“Bring ’em on.” And so President Bush challenged Fedayeen and Qaida groups in Iraq to fight against U.S. forces. While brazen enough to inspire fear of fate accepting this hubristic throwing of the gauntlet, it is unsurprising in the context of a conservative administration that prides its lack of illusions toward human nature and a ruthless, almost theological temperament of its war on terror. Yet an administration that seems to be pulling out all the stops on its anti-terror quest made crucial errors that stem from international misperceptions and a consequential misapplication of overly simplified ideology, while exercising almost criminal negligence and unconstitutional overstep on the homefront.
A platform of the anti-terror foreign policy side is the black/white claim of “you’re with us or against us.” The administration has also claimed that democracy is essential to a stable American relationship. But the administration has been coddling sinister dictatorships compromised by terror in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, while neglecting potentially valuable support from equally repressive regimes in Syria and Iran. In Afghanistan, the military allowed a corridor for Pakistanis to escape, while thousands of al-Qaida sneaked through alongside. Extensive evidence indicates that Pakistan’s intelligence organization has been able to pinpoint bin Laden for months, but does not inform the United States because of concessions they swindle for helping the “search.” The section on Saudi Arabian support for terrorism in the 9/11 report was censored by the administration, despite statements by those who have seen it that no sensitive material is present. Even with harsh words, the administration has yet to really confront these countries who are neither with us nor against us.
After 9/11 the Syrians, who have widespread infiltration of al-Qaida, began to supply the United States with hundreds of files on the group, hoping to start a new chapter in relations. Its intelligence chief offered to limit Hezbollah in exchange for a back channel with the CIA. Syria even helped stop an explosive-laced glider from hitting the 5th Fleet headquarters. Yet the administration chose confrontation over heaps of intel. on Qaida agents. Iran has in custody al-Qaida’s 3rd-in-command and Osama’s son. Iran offered to turn them over, but the administration declined. Why? Because the Iranians wanted in exchange the handover of members of Mujahedeen Khalq, an anti-Iranian terrorist cell. The United States labeled them terrorists, and the group targeted Americans, but the United States chose to leave them be because of a desire to have another tool against Iran. Where is the “moral clarity” of using terrorists against a regime that offers help? Apparently the administration’s right/wrong ideology only counts if the policy is wrong.
The administration has yet to partake in the “idea” war. The Islamist scholar Sayyid Qutb developed a serious terrorist ideology. Madrasas spout hateful rhetoric in the absence of a secular response. As the writer T. H. White writes, “Jesus did not turn the disciples into stormtroopers, burn down the temple at Jerusalem, and fix the blame on Pilate.” Ideas are cheaper and more moral than military solutions.
On to the homeland. The ways I have been asked to personally fight terror are to follow the Smokey-the-Bear-like color system and spy on others for suspicious activity. The administration should be requesting money. The Transportation Safety Administration cut baggage screeners and air marshals. The Director of the Emergency Responders: Drastically Underfunded, Dangerously Unprepared Project said, “The United States is not doing enough, and it would be a terrible, terrible tragedy if it took another disaster like 9/11 to drive that point home.” Dan Benjamin, a former National Security Agency aide, has said Bush has done no “bureaucratic headbanging” to end interagency rifts. The lack of an intelligence center led U.S. Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas) to say, ” … there is more confusion than clarity. Surely almost two years after 9/11 … we could come up with one consistent watch list.” Yet amidst this negligence, Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies still says, “Major anti-terrorism resources have been used to identify, intimidate and deport thousands … no more than a handful … had any connection to terrorism.”
As for Osama bin Forgotten, who escaped capture at Tora Bora because of the administration’s fear of putting boots on the ground, still runs free. Bush’s response? “I truly am not that concerned about him.” Bring ’em on. Uhoh.
Torigian is an LSA sophomore and a member of the Daily’s editorial board.