Terror Politics

Ken AshfordBush & Co., Disasters, War on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

I've largely refrained from posting about the Bush White House ever since Obama became president, but sometimes my self-imposed ban is hard to maintain.

Now that Bush is out of office, we're finding that the actual illegalities are just as bad, if not worse, than imagined.  The firings of the U.S. attorneys, for example, were politically motivated and were orchestrated from within the White House.  And today, we learned that Blackwater was contracted by the CIA to conduct overseas assassination, something which clearly violates U.S law.  And later this week, we're going to learn more about our torture practices.

And also today, we learn this about Tom Ridge, the very first head of the post-9/11 Department of Homeland Security [The source? Ridge himself, in a new book]:

  • He was never invited to sit in on National Security Council meetings;
  • He was "blindsided" by the FBI in morning Oval Office meetings because the agency withheld critical information from him;
  • He found his urgings to block Michael Brown from being named head of FEMA ignored; and
  • He was pushed to raise the security alert on the eve of President Bush's re-election, something he saw as politically motivated and worth resigning over.

For some reason, this last one gets to me.  It's a clear admission of GOP's use of scare tactics to influence politics, in this case, a national election.  We still see that tactic used effectively today.

Also, reflect on the meaning of that last item — it was more important to the Bush Administration to win re-election than to have an accurate Terrorist Alert Level.

That's patriotism?

UPDATE:  It should be noted that the request to heighten the terrorism allert level came from Ashcroft and Rumsfeld, while the DHS's security experts and Ridge argued against.  It should also be that Ridge won.  He now writes:

"I believe our strong interventions had pulled the 'go-up' advocates back from the brink… But I consider the episode to be not only a dramatic moment in Washington's recent history, but another illustration of the intersection of politics, fear, credibility and security."