[Mb-civic] Osama's Dream Team: Kerry-Edwards or Bush-Cheney?

ean at sbcglobal.net ean at sbcglobal.net
Fri Sep 24 20:42:27 PDT 2004

Bush and Cheney have to be Osama's dream team for November. They 
have all but promised even more extreme responses in the future, which 
surely must please Osama. 

 Published on Friday, September 10, 2004 by FindLaw  
Osama's Dream Team: Kerry-Edwards or Bush-Cheney?  
by John W. Dean 
Recently, while speaking extemporaneously at a Des Moines campaign stop, 
Vice President Dick Cheney warned that if Senator John Kerry is elected 
President, the United States will be in danger of being attacked again by 

Implicitly, of course, Cheney is suggesting that only Bush-Cheney can keep 
us safe. That's foolish talk: No one knows what blood terrorists might shed 
tomorrow, and Cheney's taunting them only invites danger. 

Nonetheless, Cheney has raised a vital issue. In his own snide way, he has 
posed a central question in this presidential campaign: Who would Osama 
bin Laden like to see in the White House? 

No one should vote out of fear. But I do think it's worth considering each 
candidate's stance on terror. 

Cheney's Explanation Of The Purported Risk If Kerry Is Elected 

According to The Washington Post, Cheney stated, "It's absolutely essential 
that eight weeks from today, on November 2nd, we make the right choice." 
Cheney continued, "if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll 
get hit [by terrorists] again." 

Cheney predicted "that we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the 
standpoint of the United States, and that we'll fall back into the pre-9/11 
mind-set, if you will, that in fact these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts 
and that we are not really at war." 

Certainly, Cheney - in these off-the-cuff remarks -- didn't mean to say that a 
new, "devastating" attack would convince Kerry - or anyone else - that we are 
"not really at war." That claim would be absurd. 

Rather, he appears to be suggesting that if Kerry were elected President, he 
would adopt the "pre 9/11 mind-set" and treat "terrorist attacks" as "criminal 
acts" rather than acts of war. For Cheney, such a mind-set would create a 
vulnerability that could allow - or even invite - an attack. 

The record, however, does not support Cheney's characterization of Kerry's 

Kerry's Position On Fighting Terrorism: "We Are A Nation at War" 

At the Democratic convention, Kerry told the delegates, and the national 
television audience, "We are a nation at war - a global war on terror against 
an enemy unlike any we have ever known before. . . . And we need to rebuild 
our alliances, so we can get the terrorists before they get us." On many 
occasions before and since, Kerry has taken the very same stance. 

Because he believes we are at war, Kerry would also expand the military - 
beyond its current size under Bush-Cheney. He said, "I will build a stronger 
American military. We will add 40,000 active duty troops - not in Iraq, but to 
strengthen American forces that are now overstretched, overextended, and 
under pressure. We will double our special forces to conduct anti-terrorist 

Cheney's suggestion that Kerry believes we are not at war, and terrorism is 
merely a law enforcement problem, is simply wrong. In fact, Kerry has 
embraced the 9/11 Commission Report as the best way to deal with terror 
organizations, and he has called for adoption of all of its recommendations. 

When all is said and done, there is little difference between Kerry-Edwards 
and Bush-Cheney in their commitment to fight terrorism. "Both basically want 
to stay the course 
 in the war on terrorism," The Boston Globe observed 
two days before Cheney's assertion that Kerry's election would result in 
further terror attacks against the United States. 

Cheney has chosen to focus on one statement made by Kerry, and after 
removing it from its context, declared it to be Kerry's position on fighting 
terror. In this statement, Kerry called for a "more effective, more thoughtful, 
more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out 
to other nations and brings them to our side." 

Addressing this statement, Cheney responded, "America has been in too 
many wars for any of our wishes, but not a one of them was won by being 
sensitive." Cheney added, "A sensitive war will not destroy the evil men who 
killed 3,000 Americans and who seek the chemical, nuclear and biological 
weapons to kill hundreds of thousands more. The men who beheaded Daniel 
Pearl and Paul Johnson will not be impressed by our sensitivity." 

Of course, Kerry was suggesting that America be sensitive to the views of 
other nations - instead of testing NATO and alienating longtime allies. He 
wasn't suggesting that we be sensitive to terrorists! 

Indeed, as was quickly pointed out, Cheney himself - along with President 
Bush, Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld, and Attorney General John 
Ashcroft -- had all called for sensitivity in the war on terror. 

Still Cheney has continued to distort the meaning of Kerry's call for sensitivity 
- untroubled by the hypocrisy that he, and his colleagues, had earlier made 
such statements. 

