Of all of the things I do not understand about liberals, I think the greatest thing I do not understand is the irrational hatred for George W. Bush. I may not agree with most of Barack Obama's policies, but I don't hate him. I may believe Bill Clinton is an unscrupulous person whose seeks power, but if he were to walk into the room, I would shake his hand and show him the same respect I would show any person.
The venom of the left speaking about George W. Bush, even two years after he left office, is astounding. As I've thought about it, I think the venom must stem from Bush's solid stances on his principles. Ironically, that is the same thing that impresses me so much about President Bush.
If I am at a party where people are drinking and someone offers me some alcohol, and I decline based on my principles, there is a tendency for those who are drinking to assume that I am judging them because they are drinking. There will generally be some comment about "you think you're better than us" or "holier than thou". But the reality is that I just simply choose not to drink. Everybody has the freedom to make their own choices.
The greatest controversy and source of venom in regards to President Bush had to do with his stance on terrorism. September 11th, 2001 had a profound impact on President Bush. In his words:
"As I record these thoughts, that day of fire is a distant memory for some of our citizens. The youngest Americans have to firsthand knowledge of the day. Eventually, September 11 will come to feel more like Pearl Harbor Day -- an honored day date on the calendar and an important moment in history, but not a scar on the heart, not a reason to fight on.
"For me, the week of September 11 will always be something more. I will see the Pentagon smoldering, the towers in flames, and that pile of twisted steel. I still hear the voices of the loved ones searching for survivors and the workers yelling, "Do not let me down!" and "Whatever it takes!" I still feel the sadness of the children, the agony of the burn victims, and the torment of the broken families. I still marvel at the bravery of the firefighters, and the compassion of the strangers, and the matchless courage of the passengers who forced down that plane.
"September 11 redefined sacrifice. It redefined duty. And it redefined my job. The story of that week is the key to understanding my presidency. There were so many decisions that followed, many of them controversial and complex. Yet after 9/11, I felt my responsibility was clear. For as long as I held office, I could never forget what happened to America that day. I would pour my heart and soul into protecting the country, whatever it took."
That was the principle: "Protecting the country, whatever it took." I think one of major contributing factors to the hatred of George W. Bush is that he refused to defend himself in the barrage of relentless attacks by so-called news outlets, talk shows, celebrities, and protesters. Here is a perfect example:
Notice Bush's reaction. Even in the face of a physical attack, Bush doesn't defend himself. If it were me, I would have felt like saying, "Let's pretend this was a few years ago in Iraq that you did that, Mr. Journalist. Somebody get a sword." Instead, President Bush talks about in terms of an "important step" and "that's what happens in free societies." Bush felt it was beneath the office of the President to stoop to the level of the critics.
I am currently reading "Decision Points", George W. Bush's autobiography. It has been so refreshing as I've read to finally hear President Bush discuss why he made the decisions he did. Here are a few excerpts I've selected that address some of the more controversial decisions of his presidency:
"Prior to 9/11, many had viewed terrorism primarily as a crime to be prosecuted, as the government had after the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. After 9/11, it was clear that the attacks on our embassies in East Africa and on the USS Cole were more than isolated crimes. They were a warm-up for September 11, part of a master plan orchestrated by Osama bin Laden, who had issued a religious edict, known as fatwa, calling the murder of Americans 'an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it.'
"On 9/11, it was obvious the law enforcement approach to terrorism had failed. Suicidal men willing to fly passenger planes into buildings were not common criminals. They could not be deterred by the threat of prosecution. They had declared war on America. To protect the country, we had to wage war against the terrorists."
"[In the speech following 9/11] I did want to announce a major decision I had made: The United States would consider any nation that harbored terrorists to be responsible for the acts of those terrorists. This new doctrine overturned the approach of the past, which treated terrorist groups as distinct from their sponsors. We had to force nations to choose whether they would fight the terrorists or share in their fate. And we had to wage this war on the offense, by attacking the terrorists overseas before they could attack us again at home."
THE PATRIOT ACT
"Putting the country on war footing required more than just tightening our physical defenses. We needed better legal, financial, and intelligence tools to find the terrorists and stop them before it was too late.
