Published on Sunday, June 27, 2004 by the Free Lance-Star / Fredericksburg, Virginia
Bush is in Trouble; Will bin Laden Bail him Out?
by Rick Mercier
BEFORE PRESIDENT Bush’s Mesopotamian adventure, TomPaine.com produced an advertisement showing Osama bin Laden pointing at the reader, à la Uncle Sam, and exclaiming, “I want you to invade Iraq.”
As agitprop, it was brilliant; as commentary on the probable effects of an Iraq invasion, it wasn’t so bad, either.
With about four months to go until Election Day, I’m hoping that TomPaine or some other wise guys will put out an ad with the same image of bin Laden but with the request, “I want you to vote for Bush.”
It’s not hard to imagine bin Laden, tucked away in some remote tribal village along the Afghan–Pakistani border, chuckling to himself and mockingly chanting: “Four more years, four more years.” Bush has done a stunning job of playing into al–Qaida’s hands; the terrorist group could not have planned his response to Sept. 11 any better.
That’s essentially the argument made by a senior U.S. intelligence official, identified by the London Guardian as “centrally involved in the hunt for bin Laden,” in a soon-to-be-published book called “Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror.”
Written anonymously—because its author is still serving in an unnamed agency as a counterterrorism analyst—the book may represent what many career intelligence officials are thinking.
Terrorism expert Peter Bergen, who has written two books on bin Laden and al–Qaida, told the Guardian that “Imperial Hubris” presents “an amped-up version of what is emerging as the consensus among intelligence counterterrorist professionals.”
According to the Guardian, “Imperial Hubris” characterizes the Iraq invasion as “an avaricious, premeditated, unprovoked war against a foe who posed no immediate threat but whose defeat did offer economic advantage.
“Our choice of timing, moreover, shows an abject, even willful failure to recognize the ideological power, lethality, and growth potential of the threat personified by bin Laden, as well as the impetus that threat has been given by the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Muslim Iraq.”
The author of “Imperial Hubris” believes bin Laden may well be planning a catastrophic attack on the United States before November—with the intention of getting Americans to rally around Bush and carry him to victory.
“I’m very sure they [al–Qaida] can’t have a better administration for them than the one they have now,” “Anonymous” told the Guardian.
A less “amped up,” but no less politically potent, critique of Bush emerged earlier this month from a bipartisan group of former diplomats and military commanders who have launched an unprecedented campaign to persuade Americans that “a whole new team is needed to repair the damage” caused by Bush and his neoconservative brain trust.
The White House has tried to dismiss the 27 former high-ranking officials as partisan hacks, but that’s yet another administration distortion. Many of those in Diplomats & Military Commanders for Change served Republican presidents, including Bush’s father. Some of the ex-officials even voted for Bush in 2000.
Says retired Air Force Gen. Merrill McPeak, a member of the group who is advising John Kerry but was Oregon chairman for the Dole campaign in 1996 and a Veteran for Bush in 2000: “I don’t think that this accusation of politics on my part will wash. It’s just this administration has gone away from me, not vice versa.”
The Iraq debacle is “the worst reverse we’ve had on the international scene, and it simply has to be laid at the feet of the president,” says McPeak, who served as Air Force chief of staff under the first President Bush and commander in chief of Pacific air forces under President Reagan.
Americans are starting to understand this line of critique. A CNN–USA Today–Gallup poll released Thursday found that, for the first time since the start of the war, most Americans believe it was a mistake to send U.S. troops to Iraq. Most Americans also feel that the war has not made the United States safer from terrorism, according to the poll.
A survey released by The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press on June 17 found that Americans have become “considerably more negative” about how they view the war in Iraq in relation to the war on terrorism.
In that poll, 43 percent of Americans said the Iraq war has helped the war on terrorism, while 44 percent said it has hindered it. About a year ago, 65 percent felt the Iraq invasion had aided the war on terrorism, Pew noted.
Finally, a Washington Post–ABC poll released Monday found that only half the country approves of how Bush is conducting the war on terrorism. That’s down 13 points since April, the Post reported.
The poll also found that Bush has lost his once-commanding lead over Kerry as the candidate whom Americans trust to do a better job of protecting them from terrorism.
If the public-opinion trends indicated by these polls persist, Bush is in big trouble.
But the wild card is bin Laden. If the terrorist mastermind has a bloody October surprise up his sleeve, our blundering misleader may be rewarded with another four years to undermine our security.
Rick Mercier is a writer and editor for The Free Lance-Star. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2004, The Free Lance-Star Publishing Co.