"Ultimately the most important thing that people want to see on the war on terror is, what is your vision for dealing with it and what is your record," Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman said in April. "Obviously one of the most important issues in this election is the question of how do we continue to fight and win the war on terror so we keep our homeland safe." Mehlman's comments fit nicely with a State Department report issued in April that terrorist attacks had declined in 2003 to 190 -- the lowest in 34 years, and a drop of 45% since Bush took office in 2001. J. Cofer Black, head of the State Department's counterterrorism office, called the report "good news" and predicted the trend would continue. Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage said at the time that the report represented, "clear evidence that we are prevailing in the fight."
But ... the numbers were wrong. On June 10 the State Department acknowledged that, in fact, both the number of terrorist incidents and the toll in victims had increased sharply. "The facts that we had were wrong," department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
On Tuesday, May 14, it was only a question of dubious fund-raising practices. "The president called for the nation to rise above politics after Sept. 11, and then we find the Republican Party selling a picture from Sept. 11 to $150 donors," Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics told the New York Times. "It strikes a lot of people as in bad taste, and is just at odds with two claims of the Bush administration: that they were going to change the tone of fund-raising, and that Sept. 11 wasn't about politics." Noble's comments came as Republican party officials revealed they were hawking a photograph of Dubya on the phone to Vice President Dick Cheney -- or "his adult supervisor" in Maureen Dowd's words -- shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Coming on the same day that Republicans broke political fundraising records with their last grasp at unregulated donations before the new restrictions on campaign financing kick in, the picture-peddling momentarily eclipsed reports by the New York Post and Newsweek that an FBI agent in Minneapolis had speculated in mid-August that French Moroccan flight student Zacarias Moussaoui might be planning to "fly something into the World Trade Center." Then on Wednesday night, CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin reported that Bush had been warned that Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network might hijack U.S. passenger planes. As Washington Post media watcher Howard Kurtz remarked, the "Bush Knew" story "promises to make the fundraising flap over the use of that Bush photo on Air Force One look like a tea party."
The Saudi defense minister, Prince Sultan, and the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Prince Bandar bin Sultan, denounced articles and editorials in the western press that suggested the Saudi regime had been complicit in terrorism, the New York Times reported. Prince Sultan told reporters in Tabuk Tuesday night that Saudi Arabia did not support terrorism, and was not against the U.S. or the west, but "we have our Arab and Islamic policy which we would not divert from in any way whatsoever." In an earlier interview with CNBC, Prince Bandar said, "We think he's evil, bin Laden. We think people who follow him are evil.... You guys are refusing to accept us." The statements by Sultan and son followed a press release from the Saudi embassy in Washington last week, which reiterated Bush's September 24 statement that "the Saudi Arabians have been nothing but cooperative." The Saudi assertions stood in marked contrast to a CNN report that a Saudi government official was among those named on the recently released videotape of Osama bin Laden as having issued a religious pronouncement or fatwa in support of the September 11 attacks. And in a related development, Pacifica radio reported that the U.S. government may have collaborated with Al Qaeda during the war in the Balkans.
At the National War College, the first lecture in a course titled "Homeland Security" was scheduled for September 11. A quote from a 1999 report by the United States Commission on National Security introduces the lecture:
America will become increasingly vulnerable to hostile attack on our homeland, and our military superiority will not entirely protect us.
The National War College is a joint effort of the Armed Forces and the Department of State, training military and civilian leaders in national security matters. The timing of the introductory lecture on Homeland Security -- an elective course -- was exceptionally ironic, coming as it did on the very day that U.S. homeland security was breached with unprecedented violence and impact. This is just one example of the many ways in which protecting the nation from domestic terrorism has failed to attain priority with this administration, or previous administrations, or Congress.
by Paul Findley
Reprinted from the Washington Review of Middle East Affairs with permission.
Digging continues for the fallen at Ground Zero and in the gaping hole in the Pentagon. When the human remains are sorted out, burial rites will follow. As the vast and varied services occur, our nation and much of the world will remain in mourning.
At this sad, somber and fearsome moment in our national life, binding up the nation’s wounds must come first, but thanks to television, other themes also get attention.