It was probably just a coincidence of timing that the National Intelligence Estimate detailing our failures in the war against the terrorist threat posed by Al Qaeda came out in the middle of Congress’ all night show of “stop the Iraq war” speeches.
The threat to us from Usama and his gang, to the surprise of almost no one, is coming primarily from Pakistan, which we’ve been largely ignoring, while we spend billions every day fighting a losing war in Iraq.
It isn’t just a gut feeling of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff that we’re in trouble: while much of the report was kept secret, the public part concluded that the United States would face a “persistent and evolving terrorist threat over the next three years.”
The war in Iraq has not only diverted our resources and attention from the threat we face from Al Qaeda, but actually exacerbated it, giving Islamists who never liked Saddam Hussein, and vice versa, more reason to hate us, and rally their faithful against us, not to mention turning Iraq into the safe haven and training ground that it has become for terrorists from everywhere.
Meantime, the greater danger to us, the report suggests and the White House doesn’t deny, comes from terrorists based in Pakistan, who are not focused on killing each other along with our soldiers, as they are in Iraq, but on killing Americans here at home.
Are we safer today than we were before George W. Bush was elected and re-elected? Try arguing that one. Putting aside the 9/11 disaster, which happened on his watch despite warnings that were ignored, we’ve lost over 3,000 Americans in a war that even its supporters describe as horribly unplanned and mismanaged; many thousands more have come home maimed for life, trying to find decent care in rat-infested hospitals; hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars have gone down the drain to fund the war, pay for mercenaries, and finance rebuilding projects that never happened or have been destroyed; Islamist terrorists have more excuses to hate us as hostile occupiers who they hold responsible for tens of thousands of dead Muslims; the military is strained, and middle-aged reservists are being sent to fight a war they aren’t trained for and can’t win; and the greater terrorist threat we face is being all but ignored.
Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, things are just hunky dory.
Imagine what Republicans would be saying if Hillary Clinton had created this big a mess?
This week’s all-night Congressional show was an effort by Democrats to prove to their own constituents, at least, that they’re trying to do something to stop the war. So Speaker Nancy Pelosi lead a march, and the senators slept on cots and ate pizza, and a few soundbites made it on to TV.
My Democratic friends are frustrated that the Congress we supposedly “control” can’t seem to do anything to stop the war. Cindy Sheehan, sympathetic mother and much-mocked leader of the anti-war movement, is threatening to run against Pelosi if she doesn’t try to impeach the president, as if putting Dick Cheney who may be even more invested in the Iraq war than George W. Bush is, would solve anything.
The only thing that could make the Congress even less popular than it is right now is watching the same people who argued against using impeachment as a political tool to weaken your opponent just a few short years ago wasting time doing it themselves now that the sides have changed.
I’m a professional arguer, but even I wouldn’t try to take that one on. I can still remember all my great lines about what “high crimes and misdemeanors” were, and more importantly, weren’t.
The truth is that Democrats would stop the war if they could. But they can’t. Even if Congress could tell the Commander-in-Chief how to spend the military budget, or not, even if too many Democrats weren’t still worried about being accused of not supporting the troops or somehow being the party that’s weak on defense, the fact is that we don’t really control Congress.
The way the Senate works, it takes 60 votes, not 51, to bring anything to a vote, which means that it’s up to the Republicans to stop this war.
The only question is what it will take for them to have the guts to do it. How much danger do we have to be in before Michael Chertoff’s gut feeling translates into a demonstration of real guts by enough Republicans to convince this president that we need to be focused on the real war on terror, not the one we’re losing in Iraq?
Susan Estrich is the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California. She was Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the first woman President of the Harvard Law Review. She is a columnist for Creators Syndicate and has written for USA Today and the Los Angeles Times.
Estrich's books include the just published “Soulless,” “The Case for Hillary Clinton,” “How to Get Into Law School,” “Sex & Power,” “Real Rape,” “Getting Away with Murder: How Politics Is Destroying the Criminal Justice System” and "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women.”
She served as campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' presidential bid, becoming the first woman to head a U.S. presidential campaign. Estrich appears regularly on the FOX News Channel, in addition to writing the “Blue Streak” column for FOXNews.com.