Column: Making the world a more dangerous place

By Jack McMillin

The central justification the Bush Administration and the Right have given for the war in Iraq, warrantless domestic spying, and the torture of prisoners is that these things make the American people safer. Since Sept. 11, Republicans have campaigned on the notion that they know best how to protect American lives. But Bush and the Republicans are less concerned with actually protecting American lives than with maintaining the illusion that they are.

President Bush led the United States to a war in Iraq where, so far, over 2600 American soldiers have died. Every reason that Bush and his neocon friends supplied for why we needed to go to war has been a lie.

Prior to the invasion of Iraq, al Qaida had no presence there; in fact Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden were enemies. The weapons of mass destruction we used to hear so much about never actually existed.

Remember, the WMDs weren’t something administration officials told us might be there. Cheney and Bush both said there was “no doubt” that Saddam had the weapons, and Rumsfeld even went so far as to claim that “we know where they are.” What would cause members of the Bush administration to lie as blatantly, and as repeatedly, as they did? Why does Bush reference the tragedy of Sept. 11 so often, and rarely other tragedies such as Hurricane Katrina?

The Republican Party has used terrorist acts against America and the threat of further destruction as a political tool. Bush’s approval rating peaked after Sept. 11 and used to jump whenever there was a terror warning (the recent discovery of the plot in Britain hasn’t caused an increase). The Republican strategy has been to keep Americans constantly reminded of external threats so that voters will run to the man with the gun for protection.

But six years with Republicans controlling every branch of government has not made American lives safer. Our military and intelligence resources are stretched thin because of our occupation of Iraq. The United States has been in Iraq for longer than it was involved in World War II, and if Bush has his way our troops won’t be coming home any time soon. The 43rd president will be remembered for ruining the reputation of America abroad, destabilizing the Middle East, and ignoring Hurricane Katrina until he realized it was a political liability.

Over 1800 Americans died because of Hurricane Katrina and an entire city was flooded. The threat that Katrina (or Corrina, if you’re Laura Bush) posed was evident to anyone diligent enough to watch The Weather Channel. Yet the President and his party did nothing to prevent this loss of life. The day Katrina struck, Bush was eating cake with John McCain and the day after he partied with country star Mark Willis. Later that night he returned to his ranch in Crawford to finish his vacation.

In October 2004, a study by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health estimated that over 100,000 Iraqi civilians were killed as a result of the war. This was almost two years ago. Imagine how many have died since, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated from an insurgency in its “last throes” to a full-blown civil war. Imagine how many in Iraq have lost friends or family due to an invasion they didn’t ask for and an occupation they can do nothing about. All this has cost 2,600 (and counting) American lives. Has the war in Iraq really made us safer?

The Bush Administration’s massive failure to respond to Hurricane Katrina and the President’s Nero-like disregard for the lives of Americans ought to bury the notion that Bush or his cronies are concerned with protecting us. The Republican Party has cynically used tragedy and fear to win votes, but the strategy seems to be running out of gas. As the war drags on, Americans are beginning to realize that Bush’s party isn’t looking out for them.