WHY THE 9-11 INQUIRY SHOULD FOOL NO ONE
Reflections of a “Truman democrat”
Jay B. Gaskill
We are learning what we already knew, that the American tendency toward complacency, our isolationist fear of “foreign entanglements” and the immense inertia inherent in large bureaucracies has conspired, once again, to leave us vulnerable at a crucial moment.
Let’s get real: On the morning of September 11, 2001:
Our borders were porous to terrorists with phony visas;
public opinion was ill prepared for any sacrifice of convenience at the airport;
our military had lost major elements of its force structure as the “peace dividend” following the end of the cold war;
our law enforcement and intelligence apparatuses were poorly coordinated at best;
the American people had no appetite for taking the fight to the enemy;
and what fight was it anyway, we thought? And against what enemy?
Recall that our nation’s response to the blatant aggression by an anti-American dictator in a region affecting our vital interests, Gulf War I, almost failed to get Congressional authorization (coming within one vote in the Senate of defeat). And recall that Presidents Ford, Carter, Bush I, and Clinton were still trapped in the “I can’t order anyone to be killed” and “arrest not war” paradigms.
Under Bush II, to give credit where it is due, the restrictive paradigms were being questioned from the moment he took office. The incoming Bush administration moved against the tide entirely too slowly, given the circumstances. But it was already too late to change events: The hijackers were in place and the plan for 9-11 was in play.
Many intellectually honest democrats agree with me: Gore would have been worse.
And all this begs the real question: What and who were not transformed by 9-11?
A short list of the untransformed:
Former President Jimmy Carter
Former Vice President Al Gore
The left-of-center activists who drove the democratic party to reject Gephart and Lieberman.
At the head of the list of the leaders transformed by the 9-11 experience: George W. Bush. Anyone who was watching this president closely during those first hours and days can tell you the exact moment when he was transformed. George W. Bush was standing in the rubble of the Destroyed Towers. He put an arm around a fireman (and many of us we noticed how authentic and comfortable that gesture was). “We can’t hear you” they shouted. Then the president shouted back (and at that moment, he became president). He spoke from his gut: “They will hear from us!”
I was watching on television from a Manhattan apartment (close enough to the crime scene to smell the dust), and I could feel the old paradigms pop like balloons.
That was the moment when we took a different course. A good thing, it was.
So we might reasonably ask ourselves, whether Senator John Kerry was transformed by 9-11. And whether we can even take the chance that he was not. This Truman democrat is not willing to take that chance. The stakes are far, far too high…
This piece was first posted on “The Policy Think Site”
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Copyright © 2004 by Jay B. Gaskill
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