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Posts Tagged ‘Peter King’

For much of the last decade, the Republican line about liberals has been that whenever we downplayed the urgency of the so-called terrorist threat (or dared to criticize then-President Bush for that matter) we were somehow emboldening the terrorists.

For example, during the 2004 campaign, John Kerry was annihilated by the Dick Cheney wingnut right when he said, “We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they’re a nuisance.”

Oh holy hell! Kerry said what?!

He was exactly right, of course, both strategically and rhetorically. The senator was outlining how we ought to be simultaneously destroying al-Qaeda and, in the “home of the brave,” we ought to be acting like grown-ups rather than a nation of scared little pee-pants infants frightened of unseen toe monsters lurking under the bed.

Cheney and others, in response to Kerry, were very clearly implying that terrorism was always going to be a serious and existential threat to America — that we have every right to be both terrified and terrorized — therefore we absolutely have to torture people, undermine the rule of law, preemptively invade sovereign nations and, naturally, elect Republicans in order to be safe.

What the far-right has never grasped, however, is that the whole point of a terrorist attack isn’t necessarily to kill people. The point is to terrorize. Scott Shanes in the New York Times quoted a former Homeland Security and CIA official:

“We give comfort to our enemies,” said Charles E. Allen, a 40-year C.I.A. veteran who served as the top intelligence official at the Department of Homeland Security from 2007 to early last year. Exaggerated news coverage and commentary, he said, “creates an atmosphere of tension and fear, and to me that’s exactly the wrong way to go.”

Fareed Zakaria spelled it out even further this week:

The purpose of terrorism is to provoke an overreaction. Its real aim is not to kill the hundreds of people directly targeted but to sow fear in the rest of the population. Terrorism is an unusual military tactic in that it depends on the response of the onlookers. If we are not terrorized, then the attack didn’t work. Alas, this one worked very well.

In the case of the Underpants Bomber, by collectively losing our shit and inflating a minor fracas out of proportion — by acting as though this was a major bloody attack and subsequently acquiescing to full body scans and further violations of our civil liberties, we’re handing al-Qaeda an easy victory. The attempt was a failure, but the overreaction in its aftermath turned it into an easy win for al-Qaeda.

Good job, Republicans. Good job, Fox News.

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The Republican record on terrorism is pretty damn terrible. Naturally, this hasn’t stopped them from milking whatever remains of their purely cosmetic tough-guy reputation in order to fear-monger the failed Underpants Bomber incident irrespective of their lengthy history of failure, cowardice and stupidity on the issue.

I think we all understand and begrudgingly accept that Americans have a short attention span, and an even shorter memory, but the Republicans are really counting on it as they exploit the post-underpants freakout.

For example, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) said the other day:

I’m hopeful that the president will become forceful, that we will return back to the direction where we are prosecuting the war on terror

I know. It doesn’t read very well, but the senator was suggesting that we go back to the way the Bush/Cheney team ran the “war on terror” — that the previous administration’s strategy was much more effective. Another attempt to sell the inaccurate notion that shit-kicker boots, a southern drawl, a waterboard and hillbilly bumper-sticker justice succeeded in knocking al-Qaeda into oblivion.

Wrong.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new threat assessment from U.S. counterterrorism analysts says that al-Qaeda has used its safe haven along the Afghan-Pakistan border to restore its operating capabilities to a level unseen since the months before Sept. 11, 2001.
A counterterrorism official familiar with a five-page summary of the document — titled “al-Qaeda better positioned to strike the West” — called it a stark appraisal. The analysis will be part of a broader meeting at the White House on Thursday about an upcoming National Intelligence Estimate.

This wasn’t some sort of early, post-9/11 assessment that can be scapegoated on the Clinton administration. If you recall, this NIE was released to the press in July of 2007. A year and a half before President Obama was elected, six and a half years after Bill Clinton left office, and six and a half years into the Bush presidency.

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