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Despite the Image

January 20th, 2006
George Bush has maintained a reputation for being strong and effective in the War on Terror™. But here's the question: Why? Look at the record. What has he accomplished? Okay, there have been no serious attacks in the U.S. by al Qaeda since 9/11, but that says nothing. After their car-bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, terrorists did not attempt to strike again until 2000; it's not outside their pattern to stay dormant for years at a time. There is no evidence whatsoever that anything Bush has done since 2001 has prevented any kind of attack by al Qaeda, anywhere. Al Qaeda attacks have not declined worldwide, in fact they have increased, with London and Madrid as examples of an overall growing trend of terrorist attacks. So the fact that we have not suffered an al Qaeda attack does not speak one iota to Bush's performance in securing our country from attack, and if held to account on a global scale, he's certainly failed to stop al Qaeda there, despite massive eavesdropping on international communications. So the only ways Bush could claim to have been effective are in preparedness at home, and taking the fight to al Qaeda where they live. Let's take a look at that. Osama bin Laden and his chief deputies are still out there, as we so recently found. Had Bush not diverted troops and funds away from Afghanistan early on so he could invade Iraq, we probably would have folded these guys up by now. And if you think Zawahiri, bin Laden's #1 guy in Iraq was killed in an air raid that killed at least 18 including 10 women and children, then you've been watching the mainstream media--they reported the hell out of the news that we probably got him, and fell silent when the news came that we didn't. We have, according to the media (which has been taking dictation from the White House), killed bin Laden's "#3 man" about a half dozen times. These guys seem a dime a dozen, and al Qaeda's operations are likely completely unaffected by such losses. Bush invaded Iraq, apparently so we could "fight them over there so we don't have to fight them here." So far, no evidence exists that Iraq has dampened al Qaeda activity in the U.S. In fact, the invasion of Iraq has helped to flood al Qaeda's ranks with new recruits, reaching as many as 18,000 as of a year and a half ago. And because of the invasion of Iraq, our own funding and military forces have been squandered in a quagmire; far more has been spent on the Iraq War than has been spent domestically to protect the nation. Iraq was not only unrelated to terrorism or any real threat to American security; instead, it has been a drain on security resources and an overall failure that has badly hurt the United States. Meanwhile, homeland security has been "grossly underfunded" for years; in 2003, a report (PDF file) by the Council on Foreign Relations concluded that:
the United States is drastically under-funding local emergency responders and remains dangerously unprepared to handle a catastrophic attack on American soil, particularly one involving chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-impact conventional weapons. If the nation does not take immediate steps to better identify and address the urgent needs of emergency responders, the next terrorist incident could be even more devastating than September 11.
One would think that this would have prompted the government to spend more and cut down on the pork. But no. Since then, spending in key areas has been falling. Furthermore, George "I never veto pork" Bush has allowed Republican pork-barrel politics to siphon off huge amounts of what homeland security funding has been allocated. As much as half of the new spending has been spent on projects not related to security, shunted to pork projects when the Republicans in Congress simply tacked "defense" or "homeland security" onto the names of old pork spending proposals. To add insult to injury, flush American corporations, millionaires and billionaires have so far been granted billions more in tax cuts than has been spent on domestic security. In the meantime, Americans have been hurt (unless you're notably wealthy). Republicans have used the fear of 9/11 to ram their entire legislative agenda down America's throat, in the process hurling us from miraculous Clinton surpluses to record Republican deficits, severely retarding the American economy. Our rights and freedoms have been curtailed and abused, and it looks like for the past four years, a very large number of Americans have been spied on by our own government. Today, you could be arrested on classified evidence, declared and "enemy combatant," stripped of your citizenship, and sent overseas to be tortured--but you'll be "secure" when it happens. While al Qaeda flourishes, America is slowly but surely being converted into a strikingly Orwellian police state under constant self-oppressive restraint due to fear created via an endless war that gives the president unparalleled and virtually unrestricted power. Some Americans are all right with this because they think we'll be "safer." Even if that were true, it would not come even close to being worth it. And as I believe I have pointed out in my writing above, we are not in any way, shape or form "safer" than we were four years ago. In the end, Bush and the Republican party have been far more damaging to this country than al Qaeda ever could be. And yet, he maintains the image of being effective. Whoever said that politics is perception could not have been more right.

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