The following may well be the most important issue
in Campaign 2004.
This issue alone means the electorate shouldn't vote for George W. Bush.
The Bush propaganda machine has managed to throw
fog over this, so that few Americans see the issue clearly.
Bush has pulled many fast ones and managed to get away with them, but what follows is a discussion of his slickest,
dirtiest trick. If Bush gets away with this one, we're sunk, because the American people will be complicit for letting him get away with it.
Imagine you had been isolated from society, away from all news stories since September 10, 2001. If you learned
on returning three years later that Bush initially blamed Osama bin Laden for the September 11 attacks yet failed to
aggressively pursue him, your reaction would be one of total shock and disbelief. You might be even more shocked
to notice that the rest of the public seems to accept the fact that Bush dropped the bin Laden ball.
You'd notice, of course, that attacking Iraq doesn't by any stretch of the imagination substitute for dealing specifically
with bin Laden. The fact that Bush and his cronies have barely mentioned bin Laden in over three years should shock
every American and ignite passionate outrage, but it doesn't, simply because the public has grown used to the fact gradually.
In the years since the 9/11 attacks, the Bush propaganda apparatus has slowly, gradually, fogged the picture by confusing
Saddam Hussein with Osama bin Laden. People who realize there is no rational connection between the two still
automatically make an emotional connection, hence the lack of appropriate shock and outrage. Such is the hypnotic
effect of gradual, successful propaganda.
The two most likely explanations for the Bush administration's failure to prioritize the search for bin Laden are:
(1) The administration is astoundingly incompetent; or (2) The Bush team doesn't actually believe bin Laden is
the person responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
In his article, "The Long Hunt for Osama," (The Atlantic, October 2004) Peter Bergen writes that finding bin Laden
is vitally important for three reasons.
(1) There needs to be justice for the 3,000 people killed on 9/11;
(2) Bin Laden's continued freedom is a "propaganda victory for al-Qaeda;" and
(3) Bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri still provide al-Qaeda "broad strategic guidance."
If bin Laden planned the 9/11 attacks, he might serve as mastermind for future ones.
Bergen notes that in March 2002, Bush dismissed bin Laden as "a person who's now been marginalized."
Bergen also points out that on February 24, 2002, General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said,
"I wouldn't call [getting bin Laden] a prime mission." However, the Bergen article includes this admonition:
"The idea that finding bin Laden wouldn't make much of a difference now is dangerously wrong. U.S. officials
say he is personally directing a major terror plot against us."
We now have around 140,000 soldiers in Iraq, but we have only about 20,000 in Afghanistan and just a "smattering"
of U.S. intelligence officials searching for al-Qaeda members in Pakistan (where bin Laden is likely hiding), according to Bergen.
Senator Bob Graham has served ten years on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and co-chaired the
House-Senate Joint Inquiry into pre-9/11 intelligence community failures. In his book, INTELLIGENCE MATTERS,
(Random House, 2004) Graham says just when "victory against al-Qaeda was in our grasp," the Bush administration
pulled necessary resources from Afghanistan and from the search for bin Laden.
Graham points out that Bush directed the FBI to limit its investigations of Saudi Arabia and any support it may have given to
some or possibly all of the 9/11 hijackers. Graham notes that Bush also failed to notify the Federal Aviation Administration,
the Department of Defense, or other agencies after he was briefed in August 2001 that al-Qaeda had possible hijacking plans.
Richard A. Clarke served the last three presidents on the National Security Council Staff. In his book, AGAINST ALL ENEMIES,
(Simon & Schuster, 2004) Clarke says the Bush administration should have responded to the September 11 attacks by putting
adequate forces into Afghanistan "to cut off bin Laden's escape routes and to find and arrest or kill him and his deputies."
The U.S. and coalition partners should have "established a security presence throughout the country," writes Clarke, but instead
"U.S. economic and development aid to Afghanistan was inadequate and slowly delivered." Clarke believes the Bush
administration's "unthinking reactions" to September 11 have left the U.S. less secure.
George W. Bush's extremely bad judgement and his decisions related to the so-called "war on terrorism" have made
America less safe. Still, Bush continues to campaign on the idea that he's stronger than Kerry on protecting our citizens.
Shortly after September 11, 2001, the Bush focus shifted from bin Laden to Iraq. The focus hasn't been half on Iraq
and half on bin Laden, but virtually one hundred percent on Iraq. This miscalculation isn't merely a lack of crisp logic
on the part of the Bush administration, but an Alice-in-Wonderland view of reason and the real world.
If the Kerry campaign doesn't drive this point home, making the details and implications of the blunder crystal clear
to the American people, it will be doing itself and the public a disservice. This is one dirty trick the Bush propaganda
machine shouldn't be allowed to slip under the radar.
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