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.
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.]