ON SUNDAY, SEPT. 7, President George W. Bush went before the nation to announce that even though the U.S. occupation of Iraq is going wonderfully, itll cost lots more. Some $87 billion more. As for the time, well, itll be a long road. Dont ask so many questions.
Observers have warned for quite some time that White House cost estimates regarding Iraq were grossly lowballed, by hundreds of billions of dollars. And that was the best-case scenario, which only the administration expected.
Instead, our annexation of Iraq has become a worst-case scenario, and theres no money for any of it. Bush somehow expects the world to share the cost while leaving all decisions to the same Americans who made such a mess already as the result of an invasion widely considered ill-advised and illegitimate.
The U.S. exhausted the Iraqi treasury in four months. Iraqs oil fields are not only largely destroyed but at the mercy of guerrillas determined to keep them dysfunctional. The money must now come from you and me and our kids and grandkids. But never mind that. This week is the anniversary of 9/11.
It was no coincidence that Bush finally acknowledged the long-obvious need for more money only four days before the second anniversary of 9/11.
Within hours of 9/11, Bushs crew was exploiting it for political purposes. With Bushs renomination scheduled next year for New York City just before the third anniversary, its not about to stop.
Countless long-marginal, radical neoconservative ideas have been enacted in the last two years, always justified by 9/11 but rarely having any actual connection. Iraq is the prime example: Despite fervent (and largely successful) White House attempts to link the two in the publics mind, Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda never worked together.
YET THAT BOGUS ASSOCIATION and the wholly fictional notion that Iraq was about to attack America with weapons of mass destruction were the rationale for the quagmire we now face there.
The immediate, knee-jerk Bush decision to cast Americas response to 9/11 as an unending war has informed everything since. The entirely new doctrine that a country could and should be invaded if it harbored criminal suspects was Bushs flimsy rationale for Afghanistan, our other, largely forgotten quagmire.
Even as veterans benefits were cut, money for military contractors like Boeing suddenly became bottomless, and the U.S. significantly increased its military presence overseas, including in thuggish regimes like Georgia and Kyrgyzstan. The notion that America could or should rule the world, considered lunacy before 9/11, became Beltway orthodoxy as a result of an attack largely prompted by our global meddling in the first place. Meanwhile, at home, thousands of people were questioned or detained in 9/11s aftermath, and the infamous USA Patriot Act, a host of less- publicized executive orders and administrative moves, and more new money for the FBI and intelligence agencies have turned America into a police state for immigrants.
None of this would have prevented 9/11 from happening. There has been a near- total lack of fundamental questions as to why the attackers acted, and why America didnt anticipate it or stop them.
Al Qaeda and its now-notorious leader, Osama bin Laden, are religious zealots but also had political reasons for targeting America. Post9/11 U.S. actions have consistently inflamed, not reduced, those motivations.
More importantly, terrorism is prevented not by heavy-handed, expensive invasions, but with international cooperation, especially in police and intelligence work, and with benevolent political policies that ensure Al Qaedastyle extremism appeals to dozens of people, not millions.
On this score, the Bush administrations response to 9/11 has been a spectacular failure. America has never been so universally reviled in the worldless than two years after it had the worlds near-complete sympathy and pledges of support. Bushs responses fundamentally changed how America is seen by billions. We are now an arrogant bully, not a beacon of freedom and democracy. Its a recipe for more terrorism, not less.
HARD QUESTIONS about how 9/11 could have been prevented have largely been buried. The recent congressional investigation faced repeated White House stonewalling in its efforts to get information. Incompetent agencies were rewarded with huge budget increases. Nobody was fired anywhere. And while the Taliban and Iraq were scapegoated, the country that produced bin Laden, most of the hijackers, and much of the money for Al Qaedas terror networks, Saudi Arabia, has been treated with kid gloves by Bush.
This week, there will be plenty of human-interest stories recalling the heroism of 9/11. Thats fine and well, but hard questions need to be askedquestions the Bush administration should have been answering for the last two years.
Instead, Bush has been allowed to fundamentally remake what America stands for as a country. And hes pimped the memory of 9/11s victims at every turn in order to do it. He has no shame. The best way to minimize the chances of a future 9/11 are to get him out of office.