Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Framing The 2006 National Security Debate

In a speech before the sycophants at the Republican National Committee (RNC) on Friday, President Bush’s chief political advisor, Karl Rove, poked his head from his White House hole long enough to give a blistering speech against Democrats and telegraph the GOP’s dominant strategy for this year’s mid-term elections.

"The United States faces a ruthless enemy," Rove said. "And we need a commander in chief and a Congress who understand the nature of the threat and the gravity of the moment America finds itself in. President Bush and the Republican Party do. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many Democrats."

Making it clear that in 2006 he once again considers national security to be the right-wing’s go-to issue, Rove brought out the old mantra of Democrats favoring a "cut and run" policy in Iraq. He also took them to task for challenging the legality of Bush’s use of wiretaps against Americans without the required warrants.

"Let me be as clear as I can be. President Bush believes if Al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why," he said, referring to the wiretapping program. "Some important Democrats clearly disagree."

For the sake of expediency, let’s put some qualifiers on this discussion: Of course, Rove is lying with the latter statement. He couldn’t produce one Congressional Democrat who would object to spying on confirmed al Qaeda phone calls if his Momma’s life depended on it.

We’ll also ignore that his speech left out the fact that objecting to Bush’s domestic spying program is very much a bipartisan affair and that many well-known Republicans – most recently, John McCain over the weekend – also question the legality of the snooping.

Rather, let’s do what Rove wants and have a discussion about national security.

We can start by saying that he’s not allowed to be involved in such a dialog. The man should have been stripped of his White House security clearance after divulging Valerie Plame’s identity and no American should have to listen to hypocritical lectures on national security from someone who sold out a covert CIA agent for partisan political revenge.

Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean responded simply by saying that Rove has “…no credibility to question Democrats' commitment to national security. The truth is, Karl Rove breached our national security for partisan gain, and that is both unpatriotic and wrong."

But even removing Rove from the debate, the facts speak for themselves. We’re stuck in a Vietnam-like quagmire in Iraq that is bleeding our treasury, killing our military people, murdering Iraqis and turning the entire world against us – a pretty hideous feat pulled off by Team Bush after we had the entire world on our side on September 12, 2001.

Is there one American with half a brain who feels safer traveling outside of the U.S. today than they did before the attacks of 9/11? I would bet that there are few among us who believe having the majority of the world hating the United States makes any of us secure as we travel the world with our American passports.

Well done, Mr. Bush. Well done.

And because of the Iraq folly and the waste of deploying upwards to 170,000 U.S. troops to fight a country that never attacked us, we don’t have enough military bandwidth left to fight a true war on terror.

For all of Bush’s macho posturing about getting Osama bin Laden “dead or alive,” bin Laden is still roaming free, podcasting threats to the United States and probably laughing his butt off as he sees Iraq become the very Islamic republic he might have conjured up. Meanwhile, al Qaeda is still operating in pretty much the same 60 countries they were in before 9/11 – except when they’re vacationing in Iraq to get some training in.

“Al Qaeda is active in 60 countries around the world and continues to recruit, train, and develop new strategies to inflict harm on the United States,” said Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) last month. “Extremist organizations are present in another 20 countries and are developing new threats to the United States and our allies. The President needs to realize that his misguided, Iraq-centric policies are draining our military and intelligence capabilities and are undermining our efforts to combat al Qaeda and its allies.”

This is the major point that needs to be driven home to voters in 2006, and in a way that involves Democrats framing the dialog, based on the lack of progress in truly protecting our people. We must continue to remind Americans that this war didn’t need to happen and, more importantly, that every day we’re in Iraq, is another day we are less safe, as resources are diverted from getting the people who actually did attack our country.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans killed legislation sponsored by Democrats in 2005 that would have provided better equipment for first responders and that would have identified and tracked hazardous materials shipments and funded new security programs for inspection of air cargo containers.

All of these measures were opposed by the Bush White House, with Republicans offering no corresponding legislation of their own to improve our domestic security.

And, of course, let’s not forget Bush’s gutting of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and placing it in the incompetent hands of his crony, “Brownie” just in time for two major hurricanes along the Gulf Coast. By the way, did you know that there are still – almost five months later – 3,000 American souls just flat-out missing in Louisiana? Those paragons of security awareness in the White House don’t seem to know it.

I firmly believe that health care is the issue we should beat the crap out of Republicans with in 2006 but, we all know how this goes… If Rove and the Republicans want to make security an issue, silence on our part will only allow them to twist the argument in their usual scummy way. So for every jab they throw on national security, we need to make them pay with a hard right cross.

Let’s review:
  • Our nation was attacked by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda on September 11. Osama bin Laden is still free and al Qaeda is still out there and gaining strength.
  • In Bush’s own words “We have no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11 attacks.” And yet Bush attacked Iraq for no reason, costing the lives of over 2,200 of our finest in the military and costing our country hundreds of billions in cash that could have gone to fight al Qaeda (see above).
  • The president’s right-hand man (Rove) is known to have divulged the identity of a covert CIA agent who was working in the Agency’s program designed to find… Weapons of Mass Destruction. The vice president’s chief of staff has resigned after being indicted in connection with this crime.
  • The Republicans in Congress have used their majority-party power to shoot down every attempt by Democrats to strengthen security at home.
  • FEMA has been reduced to a shell of what it was during the Clinton administration and is not remotely capable of protecting Americans at home from a natural disaster, much less a major terror strike.
Those are the parameters of the national security debate in 2006. Let’s make the GOP answer on our terms.