President George W. Bush has found several troublesome marks on his resume for the 2004 election. Economic shortcomings, the growth of the national debt and the military quagmire in Iraq are all raising concerns. Thus, he is turning to one of the few remaining unblemished elements of his tenure in office – his tough track record in fighting terrorism. But just how tough has President Bush been on terrorism?
Immediately after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, we were quick to point the finger at Osama bin Laden. Whether correct in our accusations or not, there was no disputing that he was, and still is, a malevolent and insidious man – an evildoer – who deserved whatever punishment was wrought upon him.
But upon realizing that bin Laden’s cave in Afghanistan was well beyond the reach of the military base we refer to as Israel, we turned to their neighbor, Pakistan, for the land needed to establish a military presence.
Of course, we were willing to overlook a number of unsightly facts in return, such as the legality of Pakistani President Pervaz Musharraf’s election and his democratic track record. Or that the populace is generally anti-American and is festering with terrorist cells (as later evidenced by the kidnapping and subsequent murder of Wall Street Journalist Daniel Pearl).
They also have a largely unstable and unaccounted for nuclear program. This latter reason may come back to haunt us more than any other decisions made in the shadow of the World Trade Center.
While we coddled up to Musharraf and his volatile nation, Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of the Pakistani nuclear program, was leaking nuclear weapons technology out to Libya, Iran and North Korea. When Khan came clean, around seven weeks ago, he insisted he acted alone, a claim received with skepticism by the international nuclear community.
Instead, there is a consensus his words were nothing more than a shoddy cover-up for the involvement of the Pakistani government, or more specifically, Musharraf.
Such suspicions are only given more evidence by Musharraf’s quick pardoning of Khan. In addition, the assistance given in nuclear development to these countries was far too elaborate for only one man to achieve without additional aid, as the recently reported $100 million price tag that the scandal would suggest. Do not think for one moment that some high-ranking Pakistani officials didn’t get a share of that bounty.
And in case you were wondering, we still don’t have Osama bin Laden. But in compensation for that shortcoming, we lied to ourselves and the world about the threat posed by Iraq and its role in terrorism, which in turn led us down the path of a unilateral pre-emptive war with the ultimate prize of Saddam Hussein.
Yet, one year later, no proof has turned up even remotely suggesting Hussein had anything to do with the planning of the Sept. 11, attacks or that Iraq possessed any weapons of mass destruction.
Did I mention the murder of more than 13,000 civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq in the past three years? To give a perspective, that’s 10,000 more people killed than in the Sept. 11 attacks.
In reaction to one of this nation’s greatest tragedies, we started a war where we failed to capture the man responsible, Osama bin Laden. We then established a new pre-emptive precedent for wars based upon faulty evidence and lies. This war lead to the death of more than 500 American soldiers, with no end in the foreseeable future.
Both conflicts induced terrible atrocities on innocent civilians. Then we turned a blind-eye to a suspicious nation for our own political means as they carried on under-the-table deals. As a result, we must stand by helplessly as North Korea all but mails us a postcard with their new nuclear missile on it.
Recently, President Bush informed Senator John Kerry that “If you’re going to make an accusation in the course of a presidential campaign, you ought to back it up with facts.” Perhaps Bush should follow his own advice when discussing his role in the fight against terror.
Noah Potvin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.