Among other incredulous assertions made by Rich Lowry on NBC’s Meet the Press today — which include that it was really the fault of the western liberal that post-invasion Iraq was such a catastrophic mess — he attempts to bolster the growing meme that as a wartime president, a passionate wartime president, one of George Bush’s greatest achievements was to prevent another attack on American soil. There has been much made over this in the post-election political climate. In fact, it is a favorite trope utilized by Veep Dick Cheney, who like the ghost of Jacob Marley, is constantly rattling around this claim as the unforgiving chains of near-history threaten to bind him forever — and he knows it.
To be sure, barring the still-unsolved anthrax incidents post-9/11, there hasn’t been another terrorist attack on American soil. What does that mean? It means that the whole of local, state and federal power has been marshaled on an unprecedented level to create a domestic security infrastructure that has, until this moment, deterred foreign attacks. In plain terms, we have made it undesirable, if not impossible, for terrorism to occur today on the scale of September 11, 2001. As taxpayers, we have spent billions of dollars, and given up many of our civil liberties. We have surrendered to humiliating security procedures and no doubt will have to endure more as the government invents new procedures to make security more convenient for them, while more invasive for us. It will not end, and the whole of this new domestic “homeland” security will have to be maintained, whatever the cost, well beyond the outgoing administration.
Why? Google up today’s news and it tells you everything. The headlines for December 28, 2008:
Conditions on the world stage are more fragile, more unpredictable, more out of our control than after the 9/11 attacks that precipitated the siege mentality here at home and two U.S military invasions abroad. The Bush Administration has failed in its promise to help make the world a safer place, a freer place for oppressed individuals and those threatened by political violence. While Rich Lowry brags on Bush’s behalf that the “surge” in Iraq was a “highly courageous act,” successfully thwarting al Qaeda, he conveniently ignores that al Qaeda never existed in Iraq until the U.S invaded, and is now thriving through bastardized groups in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa.
But that is beside the point — which is our safety at home came at a very high cost. A cost that will turn into endless annual payments until conditions abroad change. Bush not only failed to achieve the required change, he made it worse. We may have prevented more deaths on “American soil,” but as citizens of the world, we have taken many hits since 9/11. As leaders of “the free world,” the Bush Administration has done little to encourage human rights among the dictators who continue to be counted as allies, and the number of people who want to ultimately do us harm has not diminished.
So, we continue to “go shopping,” as a country under siege. Today’s headlines indicate nothing has changed. The worst we can do now is ignore the aftershocks of the Bush Administration’s mistakes and allow its fading courtier class, including the likes of Rich Lowry, to rewrite history — or worse, continuously misrepresent our current crises — for their own partisan benefit.