Failure Of The Bush and Cheney War On Terror 

In truth, the differences between Bush-Cheney and Kerry-Edwards in fighting 
terror are not those that Cheney has cited. This is not to say that there are 
not real differences in these men and how their presidency might change the 
way terrorists respond to the results of the November election. 

Bush and Cheney seek to make complex problems simple, and describe 
them as black and white, good versus evil. Kerry and Edwards (maybe 
because they are trained as lawyers) appreciate that the real world is varying 
shades of gray, nothing is simple, and the complex problem of terrorism will 
not be solved by tanks and troops, and pretending we can keep terrorists 
from America by fighting wars in the Middle East. 

Experts on terrorism, as well as military analysis, have repeatedly pointed out 
this truth: "A strong military force, by itself, does not deter terrorism -- in point 
of fact, terrorism has developed as a response to strong governmental 
powers." Other nations might think twice when facing the force of 
overwhelming strength. But not sub- or trans-national terrorists, who don't 
fight on battlefields. Nor do casualties trouble the terrorist leaders whose 
religious beliefs postulate that death is a great reward. 

Despite these truths, however, Bush and Cheney continue to think in these 
terms. If anyone ought to be accused of having a pre-9/11 mind-set, it is they. 
Their tactics might have worked well in the Civil War, but they are failing in 
the fight against modern terrorists groups. 

Read between the lines of the 9/11 Commission Report. It is saying that the 
Administration's choice to focus on troops and tanks, at the expense of 
diplomacy and other measures, makes us vulnerable to terrorism - rather 
than protecting against it. These are the views of a bipartisan body that 
looked extensively at the facts and sought the wisdom of the most 
knowledgeable people in the nation. 

Examine, if you will, the progress that has been made in apprehending 
terrorists thus far, for it has come largely because of the work of other 
nations. Despite all the effort Bush and Cheney have made to alienate them, 
others have come through to make crucial arrests abroad. 

Bush and Cheney remain insensitive to what the "Arab street" thinks of them 
and this nation. They have only covered up the failures of their military 
command with its consequences at Abu Ghraib, which has embittered (at a 
minimum) a generation of Muslims against America. 

Arab- and Muslim-Americans should have been a primary weapon in the war 
on terrorism. We need their knowledge and language skills. A program to 
recruit numerous patriotic Americans of Arab descent into the FBI will be 
essential to winning the battle with Islamic terrorists. 

Yet this Administration's abusive tactics - including FBI interviews that have 
delved into religious practices, mass detentions that were clearly based on 
religion and national origin, and the like - have seriously damaged the 
Administration's image in Arab- and Muslim-American communities. 

In short, for the past three years the Bush Administration has utterly ignored 
the approach that the 9/11 Commission recommended. It is not that this 
approach has not been conspicuous. The Commission stated the obvious 
when it said that "long-term success demands the use of all elements of 
national power: diplomacy, intelligence, covert action, law enforcement, 
economic policy, foreign aid, public diplomacy, and homeland security. If we 
favor one tool while neglecting others, we leave ourselves vulnerable and 
weaken our national effort." 

Without Doubt Osama Would Like Bush and Cheney Reelected 

Can there be any doubt about who Osama would like to see in the White 
House? I think not. Let me explain. 

In my book, Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. 
Bush, I included a detailed examination of the Bush-Cheney record on 
terrorism from 9/11 to February 2004 (when the book went to press). I noted 
much tough talk, and over-reaction by Bush and Cheney. I also concluded 
that such tactics will only entice and encourage terrorists "to up the ante 
toward a worse-case scenario." 

Today, that reality is only clearer, as I have continued to examine the goals of 
the terrorists. As prolific writer Joseph Coates explains, terrorists have clear 
goals: they "seek to prove that governments cannot protect their people." By 
committing terrorist acts, they hope to provoke an extreme response, "the 
more extreme the better" - for such a response aids them in recruitment, and 
arouses hostility toward the responder. 

In his recent essay, law professor Oren Gross described a similar dynamic: 
he believes that by forcing excessive response, terrorists seek to destroy the 
fabric of democracy, discredit the government, alienate citizens, and 
undermine the moral basis of the government's actions. 

What better way to convince other Islamic fundamentalists that the West 
shouldn't be in the Middle East, than for a Western country - in an extreme 
response only tenuously connected, if at all, to a terrorist attack - to wage a 
preemptive bloody war in the Middle East? Even better, that this war would 
be justified by the need to prevent the use of dangerous weapons that turn 
out not to exist. 

Bush and Cheney have to be Osama's dream team for November. They 
have all but promised even more extreme responses in the future, which 
surely must please Osama. 

John W. Dean, a former counsel to the President, is a FindLaw columnist. 

Copyright © 1994-2004 FindLaw 


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