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Monday, June 04, 2007

Clinton and the 'War on Terror'

At the Democratic presidential debates in New Hampshire last night, Iraq was the centerpiece. It's difficult for dems to run against each other when the party platform is 'George W. Bush sucks -- a lot!' In order to win, the dem nominee will run against Bush, not whatever uninspiring boob a scrambling and disunified GOP finally settles on. Predictably, there were few differences in message. One standout was Hillary Clinton. And not in a good way.

Responding to John Edwards' assertion that the term 'war on terror' is a 'political slogan, a bumper sticker,' she said, "I have seen first hand the terrible damage that can be inflicted on our country by a small band of terrorists."

"I believe we are safer than we were."

Dang, that's Bush's line. Didn't she get the memo? Bush sucks. And, of course, Clinton is wrong. 'War on terror' is a bumper sticker slogan -- a meaningless string of Republican PR BS on the lines of 'family values.' Problem number one; it doesn't make a damned bit of sense. Terrorism is a tactic, not an ideology -- it's not even a goal.

And how well has this war been going? Not very. Iraq's in the loss column, no matter how the Bush administration spins it or what crazy-assed BS they believe. Islamist ideology is probably more popular now than it's ever been. So far, so bad.

But the real measure is how well our terror warriors are doing in the field of the terror war. Over the weekend, a bunch of terrorists were busted for a 'major terrorist plot' that was pretty much in the notional stage.

CBS News:

In the latest terrorist threat to New York City, the alleged terrorists are all middle-aged men. The oldest is a 63-year-old Guyanese immigrant Russell Defreitas who was arrested at a diner in Brooklyn. The feds say he was the mastermind of the plot to ignite the jet fuel farm at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

People who know Defreitas however, are astounded at the charge.

"For him to be mastermind of this was utterly ridiculous," said Ricardo Johnson, a friend of the suspect. "He's not a leader. He doesn't have the capacity."

OK, let's pretend for a moment that these guys -- like those involved in all 'major terrorist plots' we've disrupted -- aren't the al Qaeda equivalent of the Keystone Kops. What military action was it that stopped these guys? What beach head had to be invaded? What army was defeated?

It doesn't actually work that way. A drug dealer sold them out. And -- surprise, surprise -- the info wasn't tortured out of him at Gitmo, it didn't come from wiretaps, and it didn't come from library records. He approached law enforcement. He wasn't an al Qaeda number two locked in a secret CIA obliette with battery chargers hooked up to his privates, he was Huggie Bear from Starsky & Hutch with the word on the street.

In fact, if you look at all of these terrorist plots that have been stopped beforehand, they've all been busted by cops -- not marines. While the military is failing spectacularly overseas (due entirely to a poorly thought out and objectiveless mission), law enforcement offers our only victories in this 'war on terrorism.'

Meanwhile, all this crap that we're told is essential to the 'war on terror' never turns up anything. Wiretaps give us nothing, the PATRIOT ACT gives us nothing, the war in Iraq gives us nothing. Bush tells us 9/11 'changed everything', but it hasn't changed reality -- the stuff that worked before still works, while none of this new stuff does.

If it's not clear by now that terrorism is a crime without a military solution, you just haven't been paying attention. Fighting terrorism with a military would work if there were some Terroristan out there where they all come from, but there's not. If we chased all of the terrorists out of Iraq (an oversimplification, but that seems to be what the Bush administration wants us to believe), they'd go someplace else. We fight in Iraq, for example, while a new taliban festers in Somalia.

So yes, 'war on terror' is a slogan. If we're safer, it's not because of a Republican PR tactic. It's because the Bush administration, which hadn't taken terrorism at all seriously, was forced to deal with it again.

9/11 Commission (emphasis mine):

[Acting FBI Director Thomas] Pickard said in late June and through July he met with Attorney General Ashcroft once a week. He told us that although he initially briefed the attorney general regarding [domestic terrorist] threats, after two such briefings the attorney general told him he did not want to hear this information anymore. The Justice Department has informed us that Attorney General Ashcroft, his former deputy, and his chief of staff deny that the attorney general made any such statement to Pickard.

It seems that worrying about terrorism was cutting into more important issues, like naked boobs on the internet and on statues. After 9/11, resources that had been taken from domestic terrorism investigation was given back. In other words, the mistake was corrected and that's what's made us safer. And 'safer' is a relative term. We're safer than we were after the Bushies screwed it all up, but just as safe as we were before then. At least, in a domestic sense.

Hillary's got this one very, very wrong. It's not any idiotic 'war on terror' that's made us safer. It's going back to the older strategy of letting law enforcement worry about the crap that matters that's made us safer. It's law enforcement that we should be concentrating on, since that's the only place we've had any success at all in fighting terrorism.

The rest of this 'war on terror' has been a awe inspiring failure of massive proportions. Putting aside the fact that the Bush administration did absolutely nothing to prevent 9/11, how many americans have died in Iraq? More than the number who died on 9/11. If americans are supposed to be safer, then why are so damned many of us dead? I suppose you could argue that it's impossible to be in danger and deceased -- that no one is safer than the dead -- but I get the feeling that most people don't define 'safety' as 'the state of being somewhere around room temperature.'

Terrorism is a serious problem and no one's suggesting that we ignore it. But the fact is that what works isn't a 'war' approach, but a police approach.

Hillary's statement at the debates is a case study in not getting it, ignoring recent history, and playing to a group of voters who probably wouldn't vote for her anyway. Worse, it's awfully reminiscent of Bush's habit of ignoring reality in favor of stuff that sounds good.

We've seen where that goes. It's not leadership.


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