As we watched the President announce the death of Osama Bin Laden, a fellow federal guest remarked he was amazed at the damage one person could do to the United States. I realized Bin Laden had done relatively little damage himself. The real harm was the result of friendly fire.
It is estimated Bin Laden spent about $500,000 to conduct the attacks of September 11th. In return for t his investment in terror, almost 3,000 people were killed, the World Trade Center destroyed, the Pentagon hit and employees killed and a field in Pennsylvania was damaged. The death and destruction were horrible and tragic, but even Bin Laden himself could not have imagined the ripples of fear and paranoia, which washed across this land fomented by Americans themselves. Or could he?
Did Bin Laden time his attack to coincide with the administration of George W. Bush? Did he know Bush and Cheney, and the Project on a New American Century crowd (PNAC), would seize upon his action to gin up an excuse to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. At the time of his attack, America had a budget surplus, low unemployment and there were talks of a peace dividend. After his attack, Bush pushed through tax cuts for the rich to the tune of $1.3 trillion and started two wars, which will cost well over $2 trillion when, and if, they are over?
Was it just regressive serendipity the attacks of September 11th occurred with Dick Cheney in office as America's first prime minister? Cheney, still angry the first President Bush didn't go to Baghdad and take out Saddam Hussein, (Bush said Hussein wasn’t worth one additional American life), considered the Presidency a weak-kneed, sissy-nancy compared to the days of Reagan. Congress had eviscerated the Executive and he was on a quest to restore it to its former glory. Bin Laden allowed Cheney and his acolytes, Chu...LIbby...Feith...Wolfowitz...Ashcroft...Rumsfeld...Hadley...Rice...Pearl and others, to promulgate policies which resulted in seriously weakening the civil liberties of Americans and weakened the system of checks and balances the founding fathers considered so crucial to preserving the republic. Signing statements rendered the legislative branch impotent. White House counsel opinions allowed the President to engage in torture and ignore treaties we signed and international law we championed. Secret, warrantless wiretaps and Internet surveillance eliminated judicial review over the executive.
When Congress did act, it was as a rubber stamp for administration initiatives. Is it a coincidence within months of September 11th, there was finished legislation written which codified into law every regressives wet dream...the Patriot Act? This lightening quick congressional action battered the 4th amendment beyond recognition. The party of limited government now signed into law a bill which allowed the executive and its agencies to enter your home, bug your computer, mine your email and internet activity, listen in on your cell phone, require all cell phones to have a GPS chip, demand your library records and all of this without every having to inform you or allow you to contest this massive invasion of privacy. The FBI was able to use national security letters, which we now know they abused repeatedly, to investigate citizens and incarcerate anyone who revealed they had been asked questions or provided information about you. American citizens were arrested and put in jail without access to counsel and with no right to Habeas Corpus. Now that is what you call terrorism.
We will never know what Bin Laden thought would happen after September 11th. He knew one attack would not destroy this country. Did he also know American are easily frightened and they will genuflect to anyone who comes along promising to protect them? Did he know us that well? Did he know a $500,000 investment would enable a cabal of like-minded folks to weaken this country from within? No enemy of America ever invested so little and got so much in return.
The America which ended Bin Laden's life is weaker, more divided, less secure and less hope-filled than it was the morning of September 11th. Almost all of this damage has been self-inflicted; we did it to ourselves; Bin Laden had nothing to do with our current condition. As you rejoice in his demise, ask yourself where the real threat to the nation's security resides? Was Pogo right?