Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 28, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

SERIOUS ABOUT OSAMA....Speaking of Osama, this is the second time recently that I've seen a story like this:

President Bush has approved a plan to intensify the effort to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, senior administration and military officials say, as a combination of better intelligence, improving weather and a refocusing of resources away from Iraq has reinvigorated the hunt along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The plan will apply both new forces and new tactics to the task, said senior officials in Washington and Afghanistan who were interviewed in recent days. The group at the center of the effort is Task Force 121, the covert commando team of Special Operations forces and Central Intelligence Agency officers. The team was involved in Saddam Hussein's capture and is gradually shifting its forces to Afghanistan to step up the search for Mr. bin Laden and Mullah Muhammad Omar, the former Taliban leader.

To the extent that this is a result of Pervez Musharraf finally deciding to get more serious about the Taliban and al-Qaeda, it's good news. But to the extent that it's the result of the United States finally getting more serious and "refocusing" on Osama, all I can say is, what the hell?

One of the things that war skeptics have been saying for a long time is that Iraq distracted us from Job 1: capturing Osama, wiping out al-Qaeda, and putting the Taliban firmly out of business. The Bushies deny it. But the denials really don't wash. There's just too much evidence that resources were pulled out of Afghanistan as early as spring 2002, that our commitment to Afghanistan has been weak and our ongoing operations have been starved for funding and manpower, and that the administration has been suspiciously unwilling to lean hard on Musharraf. They were just too damn obsessed with Iraq.

I don't know how long it will be before we really know everything that happened after 9/11, but I suspect that history's judgment of the Bush administration will not be kind. In fact, Dennis Hastert's admission that they don't want the findings of the 9/11 commission to be released during the campaign is a tacit admission that they already know the facts won't reflect well on them.

The Bush administration's record on terror has been amazingly flimsy, all bluster and very little genuine progress. John Kerry has shown a bit more willingness lately to go beyond the defensive and demonstrate ways that he would be tougher on terrorism than Bush and I hope he keeps it up. It's not a subject we should dodge, it's a subject in which we should show how we can do better than the Republicans. Getting serious about al-Qaeda would be a good start.

UPDATE: In comments, Chris Conroy asks what Kerry has been saying lately that I like so much. Here's the terrorism speech that he delivered at UCLA yesterday. I thought it was pretty good.

Kevin Drum 11:18 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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