In Wednesday's Times column, Tom Friedman made seven references to 9/11 while arguing in support of US government surveillance programs recently revealed by The Guardian and Washington Post. He also wondered if those who "unequivocally defend" the recent NSA disclosures "are behaving as if 9/11 never happened."
But during Bush years, Friedman took issue several times with those invoking 9/11 to justify the government's actions or when top officials -- like Dick Cheney and Karl Rove -- suggested that anyone with an opposing viewpoint may be operating from a pre- 9/11 mindset. And yet Friedman, who declared in 2007 that "9/11 Is Over," brought it back today. Here's a refresher (emphasis added)
Oct. 14, 2004: "Addicted to 9/11"
The Bush team's responses to Mr. Kerry's musings are revealing because they go to the very heart of how much this administration has become addicted to 9/11. The president has exploited the terrorism issue for political ends -- trying to make it into another wedge issue like abortion, guns or gay rights -- to rally the Republican base and push his own political agenda. But it is precisely this exploitation of 9/11 that has gotten him and the country off-track, because it has not only created a wedge between Republicans and Democrats, it's also created a wedge between America and the rest of the world, between America and its own historical identity, and between the president and common sense.
Feb. 24, 2006: "War of the Worlds"
"Since 9/11, whenever the Bush team has found itself in political trouble, it has played the national security card against Democrats. It has worked so well that Karl Rove, in a recent speech to the Republican National Committee, made it a campaign theme for 2006.
He said America today faces ''a ruthless enemy'' and therefore needs ''a commander in chief and a Congress who understand the nature of the threat and the gravity of the moment America finds itself in. President Bush -- and the Republican Party do. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many Democrats.''
Mr. Rove added: ''Republicans have a post-9/11 worldview, and many Democrats have a pre-9/11 worldview. That doesn't make them unpatriotic -- not at all. But it does make them wrong -- deeply and profoundly and consistently wrong.''
I particularly like the line ''that doesn't make them unpatriotic,'' when that was exactly the political slur Mr. Rove was trying to implant.
March 22, 2006: "A New Grip on 'Reality'"
Dick Cheney regularly dismisses liberals for having a ''pre-9/11'' mind-set, as opposed to tough guys like him, who have a ''post-9/11'' mind-set. Hogwash! When it comes to energy, there is no one more pre-9/11, no one more stuck in keeping America addicted to foreign oil, than Dick Cheney.
Sept. 30 2007: "9/11 Is Over"
....Times columnists are not allowed to endorse candidates, but there's no rule against saying who will not get my vote: I will not vote for any candidate running on 9/11. We don't need another president of 9/11. We need a president for 9/12. I will only vote for the 9/12 candidate.
What does that mean? This: 9/11 has made us stupid. I honor, and weep for, all those murdered on that day. But our reaction to 9/11 -- mine included -- has knocked America completely out of balance, and it is time to get things right again.
I'm glad I live in a country with people who are vigilant in defending civil liberties. But as I listen to the debate about the disclosure of two government programs designed to track suspected phone and e-mail contacts of terrorists, I do wonder if some of those who unequivocally defend this disclosure are behaving as if 9/11 never happened -- that the only thing we have to fear is government intrusion in our lives, not the intrusion of those who gather in secret cells in Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan and plot how to topple our tallest buildings or bring down U.S. airliners with bombs planted inside underwear, tennis shoes or computer printers.
Yes, I worry about potential government abuse of privacy from a program designed to prevent another 9/11 -- abuse that, so far, does not appear to have happened. But I worry even more about another 9/11. That is, I worry about something that's already happened once -- that was staggeringly costly -- and that terrorists aspire to repeat.