"We know what the terrorists intend to do because they've told us -- and we need to take their words seriously." -Bush, September 2006.
"Don't believe me. Listen to the enemy, or listen to Mr. Zawahiri, the number two of al Qaeda, both of whom made it clear that Iraq is central in their plans . . . I take the words of the enemy very seriously, and so should the American people." -Bush in a Rose Garden news conference in October 2006
NOTHING must have thrilled al-Qaeda more than to hear Bush read off passages of propaganda from the terrorists' own speeches and dispatches, except maybe the slick campaign commercial the republican party put out in late 2006 featuring the terrorist's words lovingly super-imposed against the smiling image of bin-Laden. "What is yet to come will be even greater," the announcer quotes bin-Laden as saying. "These are the stakes," is the hook; strangely reminiscent of the '64 'Daisy' ad Johnson ran in his campaign which featured a countdown to a nuclear explosion.
All of Bush's emphasis on bin-Laden and al-Qaeda didn't have any effect at all on eliminating any imagined threat. How tragic and sad for the American people, and how utterly wonderful for al-Qaeda that Bush and his republicans promoted the terrorists' appeals to fear. The effect of allowing Bush to remain in power for two terms was that bin-Laden and his accomplices were allowed to continue to run loose in Afghanistan/Pakistan while the administration continued to direct the bulk of our defenses the other direction, to Iraq.
For as long as Bush and his republican enablers held the majority, our soldiers continued to be killed in Iraq at a rate of 2-3 a day. Al-Qaeda had to be just loving it all. Why on earth would they want the relationship to end? Gifted with Bush's retreat from the hunt in Afghanistan they managed to expand the numbers of those who would associate themselves with them; right under our noses in Iraq, just by the fact of their resistance against our violently repressive military occupation.
There has been virtually no accounting from the Bush administration for their failure to capture the suspected perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks and to nullify any prolonged notoriety or influence the organization which sponsored the thugs might have gained from their violence. There has been no accounting to our legislators or anyone else for the administration's failure to make good on the mandate from Congress, as outlined in the original authorization to use military force in Sept. 2001, which Bush used to justify his 'extra-constitutional' assaults on our civil liberties and to justify his unilateral escalation of his Iraq occupation. The authorization is a direction from Congress to pursue those determined responsible for those specific attacks until they were apprehended, "dead or alive." The language is short and sweet:
The very administration which ignored warnings from their own intelligence agencies -- right up to the Oval Office in the form of a memo describing the intentions of the alleged 9-11 orchestrators, entitled, 'Bin-Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S.' -- not only failed to capture the perpetrators, but, in their zeal to invade and occupy Iraq, have allowed them to influence others who would do our nation and our interests harm by the mere virtue of their freedom.
Now, with Bush's exit and the new president's historic ascension to office only days away, the suspected perpetrators and the organization Bush has allowed safe-haven in Pakistan is looking for a new ally to continue his symbiotic relationship with whatever fools are ignorant enough to sacrifice life and livelihood, ostensibly to deny him and his accomplices some highly improbable tract of land in Kabul or Baghdad or Fallujah.
"Take the word of Osama bin Laden, or Mr. Zawahiri," Bush had said, urging Americans in his paranoid appeal to huddle in fear behind his bloody flag.
I don't want to hear the words of these terrorists echoed and amplified again from our nation's political offices. I don't want to see the same reflexive appeal to fear which uses these opportunistic taunts as gospel in our own counter-holy war.
The antidote for the potentially poisoning rhetoric from these fugitives from justice is a silent resolve from the next administration to back away from every inflated instance and expression of appeasement to the terrorists' taunts that the last administration effectively discredited with their own bungling and blustering insistence on exhibiting the worst instincts of imperialism and military expansionism in our nation's history.
In a late night discussion in September, Barack Obama told David Letterman that, "I think we would have tamped down Al Qaeda, we could have, if not captured or killed Bin Laden, at least made sure that they weren't setting up the kind of base camps that have now reconstituted themselves, so they’ve got safe haven in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, they are on the Pakistani side of the border, we were funding this guy Musharraf, providing him $10 billion in military assistance, and they were not going after these folks that are sitting there hatching plots to attack the United States again. And, you know, one of the things that we’ve got to recognize is that if we are protecting dictators because we think that’s the best we can do, we’re actually creating an environment in Pakistan that becomes anti-American and feeds the kinds of militancy that can end up damaging us badly,” said Mr. Obama.
"The struggle against Islamic-based terrorism will be not simply a military campaign but a battle for public opinion in the Islamic world, among our allies & in the US. Osama bin Laden understands that he cannot defeat the US in a conventional war," Mr. Obama wrote, in his book, 'Audacity of Hope.' "What he & his allies can do is inflict enough pain to provoke a reaction of the sort we've seen in Iraq--a botched & ill-advised US military incursion into a Muslim country, which in turn spurs on insurgencies based on religious sentiment & nationalist pride, which in turn necessitates a lengthy & difficult US occupation. All of this fans anti-American sentiment among Muslims, & increases the pool of potential terrorist recruits. That's the plan for winning a war from a cave, & so far, we are playing to script. To change that script, we'll need to make sure that any exercise of American military power helps rather than hinders our broader goals: to incapacitate the destructive potential of terrorist networks and win this global battle of ideas," Mr. Obama wrote.
We can confidently look forward to our new president's responsible exercise of our military and our offices of diplomacy if Mr. Obama stays true to his own understanding of the devastating and counterproductive effects of the appeasing pattern of militarism from the last administration which sustained and amplified the fugitive terrorist suspects' influence since the attacks on our nation. To 'change that script', we should end the terrorist-enabling occupations -- no matter what al-Qaeda is telling us; no matter whose threats are circulated to keep us as frightened of our reversing course as they are.