Today is the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States and it’s appropriate to reflect on that terrible day and its implications on current American policy and politics.
Let me begin by noting that I have now seen both of the highly publicized movies dealing with the attack – “United 93” and “World Trade Center.” I saw the “World Trade Center” movie over Labor Day weekend and found it deeply compelling. It was tastefully done and reminded us all about the heroism of ordinary people who were doing their job to protect the public.
As I observed in my earlier column about the “United 93” film, I do not think it is too early to revisit what happened that day as long as the movies are faithful to the actual events and are produced with a sensitivity to the feelings of the families involved. Both films clearly qualify. “World Trade Center” is stark and may be more than some people who lived through that day will want to see, even now.
However, both films continue to serve as a reminder that there are people in the world capable of doing great harm to our nation and we must be ever vigilant in defending against any future attacks on our own shores. Both political parties fully understand this and have supported funding for vital homeland security measures.
This brings us to the current political context of the 9/11 attack and this year’s Congressional elections.
I, for one, resent how President Bush and his Republican echo chamber have tried to merge the war on terror with the war in Iraq and use it as a political diversionary tactic to avoid responsibility for overall incompetence.
It is now quite clear that Saddam Hussein and Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Any effort to link the two has been debunked by all serious observers who have looked at the historical record.
President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld are currently trying to argue that when Democrats (and an increasing number of dissident Republicans) call for a phased U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, they are abandoning the war on terror. Rumsfeld even went so far as to equate such action with appeasement of the Nazi’s during World War II.
The war on terror started in Afghanistan where Usama was hiding out after the 9/11 attack. It is now clear that we dropped the ball by not concentrating sufficient forces in Afghanistan to find Usama early on when we had him cornered.
Instead, we diverted forces from Afghanistan to invade Iraq. And now, three and a half years later we are bogged down in Iraq with no end in sight.
There clearly are international terrorists in Iraq today but there also are a number of homegrown religious zealots vying for control of their own country. Many of these individuals are nationalists who were not part of the original terror attacks but who hate the United States because of our continued involvement in their country’s affairs.
We need to devote all resources necessary to make our airports, ports, trains, cities and power plants safe from terrorist attack in the future. To imply that Democrats are not committed to this effort simply because they don’t want to “stay the course” in Iraq is absurd and the rankest kind of demagoguery.
We did the right thing in encouraging Israel to root out the Hezbollah terrorists in Southern Lebanon. And we are doing the right thing in attempting to mobilize international opinion against the development of nuclear weapons in Iran and in attempting to prevent the North Koreans from further developing their nuclear arsenal.
Democrats and Republicans agree on both these points. For Republicans to argue that Democrats won’t keep us safe from Iranian and North Korean nuclear threats because Democrats don’t want to stay in Iraq indefinitely is an exercise in demagoguery of the first order, and a cynical effort to divert attention from the incompetence that has plagued the Bush administration’ strategy in Iraq.
The movies were tasteful and appropriate. The conduct of the Bush Administration in attempting to equate a highly unpopular Iraq war with our Nation’s fight against terrorism is an affront to decency and contrary to fact.
Martin Frost served in Congress from 1979 to 2005, representing a diverse district in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. He served two terms as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, the third-ranking leadership position for House Democrats, and two terms as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Frost serves as a regular contributor to FOX News Channel and is a partner at the law firm of Polsinelli, Shalton, Welte and Suelthaus. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a law degree from the Georgetown Law Center.