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July 9, 2004
Still At War

The Bush Admninistration warned yesterday that intelligence services have received a stream of non-specific data indicating that al-Qaeda intends on disrupting the upcoming election with a "catastrophic" attack -- perhaps more than one:

Osama bin Laden and his chief lieutenants, operating from hideouts suspected to be along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, are directing a Qaeda effort to launch an attack in the United States sometime this year, senior Bush administration officials said on Thursday. ...

Counterterrorism officials have said for weeks that they are increasingly worried by a continuing stream of intelligence suggesting that Al Qaeda wanted to carry out a significant terror attack on United States soil this year. But until the comments of the senior administration officials on Thursday, it was not clear that Mr. bin Laden and top deputies like Ayman Zawahiri were responsible for the concern.

Another senior administration official said on Thursday that the intelligence reports - apparently drawn partly from interviews with captured Qaeda members and partly from other intelligence - referred to efforts "to inflict catastrophic effects" before the election.

I'm sure you have all read about this briefing, and normally I wouldn't bother to post about it -- after all, the warning is rather straightforward and doesn't include a lot of specifics. However, it's apparent from the reactions of other elected officials, the media, and the punditry, that plenty of people have forgotten that we're still at war.

Take Congress, for example. Yesterday, the Patriot Act barely survived an amendment that would have emasculated investigative abilities to track terrorists operating Internet stations in libraries -- despite the requirement of a warrant from a federal judge. The Republicans struggled to defeat the bill by extending the vote to get to a 210-210 tie. Vermont's Bernard Sanders, the only Independent in Congress and the bill's author, had this to say:

"All of us want to support the law enforcement officials going after terrorists, but we can defeat terrorism without allowing the government to get a secret order from a secret court without any showing of any evidence that the person whose reading records are sought is engaged in any kind of illegal conduct."

Sanders says we can defeat terrorists by having intelligence agents appear in open court and disclose their sources and their methods. Do you think that it works that way? Of course not. Sanders and the other 209 Representatives who voted for this bill have reversed course and now live in a perpetual September 10th, where the only threat to the US was from its own jack-booted law-enforcement organizations and where terrorists only attacked other countries ... like Israel.

But Sanders and his brother ostriches have their counterparts in the media as well, although that fact will surprise no one who reads blogs or even more than one newspaper a day. The New York Times regularly runs Paul Krugman's column, an economist who used to discuss economics several years ago, but now uses his column to reflexively bash the Bush administration. In today's entry, Krugman accuses Bush of issuing updates on the war to distract people from what's really important ... health care:

Will actual policy issues play any role in this election? Not if the White House can help it. But if some policy substance does manage to be heard over the clanging of conveniently timed terror alerts, voters will realize that they face some stark choices. Here's one of them: tax cuts for the very well-off versus health insurance.

Krugman apparently prefers that the Administration remains silent on any uptick in threat reports and not brief the public on progress in the war. Somehow he thinks that reminding Americans of the threats they face makes them happier with the current Administration. Otherwhise, what he's decrying is that people understand that while we need to still work on domestic policies, there's a war on, and that has to remain the central focus. And he doesn't much like it, mostly because he has nothing to add to that effort.

The news sections of the various broadsheets and broadcasters are not much better. Forget the fact that they can't even get the news right when it's handed to them on a silver platter, such as when the LA Times claimed that Paul Bremer had left Iraq without having the decency to speak to the Iraqis before he slunk out of town -- only to discover that not only had he given a valedictory speech, CNN broadcast a significant part of it. This week we've seen the media completely ignore two significant stories. Two Iranian intelligence agents were arrested by a joint Iraqi/American patrol building car bombs, and only Fox bothered reporting the development. The second was the Financial Times report on the result of the British investigation into the claim that Saddam had tried to buy uranium from Niger -- and confirmation that he had, in fact, done so. But you wouldn't know that from reading your local newspapers.

There seems to be an active effort to deny that the US is at war, and not a war of our choosing, but a war that was thrust upon us. It's part of the reason why people object now to DHS warnings from Tom Ridge; in the absence of any more attacks, some people now believe that equates to no more attempts. Unserious people like Rep. Sanders and Paul Krugman would have us stand down, lower our defenses, and focus on important but lower-priority tasks instead.

This election will provide a referendum on the seriousness of the American electorate. If we elect more people like Sanders because we listen to Krugman more than Ridge, then we will reap what we sow, and quickly. And then we'll wonder why no one warned us that attacks were coming, more commissions will be formed, fingers pointed, and we'll get serious again. It's just that there will be significantly fewer people among the "we" to get serious the next time.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 9, 2004 7:41 AM

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Tracked on July 9, 2004 3:16 PM

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