Call This Safe?
how I wish this column were capable of special effects. If
it were, the newspaper or computer screen you’re reading this
on would suddenly morph into a Howler, one of those bright
red envelopes in the Harry Potter books that, when opened,
begin to shout at the recipient in the sender’s voice. In
this case, my Greek-accented cry would fill the air: WAKE
UP! WAKE UP!! WAKE UP!!!
The reason for my distress is simple: I’ve just seen another
round of polls showing that, by a hefty 23-point spread, voters
think George W. Bush will make the country safer and more
secure than John Kerry. Karl Rove’s VBD (Vote for Bush or
Die) strategy is clearly working.
And I’m left Howlering: SAFER AND MORE SECURE? IN WHAT UNIVERSE???
For the public to be so dead wrong on this most crucial issue
two things had to happen: The GOP had to relentlessly hammer
home their lies, and the other side had to let them get away
Last month, John Kerry said: “More than 30 years ago, I learned
an important lesson. When you’re under attack, the best thing
to do is turn your boat into the attack.”
The good news is that once he turns his boat into this attack,
he will absolutely never run out of ammunition. The facts
that prove that George Bush’s prosecution of the War on Terror
has been an unmitigated disaster are profuse and irrefutable.
But this Howler has to come in John Kerry’s voice—and the
message has to be delivered not just now and then but pounded
home, Rove-style, day after day, week after week, until it
Kerry simply cannot, as some are advising, look at the poll
numbers, cede national security to the other side, and hope
to win by going after Bush on health care and jobs.
He needs to hit the president—again and again and again—right
smack in the middle of his supposed strength: Bush’s “strong,”
“steadfast,” “unwavering,” “decisive” leadership in the War
How has Bush failed us? Let me review the ways:
For starters, there is his disastrous decision to (for all
intents and purposes unilaterally) invade Iraq—an enterprise
Bush termed a “catastrophic success.” More like a catastrophic
diversion—of troops and money and focus that would have been
better spent, oh, I don’t know, going after the terrorists
who actually attacked us on 9/11.
Right after those attacks, Bush said that capturing Osama
bin Laden was “our number-one priority.” But three years later,
bin Laden is still on the loose and plotting to attack us
again, a fact that Bush and Cheney keep trying to make us
forget—first by turning him into He Who Must Not Be Named,
and second by continuing to trot out the lies connecting Saddam
Hussein to 9/11. Lies so thoroughly discredited that even
loyal soldier Colin Powell felt compelled last Sunday to shoot
Yet, hard though it is to believe, a Newsweek poll
last week found that 42 percent of Americans still think Saddam
was “directly involved in planning, financing, or carrying
out the terrorist attacks.”
I feel another Hogwarts Howler coming on: REPEAT AFTER ME:
THERE WAS NO CONNECTION BETWEEN SADDAM AND 9/11. NONE! ZERO!
Bush’s lust for Iraq kept us from securing Afghanistan, most
of which is now under the rule of barbaric warlords, with
the Taliban and the country’s drug trade—a major source of
funding for terrorist efforts worldwide—making a comeback.
What’s more, Bush’s Baghdad folly has allowed the terrorists
to regroup. At his convention, the president had the gall
to claim that “more than three-quarters of Al Qaeda’s key
members and associates have been detained or killed,” which
makes it sound like the war on terror is all but won. In truth,
according to a study by the respected International Institute
for Strategic Studies: “Al Qaeda has fully reconstituted and
set its sights firmly on the USA.” The report also found that
the war on Iraq had “helped Al Qaeda recruit more members.”
Still feeling safer? Then let’s take a trip down nerve-racking
memory lane, back to October 2001, when President Bush held
a photo op at FBI headquarters and announced a list of America’s
22 Most Wanted Terrorists. Three years later, just three of
these Most Wanted have been captured or killed. The other
19 are still on the loose.
So is it really any surprise that the number of people killed
and wounded in worldwide terrorist attacks is on the rise?
Bush has also failed to stem the spread of nuclear, chemical,
and biological weapons and materials. Take North Korea and
Iran. While we were spending billions looking for Saddam’s
nonexistent WMD, Kim Jong Il was building more nukes and the
mullahs in Tehran were racing to do the same. As if that weren’t
bad enough, Bush has dragged his feet on efforts to keep loose
nukes in the former Soviet Union from falling into the wrong
Still thinking Bush is the man to keep us safe and secure?
Then consider just a few of the ways he has robbed our Homeland
Security Peter to pay his foreign occupation Paul:
Our ports are still woefully unprotected and underfunded.
Since 9/11, Bush has allocated just $441 million of the $7.5
billion the Coast Guard says it will cost to protect our ports
from terrorist attack. And, obviously not having learned the
lessons of Madrid, he’s earmarked just $100 million for rail
security—about what we spend on eight typical hours in Iraq.
The president has likewise shortchanged airport security:
only eight of America’s 440 airports have state-of-the-art
baggage screening machines.
And how’s this for a kick in the teeth? Bush cutbacks have
actually left fewer police and first responders on the streets
today than were there on 9/11. That’s right: Bush has responded
to the worst attack on American soil by making us less prepared
to deal with another one.
I’m all for having the election be a referendum on which candidate
will make the country safe and secure—but only after Kerry’s
inner Howler has had his say.
If Kerry can make the case against Bush’s tragic failures
in Iraq and the War on Terror half as compellingly as he did
against Nixon’s failures in Vietnam, the American public will
be able to enter the voting booth on Election Day with their
eyes wide open.
Find more Arianna at Ariannaonline.com