Volume 16 • Issue 47 | April 16-22, 2004

EDITORIAL

Disturbing developments on 9/11 and in Iraq

If anyone needed more proof that the worsening situation in Iraq and the 9/11 Commission’s probing of administration officials are taking a devastating toll on the credibility of George Bush’s presidency, there was Bush’s appearance on TV on Tuesday evening.

Bush frankly looked lost and his speech and answers to reporters’ questions failed to inspire confidence that this administration has a grasp of either what could have been done to prevent 9/11 or what should now be done to confront terrorism. The president’s insistence that we will stay the course in Iraq sounds increasingly hollow — and frightening.

Former Senator Bob Kerrey, New School University’s president, has been one of the most aggressive members of the 9/11 Commission. His questions have been pointed and on target. Although Kerrey brought the animus of the New School’s graduate faculty and graduate students upon himself by strongly backing the invasion of Iraq, at this point, he no longer supports the administration’s handling of the situation there.

And Kerrey now seems to acknowledge that Al Qaeda, not Iraq, is the real enemy. He states it’s time for the administration to “swallow its pride” and appeal to the United Nations for help on making decisions to turn over power to a legitimate government in Iraq. In other words — for help in getting out of Iraq.

Kerrey has apparently recognized how the situation has evolved, and adjusted his view accordingly. Bush and his administration don’t seem capable of doing so. Bush said he’ll send more troops to Iraq if needed, though the plan remains to transfer power to an Iraqi government in June. Who this government will be is still unclear. Meanwhile, the U.S. injecting itself into rival religious leaders’ quarrels has shattered six months of building good relations and created conditions for civil war.

Bush and his aides have been completely silent on the question of what the president did after he was warned Aug. 6, 2001 about the domestic threats from Al Qaeda – a good indicator that he did little while vacationing in Crawford, Texas.

Testimony this week before the 9/11 Commission by Attorney General John Ashcroft, C.I.A. director George Tenet and current and former F.B.I. directors was also quite disturbing.

Bush was so concerned about Al Qaeda that he only met with his C.I.A. director twice in August 2001. And those meetings were so substantive that Tenet couldn’t even remember they occurred when he testified. Tenet also said it will take five more years to fix all of the agency’s problems.

We wish we could wait that long. We can’t.

And in Iraq, it is time to start openly discussing and pressing for— not plans for a beefed-up U.S.military presence in Iraq to fight a mounting insurgency — but a real strategy that calls on U.N. experience and legitimacy and other nations’ commitment to aiding the transition. And yes, it’s time to talk about a real exit strategy for U.S. troops. However, it seems the only way to extricate our troops from Iraq and bring in real international support is to extract Bush from the White House. The administration’s policy is fearfully unsound, and arrogant, and from the looks of Bush last night, he is at a loss as to where he is heading this nation — and this world.

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