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August 14, 2006

Bush Hands the Terrorists Victory

by Thomas R. Eddlem

The foiled terrorist plot in Britain last week has me concluding that the terrorists have won, and that President Bush has handed them their victory.

"This week, America received a stark reminder that terrorists are still plotting attacks to kill our people," President Bush said in his weekly radio address Saturday. "This plot is further evidence that the terrorists we face are sophisticated, and constantly changing their tactics."

Yet another airline hijacking plot constitutes a change in tactics? Does Bush really believe such claptrap?

In fact, the terror plot has me wondering: Why should we be so alarmed when all of the terror plots uncovered (along with those actually completed) are more of the same – airplane hijackings, car bombs, and individuals with explosives strapped to their bodies?

It seems obvious to me that the terrorists we've supposedly been fighting are somewhat lacking in the "new ideas" department. They are eons behind the mythical bad guys in the show 24, or the paranoid rantings of Republican talk radio, where all a terrorist need do to get a working nuclear bomb is pull into a convenience store in Kazakhstan and show an al-Qaeda membership card.

It's becoming apparent that Sept. 11 was the best that they could do: the terrorists' best and luckiest shot.

Bush administration flunkies (and their apologists in the talk radio/Fox News nexus) keep reminding us that it is a "changed world" after Sept. 11. But if the world is so different, how come the terrorists are still repeating yesteryear's terror tactics?

Even if these hijackings were to succeed, the incidents themselves were somewhat less ambitious than Sept. 11 and wouldn't by themselves change our way of life. In terms of fatalities, we're talking about the equivalent of less than two months' worth of automobile accidents in the United States. Certainly, the American people have not demanded an end to freedoms in the Bill of Rights because of automobile accidents – which account for a much greater annual loss of life than terrorism. Property damage in the British plot would have been insignificant compared to the Sept. 11 destruction of the World Trade Center.

Of course, they could succeed if they make us so afraid that we overreact to this rather modest threat. That's the whole goal of terrorism. It's not to kill, but to terrorize, and cause people to change their behavior and way of life through fear.

To quote a president I didn't care for much: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

But President Bush and his confederates in the West Wing have a different plan. They are serving up a heaping helping of fearmongering these days:

"Let's just ask a simple question: What's the best way to win the war on terror? The goal is to win the war on terror, and what are the consequences of losing. General Abizaid last week – I don't think anybody is going to accuse him of politicizing it – said, if we walk out of Iraq, they're going to follow us. The fact is that the perception of weakness has always been – and has been cited by bin Laden and others as an act of encouragement and inducement for people to commit acts of terror and to work more aggressively to kill Americans." - White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, Aug. 11, 2006

"Since 9/11, the threat reporting has consistently shown that there is a vicious and determined enemy that is intent on harming American lives." - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Aug. 10, 2006

We have overreacted to an unimaginative terror threat: car bombs and airplane hijackings. In response to Sept. 11, 2001, a serious terrorist incident that killed the equivalent of two months' worth of automobile accident victims in the United States, we have:

President Bush told a joint session of Congress on Sept. 20, 2001, that "Americans are asking, why do they hate us? … They hate our freedoms." A cynic would point out that, according to President Bush, they should now have scant reason for hating us. Yet these attacks continue. So much for the president's theory.

Bush says the terrorists hate us for our freedom, so we are surrendering our freedom because we are terrified.

In short, the terrorists have won. George Bush has given them their victory.

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Thomas R. Eddlem's Bio

Thomas R. Eddlem is a native of the Boston area of Massachusetts and a graduate of Stonehill College. He is a radio talk show host in southeastern Massachusetts and a frequent contributor to The New American magazine.

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