Thursday, January 15, 2009

Crash Test Dummies

If you're a passenger in my car, and if I'm drunk and speeding, hands off the wheel, and if I've removed the seat belts and disabled the air bags, as long as we haven't crashed yet is it credible for me to argue that I've kept you safe?

The one theme that seems to prevail in the face of George Bush's astronomically huge failures is that he's "kept us safe." Well, okay, in the above sense. But I think a couple of things need to be kept in mind. First, those efforts that actually may be playing a role in preventing another attack are ones that any president would be doing, without question: namely, gathering intelligence. (The difference being, of course, that most would have done it legally.) I absolutely understand the need to keep an eye on certain people. Wiretaps don't bother me. But (even though it's clearly open to abuse no matter what) I don't see a reason why the law can't be followed, or updated where necessary. And I'm not at all persuaded that torture (not to mention renditions, suspending American law, Guantanamo) has been or is a useful tool. The only people who support it besides Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al, are knee-jerk (and non-militarily-experienced) pundits of the Limbaugh/Kristol variety, who think 24 is a documentary. There seems nearly unanimous agreement among actual intelligence operatives that torture produces unreliable information. False information. Not to mention the degradation of our image around the world. It's part of the tough-guy swagger that right-wingers, nearly all of whom found ways to avoid signing up for the military, like to imagine for themselves.

Beyond those things that we'd all have done, there's nothing one can point to as a positive for safety in Bush's policies. Clearly creating more potential terrorists than it has eliminated, Iraq has been a debacle, no matter how it finally turns out. With George Bush seeing himself as Samson, no Delilah was needed. Having shifted power to Iran, having ignored Afganistan/Pakistan and the real al Queda, there's no argument but that we are at increased risk. Likewise, the bankrupting of our country and depleting of our military has left us nearly paralyzed.

Approaching eight years after 9/11 we're teetering on the brink of collapse in ways for which Osama bin Laden couldn't have hoped in his wildest prayers. (If he did, he's the most brilliant villain in history.) What has brought us to this point? Three airplanes, or the presidential policies since then?

I'll give Bush credit for taking certain obvious steps in response to 9/11, ones that had he not taken he'd have been guilty of presidential malpractice. But to see the Iraq misadventure and its offshoot illegalities as anything but a disastrous over-reach (to put it kindly) and to claim that it in any way deserves credit for the lack of further attacks on our soil (ignoring, of course, the fact that it's led the the death and disabling of tens of thousands more Americans than occurred on 9/11) is, at best, to claim something plainly unprovable, and, at worst, willfully to look away from the direction to which the facts point.Link
And answer me this: if Bush is to be credited with the lack of attacks since September Eleven, why is he not to be blamed for the attack itself, nine months into his presidency, when he'd been told explicitly by the out-going administration that al Queda was a grave threat, and ignoring it? How does that work? All credit for the one thing, no blame for the other? Or this, to those who absolve Bush of any responsibility for 9/11: how far into the Obama administration's tenure would an attack be marked on Bush's side of the ledger?

[An interesting datum in regard to the above, according to Ron Suskind whom I recently saw on TV: He says it's known by Bush and Cheney, based on gathered intelligence, that al Queda has "called off" attacks on the U.S. for now, until they're able to deliver a greater blow (presumably with some form of WMD) than was 9/11. So in claiming to have kept us safe, George Bush is saying something he knows to be untrue (surprise). Rather than having been deterred, al Queda is simply waiting, preparing for something bigger than before. Great. One can only wonder how much less vulnerable we'd be, had we not pissed away opportunity in Iraq.]



Anonymous said...

Sid, we get it, you don't like Bush...and you're wrong, as usual, I support torture, and I've got an actual 4 days of Military experience, even helped handcuff surrendering Iraqui soldiers, and spent 4 months at Git-mo..(an underappreciated vacation spot, think Tiajuana with Lizards) and I don't like "24" give me a good "Gilmore Girls" anyday, there, more salient points in 80 words than you made in 2,000...

Sid Schwab said...

Support torture. Well, then. Show me proof it works; say something that disproves the opinion of experts. Plus, as usual, that wasn't the point here: the point is whether it's accurate to say Bush has kept us safe. Liking him (which I don't -- and it's impressive that you were able to tease that out of my subtle writing) is irrelevant to the question.

Robert said...

I think he has kept us safe, we have yet to be attacked a second time on his watch. I think it's unfair to blame Bush for the collapse of our economy. If we subtract the war and all of bush's policies the housing bubble and sub prime mortgages would have still brought our economy to it's knees it was only a matter of time. He didn't help things from a fiscal standpoint, but its a fundamental attribution error to give him all the credit. What about the American consumer, at what point does the greed and desire for things we can't afford play into the mix? Another thing I question is the media we receive in this country, there may be only a hand full of people that truly understand all the factors that went into his decisions(and I doubt any of them have radio or tv shows). Yet everyone has an opinion based off second hand information, filtered through bias for the most part. I have no problem with people blaming Bush, but I think we should be realistic about what can be attributed to one man with limited power. Are we going to continue to blame Bush ad infinitum? If so then why, if not then when will Obama's success and failures no longer be tempered with what George Bush did during his presidency.

Beloved Parrot said...

As far as I'm concerned Bush cannot be blamed enough for anything. His carelessness and stupidity and indifference have helped bring this country to its knees. Yes, Reagan started this economic disaster, but Bush helped it along wholeheartedly.

By the way, I'VE protected this country from direct nuclear attack. We haven't had any, have we?

Beloved Parrot said...

And let's be clear about something -- IF there had been any real attack on the US on Bush's watch I believe the press would have been all over it and we'd all know about it.

I can't see the press or the government being able to be quiet about an actual planned attack. So Bush can't take credit for that.

Sid Schwab said...

B.P: funny thing is, even before your comment I'd begun to realize it was you who'd kept us safe. Thanks very much, and I know I speak for us all.

Anonymous said...

The point about torture is not so much about whether it gives any useful information itself, it is more about the impact it has on the core sources of information gathering. Anyone involved in intelligence gathering knows that most information comes voluntarily, from friends, allies, partners or others that may have a momentarily similar interests to yours. Provided you have the adequate infrastructure (accessibility and the right people at the right place), this flow of information represents over 90% of the information you need. American intelligence was warned well enough about 9/11 by the secret services of Russia, France and Egypt, to name only these. But the flow of information only works as long as your allies see you as a partner they can associate with. The integrity of your values and intentions are a core element in motivating others to come to you with their information (would you communicate even the slightest suspicion about anyone if you knew this would lead to torture or cost this person's life?).The knowledge about torture dries up such information streams instantly.

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