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The Day After

Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2006 1:44 PM

President Bush took to the airwaves last night to commemorate the events of five years past, in a speech that was supposed to be non-partisan or political.

Instead, Bush's words were much as I predicted ��a re-hash of speeches past, inspirational only to those who have sublet their brains to the neoconservatives.

Never forget that Bush and his administration ignored intelligence suggesting these events were looming on the horizon.

Never forget that they offered carefully phrased excuses, literal truths that the media accepted uncritically.

Never forget that the people on whose watch this happened were, in two instances, promoted. Condoleezza Rice, failing as a National Security Advisor, became Secretary of State; her assistant, Stephen Hadley, became National Security Advisor.

But Bush tried to paint the victims in a heroic light. The passengers on Flight 93 recited the 23rd Psalm before charging the cockpit � yet it was, in initial accounts, only Todd Beamer who had asked an operator to pray with him. Then it was three men. Then the Lord's Prayer was added.

They are heroes by necessity. Heroes of circumstance, because they truly had no other choice left. And in that sense, they are victims, as are all of us.

Bush tries to be everybody's friend, offering a comforting shoulder for the grieving families, firefighters and police officers who lost family and friends on that day.

In other words, politicizing their deaths to promote his foreign policy.

"Since the horror of 9/11, we've learned a great deal about the enemy. We have learned that they are evil and kill without mercy ��but not without purpose," Bush explained last night. "We have learned that they form a global network of extremists who are driven by a perverted vision of Islam."

It took five years to figure that out? What's going on at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? (We know, of course, that Vice President Dick Cheney isn't reading things like reports debunking the Saddam / Al-Qaeda myth.)

"... a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent," Bush continued.

Hmm. Let's see. Free speech zones. Same-sex couples can't be married. Criticizing the President is unpatriotic, even treasonous.

"It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century, and the calling of our generation."

It's a little early in the century to make that claim, don't you think? And what's this 'our generation' bullshit, George? Your generation was called to serve upon in Vietnam. You didn't go, and neither did Dick. But I guess it's okay to send another generation off to fight and die for your foreign policies.

"But the war is not over � and it will not be over until either we or the extremists emerge victorious."

Why is this a zero-sum game? And, if one end is comprised of extremist Islamic terrorists, what are we? (How's that Mission Accomplished banner sitting, hmm?)

Bush's resume and sales pitch goes on to list his achievements since 9/11. But the Taliban is regaining its hold in Afghanistan, and adding Pakistan to the list. Al Qaeda has given no sign that it is on the run, or unable to mount effective operations ��in fact, Donald Rumsfeld tried to blame the bulk of the insurgent attacks on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, when facts did not support that claim.

Bush blandly states that the CIA questioned men like Khalid Sheik Mohammed, and that we had KSM and others like him in custody outside of Guantanamo Bay, outside of due process. In other words, we tortured them and held them in secret prisons.

These are not actions we can be proud of. These are not actions we should accept as necessary in the battle against terrorism.

The President goes on to repeat the bald-faced lie about the necessity of going after Saddam Hussein, ignoring the zero-sum strategy he espoused moments before. If it was either they win, or we win, why did we break off the search for Osama? Was Saddam ever identified to be a Wahabist, or charter subscriber of the same ideology that drives al-Qaeda? Or was he simply a bully who understood a basic reality of the region ��America needs our oil, and they're going to be hesitant to interfere.

Furthermore, Bush explains that al-Qaeda and other extremists came to Iraq (i.e., they weren't there to begin with) to stop the rise of a free society in the heart of the Middle East. Yet, only days before, Bush touted a national strategy paper that insists terrorism isn't just because of the American presence in Iraq.

The new catch-phrase of 'adapting' made it into the speech. But here's the question to ask ��after years of hearing 'stay the course,' exactly when did we decide we needed to adapt? And what does that say about the clown car act that began with projections of this little dust-up taking a couple of months at best? If we're adapting, why am I hearing the same bullshit lines in the President's speeches?

Bush touts the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, as if this was the be-all end-all of achievements. And yet, DHS, which encompassed FEMA, completely dropped the ball when it came to Hurricane Katrina. There are still no national standards for disaster response or emergency preparedness.

Bush claims to have torn down the wall separating law enforcement and intelligence from sharing information, yet this routinely proves the exception, and not the rule.

But here's a good one ��we've broken up terrorist cells in our midst and saved American lives. Would that be the idiots in Florida who didn't even know where to buy military surplus clothing, had to be coached through a loyalty oath by an undercover FBI agent, and had no active plans? Or perhaps the Lackawanna Six? How about the father and son in Lodi? In most cases, the only crime these people have committed is participating in a terrorist training camp. Wait. Is that actually a crime when it happens on foreign soil?

"Just last month, (al-Qaeda was) foiled in a plot to blow up passenger planes headed for the United States," Bush reminds us. But he neglects to credit the work of British law enforcement, and neglects the fact that our airports don't have reliable screening methods to detect agents like TATP. He neglects the fact that the suspects had been under surveillance for nearly a year � but somehow, it was American authorities who insisted on making arrests.

How convenient and politically beneficial.

"One of the strongest weapons in our arsenal is the power of freedom," Bush says. "They are thrown into panic at the sight of an old man pulling the election lever, girls enrolling in schools, or families worshipping God in their own traditions."

Waitaminit. Is Bush actually taking credit for girls enrolling in school?

As for the power of freedom, why is it that our other weapons include fear, terror, and a fanatical devotion to the Pope warrantless wiretaps and the flaunting of Fourth Amendment protections? Not to mention that torture stuff.

Any panic I feel about seeing an old man pulling an election lever is because I don't trust Diebold and machines that have instructions on how to defeat their hardware printed on the circuit board.

When South Dakota passes a law declaring Christianity to be the 'majority religion' in the state, and when a fallen Wiccan soldier is refused the appropriate symbol of his faith on a memorial wall, there's a little tarnish on the whole freedom thing.

"For sixty years, these doubts guided our policies in the Middle East. And then, on a bright September morning, it became clear that the calm we saw in the Middle East was only a mirage. Years of pursuing stability to promote peace had left us with neither."

That's right. It goes all the way back to FDR (who, having led the nation through a devastating sneak attack by Japanese forces, clearly had his head up his ass). And the only solution is to go rolling in with the military and beat them into compliance. Only we'll call it, 'advancing freedom and democracy.'

"We look to the day when the nations of that region recognize their greatest resource is not the oil in the ground, but the talent and creativity of their people."

Excuse me while I laugh. A former energy company executive, a man who cut his teeth in the oil industry, is trying to sell us and the Middle East that the problem all comes back to oil? Haven't we learned from gnashing our teeth over the drug trade that it's not just the supplier ��it's the demand. But wouldn't life be much better if the Arabs gave their oil away for pennies on the barrel?

Let's recap. We have no strategy to pursue in the Middle East, we're just going to blunder about and sprinkle magic democracy dust (whatever we have left after snorting a few lines). We'll break any laws we deem necessary to protect the country, restrict any freedoms to keep us free. We're safer, but we're not yet safe, and we won't be until every last terrorist is six feet under.

But, like weeds, if you don't take care of the roots, they grow back.

Thanks for nothing, George.

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