"One major gap in our counter terrorism capabilities was what many called 'the wall.' Over time, the government had adopted a set of procedures that prevented law enforcement and intelligence personnel from sharing key information.
"'How can we possibly assure our citizens we are protecting them if our own people can't even talk to each other?' I said in one meeting shortly after the attacks. 'We have got to fix the problem.'
"Attorney General John Ashcroft took the lead in writing a legislative proposal. The result was the USA PATRIOT Act. The bill eliminated the wall and allowed law enforcement and intelligence personnel to share information. It modernized our counter terrorism capabilities by giving investigators access to tools like roving wiretaps, which allowed them to track suspects who changed cell phone numbers--an authority that had long been used to catch drug traffickers and mob bosses. It authorized aggressive financial measures to freeze terrorist assets. And it included judicial and congressional oversight to protect civil liberties.
"One provision created a little discomfort at home. The PATRIOT Act allowed the government to seek warrants to examine the business records of suspected terrorists, such as credit card receipts, apartment leases, and library records. As a former librarian, Laura didn't like the idea of federal agents snooping around libraries. I didn't, either. But the intelligence community had serious concerns about terrorists using library computers to communicate. Library records had played a role in several high-profile cases, such as the Zodiac gunman murders in California. The last thing I wanted twas to allow the freedom and access to information provided by American libraries to be utilized against us by al Queda.
"Lawmakers recognized the urgency of the threat and passed the PATRIOT Act 98 to 1 in the Senate and 357 to 66 in the House. 'We took the time to look at it, we took the time to read it, and we took time to remove those parts that were unconstitutional and those parts that would have actually hurt liberties of all Americans, 'Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont said. His Democratic colleague, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, added, 'If there is one key word that underscores this bill, it is 'balance.' In the new post-September 11 society that we face, balance is going to be a key word . . . Balance and reason have prevailed.'
"Over the next five years, the PATRIOT Act helped us break up potential terror cells in New York, Oregon, Virginia, and Florida. In one example, law enforcement and intelligence agencies shared information that led to the arrest of six Yemeni Americans in Lackawanna, New York, who had traveled to a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan and met with Osama bin Laden. Five pled guilty to providing material support to al Quaeda. The other admitted to unlawful transactions with al Qaeda.
"Some claimed the Lackawanna Six and others we arrested were little more than 'small-town dupes' with fanciful plots 'who had no intention of carrying out terrorist acts.' I always wondered how the second guessers could be so sure. After all, in August 2001, the idea that terrorists commanded from caves in Afghanistan would attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on U.S. commercial airplanes would have seemed pretty far-fetched. For me, the lesson of 9/11 was simple: Don't take chances. When our law enforcement and intelligence professionals found people with ties to terrorist networks inside the United States, I would rather be criticized for taking them into custody too early than waiting until it was too late."
"As part of the 9/11 investigation, we discovered that two hijackers who had infiltrated the United States... had communicated with al Qaeda leaders overseas more than a dozen times before the attack. My immediate question was: Why hadn't we intercepted the calls? If we had heard what [the hijackers] were saying, we might have been able to stop the attacks of 9/11.
"The man with the answers was Mike Hayden, the three-star Air Force general who led the National Security Agency... Mike told me the NSA had the capability to monitor those al Qaeda phone calls into the United States before 9/11. But he didn't have the legal authority to do it without receiving a court order, a process that could be difficult and slow.
"The reason was a law called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Written in 1978, before widespread use of cell phones and Internet, FISA prohibited the NSA from monitoring communications involving people inside the United States without a warrant from the FISA court. For example, if a terrorist in Afghanistan contacted a terrorist in Pakistan, NSA could intercept their conversation. But if the same terrorist called someone inside the United States, or sent an e-mail that touched an American computer server, NSA had to apply for a court order.
"That made no sense. Why should it be tougher to monitor al Qaeda communications with terrorists inside the United States than with associates overseas. As Mike Hayden put it, we were 'flying blind with no early warning system.'
"After 9/11, we couldn't afford to fly blind. If al Qaeda operatives were calling into or out of the United States, we damn sure needed to know who they were calling and what they were saying. And given the urgency of the threats, we could not allow ourselves to get bogged down in the court approval process. I asked the White House counsel's office and the Justice Department if I could authorize the NSA to monitor al Qaeda communications into and out of the country without FISA warrants.
