Everyone knows where they were and how they felt when the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked Sept. 11, 2001. That was the day fear, anger and curiosity conflagrated into one raging, national emotion. The evil bastards of al-Qaeda pulled off one hell of a show, taking the lives of nearly 3,000 people while taking down the World Trade Center and attacking the Pentagon. Neil Young penned the rock tune “Let’s Roll,” and France extended its sympathy.
President George W. Bush coined a whole mess of rallying cries, none of them particularly memorable today. Everyone knows, but few like recalling, “Smoke them out of their holes,” “Weapons of mass destruction,” “The terrorists hate our freedom,” and, most embarrassingly, “Bring ’em on!”
Nearing the attacks’ ignominious five-year anniversary is far more interesting. Neil Young, Canadian though he is, has written an album full of anti-war vitriol. The French, hardly new to dictating to Arabs after Algeria’s war of independence, are having a grand old time telling us, “We told you so.”
As for the latest foiling of a plot to detonate liquid explosives on trans-Atlantic flights to the United States from Britain, well, Bush may bask in that glory all he wants. Fact is, the credit belongs to British intelligence which understands that success deals more in intelligence and law enforcement operations, not to mention cooperation across national borders, than blowing things up in Arab or Muslim countries. In fact, the pattern of terrorist attacks in Europe and North America, foiled or not, exposes not just the nature of terrorists and their evil plots, but a lot of bogus rhetoric from our political leaders at home.
Critics on the left love throwing dirt on the Bush administration. Fact is, the Clinton administration shares part of the blame, as well. Few people point out that throughout Clinton’s two terms, U.S. Special Forces Command tried again and again to prompt a commando raid on Osama bin Laden’s Afghan hideou, but never got the green light. Critics on the left are often just as clueless, but not quite as dangerous, as the gun slinging “let’s kill all the Muslims” on the right.
None of that excuses the incompetence of the current administration. And never mind President Bush’s past dismissal of an Aug. 6, 2001, memo warning that “bin Laden wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft.” Fact is, President Bush either doesn’t know enough about the war on terror to succeed or doesn’t care enough to do what needs be done to succeed. “I will assure the American people that we are doing everything in our power to protect you,” he said soon after the foiled British plot. Here are just a few reasons you shouldn’t believe him.
We don’t have enough Arab-language specialists, and we fire the ones we have working. One of the reasons the British were successful in foiling last week’s plot was that its homeland security agency has more foreign-language speakers than does our F.B.I. And we’re only too happy to rid ourselves of U.S. servicemen proficient in Arabic. Why? Well, because they’re homosexuals. The General Accountability Office estimates our armed forces have dismissed 55 Arabic linguists and translators, including the recent ejection of decorated sergeant and Arabic language specialist Bleu Copas last month under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. What’s more important than national security? Placating the Christian right, of course.
“It’s better to fight the terrorists over there than fight them here at home. That’s why we invaded Iraq.â€ This hilarious dictum is recited so commonly, by politicians and mainstream Americans alike, it’s hard to tell where it originated. But like the dictum that Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda are the same, if you repeat it enough, a lot of people will believe it. Problem is, it’s dead wrong. The terrorists behind the July 7, 2005, attacks were “homegrown.” The terrorists who plotted attacks on Canada were “homegrown.” Who knows when we’ll have our own “homegrown attackâ€? Not, it would seem, the dreamers who believe the war must be fought and won in some foreign country.
“Whether al-Qaeda, Hamas or Hizbullah, they’re all the same.â€ Not exactly, and even such mainstream magazines as Time have taken pains to correct this falsehood. Al-Qaeda wants to hurt us? Duh. Hamas vows the destruction of Israel but never plotted an attack on the United States. As for Hizbullah, it’s a little-known fact that its spiritual leader, Beirut-based Sheikh Fadlallah, issued a fatwa condemning the 9/11 attacks. You can’t destroy your enemy if you don’t know it. We can’t even make the distinctions necessary to thwart terrorist attacks on our own soil.
“One of the approaches of Lamont supporters is to ignore the difficulties and walk away.â€ Those, of course, are the words of White House spokesman Tony Snow upon the announced defeat of Iraq war hawk Sen. Joseph Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary. And here’s where our vaunted, glorious war on terror is played solely for political gain. As in, “You better vote for me or the terrorists will blow us all to kingdom come.” It’s come to this, folks. It seems the present administration has already walked away from quite a few difficulties of its own making.
Actually, however, there is one simple step that President Bush could take to possibly turn the tide in Iraq. He could fire Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, whose incompetence has got us, and Iraq, in the mess we are today. Too bad Bush’s loyalty to Rumsfeld is stronger than his loyalty to winning this so-called “war on terror.”