Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Day 1,800 on the Osama Clock

Of all the things that George W. Bush has done to exploit our nation's tragedy on September 11, 2001, none brought him more political capital than his macho posturing in the weeks and months following the attacks. He stood on the rubble of the fallen World Trade Center and declared that the terrorists who attacked us would "hear all of us soon." A few days later, he invoked imagery of the Old West and, with steely resolve, said that he was committed to getting Osama bin Laden "dead or alive."

And here we sit, exactly 1,800 days later with a civil war in Iraq, the Taliban still killing American troops in Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden very much alive and running free to podcast threats against our country from a Dick Cheney-like undisclosed location.

President Bush seems to have missed one of the central tenets of being a real tough guy: That you're able to back up your words with action and, once you boast that you're about to open a can of whoop-ass on someone, that it actually happen.

But here's what the Resolute One said just six months later, in March of 2002 when asked by a reporter if he had a sense of whether capturing bin Laden was imminent and if Bush knew where the Al Qaeda leader was.

"I don't know where he is," said Bush. "You know, I just don't spend that much time on him to be honest with you."

And the results have certainly mirrored that tenuous resolve.

Instead of continuing to go after Al Qaeda -- you know, the people who actually attacked us on 9/11 -- Bush created a war with Iraq that even Republican Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) now says is "an absolute replay of Vietnam."

"Iraq is not the center of the war on terror," said John Kerry (D-MA) over the weekend. "The president keeps saying it is. The president keeps trying to push it down America's throat. It's wrong, it's a mistake and it's losing us the ability to do what we need to do in the region."

Which for the majority of Americans would have been to spend our time, money and military going after the bad guys, instead of pumping money into the wallets of Cheney's buddies at Halliburton with a war against a country that did not attack us, had nothing to do with 9/11 and posed no threat to our people.

And where are we now ? Well, in addition to not having Osama bin Laden, we're presiding over a civil war in the country we did attack, we've mortgaged our childrens' future to pay for Bush's quagmire, we are despised throughout the world and, in one of the biggest threats to our national security, our intelligence services operate with zero global credibility.

Oh, and as of yesterday, Bush says of Iraq that "we're not leaving, so long as I'm the president."

Even worse, the most encouraging estimates have Al Qaeda operating in exactly the same number of countries that they were in when they attacked us in 2001, with most analysts thinking they have footholds in even more places now.

"We must move away from the Iraq-centric policies that are draining our resources and focus on Al Qaeda and its affiliates who are reportedly operating in some 60 to 80 countries around the world,” Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in June. "I find it jarring that we spend so much time on the floor of the Senate and throughout the Congress talking almost incessantly about the situation in Iraq as if on 9/11 the situation involved Iraq, as if the attack had come from Iraq."

"We were attacked by Al Qaeda, operating out of Afghanistan on 9/11," continued Feingold, who voted against the resolution giving Bush the authority to start the Iraq war. "Yet our focus and our resources and our troops and our intelligence are very heavily focused only on this Iraq situation. Now I think this is just plain tragic five years after 9/11."

While we do appear to be killing a fair number of newly-minted enemy combatants in Iraq, we haven't really put a serious dent in the people who actually attacked us in 2001. And today, Osama bin Laden will celebrate day 1,800 of freedom since our tough-talking president vowed to get him “dead or alive.”

But he sure sounded like John Wayne for a second there, didn’t he?