RICK GAGLIARDO: Bush Didn't Really Keep 'Us' Safe
As the disastrous Bush presidency whimpers to a close, I was outraged last week by the gall of a Bush apologist who tried to spin Bush's greatest failure as a success.
I refer, of course, to that great lie, "Bush has kept us safe."
First of all, it might be true if the Bush presidency had begun on Sept. 12, 2001. (The Bushies conveniently forget the 9/11 attacks, or add the caveat "since 9/11.") When I pointed out this flaw, he did what many Republicans do when confronted with unpleasant truths about the last eight years: He blamed President Clinton.
After all, he argued, Clinton never did anything to fight terrorism. I couldn't seriously lay the blame for the 9/11 attacks on a president who'd been in office for a full one-sixth of his elected term, could I?
Hmm. Let's examine this.
The president's national security adviser refused for seven months to hold a meeting with Richard Clarke, the head of the nation's counterterrorism office. Clarke had been convinced that the intelligence pointed to an attack and was described as running around Washington "like a man with his hair on fire" trying to see Bush or Rice.
The president never read (is that a surprise?) a memo entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Within the United States." Apparently Rice read it and did nothing. In August, Attorney General Ashcroft berated two FBI agents who had the audacity to bother him on his farm -- he was on vacation just six months into the job -- telling them he didn't want to be bothered with "this al-Qaeda stuff."
In February 2001, an intelligence finding concluded that bin Laden was responsible for the attack on the USS Cole. Bush decided that too much time had elapsed since the Cole attack for any response to be effective.
Conversely, the Clinton administration hunted down, captured, tried, and convicted the terrorists responsible for the first WTC bombing, and those responsible for the murders and bombings at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the Cobalt Towers in Saudi Arabia, and our two African embassies.
Meanwhile, having sworn on the smoldering ground of the WTC that "dead or alive" he would get the man responsible, Bush leaves office with bin Laden laughing at him from a cave in Afghanistan.
Yes. I blame Bush. Seriously. But my point is that even since 9/11, he hasn't kept us safe. Yes, American soil hasn't been attacked. As Dick Cheney said, "So what?" Soil doesn't bleed. But our troops do.
If an adult with custodial responsibility leaves loaded guns within an unsupervised child's reach, or leaves children unattended near a busy thoroughfare, or a pet in a hot, locked car, is the adult culpable for their deaths? When one places others in mortal jeopardy, is the one responsible for the others' deaths?
Bush recklessly and illegally put more than 150,000 of our troops in the path of terrorist bullets and roadside bombs. He didn't provide enough troops for them to succeed, and he didn't equip them properly. He has returned insufficiently rested troops to combat too quickly. His policy has resulted in more than 4,000 deaths -- another 9/11 -- and 40,000 injured.
How dare anyone claim that Bush kept us "safe" from terrorist attacks for seven years? Every IED that explodes is a terrorist attack against an American. And who, exactly, is this "us" that is so safe? We are being killed by terrorists. Get over this false distinction between civilian and military deaths, as though we must be protected, but soldiers are expendable.
Americans are being killed every day because George Bush put them within the reach of the terrorists. If we weren't in Iraq, we wouldn't be getting killed. Furthermore, our presence there is the lifeblood of al-Qaeda, a continuous source of terrorists-in-training. Bush hasn't made us safer; the enemy is larger, more hostile, and more motivated than at any time since 2001. And spare me the propaganda line, "It's better we fight them over there, than over here."
Again, who is we? And "better" for whom? Not our troops. I don't see any Bushies fighting, and I don't see them making any sacrifices. But I do hear them whine about "raising taxes." Balk at funding the war and benefits for our troops, but keep their sorry carcasses safe for the golf courses.
I want to hear these cowards -- and that's what they are -- make the argument that it's morally correct to dangle America's finest youth in Iraq like scented flypaper, to attract the terrorists and be killed "over there" to keep the rest of us "safe" here.
Are we so valuable that we expose the young to keep us "safe"? Oh, and let's protect the soil. We can't play golf without safe soil.
Rick Gagliardo, who lives in Pinehurst, retired from teaching in the Washington, D.C., area.
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