Osama died happy – thanks to Bush

Note: The chronicle of my post-9/11 terrorist conspiracy is available at Asia Times

Ten years ago, al-Qaeda extremists wrought tragedy upon America, killing more than 3,000 people in attacks aimed at the US political, economic and military nerve centers. The George W Bush administration turned this day of infamy into a decade of disaster for the US, just what Osama bin Laden had in mind when he ordered the 9/11 attacks.

The Bush administration’s reactions and their consequences did far more damage than the attacks themselves over the past decade. By turning the US into the country caricatured in al-Qaeda propaganda, the Bush people set the stage for catastrophic results at home and overseas. How dare they show their faces on this anniversary of their great failure, or take it as an occasion to sell books or indulge their sense of self-importance. They deserve to be served with warrants, strewn with garbage, and, most of all, never listened to again.

One thing you’ll never hear them do: take responsibility in any way, shape or form for the deadly attack that happened on their watch or the disasters that followed due to their errors. Condoleezza Rice thinks she was right to ignore the memo titled “Bin Laden determined to strike in US” five weeks before 9/11. Dick Cheney knows it was a good idea to turn away from Afghanistan, where the group that attacked the US on 9/11 was, to Iraq, where it wasn’t. Donald Rumsfeld thinks trying to police Iraq with at least 100,000 fewer troops than the generals recommended was a perfect plan. When George W Bush said, “We’re changing the culture of America from one that has said . . . ‘if you’ve got a problem, blame somebody else,’ to a culture in which each of us understands we are responsible for the decisions we make,” it was just another instance of Bush either not understanding his own words, or not meaning them.

None of the above aims to dismiss or excuse al-Qaeda’s evil, nor discount or denigrate the suffering of all harmed and of those who lost loved ones in the attacks of September 11, 2001. But al-Qaeda weren’t the only bad guys around at the time. Bush and his team brought about different types of death and destruction that had more wide ranging effects and claimed millions of victims. The decade following the 9/11 attacks has been among the darkest in American history, not because of the shadow cast by the tragic events that day, but due to decisions of the Bush administration and those it empowered.

In the wake of the attacks, the world was ready to join hands with the US, precisely the outcome al-Qaeda didn’t want. The Bush administration pushed them away, choosing the course of divisiveness, Bush posing as the wild west sheriff with his “dead or alive” and “you’re either with us or against us” talk.

The Bush White House swallowed hook, line, and sinker al-Qaeda’s bait of a holy war of Muslims against non-Muslims. The administration joined al-Qaeda’s gambit of linking Islam with terrorism – who calls Timothy McVey, David Koresh or Norway’s Anders Behring Breivik Christian terrorists? – and even used the loaded term “crusade” to describe its pursuit of the perpetrators. The rightwing noise machine coined the term “Islamo-fascist” much beloved by former vice president turned book shill Cheney. In that atmosphere, even the United Nations sanctioned invasion of Afghanistan drew widespread condemnation among the ummah, the global Islamic community.

It wasn’t the success of 9/11 but the failures of the Bush response, highlighted by the disastrous invasion of Iraq, that became the most successful recruiting tool for al-Qaeda and its ilk. In Asia, where most of the world’s Muslims live, people who previously couldn’t find Israel on a map were enlisted into the Middle East conflict, just as Jews had been for generations, with just as little genuine thought and knowledge of the situation. The most deadly terrorist attacks since 9/11 took place 13 months later in Bali, aiming to kill Americans but hitting mainly Australians and Indonesians instead.

Even now, Muslim leaders around the world must avoid links to the US in order to counter the siren song of the extremists that Bush and company empowered. In Libya and throughout the Middle East, as the Arab Spring turns to the fall of dictators, America has had to stand back because US involvement, even for the best reasons, carries the stigma of Bush.

