On September 11, 2001, I was woken up with a phone call from a friend who told me to turn on my TV because something terrible was happening in New York. For the next few days I was glued to my couch as I devoured every piece of detailed information that was available and tried to make some sense of this terrible tragedy. My experience was not unique. All across the country, people were shocked into near catatonia, searching desperately for some explanation for what had just happened and demanding that somebody be held responsible. At that time, it didn’t matter if we were Republican or Democrat. It didn’t matter whether we watched FOX or CNN. The only thing that mattered was that somebody had attacked our country and that deed could not go unpunished.
I am not someone who blames Bush unconditionally for not stopping the attacks on September 11. While I do believe that his detachment and disinterest in the details of being President may have been a contributing factor, our entire intelligence and law enforcement apparatus bears plenty of responsibility. Don’t get me wrong. I would have preferred that he had actually read the memo warning of attacks against the United States. I am just not convinced that based on that memo, he could have done anything meaningful to stop the attacks from going forward. The failure to stop the attacks was both a failure of leadership as well as a failure of the system.
The real failure of Bush’s Presidency is the fact that Osama Bin Laden is still at large and has never answered for his crimes. It is something that should infuriate the entire country every single day that he remains free and alive, but it is especially painful on the anniversary of his crimes. Bush promised to “get Bin Laden, dead or alive”, and the country believed him. He said his administration “will not tire when it comes to completing the missions that we said we would do”, and the country believed him. Yet here we have arrived at another Sept. 11th anniversary and Bush’s promise remains unfulfilled and his true mission un-accomplished.
Bush was a terrible president. He convinced the American public to wage an unnecessary war in Iraq through lies and disinformation. He let his subordinates play petty politics while the lives of American servicemen were at stake. He sat idly by while the entire financial system of this country nearly crumbled into dust. Most of all, he embarrassed this country nearly every day he held office. If he could have caught Bin Laden like he promised us, however, all his other sins might have been overshadowed by that one universally cathartic event. Accomplishing that one thing could have saved George W. Bush’s Presidency from going down in history as one of the worst in history and saved this country from having to go through the pain of another Sept. 11th anniversary without victory or vindication. Let us hope that along with all of the other tasks that the current President has on his agenda he makes the capture of Osama Bin Laden a priority and finally bring some closure to the last eight years of Bush’s failure.
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