Thursday, July 29, 2004

Here's a curious article by a anti-Bush writer racked with doubt. 

1 comment:

Dude said...

"The people who dislike George W. Bush have convinced themselves that opposition to his presidency is the most compelling moral issue of the day. Well, it's not....The reason he will be difficult to unseat in November—no matter what his approval ratings are in the summer—is that his opponents operate out of the moral certainty that he is the bad guy and needs to be replaced, while he operates out of the moral certainty that terrorists are the bad guys and need to be defeated. The first will always sound merely convenient when compared with the second."

Representing the war on terror(ism) as an either/or choice is disingenious. My complaint is not the president's resolve in fighting terrorists. It's whether his choices in fighting terrorism actually win or whether they leave behind a chaotic country where terrorists can hide again, or prosecute it in such a manner that it inspires greater terrorism.

A side note to that....some say that those who would sign up to blow themselves up would have done so all along. I contend that's not the case. For a comparison, let's examine Pat Tillman, who was most definitely not a terrorist. He was an American who before September 11th, had no compelling incentive to enlist. However, he perceived the 9/11 attacks as such a blow to his country that he gave up wealth and fame to protect America. So, take a young Arabic man, either in Egypt, the Gaza Strip, or Fallujah, who sees what is represented as children being killed by Americans, and that might be a motivating factor for him to fight and die (even in a suicide attack) to do what he feels is restoring Arabic honor.

Of course, the violence currently going on in Iraq is not as simple as that. There are other motivators, such as Iran not wanting a stable, strong government in Iraq, or those who want to wrest political power from the interim government for themselves.

But back to the either/or representation. Whether Bush was right or wrong about going into Iraq depends on what he knew at that time. A lot has come out since then about whether Iraq had operational ties with al Qaeda. The 9/11 report says that there was none for the 9/11 attacks, but that does not necessarily rule out such cooperation on other attacks.

Howerver, was Bush presented with as complete a picture of what was known by the intelligence agencies at that time, and just as importantly, how hard did he press for more information? Waiting forever for a complete picture of the situation is impotence, but reading a one-page summary of the National Intelligence Estimate is incompetence. Yes, government reports can be over-analyzed, but if a president is going to spend $200 billion, 900+ American lives, and untold number of Iraqi lives, he should dig a little deeper than buying the CIA director's slam-dunk assertion.

As for the actual fighting of the war, the situation in Iraq now might have been better had we fought a "total war", rather than giving the Iraqi army the opportunity to just go home. I remember back in the Gulf War, much ado was made of Powell and other Pentagon brass having read Lao Tzu's "The Art of War". War is a dirty business, and that Esquire writer is correct in that war can unleash moral havoc. However, once started, you fight it sooner or later. World War I was fought to the border of Germany, but Germany's defeat was not total. Thus, we ended up fighting the war again 23 years later, this time with a Supreme Allied Commander bent on pushing through to Berlin.

As far as comparing Bush's bending of the Constitution to Lincoln's, Bush showed a disregard for laws before September 11th. He ducked the regulations about insider trading, disclosing his insider sales of Harken stock after the SEC closed its investigation due to insufficient evidence (,7369,752706,00.html). Also, he and Cheney side-stepped the Constitutional rule that the president and vice-president cannot come from the same state. ( Not to mention the purging of black voters in Florida by mis-labeling some as felons. (
So it is no wonder that Bush's Justice Department tried to make the case that as Commander-in-Chief, he was not bound by laws prohibiting tortute (

As far as Lincoln's suspension of the writ of habeus corpus, he did so not because of an outside threat, but due to a rebellion. When he addressed Congress on July 4, 1861, he said, "Are all the laws but one [the right to habeas corpus] to go unexecuted, and the government itself...go to pieces, lest that one be violated?" There are no states that are in league with al Qaed, and none of the 9/11 highjackers were American citizens.

My problem with suspending rights for a war on terrorism is that there is no concrete, measurable objective. With the Civil War, the objective was the surrender of the South and re-unification of the country. With World War II, the objective was the surrender or complete defeat of Germany, Japan and Italy. With terrorism, there is no land to hold, no single commander-in-chief to offer a surrender. Thus, to suspend the Bill of Rights until the end of the war is to suspend them indefinitely.

The moral issue of the day is whether the president will continue to abrogate the freedoms he tells us he is protecting.

The core issue of the election is not whether his domestic political opponents would fight terrorists, but whether they would fight them more effectively. As great a power as this country is, there is a limit to our resources, so I want to get the best possible ROI on my tax dollars in the fight against terrorists.