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When Republicans Have Nothing To Say, They Yell "al-Qaeda"

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Whether or not the Bush administration or Congressional Republicans care much about Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda is to a large degree dependent on which way the political wind is blowing on a given day and the extent to which it suits their agenda to scare the crap out of the American people, while hitting the always-painful 9/11 nerve. Despite American intelligence agencies continued insistence that al-Qaeda and its leadership are the biggest terrorist threat to the United States, bin Laden is still at large 2,000 days after George W. Bush boldly claimed that he would get him "dead or alive." Of course, Bush's "resolve" was very temporary. Six months after saying that, our tough-talking Commander-in-Chief told the nation that "I don't know where he is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him to be honest with you." And under the Republicans, we've focused on the pointless war in Iraq, while the Taliban gets its mojo back in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda continues to pick up steam elsewhere in the world. But with Senate Republicans backed into a corner by a Democratic leadership that will obviously keep bringing the issue of a troop withdrawal to the Senate floor and a voting public overwhelmingly dissatisfied with our continued involvement in the Iraq quagmire, we find a GOP suddenly very much interested in talking about how scary they find bin Laden and al-Qaeda. How convenient. Here's some snippets from the Senate floor last week as debate occurred on Harry Reid's (D-NV) resolution to change course in Iraq and Republican Senators, having a tough time rationalizing our Iraq presence entering the fifth year, playing the al-Qaeda card to the hilt:
"Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda followers are convinced that America is weak and decadent and they can succeed in grinding down our resolve and forcing us to retreat. Osama bin Laden has openly said: 'America does not have the stomach to stay in the fight.' He is a murderer. He is a fanatic. He is an Islamic fascist. He is determined to destroy us and our way of life. Let us resolve today not to also make him a prognosticator of things to come." - John Ensign (R-NV) "The Democratic resolution before us now is precisely what our enemies want to hear and, sadly, are expecting to hear. Here are some quotes from one of the people we ought to be reading more frequently, Osama bin Laden. Osama bin Laden said: "'We found that out from our brothers who fought the Americans in Somalia. They did not see it as a power worthy of any mention. ..... God gave them and the mujahideen success in Somalia and the United States pulled out, trailing disappointment, defeat and failure behind it. It achieved nothing. It left quicker than people had imagined.' "This is what Osama bin Laden thinks of us. He stated many times that Americans don't have the stomach for conflict and this Democratic resolution embodies that very notion." - Kit Bond (R-MO) "Two days ago, one of the al-Qaeda leaders in Iraq used a jihadist Web site to discuss the very resolution we are now debating in the Senate. He said: 'The democratic majority in the American Congress announced that the security plan must produce its fruits in the middle of this summer or else they would expedite the departure of the forces at the end of this year.' "Can there be any clearer evidence that al-Qaeda is ready to wait us out? In fact, al-Qaeda not only approves of a timetable for withdrawal, it is working feverishly to expedite our departure. In the last few weeks, al-Qaeda bombings have stood out as obstacles to stemming the cycle of sectarian violence in and around Baghdad. Sunni leaders have become so tired of al-Qaeda violence against their own communities that they are turning to U.S. forces for protection. A timetable for withdrawal serves al-Qaeda's interests." - Sam Brownback (R-KS) "Osama bin Laden and his followers have repeatedly said that the United States does not have the stomach for a long fight. Passage of this resolution will prove Osama bin Laden, regretfully, was right. This is the vote he has been waiting for." - Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Cynical little bastards, aren't they? And this wouldn't even be so bad if they had lifted a finger to actually go after bin Laden or to seriously challenge al-Qaeda's global growth over the last five years -- but they have not. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) has been yelling for two years about how, because of the distraction of the Iraq war, Bush and the previous Republican Congress had taken their eyes completely off al-Qaeda, who have actually increased the number of countries in which they operate since September 11, 2001. "From Somalia to Afghanistan to the ongoing fight against al-Qaeda, we face threats and challenges that require serious attention and resources. Right now, far too much of both are being spent on a single country. It is this single-minded and self-defeating policy that needs to end, and it is up to Congress to do so," said Feingold last week. "But maintaining 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq is not the way to defeat al-Qaeda... al-Qaeda is not a one-country franchise Â- it is a global threat that requires a global response." And Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) had a good response last week to Vice President Dick Cheney conveniently invoking al-Qaeda and saying that Democratic proposals to get our troops out of Iraq "validates the al-Qaeda strategy." "Does the Vice President think Prime Minister Blair's announcement of a [British] redeployment, as the Vice President said, 'validates the al-Qaeda strategy''? That is what he is accusing the Congress of," said Biden. "That is what he accuses me and Carl Levin of when we came up with this idea, that is now a leadership amendment; we are validating al-Qaeda's strategy." "Are the British validating al-Qaeda's strategy? Is he saying Tony Blair is validating Osama bin Laden? It is ridiculous. It is a ridiculous argument. It flies in the face of the facts. It comes down to this: Do we want American troops fighting an Iraqi civil war? Is that what we want these troops for? Is that why we sent them?" But to Bush, Cheney and their blind followers masquerading as leaders in the Republican Congressional caucus, those are not arguments they need to entertain. And, for Senate Republicans, they'll just continue down their old familiar road of rubber stamping every brain-dead idea and dishonest effort put forth by the White House and not lose a wink of sleep while doing it. For this contemptuous lot, it's far easier to yell "Osama bin Laden" and "al-Qaeda" when they have nothing else to offer the American people than to actually make a real effort to catch any of the bad guys they situationally consider the enemy. You can read more from Bob at
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Bob Geiger is a writer, activist and Democratic operative in Westchester County, NY.
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