Thursday, July 08, 2004

The White House is politicizing the "war on terror"

Why you're right:

1. White House officials encouraged the Pakistani government to capture high-ranking members of al-Qaeda during the Democratic convention in July. According to a well-sourced article by The New Republic, a White House aide told a Pakistani general last spring "'it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT [high value target] were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July' – the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston." Another intelligence official explained "'no timetable[s]' were discussed in 2002 or 2003--but the November election is apparently bringing a new deadline pressure to the hunt." (The New Republic)

2. The White House has timed political events to coincide with dates that evoke memories of 9/11. In March, the president paired the ground-breaking ceremony of the 9/11 memorial with a fundraiser that raised $1.6 million for his re-election campaign. He has also pushed back the Republican political convention to lead up to the 3-year anniversary of 9/11. (The Journal News, New York Times)

3. The president has sold photos of himself on 9/11 to raise money for his re-election campaign. In May 2002, the National Republican Congressional Committee offered pictures of Bush on 9/11 talking on the telephone aboard Air Force One. The photo was available only "to donors who contribute at least $150 and attend a fund-raising dinner with Bush and the first lady next month." (CNN)

Why they're wrong:

1. The New Republic article is not a baseless conspiracy theory. It is triple-sourced and coauthored by two respected journalists and a correspondent on the ground in Pakistan.(New Republic)

2. The timing of the campaign and political fundraisers is not "coincidental." The New York Times reported that scheduling the GOP convention back-to-back with the 9/11 anniversary "complete[s] the framework for a general election campaign that is being built around national security and Mr. Bush's role in combating terrorism." (New York Times)

3. The use of the photos is not harmless. It is a slap in the face to the families of the victims of 9/11. The value of the photo to campaign contributors is derived – at least in part – from the thousands of people who lost their lives on the day the photo was shot.

A better idea:

When issues of national security are at stake, decisions should not be made in order to gain a political advantage.