Wednesday, March 17, 2004


I must take my break here at work to ask a question that’s been bothering me for weeks:

What’s so impressive about President Bush’s leadership in the war on terrorism?

Touting it is a key Bush campaign strategy, with today’s New York Times quoting Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, boasting:

The American people have etched in their minds the president’s leadership in a time of crisis. That’s something voters find comfort in going into an election. Whether it has to be emphasized or not, we’ve made clear that one of the most important issues is how the two candidates would conduct the war on terror and protect America. There’s a clear choice.

It’s not clear what steps Bush took or did not take before Sept. 11, 2001, to protect the United States and fight terrorism. But crediting Bush for fighting a war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, after intelligence sources fingered them as responsible, begs the question of how any other president would have acted. Does anyone seriously believe Al Qaeda and the Taliban would have gotten a pass from President Gore or, more to the point, President Kerry -- who talks about his Vietnam war heroics at the drop of a medal?

Al Qaeda is still around, even in Afghanistan, and the Taliban is said to control about a third of the country.

Bush has since created the Department of Homeland Security, but only after great resistance to what was, after all, a Democratic proposal.

He also took us into a war in Iraq, which has had a minimal role in exported terrorism and, based on a complete lack of evidence admitted even by Bush, no role in 9/11. There is evidence, however, that the invasion and occupation of Iraq has riled terrorists further, or at least that they are using it is a recruitment and rallying tool.

So much for the notion that U.S. efforts there will eventually create a democratic paradise and paradigm in the Middle East; it has become clear we could have achieved the same result through ongoing sanctions and political isolation.

It adds up to a record against terrorism that ranges from the obvious to the reluctant to the pointless.

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