Bush policies not making us safer

As George W. Bush and Dick Cheney claimed their policies were making Americans safer, the death toll of U.S. soldiers in Iraq topped 1,000.

Democratic candidate John Kerry called it a “tragic milestone.” Bush ignored the number, insisting, “Our strategy is succeeding.”

The war dead include youths just out of high school, with their whole lives ahead of them, like 19-year-old David Burridge of Lafayette, La., who graduated last year. Burridge was one of seven Marines killed Sept. 6, one of the deadliest days for U.S. troops in months.

The dead include Sgt. Ryan Campbell, 25, of Kirksville, Mo., who joined the National Guard along with his best friend several years ago, and enlisted in the Army in February 2002. He had graduated from Truman State University and planned to attend graduate school after completing his military service.

Campbell’s one-year assignment to Iraq was due to end April 25. On April 11, Campbell e-mailed his sister to tell her his tour of duty had been involuntarily extended. “Just do me one big favor, OK?” he wrote. “Don’t vote for Bush. No. Just don’t do it. I would not be happy with you.” Campbell was killed April 29.

St. Paul, Minn., firefighter Tim Wirth takes a dim view of the Iraq war as a way to fight terrorism. He notes that many firefighters are National Guard members and reservists who have been activated and sent overseas, including six of his unit’s members. “I don’t see where killing people is going to make [others] less likely to be angry at us,” he said.

Wirth told the World he was “repulsed” by Cheney’s Sept. 7 assertion that a vote for Kerry could trigger another terrorist attack. Cheney told a group in Des Moines that if voters “make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we’ll get hit again and we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating.” Wirth said, “The current administration hasn’t done a thing – in fact, they’ve hurt.”

International Association of Fire Fighters spokesperson Jim McBride told the World Bush’s budget for the next year cuts homeland security funding for first responders by $700 million from current levels. Already, two-thirds of fire departments across the country are understaffed according to national fire fighting standards, McBride said.

“In terms of protecting the public, this administration has not come through since Sept. 11.”

Bob McIlvaine lost his son Bobby, 26, in the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attack. McIlvaine expressed his “anguish, anxiety, anger” over Cheney’s remark and charged that Bush and Cheney are using the 9/11 tragedy to fan “war fever and a “fear factor” among voters. It was “so upsetting” that the Republicans used images of the Sept. 11 aftermath to introduce Bush’s convention speech, he said. “We must remember that he failed to protect 3,000 people. They keep using the war on terror as their only platform, yet he failed miserably.”

McIlvaine believes there has been “a monumental cover-up” of the Bush administration’s actions before and after the attacks. Citing evidence contained in the 9/11 Commission report that Bush ignored pre-9/11 warnings, McIlvaine said, “I still want to know why my son was murdered.”

Based on extensive talks with military, intelligence and diplomatic figures involved with U.S. anti-terrorism efforts, journalist James Fallows reports in the October Atlantic Monthly that “among national security professionals, there is surprisingly little controversy.” Except for those in government and the “opinion industry” whose job is to defend the administration, these professionals “tend to see America’s response to 9/11 as a catastrophe.”

Fallows writes, “I have sat through arguments among soldiers and scholars about whether the invasion of Iraq should be considered the worst strategic error in American history — or only the worst since Vietnam.” But about the conduct and effect of the war, he says, “one view prevails: it has increased the threats America faces, and has reduced the military, financial and diplomatic tools with which we can respond.”

Responding to claims by Bush and Cheney that they have made America safer, Iowa AFL-CIO President Mark Smith said angrily, “I don’t think anybody feels a damn bit safer.” Speaking by phone from his office in Des Moines, Smith took a cynical view of the administration’s war on terror.

“Every time Kerry gets a point in the polls, there’s another terror alert.” The Iraq war was a mistake with a big long-term cost, Smith said. “This preemptive war is being fought by the children of working people.”

Smith and others see the GOP focus on terror as seeking to divert attention from the issues that worry people most — the economy and health care.

Joel Nilsestuen, AFL-CIO Labor 2004 coordinator for northern and western Wisconsin, said the Bush war on terror mantra is having some effect in his area.

“To some degree, it’s shifting people’s attention from pocketbook issues,” he told the World. But he said union activists out pounding the pavement for Kerry don’t try to sidestep the issue.

“We talk it through a little, tell people to take a little closer look,” he said. “We point out that tough talk by itself doesn’t necessarily make us safer.” With so many union members having sons and daughters in Iraq, he asks, “Is going to Iraq making us safer?”

It’s telling, Nilsestuen said, that many veterans — “more than you might expect” — are coming to help get the vote out for Kerry. “We’ve got some people who are really looking for a change. They’re really fed up,” he said. “They feel like we’re under attack by the Bush administration.”

The author can be reached at suewebb@pww.org.click here for Spanish text


Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.