Friday, August 11, 2006

Worse than Journey

Yesterday, British police and intelligence officials arrested a number of Islamists who had planned to detonate bombs on airliners traveling between Britain and the U.S. The law enforcement officials had been tracking these guys for months, and the wannabe terrorists were never close to actually carrying out their plans. They were being followed every step of the way.

These guys clearly wanted to do what they were caught trying to do. They were all native Britons, yet were part of the alienated class of children of Pakistani immigrants who have become the chief recruits for Islamist in the U.K. And as a by the way, the fact that second generation immigrants in Europe feel more alienated than the first generation - the exact opposite is the case in the U.S. - should give us pause as the Republicans try to make American immigration policy more like Europe's.

That said, something more should give us pause here. It is not news that there are bad people in the world. It is not news that some will use violence and terrorist tactics, but as long as this was only going on among our urban underclass or was being carried out by government officials of former Confederate states, we looked the other way, or even supported it.

No what is unprecedented is the way our current Republican leadership has been willing to wring political advantage from these threats. I'd like to find a way to be light or witty about this but I just cannot. This can not be put down to "something all politicians do". No administration has ever politicized threats like this one.

It was so important that the President was willing to take a break from brush clearing to... smear Democrats. And what is worse is that the Administration officials knew these arrests were coming, and they had spent Wednesday calling the Democrats all kinds of names, ostensibly in response to the Connecticut Senate primary. But it turns out it really wasn't. They knew it was coming and took full political advantage. Read, please:

(The President's) remarks came a day after the White House orchestrated an exceptionally aggressive campaign to tar opposition Democrats as weak on terrorism, knowing what Democrats didn't: News of the plot could soon break.

Vice President Dick Cheney and White House spokesman Tony Snow had argued that Democrats wanted to raise what Snow called "a white flag in the war on terror," citing as evidence the defeat of a three-term Democratic senator who backed the Iraq war in his effort to win renomination.

But Bush aides on Thursday fought the notion that they had exploited their knowledge of the coming British raid to hit Democrats, saying the trigger had been the defeat of Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut by an anti-war political novice.

"The comments were purely and simply a reaction" to Democratic voters who "removed a pro-defense Senator and sent the message that the party would not tolerate candidates with such views," said Snow.

The public relations offensive "was not done in anticipation. It was not said with the knowledge that this was coming," the spokesman said.

Snow said Bush first learned in detail about the plot on Friday, and received two detailed briefings on it on Saturday and Sunday, as well as had two conversations about it with British Prime Minister.

But a senior White House official said that the British government had not launched its raid until well after Cheney held a highly unusual conference call with reporters to attack the Democrats as weak against terrorism.

An aide to Lieberman, who would have been one of the first Democrats to hear of the plot because he is the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said the lawmaker first heard of it late Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Cheney had suggested that Democrats believe "that somehow we can retreat behind our oceans and not be actively engaged in this conflict and be safe here at home, which clearly we know we won't, we can't, be," he said.

While some Democrats have opposed some steps in the war on terrorism, and more and more are calling for a withdrawal from Iraq, no major figures in the party have called for a wholesale retreat in the broader conflict.

But Bush's Republicans hoped the raid would yield political gains.

"I'd rather be talking about this than all of the other things that Congress hasn't done well," one Republican congressional aide told AFP on condition of anonymity because of possible reprisals.

"Weeks before September 11th, this is going to play big," said another White House official, who also spoke on condition of not being named, adding that some Democratic candidates won't "look as appealing" under the circumstances.

It's all there. Cynical calculation. Massively mendacious mischaracterization of your political opponents - or lyin', as they say in Texas. The willingness to subordinated everything, everything, to short term political advantage.

There is no way to spin this. This is bad. It is unprincipled. It is bad for our country. And worst of all, it is a stupidly inept way to address the real threat of Islamist terrorism.

These guys are worse than Journey.

1 comment:

Johan Maurer said...

Thank God someone's retained the capacity to be outraged. Thanks.