Every time Dick Cheney or John Ashcroft or any of their toadies boasts on cable or television "We kept the homeland safe for seven and a half years" I ache to scream, "No you didn't, you slimy bastard." It's not the timeline that bothers me -- you and President Bush really kept us safe for only seven years, four months and ten days -- it's that before that you and President Bush contributed to the deaths of more Americans at the hands of a foreign power than any President in the history of the United States.
The Japanese killed 2,350 at Pearl Harbor when FDR was President. Under James Madison, we lost 2,260 Americans in The War of 1812, and that war lasted almost three years. But it was under George Bush and Dick Cheney that, on 9/11, 2001, that 2,974 Americans were killed by al Qaeda.
What's worse is what Cheney, Bush, Condoleezza Rice and George Tenet didn't do in their seven and a half months in office before 9/11. Richard Clarke, the National Coordinator for Security, had warned Condoleezza about al Qaeda face-to-face in January 2001. He had sent memos to the CIA about al Qaeda as far back as the Clinton Administration. What's more, in August, two FBI agents, one in Arizona and one in Minnesota, sent warnings to FBI headquarters about suspicious Arab pilots training in American flight schools. The Bush Administration chose to ignore all the intelligence.
Bush and Cheney's lack of diligence, their refusal to heed warnings, resulted in the deaths of almost 3,000 Americans in their first eight months in power. And, worst of all, the only way they could think of keeping America safe was torture. Richard Clarke didn't torture anybody to get his information; neither did the two FBI agents. They were just smart people doing their job, following clues, and sounding the alarm. But the best Bush/Cheney solution was stripping people down and water-boarding them. Cheney claims that torture got us the information that kept Americans safe for seven and a half years.
But if torture is so effective, how come it hasn't led us to Osama bin Laden? How come we haven't found out where he is and sent in the drone that will launch the missile that will blow Osama to smithereens? How come torture didn't get us the information to tip off the Spaniards and the Brits about the terrorists who killed 243 of their citizens on buses and subways? How come torture didn't reveal Jamaah Islamiyah's plan that wound up killing 202 Indonesians and tourists in Bali? Maybe torture doesn't work.
For years the Bushies have told us that they saved us from plot after plot; but of course they couldn't tell us what the plots were without jeopardizing national security. How come Bill Clinton was able to save us from the real "millennium" plots to blow up the Los Angeles Airport and the Radisson Hotel in Amman without torturing anybody?
I guess it's all a matter of intelligence, and that's something the Bush Administration didn't have.
Historians will judge the Bush administration not only about the torture and wars it inflicted upon in its last seven years and four months, but they also remember what the Bush Administration didn't do in its first seven and a half months in office.
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