Like al-Qaeda and its supporters, Bush administration leaders were convinced of their own righteousness in what both sides viewed as holy war. That zealotry led to an invasion of Iraq under false pretenses, the type of unjustifiable violence based on fanaticism rather than fact that’s the staple of extremism. It’s difficult to find an example in great power history of an act that rivals the Iraq invasion as a monumental blunder on so many fronts, one that precipitated so much short- and long-term damage so unnecessarily on both the invaded and the invader. Global anti-Americanism became more virulent than at any time since the Vietnam war era. You didn’t have to be an Iraqi or a Muslim or an Afghan to think the US was morally and ethically bankrupt.

Ignoring the UN, international opinion and fair play to invade Iraq, the Bush administration forfeited US claims of global leadership and integrity for the fool’s gold of unseating an impotent dictator who was irrelevant beyond his neighborhood to all but a small cabal in Washington that portrayed him as a great Satan.

Within six hours of the first jet hitting the North Tower of the World Trade Center, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld began searching for a pretext to use the attacks to oust Saddam Hussein. US war casualties are made all the more unforgivable by the incompetence of the prosecution of this unnecessary war.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz famously predicted that Iraqis would shower US troops with flower petals rather than roadside bombs, and that the war would pay for itself with oil revenue rather than costing the US more than $1 trillion. That brand of cutting edge financial insight earned Wolfowitz Bush’s blessing as World Bank president, where he promptly displayed the administration’s signature arrogance and lack of personal integrity by getting his girlfriend a raise and lying about it.

Bush administration misadventures after 9/11 carried a huge price for the US internationally. Public hostility to the US grew globally, especially in the Muslim world. While the Bush administration pursued its self-inflicted Iraq distraction, Afghanistan slid back into chaos, choked of the funds and assistance it needed to win the post-Taliban aftermath. The invasion showed Iraq’s fellow Axis of Evil designees North Korea and Iran that nuclear weapons were the only way to prevent a reckless US regime from making them the next victim. Now that Kim Jong Il has the bomb, the world is a far more dangerous place than it was on September 11, 2001. Thanks to the Bush administration’s drive to divide, it’s also a more difficult place to be an American, or for America to exert a leadership role.

But the real damage from the Bush administration’s reaction to 9/11 has come at home. Civil liberties have been undermined via the Patriot Act and the growth of anti-Muslim bigotry on such vivid, ugly display during last year’s Cordoba House (aka Ground Zero Mosque) protests. America’s status as the world’s preferred destination for immigration has been devastated; bureaucratic logic dictates that to prevent murders from attending flight schools and killing Americans, PhD candidates can’t stay to work in the US but must put their brains to work for America’s global competitors. American openness has given way to paranoid fishing expeditions.

Worst of all has been the post-9/11 politics of fear and deceit that have become standard practice in the US, because 9/11 proved they worked. The Bush administration built its case for invading Iraq on the plausible but nonexistent connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks. Whenever facts caught up with the tall tale, there was another lie, another obfuscation. First, weapons of mass destruction, a threat portrayed as so grave that the US couldn’t wait for UN weapons inspectors to do their jobs. When no WMDs were found, the invasion was about Iraqi democracy and human rights, as if US regional allies Saudi Arabia and Egypt were paragons of freedom. As anti-American violence grew and Iraq became a magnet for terrorists, then the war was necessary to fight America’s enemies there rather than on US soil.

Ten years later, we see similar nonsense in the debate about taxing the rich. Over the past 30 years, tax cuts for top earners have had only one constant effect: more concentration of wealth among fewer people. The greatest jobs growth and economic expansion happened after taxes were increased to balance the budget. Under Bush, tax cuts, record deficits, and deregulation led to jobless growth and the worst recession in 75 years. So naturally, the way to fix the economy is to cut taxes for the rich, reduce regulation, decrease benefits to the poor and increase their taxes.

After using the 9/11 attacks to justify the invasion of Iraq, there’s no reason for true believers and their minions to ever resort to logic or fact again. That’s a world in which al-Qaeda and other extremists can thrive. Osama will surely thank Bush, Cheney, et al, in hell.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie. See his biography, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com.

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