Today, as advertised, marked the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attack on New York City and the Pentagon. Our self-proclaimed “global war on terror” has met with mixed results with no end in sight while the main perpetrator remains at-large somewhere in the outer regions of tribal Pakistan.
It shouldn’t have gone like this. Upon hearing of the attack whilst reading “Tickle me Elmo” or was it “Bestial Beauty” to an elementary school classroom, Bush characteristically boarded Air Force One and disappeared for the day, leaving Rudy Guilliani to speak for the city and the nation as events unfolded during that long agonizing morning and afternoon. It is difficult to imagine Lyndon Johnson or John Kennedy or Richard Nixon, or Ronald Reagan or Jimmy Carter, or Bill Clinton trembling under a desk at some undisclosed location while the nation is under attack. But then none of them would have been compelled to bring his Vice President along to hold his hand when he appeared before the 911 commission. In any case after once again going AWOL, Bush descended Air Force One and “took control” of the situation, announcing that we had been attacked by a ruthless enemy with global reach in what was clearly an act of war. The boy blunder was wrong on both counts, for this was neither an act of war, nor did our “enemy” have “global reach”, at least not in anything like military terms.
Someday, when the emotions recede and the country begins to gain some perspective on the awful events that we commemorate today, historians will write that what happened on that beautiful late summer morning in the Big Apple was not an act of war but a criminal act perpetrated by a small but fanatical group of zealots. Furthermore this crime did not represent a military threat. Let me repeat: the attacks of 911 were not the deeds of a military force as was the case, say during the cold war or at Pearl Harbor.
I have not been understood. We were not attacked by an imperial navy, a squadron of bombers, by intercontinental or even medium range missiles. We were attacked by a dozen and a half box cutters, wielded by men who were willing to exchange their lives to achieve a limited strike against a symbol of western imperial power. This was a politically-motivated criminal act committed by terrorists.
The response by this administration was disproportionate, misguided, and overreaching. Instead of responding as we should have responded, i.e., bomb and destroy the terrorist training camps, perhaps topple the Taliban government in Afghanistan to destroy the state protection of Al-Qaida, track down the financial network supporting these groups and seize their assets, and hunt down these criminals and put them before the docket at the Hague to be tried for crimes against humanity, we instead responded with overwhelming traditional military force—precisely the response anticipated and hoped for by the terrorists. To send in conventional ground forces means that one must then occupy the country and all the attendant problems that occupation entails.
Instead Bush declared himself a “war president” and demanded all the attendant powers and then a few more. He tore up international treaties on nuclear weapons in space, and anti-ballistic missile defenses. With the advice of his legal counsel Alberto Gonzales he “re-interpreted” the Geneva conventions declaring that international prohibitions on the torture of prisoners would apply only if it involved major organ failure. “Water boarding” became merely surfing for truth. He violated international law by expatriating suspected terrorists, and moved to deny detainees Habeas Corpus thereby holding suspects for years without charge. He introduced unsupervised telephone and computer surveillance. As bad as were the assault on international law and civil liberties nothing was as disgusting as this president’s use of his “wartime” popularity (as high as 90% in the aftermath of 911) to become a “transcendent” president in the tradition of F.D.R. Unfortunately the diminutive one used his powers not to be like F.D.R, but to pursue the long-held wet dream of the idiot right to undo the last vestiges of the New Deal. He has presided over an administration that has not found a legitimate anti-trust action to pursue, that has rolled back environmental regulation that has sought to decertify unions and allowed mergers and acquisitions without number. In the last days of the late Republican congress the workers of the United States missed by a relative handful of votes having overtime pay stripped from federal law. And finally, the long assault on social security—long the dream of the idiot right—nearly succeeded until hurricane Katrina stripped the fig leaf from “compassionate conservatism”.
Al Franken in his book “Truth, With Jokes” details the “Downing Street Memos” involving British diplomats and intelligence officers relating to the Blair government the fixation of the White House with toppling Saddam Hussein as early as February of 2001, and the attempt by this administration to link Iraq with the subsequent attack on September 11. By way of demonstration, it is clear that the administration saw the attacks as a godsend which would accomplish simultaneously two objectives: topple the Hussein regime in Baghdad and make the diminutive one a war president, a transcendent leader—one who could finally realize the pipe dreams of the conservative opium den—roll back the clock and transport America back into the nineteenth century.
What began with the criminal intent of a band of zealots in the sands of the middle east was transfigured by the criminal intent of a band of zealots in the conservative stink tanks. Zealots who had already hijacked the government and could now legitimize their efforts to wage war on the middle class by using any success, real or imagined, any “political capital” gained by the prosecution of war to strip the middle class of its last vestiges of security. This is the real war being waged by this administration. It is not the war on terror; it is the war on the middle class.