Friday, 9 January 2009

A lament to failure and regret

As the age of Bush comes to its inevitable democratic end it is perhaps worth our while reflecting a little.

The one thing that Mr Bush and his officials would like the world to remember him/them for is the 'War on Terror[ism]'. We are not about to scoff at the importance of that focus, although, we would be among the very first to categorise its execution as a shambles almost from beginning to end. However, it is important to remember how inept and incompetent the administration was at attempting to prevent the September 11 attacks and how uninterested in counter-terrorism White House and administration figures seemed, including the president himself.

Richard (Dick) Clarke's book, Against All Enemies, gives the reader the insider scoop on the Cold War-mentality of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice, tells how Clarke's role as the counter-terrorism 'czar' was downgraded under Bush, and that he was able to secure only one meeting with Cabinet-level officals on counter-terrorism before the September attacks in 2001.

Bush's lack of interest is shown, in Clarke's book, in sharp contrast to Bill Clinton's frenetic activity on the topic. He is described as engaged and focused on getting al-Qaeda in general and bin Laden in particular. He chaired counter-terrorism meetings and asked probing questions of his staff and he risked the inevitable accusations of 'wagging the dog' when he took decisive action during the Lewinsky affair.

That's odd. The Democrat was more interested in tackling terrorism than the Republican? Something doesn't quite compute. We've spent the last seven years being told Democrats and liberals are to a man are weak, wet, lily-livered, pathetic, un-patriotic, pacifist, terrorist-excusers. Well, not the WATM duo, my friends, and not the vast majority of the US Democratic Party.

Clarke was attacked, naturally, after the publication of his book, for being a partisan and for trying to influence the outcome of the 2004 US presidential election, during which it was published. In a particularly enjoyable Abbott and Costello-esque pairing Mr Cheney and Ms Rice excused themselves from Clarke's criticism by concurrently stating that Clarke was a) out of the loop on counter-terrorism (Cheney) and b) was so much in the loop that any failings were his (Rice). They also neglected to point out that he'd worked for every president since Reagan.

And yet perhaps Bush will be remembered in the history books as the 'War on Terror[ism]' President. Perhaps that is more testament to their ability to spin, deflect criticism and create their own reality, than on the accomplishments of the presidency. I think so, anyway.

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