the rest of the world combined.)
Protecting us from attack by unfriendly powers is not some ancillary thing, a mere unimportant afterthought, it's part of the very core of what the Presidency is there to do in the first place. Having failed to do that, to protect us, Bush and his people should then have put all their energy into correcting their mistakes and marshalling our considerable resources into programs and policies that would make us safer both by protecting us from further attacks and by reducing the risk of attack by fighting the causes of terrorism at their roots.
This is not some wimpy liberal plea to "understand the terrorists" so that we can pity them or "validate their pain," it's a call for a practical empirical program to reduce terrorism by any means possible.
What did we get instead? The USA Patriot Act, a disorganized and underfunded Department of Homeland Security, color-coded security levels, a botched (albeit necessary and justified) war in Afghanistan, and the war in Iraq, followed by another botched operation, the occupation. And terrorism by Islamic militants against the West continues practically unabated.
There's no doubt in my mind that if any of this had happened on Clinton's watch, he would have been impeached, and probably would have been booted out of office. There's no chance of that happening with Bush, so there's no point in wasting any of our energy even thinking about it, or censure, or whatever. Better to put everything into electing Kerry and getting rid of the most cynically corrupt and mendacious administration in recent memory, and the guy in the Oval Office who just happens to have failed in one of his primary responsibilties.
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.