He was right, and we did. Regardless of politics, Americans rallied to the president, looking to him for leadership and reassurance. Nobody was demanding accountability. Nobody blamed Bush. We just wanted the terrorists and their allies found and brought to justice.
Tragically, that wasn’t what happened.
Instead, Bush used 9/11 to justify the unnecessary invasion of Iraq and the occupation of Afghanistan, which continues today at a cost of 2,200 American lives and $1 trillion.
Meantime, Bush jammed through the Patriot Act while his lawyers wrote opinions approving torture and warrantless wiretaps.
Then, stunningly, Bush said he no longer cared about 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.
When Democrats questioned Bush’s actions and words, Attorney General John Ashcroft lashed out, saying, “Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America’s enemies, and pause to America’s friends.”
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle wondered aloud if America’s war on terror was flagging. Outraged Republican Rep. Tom Davis replied that Daschle’s, “divisive comments have the effect of giving aid and comfort to our enemies by allowing them to exploit divisions in our country.”
After it was disclosed that Bush had been warned in August 2001 about the probability of an al-Qaida attack using hijacked airliners and did nothing, Democrats demanded to know what other intelligence the administration had received before the attacks.
Dan Bartlett, Bush’s spokesman, responded by saying Democrats, “are (doing) exactly what … our enemies, want us to do.”
While far fewer died in the Boston bombing than on 9/11, it was a terrorist attack nonetheless. America remains at war with terror. But rather than “unite” and stand with President Obama, Republicans and the conservative media are wantonly politicizing the bombings.
So what’s changed for the GOP? Well, we have a Democrat in the White House who, unlike his predecessor, is successfully prosecuting the war on terror.
Yet, despite all the classified and unclassified evidence to the contrary, Republicans continue to blame the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi on Obama and possible 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Now they’re scrambling to pin the Boston bombings on the president.
“I just know the system is broken. The ultimate blame I think is with the administration,” Sen. Lindsay Graham last week.
GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert declared the Boston terrorists were successful because of Obama’s “political correctness.”
Jeffrey Kuhner of the far right Washington Times absurdly opined that Obama should be impeached because, “he refuses to acknowledge that we are in a war with radical Islam.”
For conservatives, it was treasonous to question Bush, but it is patriotic to lay blame for the Benghazi and Boston terrorist attacks on Obama.
But don’t these “tactics” give “ammunition to America’s enemies”? Aren’t Graham, Gohmert, and Kuhner doing “exactly what … our enemies want us to do,” “exploit(ing) divisions in our country”? Don’t their attacks “erode our national unity”?
And if Graham believes the system is broken, where was his outrage in 2005 after Bush’s Justice Department reported the FBI missed at least five chances to capture two of the 9/11 hijackers living in the U.S.?
The naked hypocrisy doesn’t stop there. Last week, when the George W. Bush Presidential Library was dedicated, conservatives attempting to rehabilitate the former president’s eight disastrous years, had declared Bush kept us safe after September 12.
That assurance doesn’t mean much to the families of the 2,977 innocent people murdered by al-Qaida terrorists on September 11.
Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, author and writer who lives in Kennesaw.