"Both told me I could. They concluded that conducting surveillance against our enemies in war fell within the authorities granted by the congressional war resolution and the constitutional authority of the commander in chief. Abraham Lincoln had wiretapped telegraph machines during the Civil War. Woodrow Wilson had ordered the interception of virtually every telephone and telegraph message going into or out of the United States during World War I. Franklin Roosevelt had allowed the military to read and censor communications during World War II.
"Before I approved the Terrorist Surveillance Program, I wanted to ensure there would be safeguards to prevent abuses. I had no desire to turn the NSA into an Orwellian Big Brother. I knew the Kennedy brothers had teamed up with J. Edgar Hoover to listen illegally to the conversations of innocent people, including Martin Luther King, Jr. Lyndon Johnson had continued the practice. I thought that was a sad chapter in our history, and I wasn't going to repeat it...
"I gave the order to proceed with the program. We considered going to Congress to get legislation, but key members from both parties who received highly classified briefings on the program agreed that the surveillance was necessary and that legislative debate was not possible without exposing our methods to the terrorists."
"Initially, most captured al Qaeda fighters were held for questioning in battlefield prisons in Afghanistan. In November, CIA officers went to interrogate Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners detained at a primitive nineteenth-century Afghan fortress, Qala-i-Jangi. A riot ensued. Using weapons smuggled onto the complex, enemy fighters killed on of our officers, Johnny 'Mike" Spann, making him the first American combat death in the war.
"The tragedy highlighted the need for a secure facility to hold captured terrorists. There were a few options, none particularly attractive. For a while, we held al Qaeda detainees on Navy ships in the Arabian Sea. But that was not a viable long-term solution. Another possibility was to send the terrorists to a secure base on a distant island or U.S. territory, such as Guam. But holding captured terrorists on American soil could activate constitutional protections they would not otherwise receive, such as the right to remain silent. That would make it much more difficult to get the urgently needed intelligence.
"We decided to hold detainees at a remote naval station on the southern tip of Cuba, Guantanamo Bay. The base was on Cuban soil, but the United States controlled it under a lease acquired after the Spanish-American War. The Justice Department advised me that prisoners brought there had no right to access the U.S. criminal justice system. The area surrounding Guantanamo was inaccessible and sparsely populated. Holding terrorists in Fidel Castro's Cuba was hardly an appealing prospect. But as Don Rumsfeld put it, Guantanamo was the 'lease worst choice.'"
"While our humane treatment of the detainees was consistent with the Geneva Conventions, al Qaeda did not meet the qualifications for Geneva protection as a legal matter. The purpose of Geneva was to provide incentives for nation-states to fight wars by an agreed set of rules to protect human dignity and innocent life--and to punish warriors who do not. But the terrorists did not represent a nation-state. They had not signed the Geneva Conventions. Their entire mode of operation--intentionally killing the innocent--defied the principles of Geneva. And if al Qaeda captured an American, there was little chance they would treat him humanely."
"On March 28, 2002, I could hear excitement in George Tenet's voice. He reported that Pakistani police--with a hand from the FBI and CIA-- had launched a takedown operation against several al Qaeda safe houses in the Pakistani city of Faisalabad. They netted more than two dozen operatives, including Abu Zubaydah.
"I had been hearing reports about Aubaydah for months. The intelligence community believed he was a trusted associate of Osama bin Laden and a senior recruiter and operator who had run a camp in Afghanistan where some of the 9/11 hijackers had trained. He was suspected of involvement in previous plots to destroy targets in Jordan and blow up Los Angeles International airport. The CIA believed he was planning to attack America again.
"Zubaydah had been severely wounded in a gun battle prior to his arrest. The CIA flew in a top doctor, who saved his life. The Pakistanis then turned him over to our custody. The FBI began questioning Zubaydah, who had clearly been trained on how to resist interrogation. He revealed bits and pieces of information he thought we already knew...
"Then Zubaydah stopped answering questions. George Tenet told me interrogators believed Zubaydah had more information to reveal. If he was hiding something more, what could it be? Zubaydah was our best lead to avoid another catastrophic attack. 'We need to find out what he knows,' I directed the team. 'What are our options?'
