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One year later: Does Bush understand the war?
[September 8, 2002]

By Nicholas Provenzo

The AP reports President Bush's overall approval rating has slid steadily downward over the summer, largely because of a withering of support in the way he is conducting foreign policy. According to a CBS News-New York Times poll released Saturday, a near-majority of Americans think President Bush lacks a clear plan to carry out the war on terrorism. It found 54 percent support his foreign policy. Only two months ago 68 percent approved his foreign policy and last fall the level stood at almost three-fourths approval.

The reason for dropping polls and lack of clarity is the very way the Bush administration perceives the war. President Bush made a key revelation in a July speech intending to affirm the US war effort. Speaking before Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, President Bush said:

"This President understands what I know, that we've entered a new type of war. We're hunting down people that will hide in a cave, but send youngsters to their death—that's what they'll do. These are international criminals, and we're going to treat them like international criminals. We going to get 'em on the run, and we're going to keep them on the run until we bring them to justice." (Italics added)

The problem is, the terrorists are no mere international criminals. The terrorists enjoy the tacit support of several nation-states (to included the support of our so-called ally of Saudi Arabia), and they enjoy the support of the Arab street. The terrorists are the manifestation of the way the most backward and despotic people of the world fight—no enemy could ever hope to beat the US militarily, but it can take action to humiliate us. For such an enemy to succeed, the US must be weak—and weak we have been.

Why has it taken almost a year for even the debate on Iraq to begin? Why is a supposed ally like Saudi Arabia still funneling money to terrorists? Why is Iran still allowed to support terrorism? Afghanistan fell in the space of a month—why has no substantive action been taken against other threats since then? If ever there was a catalyst for the US to press its rights in the Middle East, the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon was such a catalyst. So why then the drift, and why the failure to effectively convince in those rare moments when a policy is decided upon?

I think it is because the US underestimates the threats against it and has simply become too timid to defend its freedom. Consider the nature of the current objections to the war in Iraq. Some say we require the agreement of our allies and the permission of the United Nations. Some say that it is unacceptable that innocent civilians may be killed in any war we fight. And some say that the US has no right to topple the government of another nation. There are literal host of objections proffered against the US attacking Iraq.

What we don't hear much about is the fundamental truth of US policy: the goal of US foreign policy is to protect the individual rights of American citizens. The US has every right remove any threat to its security, preemptively, or not. In the case of Iraq, Saddam has no right to rule; he is a despot who long ago forfeited the right to his crown. The mere hint that he is attempting to build weapons of mass destruction is sufficient alone for the US to act against him. And any death that is wrought on the innocent people of Iraq is wrought by his conduct, not ours.

So where are the passionate people making these arguments? Where are the people who are willing to stand up on soap boxes in the town square and communicate these truths until they are too exhausted to speak? There have been thousands of rallies mourning the dead on September 11th, but there has not been one compelling war rally. It's almost as if we are embarrassed to defend ourselves.

No country unwilling to take action to defend its most basic rights can long survive. If 9/11 was a wake up call, we need to look at the last year and realize that we still don't get it. The US does need leadership—now more than ever. President Bush has been granted the support of a nation shocked by the attacks on our soil. If he is to maintain it, he must recognize and carry out his mission—both the moral and physical defense of our freedoms from the threats against them.

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