Is there anything more repugnant than hearing bin-Laden's taunting words so close to the anniversary of the 9-11 attacks? I don't mean the latest video he sent Bush to amp up the president's fear and smear campaign. I'm not thinking of the grainy shots of bin-Laden greeting his accomplices out in the open air of his mountain refuge.
Bush has been practicing his new protection scheme this past week with a series of speeches in which, as the explainer-in-chief, he's been methodical and zealous in his elevation of Osama bin-Laden; carefully reciting the most offensive and threatening of the terrorist's statements and dispatches. Beginning in the second in his series of speeches, Bush chose the moment right after he had remarked on the "flood of painful memories" and the "horror of watching planes fly into the World Trade Center", to amplify bin-Laden's gloating remarks that the attack was "an unparalleled and magnificent feat of valor, unmatched by any in humankind."
This weekend, on the eve of Sept.11, Bush traveled to New York's 'Ground Zero' looking for a pile of rubble and a bullhorn to elevate himself and talk down to us from some lofty perch. He bit his tounge - trying not to think of the deaths he had allowed to happen on his watch - as he and his wife silently placed two wreaths in the twin reflecting pools. Bush found his voice later at the firehouse overlooking the site.
Bush is desperate to revive and re-animate the demoted specter he had called his "prime suspect" in 2001. "I want justice," Bush had said then. "There's an old poster out West... I recall, that said, 'Wanted, Dead or Alive.' Six months after the attacks, however, he simply turned away from his 'hunt' and acted as if he didn't care anymore about catching him. Our forces had Bin-Laden cornered at Tora Bora, and then, he was allowed to escape into the mountains. "I don't know where he is," Bush replied six months later when asked why the terrorist hadn't been caught. "I-I'll repeat what I said, Bush sputtered, "I am truly not that concerned about him."
It's five years from the date of the attacks, and Bush has finally found cause for concern. His party is poised to lose their majority in the House and, possibly, in the Senate. Voter opposition to Bush's occupation in Iraq has pulled his republicans down in the polls and threatens to take away the power that enabled him commit the troops to Iraq and keep them there. The specter of Osama bin-Laden is the only wedge Bush has to rally his dwindling base and convince voters that his party should be allowed to continue to lord over the authority they squandered in the five years since the attacks.
It's strange to hear Bush bring up bin-Laden. Bush has barely mentioned the terrorist since he claimed to be unconcerned about his whereabouts. In Bush's updated, 'National Strategy for Combating Terrorism' that he references in his speeches, Osama bin-Laden is mentioned only once, in a reference to his 'privileged upbringing'. In fact, the Senate went ahead and unanimously passed a Democratic amendment this week which restored the Pentagon's bin-Laden unit charged with finding the terrorist that Bush just up and closed without offering an alternative strategy or effort. Dredging up all of the offensive rhetoric from bin-Laden now is designed to re-inflate those emotions that were so raw right after the horror unfolded; to re-ignite that uncertainty and anxiety which first made Americans fold in the face of his consolidation of power.
Bush's own initial reaction to the terrorist attacks on 9-11 was a mix of paranoia and bluster as he cast the fight as a defense of 'freedom' that he said the attackers wanted to 'destroy'. "They hate our freedoms - our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other," he declared in an address to a joint session of Congress. In his statement at the signing of the "anti-terrorism," Patriot Act, in October 2001, six weeks after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, President Bush claimed that the measure would counter the threat of enemies that "recognize no barrier of morality and have no conscience." He sought to assure that the measure "upheld and respected the civil liberties guaranteed by our Constitution." He ends his statement with a pledge to enforce the law with "all of the urgency of a nation at war."
However, the President neglected to tell us which war he was referring to. The anti-terrorism measure was cobbled together in a few short months to take political advantage of the urge in Congress for a legislative response to the terrorist attacks, despite the president's claim that the bill was "carefully drafted and considered." It was a direct assault on the liberty, privacy, and free expression of all Americans.
From that document came a flood of legislative 'remedies' that would take advantage of the administration's blanket defense of 'national security' that they and their minions in Congress draped over every stalled piece of legislation that could be remotely tied to their 'war on terror'. But, their transparent politicking with their new anti-terror tools had nothing at all to do with catching the perpetrators they said were responsible for the 9-11 attacks. Their hunt for Osama bin-Laden became eclipsed by the violence their Iraq diversion had produced. Iraq became a terror magnet, just as Bush had planned. Instead of just "fighting them over there" as combatants responded to his call to bring it on, his occupation has had the effect of producing more individuals with a grudge who would harm our troops, our interests, or our allies; not less as Bush claims.
No amount of saber-rattling at Iran, showdowns with North Korea, or escalation of troops in Iraq to further prop up the crumbling Maliki regime can substitute for bringing bin-Laden to justice. The White House suggested yesterday that bin-Laden had not been found because they had degraded al-Qaeda's ability to use the phone and fax. "One of the things I can say is that bin Laden is harder to find these days because he, in fact, does not feel at liberty to move about," White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters.
"He does not feel at liberty to use electronic means of communications. In many ways, the senior leadership of al Qaeda has been degraded. And under such circumstances, somebody leaves fewer clues."
"Harder to find than when, since we haven't found him?" he was asked. "It sort of sounds like since he's harder to find is a sign of our success."
"Well, in some ways, it is," Snow answered. "I mean, if bin Laden was thoroughly successful, he'd be sitting on a throne conducting press conferences or issuing fatwas in full view of everyone -- and he is not doing so."
There is apparently no throne, and no press conferences or fatwas in 'full view'. But, five years on the loose has made bin-Laden into an inspiration for others who have been provoked into violence of their own by the mindless collateral killings in Bush's dual Mideast occupations, thinking they can escape and rise to the same level of attention that Bush gives Osama. Yet, Bush has decided to elevate bin-Laden even more in his speeches and remembrances leading up to the 9-11 commemorations.
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