Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Bob Cesca Headshot

The Twisted and Dangerous Republican Record on Terrorism

Posted: Updated:

The Republican record on terrorism is pretty damn terrible. Naturally, this hasn't stopped them from milking whatever remains of their purely cosmetic tough-guy reputation in order to fear-monger the failed Underpants Bomber incident irrespective of their lengthy history of failure, cowardice and stupidity on the issue.

I think we all understand and begrudgingly accept that Americans have a short attention span, and an even shorter memory, but the Republicans are really counting on it as they exploit the post-underpants freakout.

For example, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) said the other day:

I'm hopeful that the president will become forceful, that we will return back to the direction where we are prosecuting the war on terror

I know. It doesn't read very well, but the senator was suggesting that we go back to the way the Bush/Cheney team ran the "war on terror" -- that the previous administration's strategy was much more effective. Another attempt to sell the inaccurate notion that shit-kicker boots, a southern drawl, a waterboard and hillbilly bumper-sticker justice succeeded in knocking al-Qaeda into oblivion.

Wrong.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A new threat assessment from U.S. counterterrorism analysts says that al-Qaeda has used its safe haven along the Afghan-Pakistan border to restore its operating capabilities to a level unseen since the months before Sept. 11, 2001.

A counterterrorism official familiar with a five-page summary of the document -- titled "al-Qaeda better positioned to strike the West" -- called it a stark appraisal. The analysis will be part of a broader meeting at the White House on Thursday about an upcoming National Intelligence Estimate.

This wasn't some sort of early, post-9/11 assessment that can be scapegoated on the Clinton administration. If you recall, this NIE was released to the press in July of 2007. A year and a half before President Obama was elected, six and a half years after Bill Clinton left office, and six and a half years into the Bush presidency.

Couple this NIE assessment with the post-9/11 terrorist attacks on our allies in London and Madrid, multiple terrorist attacks on our soldiers and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Beltway Sniper attacks and so forth, and the Bush Republican record is far from perfect. In fact, according to this (very obnoxious and wrongheaded) wingnut website -- endorsed by Michelle Malkin and others -- there have been more than 14,000 Islamic terrorist attacks since 9/11.

A counterterrorism analyst at the time paraphrased the contents of the NIE like so:

Al-Qaeda is "considerably operationally stronger than a year ago" and has "regrouped to an extent not seen since 2001," the counterterrorism official said, paraphrasing the report's conclusions. "They are showing greater and greater ability to plan attacks in Europe and the United States."

Good job, Bushies. You might call it -- hmm -- a "heckuva" job.

The Bush/Cheney "direction," to borrow Senator Burr's word, allowed al-Qaeda to rebuild its strength to pre-9/11 levels, according to the intelligence community.

Who else can be blamed for such a report?

If Republicans are going to blame the failure to nab the Underpants Bomber on the fact that President Obama doesn't use the word "terrorism" (he does!), then fine. It doesn't make sense, but fine. However, basic logic dictates that the almost total reconstitution of al-Qaeda during the previous administration has to be blamed on the Bush Republican "direction" in their so-called "war on terror."

And listen up, Peter King, the Bush people said the words "terror" and "terrorism" a lot. A lot! All the damn time. Did it really matter? Not according to the July, 2007 National Intelligence Estimate. George W. Bush could've had the word "terror" tattooed onto his forehead and it wouldn't have made a bit of difference. They still would have allowed al-Qaeda to rebuild right under their noses.

But I'm sure they calculated that the rebuilding of al-Qaeda served a convenient purpose. In the same week as the NIE went public, nudie X-ray festishist Michael "Shirt Off" Chertoff was scaring the piss out of the world, telling the Chicago Tribune that he had a "gut feeling" that there would be another major terrorist attack that Summer. But wait -- I thought the Bushies were mitigating that threat? Chertoff went on to say:

"We could easily be attacked. The intent to attack us remains as strong as it was on Sept. 10, 2001."

Run away! Run away!

Now, I understand the theory behind this. Keep Americans afraid of unseen evildoers hiding under our beds like toe monsters, and they'll acquiesce to anything the Bush Republicans had to say -- after all, they were tough on terrorism, you know. The entire Republican strategy has been built around irrational fear and cowardice.

There's a 1 in 10,000,000 chance you'll be killed by a terrorist aboard an airplane, yet the Republicans are telling us it's a realistic and existential threat. 1 in 10 million. (Wingnuts everywhere respond by quoting Dumb & Dumber: "So you're saying there's a chance...") And despite such long odds, they're willing to waive entire sections of the Constitution, while targeting anyone who looks like the Underpants Bomber (young, black males) as potential terrorists.

It's funny. Look around some teabagger websites and you'll see the famous quote that's been attributed to Ben Franklin: "Those who give up liberty for a little extra security deserve neither." They were using it as a too-clever counterpunch to the president's stimulus bill of all things. But when faced with a 1 in 10 million shot of being killed by terrorist on an airplane, they're more than willing to abandon their own borrowed maxims. Again, the wingnut contradictions continue to pile up.

Nevertheless, take another look at that Chertoff quote. In 2007, al-Qaeda's "intent to attack" America was as strong as it was before 9/11. Even though, according to every Republican on television right now, the Bushies were saying the word "terrorism" and doing everything with flawless precision. Obviously they weren't if the threat in July, 2007 hadn't subsided since before September, 2001.

Yet here we are with Republicans like Peter King and Dick Cheney all over the news hectoring the current administration on the terrorism issue. King, for his part, has been on cable news practically non-stop since Christmas leading me to believe that he rented his fake bookshelf background by the month and paid in advance. King is at least smart enough to know that he and his colleagues will be granted a degree of latitude and seriousness that's entirely inconsistent with their spotty record, mainly because the press is more interested in fabricating a dramatic "smackdown" narrative than actually presenting their claims within the proper context.

Consequently, the entire issue has skewed off into the realms of absurdity. Instead of actual solutions, Americans are being told by their leaders that saying the word "terrorism" more often, while racially profiling blacks and taking nudie X-rays at the airport while hundreds of people are jammed into security lines (where they're vulnerable to any number of dangers) will actually win the day.

This twisted view of reality -- thrust upon the viewing public 24 hours a day -- could actually be more harmful to American democracy than any terrorist threat.

Follow Bob on Twitter
Bob Cesca's Awesome Blog

Register To Vote