Friday, May 30, 2008

A prophet is not without honor save in his own country

One thing is certain about Scott McClellan’s book: he wouldn’t have sold many copies if it had been about how well President Bush had served his country. Friends and admirers of the President don’t need to read a book like that; only future students of history do. Friends and admirers well realize that, at enormous cost to himself in the nanny-state in which we now live, President Bush has kept us safe against all odds, he steered us through a recovery from the Clinton recession and then through the incredible collapse of the economy after 9/11, and all the while maintaining liberties we gladly surrendered during previous wars.

None of this matters to the America-haters and peace-at-any-price appeasers out there; I wish we could just leave them to rot and stew in their conspiracy theories (9/11 a government plot; Selected, Not Elected; Iraq War a Cheney grab for oil), but we can’t. It is the responsibility of every patriot to keep hammering away at their ignorance, at their tendency to scapegoat and at their willingness to follow false leaders who play to their idiocies to gain power at any cost.

The President Has Kept Us Safe
May 30, 2008; Wall St Journal

With President Bush-bashing still a national pastime, it's notable how much international terrorism has been forgotten, and how little credit the president has received for keeping Americans safe.

This is a difficult issue for me. I didn't vote for President Bush – twice. And as a human-rights law professor, the events at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, along with various elements of the Patriot Act and the National Security Agency's wiretapping of Americans, are all greatly troubling to me.

Yet I live in Manhattan and I was present on Sept. 11, 2001 – admittedly 100 blocks from the murder scene, but I was here, trembling along with the rest of America. Remember those days?
Everyone on 9/12 and thereafter – here in New York City and in cities across America – was quite certain that the next terrorist strike was imminent. The stock market collapsed on such fears, and Las Vegas odds makers weren't betting on safer days ahead. We endured interminable delays at airport security checkpoints. Even grandmothers were suddenly suspects.

Sarin and anthrax – the nerve gas and poison, respectively – entered our national vocabulary. Venturing into subways and pizza shops became a game of psychological Russian roulette – with an Islamic twist. Macy's and Zabar's seemed like inevitable strategic targets. Our fears were no longer isolated to skyscrapers – from now, all aspects of daily life would evoke terror.

We would come to familiarize ourselves with the color-coded scale of threat conditions issued by the Department of Homeland Security. (Was it safe to go out on orange, or did we have to wait until yellow?)

Each American city adopted its own visions of trauma. There were new categories of vulnerable public spaces. Our worst terrorism nightmares were projected onto local landmarks: Rodeo Drive, the Sears Tower, the French Quarter, River Walk, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Space Needle. Suddenly, living in rural, outlying areas seemed like a sensible lifestyle choice.

We all waited for terrorism's second shoe to drop, and, seven years later . . . nothing has happened.

Other cities around the world became targets: Madrid, Glasgow, London and Bali; the entire nation of Denmark; and, of course, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Here in America, however, the focus moved from concerns over counterterrorism measures and the abuse of presidential authority to the war in Iraq, the subprime mortgage crisis, the failing economy, the public meltdown of Britney Spears, and now, the presidential elections.

All this time Americans have been safe from suicide bombers, biological warfare and collapsing skyscrapers, while the rest of the world has been on red alert. And yet President Bush is regarded as the worst president in American history? Sorry, I must be missing something here.

Yes, there are those who maintain that our promiscuous misadventures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel have rendered America even less safe. That the president has further radicalized our enemies and alienated our nation. That the animosity for America now, improbably, runs even deeper. Whatever resentments and aspirations gave rise to 9/11 have grown and will not be easily dissipated. For this reason, no one should draw comfort in the relative safety of our shores.

Maybe so. But when a professed enemy succeeds as wildly as al Qaeda did on 9/11, and seven years pass without an incident, there are two reasonable conclusions: Either, despite all the trash-talking videos, they have been taking a long, leisurely breather; or, something serious has been done to thwart and disable their operations. Whatever combination of psychology and insanity motivates a terrorist to blow himself up is not within my range of experience, but I'm betting the aggressive measures the president took, and the unequivocal message he sent, might have had something to do with it.

Americans, admittedly, have short time horizons and, perhaps, even shorter attention spans. Our collective memory has historically been poor. But had there been another terrorist attack or, even worse, a dozen more in cities all over America – a fear that would not have been exaggerated on 9/12 – would we have allowed ourselves the luxury of quarreling over legally suspect counterterrorism measures, even though such internal debates are credits to our liberal democracy and constitutional freedoms?

Terrorism is now largely off the table in the minds of most Americans.
But in gearing up to elect a new president, we are left to wonder how, in spite of numerous failed policies and poor judgement, President Bush's greatest achievement was denied to him by people who ungratefully availed themselves of the protection that his administration provided.

U.S. Cites Big Gains Against Al-Qaeda

Group Is Facing Setbacks Globally, CIA Chief Says
By Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 30, 2008 (Excerpt)

“Less than a year after his agency warned of new threats from a resurgent al-Qaeda, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden now portrays the terrorist movement as essentially defeated in Iraq and Saudi Arabia and on the defensive throughout much of the rest of the world, including in its presumed haven along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

In a strikingly upbeat assessment, the CIA chief cited major gains against al-Qaeda's allies in the Middle East and an increasingly successful campaign to destabilize the group's core leadership.

While cautioning that al-Qaeda remains a serious threat, Hayden said Osama bin Laden is losing the battle for hearts and minds in the Islamic world and has largely forfeited his ability to exploit the Iraq war to recruit adherents. Two years ago, a CIA study concluded that the U.S.-led war had become a propaganda and marketing bonanza for al-Qaeda, generating cash donations and legions of volunteers.

All that has changed, Hayden said in an interview with The Washington Post this week that coincided with the start of his third year at the helm of the CIA.
"On balance, we are doing pretty well," he said, ticking down a list of accomplishments: "Near strategic defeat of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Near strategic defeat for al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. Significant setbacks for al-Qaeda globally -- and here I'm going to use the word 'ideologically' -- as a lot of the Islamic world pushes back on their form of Islam," he said.”

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At 7:20 AM, Blogger the Buffalo said...

Namby Pambies.

At 8:18 AM, Blogger the Buffalo said...

Though I will say I'm truly impressed you likened George Bush to Jesus Christ. Wowee! It just keeps getting better.

At 8:43 AM, Blogger RussWilcox said...

Well, Mr. Buffalo, it's encouraging that you recognized the reference.

At 9:30 AM, Blogger Timothy said...

Well, we work in the dark, we do what we can ;-)


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