Saturday, September 11, 2004

Electoral Elucidations: Sobering Thoughts on September 11

By: UnrepentantNewDealer

What is it about hurricanes that inspires me to blog? First Charley, now Ivan the Terrible (a Category 5 menace bearing down on Florida. (The "Sunshine State" is beginning to sound ironic.)) Actually, it's the anniversary of September 11 that prompted this post. I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the President assuring Muslims that this was not a war against Islam; I remember him saying he wanted bin Ladin "Dead or Alive"; I remember him saying "We will wage the good fight and we will prevail." Please tell me I'm not hallucinating, that our president actually said those things. These days, such things seem like another world.

I walked into the classroom of Mrs. Miller, my English teacher, at about 9:50 that morning. As we all stared at the devastation on the television screen, I was the first to breake the silence, asking the question "All right, who else here thinks it was bin Laden?" No one responded to my question, still staring at the screen in disbelief. My first reaction had simply been to think what nation or group had both the means and the motive to carry out this kind of attack, al-Qaida being the most logical suspect.

The government didn't take long to come to the same conclusion. So we started lobbing cruise missiles at Afghanistan and giving aid to the Northern Alliance to fight the Taliban sponsors of Al-Qaida. By early December, Northern Alliance forces had liberated the capital and --most of the country, and bin Ladin and the al-Qaida leadership were holed up in the mountain fortress of Tora Bora. With 3,000 Americans dead because of this man, you'd think the president would have sent the full might of the American military after him. Instead, we offered the warlords of Afghanistan, who had little or nothing against bin Ladin, money to capture or kill him themselves. This is incomprehensible. When you want something done, you've got to do it yourselves. As we all know, bin Ladin and Co. escaped the noose. We had fewer than 10,000 troops in Afghanistan until 2002. This doesn't make sense.

Unless...It is now known that Bush's meeting in November 2001 with Gen. Tommy Franks was not to plan for the Afghan war, as claimed, but to begin planning for a preemptive war against Iraq. Emergency funds approved by Congress for Afghanistan were illegally shifted into the mobilization for Gulf War II. (Thanks to Bob Woodward, of Watergate fame, for bringing both of these to light.) Suddenly, in the opening days of one war, before any mission objectives had been acheived, the president had changed focus to another war. No wonder he sent mercenaries to get bin Ladin. At that point, he no longer truly cared.

In Bush's first 8 months in office, he had managed to anger and alienate the rest of the world by withdrawing from many treaties and simply acting arrogant in general. After September 11, we had the entire civilized world on our side. I remember thinking, If Bush blows all this global goodwill, he's even more stupid than I think he is. As Bush would put it, I "misunderestimated" him.

A preemptive war is illegal under international law and goes contrary to American traditions and values. Pearl Harbor was a preemptive strike, an attempt to knock out the American navy, so there would be nothing in the way of Japan dominating the entire Pacific. A preemptive war relies on Mafia logic: I think this person might perhaps someday pose a threat to me so I'll eliminate him now, on that off-chance. That being said, most Americans, myself included, would support a preemptive strike, if it would prevent another attack on America, another September 11. So it only made sense to sell the war to the American people by scaring the bejeezus out of them. A scared populace will acquiese to anything, so long as it is purported to keep them safe. This administration played on the fears of the American people, conjuring up visions of mushroom clouds and Armeggeddon. The basic premise was that the administration knew Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction and could give them to terrorist groups to use against America. The American people, myself included, fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. The majority of other nations refused to join us unless Bush provided compelling evidence of his claims, which he never did. We believed Bush, because whatever you thought of him, surely the President wouldn't lie us into war.

So we invaded Iraq. The first tip-off that we'd been had was fact that the Iraqis did not use WMD against us. Saddam used them against his own people in the 80's. Are we honestly supposed to believe that if Saddam had these weapons, and using them might allow him to keep power for even just a few more days, he wouldn't use them, not even against troops sent specifically to depose him? But no WMD was used and none of recent origin (since the inspectors left in 1998) ever found in Iraq. The second suspicious thing were the reports of CIA analysts being pressured to change their reports to bolster the administration's case. Not to mention the Joe Wilson affair, in which Wilson was sent to investigate a claim Iraq tried buy uranium from Niger, reported the claim was bogus, but the claim still ended up in Bush's Scare of the Union address in 2003. Now, the president has changed the rationale. This "flip-flopper" of a president claims, we went to war in Iraq because of "WMD program-related activities"--whatever that means! I could go on and on, but I hope you get the gist. Bush lied us into war because he could not lead us into it.

And at what a cost. The credibility of the United States is tarnished. Our historic allies eye us warily. And the Muslim world hates us even more than ever. Want proof? This week's Time magazine article about Islam, reports that "In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, only 15% view the U.S. favorably, compared with 61% in 2002. In Saudi Arabia, according to a recent poll, 48.7% of the population sympathizes with the aims of bin Laden." And now, Iraq is in crisis as Islamic fundamentalists and terrorists travel to Iraq to fight jihad--against us. No matter how many terrorists we kill or capture, more will always take their place until we win the real war: the battle for the hearts and minds of the Muslim world. The war in Iraq has turned the minds of the vast majority of Muslims in the Middle East against us--perhaps for good. Meanwhile, in a cave somewhere, bin Ladin laughs maniacally. For we have done what he could not: convince the Muslim world that America is waging war against Islam itself.

In baseball, they have a saying: "Never take your eye off the ball." The Bush Administration took their eyes off the ball of al-Qaida. And why? For Cheney, still receiving a lucrative yearly stipend from Haliburton, it probably was about the oil and reconstruction projects. For Karl Rove, it was an issue to use against the Democrats in 2002. But, inarguably, the most important motivation is that of the president. He is the one who sends troops into harm's way. His is the perspective that matters.

During the run-up to the war, Bush didn't mention just WMD. He also said, on a number of occasions when his WMD argument just didn't seem to be persuading people, "This is, after all, the man who tried to kill my father." (In 1993, Kuwaiti police prevented a plot to kill the former president while visiting that country.) Think about that statement. With bin Ladin, it wasn't personal. But Bush had a personal motive to see Saddam dead. Is it a coincidence the opening strike of the Iraq war was an ill-fated attempt to assassinate him? Or that the president, according to reports, keeps the pistol Saddam had on him when he was captured, in a desk as a kind of sick momento, showing it to visiting heads of state? Could the president have, on a purely instinctual level, sent our troops into harm's way to settle a personal vendetta against one man? A vendetta 1,000 Americans and untold numbers of Iraqis have died for? Could this man really be so shallow? So callous? So blinded by a desire to avenge a decade-old attempt on his father's life? As Bush has told us, many have "misunderestimated" him. And we are all of us paying the price.