The following is the finest selection of macho bluster I’ve had the privilege to peruse in quite some time. It’s the lead paragraph in a story that ran this past weekend in the Los Angeles Times, quoting America’s top anti-terror showmen:
“President Bush says Democrats want to ‘wave the white flag of surrender’ in Iraq. Vice President Dick Cheney accuses the opposition party’s leaders of ‘defeatism’ in the global war on terrorism.’ “
The rhetoric might be comical but for one minor detail: the truth.
The truth was measured last month by the Center for American Progress, a progressive, nonpartisan think tank. The center, in tandem with Foreign Policy magazine, set up a gauge of sorts to measure the efficacy of our “war on terror.” The two organizations queried more than 100 of America’s most esteemed terror and national security experts. Their findings were not surprising to those who follow the news. They are only surprising in so far as the men who uttered them had the gall to do so.
The Center/Foreign Policy team divined a consensus among top experts about terrorism and U.S. national security: “A vast majority think that the world today is more dangerous for the American people. Fewer than two in 10 believe the United States is winning the war on terror. More than eight in 10 believe we are likely to face a terrorist attack on the scale of September 11 within the next 10 years. Over half list Islamic animosity and the Iraq war as the main reasons why the world is becoming more dangerous. The experts put nuclear weapons and materials as the top threat, followed closely by weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as a whole and then terrorism. Only 4 percent rank Iran as the greatest threat.”
If you think Iraq is the only terrorism boot camp our great leaders have established, think again. Think Afghanistan. Yes, we pummeled former Taliban leaders into and through the Pamirs after 9/11. But by all media accounts they’ve regained much of their lost strength. They’ve graduated from low-level insurgency to a growing army of fighters and are staging new and more ferocious attacks to the point where they’ve about taken back southern Afghanistan.
The Chicago Tribune reports, “They have borrowed strategies from Iraqi insurgents, from suicide bombs to slick propaganda. They have kidnapped and beheaded reconstruction workers, both foreigners and Afghans. They have taken over some districts. Last week, the insurgency gained a boost from al Qaeda’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who released a videotape calling for all Afghans to rise up against foreign forces.”
How is the Taliban succeeding in recapturing Afghanistan?
President Bush withdrew military resources necessary to keep control of the country and redeployed them to Iraq. While weakening the U.S. presence in Afghanistan he stoked radical Islamic hate of America — already longstanding and deep — that the Taliban are using as an effective recruitment tool.
This is not a plug for the Democrats. That party has yet to unify behind a strong, plausible plan for Iraq’s future. Frankly, much as I opposed our invasion of Iraq, I do not believe we can pull out anytime soon for fear of the country falling into permanent tribal and civil war.
But for Bush and Cheney to lambaste political opponents after the unforgivable damage they themselves have done takes more gall than there is rock in the Khyber Pass. And for the American public to believe them is sadder still.
(Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail bonnieerbe(at)CompuServe.com.)