“Every country and every people has a stake in the Afghan resistance, for the freedom fighters (Afghan Mujahideen) of Afghanistan are defending principles of independence and freedom that form the basis of global security and stability,” said former President Ronald Reagan in 1982. How quickly our friendly “freedom fighters” have become public enemy number one, al-Qaida. And which political party was essential in building this terrorist menace?

Former Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush supported the Afghan Mujahideen, including one Osama Bin Laden, with finances, weapons and covert training by our Central Intelligence Agency. Both leaders provided the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein with political, military and intelligence support in his war with the Iranians in the mid-1980s. Concurrently, with the Iran-Contra scandal, both leaders misused their powers again by secretly and illegally negotiating with Iranian terrorists, providing clandestine arms shipments in exchange for hostages and profit. Strangely enough, this money was then illicitly funneled to Nicaraguan rebels through the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, a bank later used by multiple terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida, to funnel monies for attacks on civilians.

As of recent history, George W. Bush and the Republican Party have not been as strong on national security issues as they purport. Prior to Sept. 11, multiple sources notified the Bush administration of an imminent attack on the United States by al-Qaida. Yet, no effective or timely policy was implemented.

Just this month, the CIA declassified a Jan. 25, 2001 memo composed by Richard Clarke, former National Coordinator for Counterterrorism, to Condoleezza Rice, former National Security Advisor and present secretary of state. The memo, written only five days after Bush’s inauguration, requested a meeting with high-ranking White House officials to discuss the multinational threat of al-Qaida and the strategies that the Bush administration should pursue in response.

Unfortunately, Clarke’s proposed measures were not fully evaluated and applied until Sept. 4, 2001 — only one week before Sept. 11. Following inauguration day, Rice had held hundreds of committee meetings on Iraq, national missile defense and China, but only one on terrorism between inauguration day and Sept. 11, according to Clarke.

Moreover, on Aug. 6, 2001, Bush and Rice read the Presidential Daily Briefing, a CIA produced, classified document providing the president with current threats to national security and US foreign interests. Entitled “Bin Laden determined to strike in US,” part of the briefing read; “Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate bin Laden since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the US. Bin Laden implied in U.S. television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and ‘bring the fighting to America.”  Despite this dark warning of Al-Qaida, the Bush administration did not respond.

Contrary to popular belief, the Democrats made combating terrorism and protecting the nation a priority, even without initial support from the White House. In October 2001, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D – Conn.) proposed the Department of National Homeland Security Act of 2001, which was the first proposal to create a department for homeland security. However, through conniving moves and politicizing the war on terrorism, the White House created a stopgap through calling into question union rights for the department. This bureaucratic tactic halted the bill for over seven months, severely hindering counter-terrorism institutions directly after Sept. 11.

Nevertheless, the Republicans are not alone in their failures on security issues. Jimmy Carter, albeit briefly, supported the Afghan Mujahideen. Former President Bill Clinton faced the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania and the U.S.S. Cole under his watch. Both Clinton and Bush could have responded aggressively to the U.S.S. Cole attack upon mounting evidence indicating al-Qaida involvement; however, neither president felt it was necessary to make a strong stand against terrorism abroad.

In this political era defined by the five second sound bite, and candidate-centric campaigns, simple messages stick. In 2004, Bush and the Republican Party convinced more Americans that he and his party would keep the country and the world safe. Yet ironically, Bush’s actions have not reflected the widely held perceptions many Americans hold. While keeping the nation safe is a goal of all politicians, regardless of party affiliation, the Republican Party’s actions throughout recent history have not matched its rhetoric on security at home and abroad.

 

Levine is an LSA sophomore. Wagner is an LSA junior.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.