Unable to keep himself from milking 9-11 for all it’s worth, Bush is treading, once again, into the realm of Doublethink. At his most recent in a spate of 9-11-themed speeches, in Atlanta Sept. 7, he said:
“Many Americans look at these events and ask the same question: Five years after 9/11, are we safer? The answer is, yes, America is safer. We are safer because we’ve taken action to protect the homeland. We are safer because we are on offense against our enemies overseas. We are safer because of the skill and sacrifice of the brave Americans who defend our people.”
“But here is the question that I always like to challenge people back with, when they ask that question. And that is: were we more safe on September 10, 2001? We certainly felt safe, and we felt safe until eight o’clock that morning [September 11]. So, were we more safe? And do we have the information necessary to make those judgments? Or, do we trust our democratically elected government and representatives to actually make those judgments for us. I think that is what we have to do. The fact that there hasn’t been another attack does have meaning, and it cannot be dismissed.”
This argument is inherently anti-democratic in its insistence that we shouldn’t question our leaders, and inherently illogical to boot. It assumes that we were not safe before 9-11—and yet that attack was utterly unprecedented. Therefore, by her own standards the absence of any new attacks cannot be taken as evidence that we are any more secure.
On the other side, VOA quoted former Assistant Secretary of Defense Larry Korb takes:
“What has happened is, particularly with the invasion of Iraq, we have created a lot of al-Qaida wannabees, and there are more people now that are trying to do us harm than there were before we went into Iraq. Certainly, some of the things we have done have made us safer, but on balance, we have created so many more potential attacks that I don’t believe that we are safer.”
But this needn’t be a game of he-said-she-said. As we noted in April, this year’s annual State Department report on global terrorism finds that it has surged exponentially since 2001, and especially since the invasion of Iraq. From the LA Times account we quoted when the report came out:
The report said there were 11,111 attacks that caused 14,602 deaths in 2005. Those figures stand in contrast to prior State Department reports, which cited 208 terrorist attacks that caused 625 deaths in 2003; and 3,168 attacks that caused 1,907 deaths in 2004.
Even Francis Fukuyama, the one-time neocon ally of Bush who has recently come to see the Iraq invasion as an error, is capable of seeing the obvious. In his new book America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy, he writes:
We are fighting hot counterinsurgency wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and against the international jihadist movement, that we need to win. But conceiving the larger struggle as a global war comparable to the world wars or the Cold War vastly overstates the scope of the problem, suggesting that we are taking on a large part of the Arab and Muslim worlds. Before the Iraq war, we were probably at war with no more than a few thousand people around the world who would consider martyring themselves and causing nihilistic damage to the United States. The scale of the problem has grown because we have unleashed a maelstrom. (Quoted in review, The New Yorker, March 27)
Al-Jazeera is directly engaging Bush in the 9-11 propaganda war. On Sept. 8, it released a video from as-Sahab, al-Qaeda’s media wing, of Osama bin Laden meeting with two lieutenants in the mountains of Afghanistan shortly before 9-11 to plan the attacks and send messages of support to the hijackers. The two lieutenants are Muhammad Atef (allegedly killed in Afghanistan in 2001) and Ramzi Bin al-Shibh—who had been mentioned by name in Bush’s last speech the day before as one of a small group of captives that had been transfered from secret CIA prisons to Guantanamo to face military tribunals.
See our last post on the politics of the GWOT.