Thursday, September 14, 2006

"War on Terror" Numbers To Silence Republican Candidates

When George W. Bush made a prime-time television appearance Monday night to give a political speech -- under the guise of commemorating the five-year anniversary of September 11 -- he started right off by telling both a lie and the truth in one short sentence.

"Today, we are safer, but we are not yet safe," said Bush, which means he was batting .500 with the truth in just one short statement. Not bad for him. It is undeniably true that we are not yet safe, but to imply that we are safer than we were before Bush turned the world against us is demonstrably false.

And Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) sketched out the only numbers needed to confirm that Bush's "war on terror" is not only going very badly, but has gotten much, much worse on his watch.

"Osama bin Laden is still on the loose. Al-Qaeda's membership, estimated at 20,000 on 9/11, is now estimated by our intelligence agencies at 50,000. Instead of shrinking and disappearing, they are growing geometrically," said Durbin on the Senate floor Tuesday, in describing how unsafe Republicans have made America.

Now there's a number we want to talk a lot about between now and the midterm elections, as Republicans beat their chests and say how safe they've kept Americans.

And Durbin's numbers check out. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, "U.S. intelligence estimates put the total number of fighters who underwent instruction at bin Laden-supported camps in Afghanistan from 1996 through 9/11 at 10,000 to 20,000."

And recent research by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, funded by the Department of Homeland Security and other government grants, says that the number of Al-Qaeda has jumped from the 20,000 reported by the 9/11 Commission a few years ago to 50,000 today.

This is an astonishing and disturbing number given that these are the people our own government said attacked us on September 11 -- and there's a hell of a lot more of them now.

Durbin also responded to charges by Rick Santorum (R-PA) that floor-statements made by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) about Iraq were damaging and purely political in nature, by citing a report released Monday from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) entitled "Stabilizing Iraq: An Assessment of the Security Situation."

"The GAO published a graph yesterday. The number of attacks rose from around 100 in May of 2003 to roughly 4,500 in July of 2006," said Durbin. "Is it political or partisan to note the obvious, the GAO report to which Senator Reid made reference? That is not political partisanship; that is a reality, and we should face that reality because Iraq does continue to slip into civil war despite the billions that we have spent and the thousands of American lives which have been lost in that battle."

And here is the chart from the GAO report:

"Since June 2003, the overall security conditions in Iraq have deteriorated and grown more complex, as evidenced by increasing numbers of attacks and Sunni/Shi'a sectarian strife," said the GAO report.

The report continues:
"Enemy-initiated attacks against the coalition and its Iraqi partners have continued to increase through July 2006. Since 2003, enemy-initiated attacks have increased around major religious or political events, including Ramadan and elections…

"Overall, attacks increased by 23 percent from 2004 to 2005. After declining in the fall of 2005, the number of attacks rose to the highest level ever in July 2006. Total attacks reported from January 2006 through July 2006 were about 57 percent higher than the total reported during the same period in 2005. These data show significant increases in attacks against coalition forces, who remain the primary targets, as well as civilians and Iraqi security forces."
The GAO ended the report with some damning questions for the Republican-controlled Congress -- questions that will undoubtedly be met with deafening silence until the scheduled October 6 adjournment, including:
  • "What are the key political, economic, and security conditions that must be achieved before U.S. forces can draw down and ultimately withdraw from Iraq? What target dates, if any, has the administration established for drawing down U.S. forces?"
  • "Why have security conditions continued to deteriorate in Iraq even as the country has met political milestones, increased the number of trained and equipped security forces, and increasingly assumed the lead for security?"
  • "If existing U.S. political, economic, and security measures are not reducing violence in Iraq, what additional measures, if any, will the administration propose for stemming the violence?"
I guess, using Republican parlance, the General Accountability Office must hate America too.

Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, wrapped up by pointing out that, after a brief period of focus and success in Afghanistan following the start of that war in October 2001, things have been going downhill ever since and the Taliban is once again making a major bid to control the country.

"There is another reality," said Durbin. "The Taliban is gaining ground again in Afghanistan. They have set up shop in Pakistan where that Government has agreed to have a safe haven for some of these terrorist forces. That is unfortunate, and it is disastrous when you think of our long-term war on terrorism."

Bush seems to disagree with that assessment, saying on March 16, 2006, "We have joined with the Afghan people to bring down the Taliban regime -- the protectors of the Al-Qaeda network -- and aided a new, democratic government to rise in its place."

I suppose there may be a way to squeeze some truth out of that statement, but the Administration will never acknowledge that, on their contrived, tough-on-terror watch, things have quietly been going to hell in a hand basket in Afghanistan, with Taliban attacks and suicide bombings way up in the last two years.

And, even if we accept the White House's ongoing claim that Iraq, and not Afghanistan, is "the central front in the war on terror," the daily Iraqi death toll, our own dead and wounded and the recent revelation that U.S. forces may have lost control of Anbar province to the insurgents, tells just how badly Bush is doing there as well. Not to mention that as far back as mid-2005, even Bush's fellow Republicans were convinced that the Administration's rosy outlook was a load of BS.

"Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse," said Nebraska's Republican Senator, Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam Veteran, in June 2005. "The White House is completely disconnected from reality… The reality is that we are losing in Iraq."

Throw all of that together with threats from Iran and North Korea -- that the White House seems to have no ability or willingness to engage -- and an overextended, worn-out military, and you get quite a bowl of weak mush served up by the guys continuing to brag about how safe they'll keep us.

So, to recap, every Congressional candidate needs to say this over and over again in the next eight weeks:
  • A 150 percent increase in the number of Al-Qaeda members in the world while we're focused on a civil war in Iraq
  • Attacks on U.S. troops, Iraqi forces and civilians are skyrocketing, despite assurances from the White House that things are going just fine in Iraq
  • Our neglected troops in Afghanistan are facing a 1,200 percent increase in Taliban attacks and a 600 percent jump in suicide bombings.
And then repeat again and again and again until November 7.

Oh, and one more thing: Where the hell is Osama bin Laden?