"One option was for the CIA to take over Zubaydah's questioning and move him to a secure location in another country where the Agency wold have total control over his environment. CIA experts drew up a list of interrogation techniques that differed from those Zubaydah had successfully resisted. George assured me all interrogations would be performed by experienced intelligence professionals who had undergone extensive training. Medical personnel would be on-site to guarantee that the detainee was not physically or mentally harmed.
"At my direction, Deptartment of Justice and CIA lawyers conducted a careful legal reivew. They concluded that the enhanced interrogation program complied with the Constitution and all applicable laws, including those that ban torture.
"I took a look at the list of techniques. There were two that I felt went too far, even if they were legal. I directed the CIA not to use them. Another technique was waterboarding, a process of simulated drowning. No doubt the procedure was tough, but medical experts assured the CIA that it did no lasting harm...
"The new techniques proved highly effective. Zubaydah revealed large amounts of information on al Qaeda's structure and operations. He also provided leads that helped reveal the location of Ramzi bin al Shibh, the logistical planner of the 9/11 attacks. The Pakistani police picked him up on the first anniversary of 9/11.
"Zubaydah later explained to interrogators why he started answering questions again. His understanding of Islam was that he had to resist interrogation up to a certain point. Waterboarding was the technique that allowed him to reach that threshold, fulfill his religious duty, and then cooperate. 'You must do this for all the brothers,' he said."
"Pakistani forces raided the complex and hauled out their target. It was the chief operating officer of al Qaeda, the murderer of Danny Pearl, and the mastermind of 9/11: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
"I was relieved to have one of al Qaeda's senior leaders off the battlefield. But my relief did not last long. Agents searching Khalied Sheikh Mohammed's compound discovered what one official later called a 'mother lode' of valuable intelligence. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was obviously planning more attacks. It didn't sound like he was willing to give us any information about them. 'I'll talk to you,' he said, 'after I get to New York and see my lawyer.'
"George Tenet asked if he had permission to use enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. I thought about my meeting with Danny Pearl's widow, who was pregnant with his son when he was murdered. It thought about the 2,973 people stolen from their families by al Qaeda on 9/11. And I thought about my solemn duty to protect the county from another act of terror.
"'Damn right,' I said.
"Khalid Sheikh Mohammed proved difficult to break. But when he did, he gave us a lot. He disclosed plans to attack American targets with anthrax and directed us to three people involved in the al Qaeda biological weapons program. He provided information that led to the capture of Hambali, the chief of al Qaeda's most dangerous affiliate in Southeast Asia and the architect of the Bali terrorist attack that killed 202 people. He provided further details that led agents to Hambali's brother, who had been grooming operatives to carry out another attack inside the United States, possibly a West Coast version of 9/11 in which terrorists flew a hijacked plane into the Library Tower in Los Angeles.
"Years later, the Washington Post ran a front-page story about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's transformation. Headlined 'How a Detainee Became an Asset,', it described how Mohammed 'seemed to relish the opportunity, sometimes for hours on end, to discuss the inner workings of al-Qaeda and the group's plans, ideology and operatives. . . He'd even use a chalkboard at times.' The intelligence he provided, which proved to be vital to saving American lives, almost certainly would not have come to light without the CIA's enhanced interrogation program.
"Of the thousands of terrorists we captured in the years after 9/11, about a hundred were placed into the CIA program. About a third of those were questioned using enhanced techniques. Three were waterboarded."
These are just a few of the issues discussed in Bush's "Decision Points." It has been refreshing to hear him address the attacks from his critics and explain why he made the decisions he did. In every case, he has a sound logical argument for his decision that he arrived at with the consulation of experts.
If you agree with the philosophy of "terrorism as a crime to be prosecuted", I can see how you can disagree with his actions. But if you believe that we need to prevent terrorist attacks before they happen, I don't understand how you can disagree with his actions, given the facts, unless it is simply because he has an "R." out to the side of his name. (This is blaringly apparent by the fact that President Obama has continued the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and has maintained the prison at Guantanamo Bay, despite criticism from his supporters.)
President Bush made the decisions he did through the filter of 9/11 and protecting the country, whatever it took. Nobody can argue with the results. There has not been a single terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. I, for one, am grateful for President George W. Bush.