I remember watching this nation go to war against Saddam Hussein in 2003 under George W. Bush's leadership and asking myself, "Is everyone going nuts but me?"
I never believed Hussein was a threat to the United States. I know the Middle East well enough to know that democracies require an educated populace--few Middle Eastern countries other than Israel have enough educated citizens to sustain a true democracy. In fact, as dictatorial and murderous as Hussein was, I believe it takes a strongman of that vintage to hold a country such as Iraq together.
Now I have a military expert on my side. Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson is former chief of staff to then Secretary of State Colin Powell, now Pamela Harriman Visiting Professor at the College of William & Mary. He has been watching with dismay as former Vice President Dick Cheney has taken an extended media tour to defend the Bush administration's approval of torture. He wrote a long piece for the Washington Note, part of which I share herewith:
First, more Americans were killed by terrorists on Cheney's watch than on any other leader's watch in US history. So his constant claim that no Americans were killed in the "seven and a half years" after 9/11 of his vice presidency takes on a new texture when one considers that fact. And it is a fact.
There was absolutely no policy priority attributed to al-Qa'ida by the Cheney-Bush administration in the months before 9/11. Counterterrorism czar Dick Clarke's position was downgraded, al-Qa'ida was put in the background so as to emphasize Iraq, and the policy priorities were lowering taxes, abrogating the ABM Treaty and building ballistic missile defenses.
Second, the fact no attack has occurred on U.S. soil since 9/11--much touted by Cheney--is due almost entirely to the nation's having deployed over 200,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and not to "the Cheney method of interrogation."
There is one question that needs to be asked and, to my satisfaction, has still not been answered by the Bush administration nor by military experts, nor by the 9/11 Commission. That question is why did 9/11 take place on Bush's watch? Did bin Laden believe he was less likely to be caught or deterred by Bush's folks than he would have been by Clinton's underlings? We all remember that then National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice delivered a memo to then President Bush about "suspicious activity" reported by the FBI that domestic terrorists might be considering a hijacking. This was one month before 9/11 occurred.
We don't know if the terrorists purposely waited for the Bush administration to take office to plan the attack or not. My suspicion is, they may have. But the American public deserves a verifiable answer to that question.
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By Bonnie Erbe