And, in the rest of the world, terrorism is at a global peak with the number of incidents increasing every year since 2001; everyone from the US military command to the Senate to the people of Baghdad are beginning to admit that the Iraq war was a poorly-planned, ill-thought-out, blindly executed mistake that is beginning to turn into a quagmire at best and a disaster at worst; Iran and North Korea are developing nuclear weapons if they don't have them already, and we respond by making the deportation of a washed-up pop star and a college professor a priority; we have no idea where Osama bin-Laden is or what he's doing; of the two countries we 'liberated' from tyranny, one is largely back in the hands of tribal warlords and the other's major export after oil is the decapitated bodies of foreigners; Israel is still locked in its stubborn, bloody-minded death spiral with the Palestinians; America claims to be the vanguard of democracy and freedom, while we suppress voter rights at home and torture people to death abroad (as articles like this and this make depressingly plain); and our Justice Department, after a high-profile campaign of racial profiling, mass arrests, civil-rights-trampling detentions and endless amounts of tough talk, is exactly 0 for 5,000 in terror convictions since September 11th.
Bush is running on making America safer; it's essentially all he's got. The job market is flailing, his tax policy is a disaster for everyone but those at the top (and worse still, a ticking time bomb that will explode in 2006 and again in 2010, no matter who's president), and uncertainty and fear are the rule of the day for the financial health of anyone who isn't already rich, so he can't really push the economy too hard. His social policies are divisive, prejudiced, and crude (and, like all backlash hot-buttons, a mere distraction, railing on issues about which nothing will be done once the election is won). And his history of coming up with big-ticket, moon-shot accomplisments is laughable: a joke of an education reform policy, total inaction on health care, and a laughable non-starter of a plan to send men to Mars. All he's got is security (which is what we call war nowadays). War on Afghanistan, war on Iraq, war on al-Q'aeda. But how are we safer? How is he able to make the claim that he's made America stronger? The coffins of our soldiers come home at a faster pace than they did before the war ended. Videos of severed heads show up on the internet more frequently than pop-up ads for 10x spy cameras. Nuclear proliferation has begun again, conjuring a fear and paranoia not seen since the early '80s. The man who supposedly masterminded 9/11 is hardly even mentioned anymore; he's either been forgotten or he's sitting in a cell waiting to help the Republicans win the election, neither of which bring comfort to troubled minds. The man who masterminded the anthrax mailings that killed a handful of Americans and made millons more fear for their lives is similarly a distant memory, as immediate in our collective memory as Tamagotchis. And for all the ramping up of security we've supposedly done, for all the measures we've supposedly taken to protect ourselves, we've done it on the cheap: Bush's terror funding plan is a twisted fun-house mirror of a program, providing as much protection to Wyoming as to New York and L.A., and the color-coded terror alert system is a national punchline, good for little more than distracting the press when bad news about the administration looms in the background. Everyone I talk to of any political stripe seems to think that it's only a matter of time before we get hit again. So how are we safer?
Maybe I'm missing some key victory against the forces of oppression, terror and indiscriminate murder, but it seems to me that all our war president has done is assume a lot of reassuring macho poses. And while there's a lot of good words for people who talk tough but don't do anything to back it up, "President" shouldnt be one of them.