Inarguably, the most seminal event in American history in the last half-century was the September 11 terrorist attacks. On September 13, 2001 President Bush stated, “The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him.” We fell into line behind our elected leader, resolute in avenging this horrendous act. We spoke with bravado about how we would return to the American ‘way of life’ because we were determined to live in freedom. We would not let the terrorists win . It matters not that six months to the day Bush made the comment about finding bin Laden, he said, “I don’t know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don’t care. It’s not that important. It’s not our priority.” By then, we had our nationalistic blinders on and President Bush was successfully using the politics of fear to keep Americans in line. With a misguided sense of ‘patriotism’ we gave up our civil rights so that our leaders could keep us safe. And even after the President of the United States proudly stated on the national news that he approved torture and abuse, we cannot summon the stomach to impeach him. Don’t look now, folks, but the terrorists have won.
The nation we have become under George Walker Bush has been shaped in large part by the 9-11 terrorist attacks. After the attacks, there was a great opportunity to bring about unity on a national and international scale. That opportunity was squandered by this administration. From the beginning, George Bush took the position that if certain nations did not do his bidding, they would be considered siding with the terrorists. When the families of those killed on 9-11 started to ask questions and press for an investigation, they were stonewalled for months. The administration finally relented and appointed the supposedly bi-partisan 9-11 commission, and then proceeded to first stonewall it, then lie to it. There are certainly enough holes in the official story to warrant an investigation, but we will never see it while George Bush is in office. The reality that every American has to face is that, at the very least, the Bush administration saw this tragic event as a broad-scale political opportunity and took advantage of our fears. That’s what dictators do.
For all the rhetoric that comes from this administration about democracy and freedom, the fact is that our civil liberties have been significantly curtailed and more are coming under assault every day as a result of 9-11. In October of 2001 our Congress foolishly passed the U.S.A. Patriot Act, giving the government unprecedented power to search telephone, e-mail, medical and financial records in the name of fighting terrorism. This was also the reason the Bush administration used to justify illegally wiretapping American citizens. The Protect America Act of 2007 retroactively legitimizes Bush’s illegal activity. If that isn’t enough, he also wants Congress to authorize retroactive immunity for the telecommunication companies that participated in this atrocious behavior.
If Ronald Reagan was ‘the great communicator,’ then George W. Bush is ‘the great liar.’ In October of 2002, Congress voted to give George Bush the power to unilaterally attack Iraq without so much as taking the time to verify and question the ‘facts’ used to justify the invasion: That Saddam Hussein was somehow involved in 9-11, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and that Iraq tried to purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger. We now know that President Bush and several members of his administration, including Dick Cheney and Colin Powell, told these and many other lies in order to justify the invasion of Iraq. Had the Congress done its due diligence, the unnecessary death and destruction that this war has wrought could have been avoided.
Then we have the matter of torture. The United States has no business singling out nations like China and Cuba for human rights abuses when our president has violated (and continues to violate) the terms of the Geneva Convention. While the administration would have you believe that what happened at Abu Ghraib was the brainchild of low-level soldiers, we now know where the orders came from. President Bush himself proudly told ABC News just recently that he approved the torture techniques being used on detainees from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The terrorists have won because our government and way of life have become unrecognizable. We need not fear an attack from the outside because we are destroying ourselves from within. The U.S. Constitution, the cornerstone of our democracy, has been repeatedly violated by the Bush administration. Our system of checks and balances, anchored by a free and independent media and a Congress truly acting upon the will of the people, is all but gone. Finally, the American people themselves have become complacent sheep waiting out Bush’s term of office. We are not a stronger nation because of it. We are not a safer nation because of it. And the terrorists know that.