Friday, August 25, 2006

Five years later, he's Osama has-been Laden

Five years later, he's Osama has-been Laden
Copyright by The Chicago Sun Times
August 25, 2006

Back in 2004 during the ill-fated John Kerry campaign, the Massachusetts senator laid out for the New York Times Magazine an intellectual sketch of how he would deal with terrorism and terrorists. It should be "primarily an intelligence and law-enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world." In effect, he believed that the appropriate model was police work and not military invasions.

He did not go public with this scheme, however, probably because his handlers thought the Republicans would accuse him of being soft on terror. His advisers apparently felt such a campaign stance would be grist for Karl Rove's mill. Perhaps that was the right decision because the public had yet to turn against President Bush as it has for the last eight months.

However, when the English cops broke up the plan to destroy U.S. jets with liquid bombs, the White House celebrated the close cooperation among police forces in Pakistan, England and the United States. Conservative columnist George Will, of all people, seems to have been the only journalist who noted this strange comment sounded pretty much like Kerry. A White House source told him that Kerry was wrong. "The police method does not work." Will notes ironically that such a response assumes that the war in Iraq does work.

In fact, the oft-repeated presidential insistence that the war in Iraq is the central front in the war on terror is just one more of the many White House lies, though one might argue that the president is not smart enough to perceive that the police work of the English had nothing to do with the war in Iraq (save perhaps that the crazies who wanted to blow up the planes to punish the United States for invading Iraq) and therefore was not lying. Similarly his repeated insistence that the terrorists want to take away our freedom is on the face of it false. They don't give a hoot about our freedom. They care only about punishing us. If we have lost some freedom in the last several years, it is the president who has taken it away from us by his claim to have unlimited powers.

The president believes a lot of things that are not true -- such as that it was all right to paw German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a television scene that seemed almost like an episode from ''Deadwood.''

The same point about the negative impact of the Bush war rhetoric was reported by James Fallows in a major article in the current Atlantic Monthly. Fallows interviewed some 60 experts on the Middle East, half of them Americans. To his surprise, there was a general feeling that the United States had basically won the war with al-Qaida. America had destroyed its training camps, killed thousands of its fighters, deprived it of command and control apparatus and holed up its leaders in the mountains of Afghanistan. Moreover, it has established a worldwide intelligence and police network that is increasingly effective in preventing many attacks by imitation al-Qaidas.

One cannot say that the United States is safe but it is a lot safer than it was five years ago. This country should declare victory in the war on terror, Fallows argues, and continue its determined intelligence work and cooperation with police authorities in other countries.

Lawrence Wright, in his account of the World Trade Center attack, leaves no doubt (if there still is any) that the disaster might have been avoided if the various American police agencies -- FBI, CIA, NSA -- were talking to one another instead of protecting their own turf.

The ideas of Kerry, Will, Fallows and Wright converge around one theme: Total safety from terrorists is not possible, but large military campaigns do not and have not enhanced the safety of Americans. Why was it necessary to invade Iraq? Sometimes I think it was a blind lashing out at enemies. America had suffered a terrible loss. Improved international police and intelligence work did not seem an appropriate response. If there was a war on terror, America needed a real war so that the punishment would fit the crime.


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