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Hullabaloo


Saturday, October 30, 2004

 
Bush Is Completely Wrong On Terrorism

There are so many reasons not to elect George W. Bush that it's difficult to catalog them all. From the encroaching authoritarianism of its Justice department to the fiscal madness that has taken us from a record surplus to a record deficit in three short years due to immense tax cuts for the rich. But surely, the single most important reason to fire George W. Bush is his abject failure to properly comprehend the nature of the islamic fundamentalist threat. The re-emergence of Osama bin Laden is a stark reminder of why this is so.

Many people have been writing recently, and some of us quite some time ago, about the fact that the Bush administration, instead of seeing the assymetrical threat of terrorism for what it was, simply applied their cold war tenets of nation state rollback to the new threat. It is an intellectual failure of huge magnitude and it will haunt us for many years to come.

If you look back at the PNAC manifestos of the late 90's that served as the guiding documents of Bush's policy you will see that terrorism per se was not perceived as a threat. Indeed, it was hardly mentioned. Richard Clarke and others have verified that the Bush administration did not take it seriously. But, what is most distressing is that they refused to let go of their erroneous notions of state sponsored terrorism even after 9/11 which led to the mistaken belief that the key to defeating al Qaeda was to overthrow the Taliban, (thus freeing them to go after what they perceived to be a real threat, the totalitarian dictator Saddam Hussein.)

There has been a lot of discussion about the "faith based" nature of this presidency, drawing parallels to unquestioning fundamentalist religion and cults of personality. There are obviously elements of all of this in explaining why the Bush administration has made so many huge strategic errors that were entirely predictable before any action was taken. However, it's more than that. You cannot explain neocon intellectuals like Wolfowitz away with fundamentalist religion and there is no reason to believe that men like Rumsfeld and Cheney are subject to any Bush cult of personality. But, they all have one thing in common that is demostrable throughout their public careers --- their relentless adherence to their beliefs, no matter what the facts may seem to show. Going all the way back to TEAM B and the Committee for the Present Danger, these people have been proven wrong --- proven, mind you --- again and again and yet they maintain their bedrock belief that the threat of totalitarian nations is the singular overwhelming threat to our country and they must be defeated militarily wherever they occur. These people are stuck in a fringe cold war mindset that nothing can shake. 9/11, it seems, did not change anything.

For instance, their beliefs about Iraq sponsored terrorism were not solely fometed by Laurie Mylroie. She neatly piggybacked her theory that Saddam the Stalinist was the root of all mid-east terrorism onto an earlier theory promoted by Claire Sterling which posited that all terrorism was sponsored by the Soviet Union. Her book, The Terror Network from back in 1980 made the case that terrorism could not exist without the support of a state sponsor and that idea has guided the Republican foreign policy establishment even until this day. Just as it is said that Wolfowitz and Feith encouraged everyone in the DOD to read Mylroie's book, William Casey responded to his analysts assertion that there was no Soviet terrorist conspiracy by saying,"Read Claire Sterling's book and forget this mush. I paid $13.95 for this and it told me more than you bastards whom I pay $50,000 a year." This is, then, an old story.

This is why we didn't take out bin Laden. This is why we didn't take out Al-Zarqawi. In the administration's view, they were simple actors on behalf of totalitarian governments. Their idea of draining the swamp was to invade and occupy the source of their funding, which many of them convinced themselves had to be Saddam Hussein. Richard Clarke, in Against All Enemies quotes Wolfowitz as saying: "You give Bin Laden too much credit. He could not do all these things like the 1993 attack on New York, not without a state sponsor. Just because FBI and CIA have failed to find the linkages does not mean they don't exist."

The Bush policy on terrorism is based upon a false premise and nothing that has happened throughout this crisis has led them to reevaluate that premise and change direction. This is what they call "resolute" and "strong." What it is, in fact, is a dangerous delusion born of outmoded cold war thinking that was wrong when it was conceived and remains wrong today.

This is really what this election is about. The administration made the wrong choices on 9/11. That is why bin Laden still runs free, able to make propaganda videos showing him healthy and robust three years after the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center. This is why Al Zarqahi is killing vast numbers of Iraqis and Americans even today. (That this enormous error is seen as George W. Bush's primary strength is such a depressing comment on our media and my countrymen that I can't even contemplate it.)They fit their threat assessment into the mold of anti-communism, fatally misunderstanding the nature of what we are facing. If they are given the chance to continue on this deluded path (and they have never changed course in more than 40 years, no matter what the facts present) then we can expect this situation to hurtle ever more out of control.





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