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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Our View

The politics of swagger

Commentary by Pat Murphy

"We have the terrorists on the run. We’re keeping them on the run." (Applause) — White House transcript, State of the Union address, January 2003

"Al Qaeda has unambiguous plans to hit the homeland again," James L. Pavitt, the CIA’s outgoing head of clandestine operations, said in a speech in New York last week, "and New York City, I am certain, remains a prime target." The New York Times, July 5


If "we have the terrorists on the run," as President Bush claims, then why is the CIA expecting terrorists to "hit the homeland again"?

And who’s really "on the run"?

  • The Justice Department has stepped up the frequency of alerts about "credible" terrorist threats to the U.S. mainland, expressing major concerns about attacks on the Democratic and Republic national conventions in Boston and New York City.

  • The U.S. Navy has ordered 350 families housed with the Fifth Fleet evacuated from the island kingdom of Bahrain off the Saudi Arabian eastern coast out of fear of terrorist attacks.

  • Washington has the appearance of a fortress with streets sealed off, permanent blockades installed around buildings and some monuments made less accessible.

The Bush administration seems to be engaged in a conflicting public strategy—creating the macho presidential image of holding the upper hand over terrorism even as U.S. security agencies keep the public stranded permanently in fear of terror attacks.

The president’s swagger and swashbuckling are unconvincing. His declaration of "Mission Accomplished" was deceitful, leaving White House damage control specialists the unpleasant task of (a) repudiating the huge aircraft carrier sign as an unauthorized Navy stunt – but (b) maybe interpreted as a statement on the successful invasion of Iraq, if not the end of the war.

He swashbuckled Texas-style when asked about insurgents in Iraq. "Bring ’em on," he said cockily a half a world away from the shooting and assuming (incorrectly) that Iraq was tucked securely in the U.S. pocket. Sure enough, terrorists complied: more GIs, more Iraqis, more American contractors in Iraq began dying after the president’s cavalier "bring ’em on."

The problem is Americans don’t know what to believe. The president and his political manipulators have tried to conceal politically inconvenient reality with fiction.

The phony "imminent threat" of Iraqi doomsday weapons misled Americans into supporting a war that’s already cost more than 800 U.S. military lives and tens of billions of dollars from the national treasury.

Stubborn claims that more troops weren’t needed has led to extended duty in Iraq, stop-loss orders preventing discharges and resignations and a call-up of long ago discharged ready reserves.

The White House deceived Americans by claims the president could waive rights of detainees labeled "terrorism suspects" and slap them indefinitely in confinement without a court hearing or attorneys. Hundreds are now being released without charges, others asking for court hearings after the president was rebuked by the Supreme Court.

And more.

This president who stakes out "values" as a virtue should try truth for a change.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.