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  1. #1
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    "An Alternative September 11 History"

    An Alternative September 11 History

    by Jonathan Alter
    Newsweek

    Five years after 9/11, the world is surprisingly peaceful. President Bush's pragmatic and bipartisan leadership has kept the United States not just strong but unexpectedly popular across the globe. The president himself is poised to enjoy big GOP wins in the midterm elections, a validation of his subtle understanding of the challenges facing the country. A new survey of historians puts him in the first tier of American presidents.

    As Bush warned, catching terrorists wasn't easy, but he kept at it. At the battle of Tora Bora, CIA operatives on the ground cabled Washington that Osama bin Laden was cornered, but they desperately needed troop support. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld immediately dispatched fresh forces, and the evildoer was killed. While bin Laden was seen as a martyr in a few isolated areas, the bulk of the Arab world had been in sympathy with the United States after 9/11 and shed no tears. After their capture, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other 9/11 terrorists were transported to the United States, where they were tried and quickly executed.

    Today, Al Qaeda remains a threat but its opportunities for recruitment have been scarce, and the involvement of the entire international community has helped dramatically reduce terrorist attacks worldwide. Because Bush believes diplomacy requires talking to adversaries as well as friends, even Syria and Iraq were forced to help. By staying "humble," as he promised in 2000, he preserved much of the post-9/11 good feeling abroad, which paid dividends when it came time to pull together a coalition to handle North Korea and Iran.

    At home, some aides suggested that Bush simply tell the nation to "go shopping." But the president knew he had a precious opportunity to ask Americans for real sacrifice. He took John McCain's suggestion and pushed through Congress an ambitious national-service program that bolstered communities and helped train citizens as first responders.

    Soon Bush put the country on a Manhattan Project crash course to get off oil. He bluntly told Detroit that it was embarrassing that Chinese automakers had better fuel efficiency, he classified SUVs as cars, and he imposed a stiff gas tax with a rebate for the working poor. To pay for it, he abandoned his tax cuts for the wealthy, reminding the country that no president in history had ever cut taxes in the middle of a war. This president would be damned if he was going to put more oil money into the pockets of Middle Eastern hatemongers who had killed nearly 3,000 of our people. To dramatize the point, he drove to his 2002 State of the Union address in a hybrid car. Sales soared.

    When Karl Rove suggested that the war on terror would make a perfect wedge issue against Democrats in the 2002 midterms, Bush brought him up short. Didn't Rove understand that bipartisanship is good politics? Lincoln and FDR had both gone bipartisan during wartime, he reminded his aide. So when evidence of torture at the prison camp in Guantánamo Bay surfaced and Rumsfeld was forced to resign, former Democratic senator Sam Nunn got the job. With post-9/11 unity still at least partially intact in 2004, Bush was re-elected in a landslide.

    Taking a cue from Lincoln's impatience with his generals, Bush was merciless about poor performance on homeland security. When the head of the FBI couldn't fix the bureau's computers in a year's time to "connect the dots," he was out. And Bush had no patience for excuse-making about leaky port security, unsecured chemical plants and first responders whose radios didn't communicate. If someone had told him that five years after 9/11 these problems would still be unsolved, Bush would have laughed him out of the office.

    In 2003, Vice President Cheney advised the president to take out Iraq's Saddam Hussein militarily. But Bush was beginning to understand that his veep, while sounding full of gravitas, was in fact reckless. When it became clear that Saddam posed no imminent threat, Bush resolved to neuter him, Kaddafi style. When the president found, after a little asking around, that the 10-year cost of invading Iraq would be a crushing $1.2 trillion, he opted out of this war of choice.

    Five years after that awful September day, even Bush's fiercest critics have learned an important lesson: leadership counts. Imagine if we'd done the opposite of these things. This country—and the world—would be in a heap of trouble.
    Made me chuckle, and then weep.
    Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.

  2. #2
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    Re: "An Alternative September 11 History"

    ^^^
    While I'm sure someone else will have an opposite opinion, I feel that this is not revisionist or hindsight or Monday quarterbacking. I've always felt each and every decision made was weighed with knowledge of these options.

    Wouldn't it have been nice if Bush continued the leadership he showed with the Taliban via the points made by the OpEd piece.

  3. #3
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    Re: "An Alternative September 11 History"

    I don't see it so much as Monday-morning quarterbacking as I do assuming that some other specified actions would necessarily lead to the desired result.

    I've always been of the opinion that we should learn from the past, live in the present, and plan for the future. By this reasoning, I find it pointless to spend too much time conjecturing what could have been if we had done "X" rather than "Y". I prefer we spend our time planning what to do next based on what we have learned before. It's a subtle distinction, and it does require revisiting the past, but not for the creation of an OpEd piece designed to make someone look bad.

    Nah, if you look back fairly at the information available and the decisions of the time I believe there are already plenty of instances to make some of the administration's decisions look bad. Doing so is far more meaningful, IMHO, than generating a ficticious account of "what could have been".

    Anyway, these folks can pen tales of fantasy island all they wish. It will always strike me as little more than a slanted hack at the President. Why not simply bring up the more questionable decisions that were made and their very real results rather than weaving this fairly tale? I suppose it's little more than "to each their own".

  4. #4
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    Re: "An Alternative September 11 History"

    We had the world's sympathy and hardly anyone had any objections to the invasion of Afghanistan but I don't recall Iran or Syria signing up to help the coalition on that one. It would never be so simple and I think that gets glossed over in the op ed. I'd anticipate that countries would continue to object to any international(or as they call it imperial) pressure as they have always done especially in the near east.

  5. #5
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    Re: "An Alternative September 11 History"

    Quote Originally Posted by Orangutan View Post
    Made me chuckle, and then weep.
    Weep because we couldn't find anybody better than Bush in the election 2 years ago? Because if we had all indications are that person would've won by a landslide.

    Weep because both parties in congress have shown no gumption, proposed few real, valid solutions, but find plenty of time to bitch and moan and point fingers at each other?

    Chuckle because perhaps the above fantasy was achievable yet prevented because of partisan bickering.

    Chuckle because the cards of the world are lining up for confrontation, yet many fail to realize this and the above fantasy could never have come to pass from our actions alone.

    Wouldn't it have been nice if Bush continued the leadership he showed with the Taliban via the points made by the OpEd piece.
    And Congress as well. The Patriot Act was passed in a flash, and compared to most legislation in the past 5 years it's one of the best. Meanwhile rampant spending and pourous borders remain the norm. One could easily fault Bush for these points as well, but after listening to congressional leaders for the last few years I'm willing to spread the blame around.
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  6. #6
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    Re: "An Alternative September 11 History"

    Quote Originally Posted by smoked trout View Post
    And Congress as well. The Patriot Act was passed in a flash, and compared to most legislation in the past 5 years it's one of the best. Meanwhile rampant spending and pourous borders remain the norm. One could easily fault Bush for these points as well, but after listening to congressional leaders for the last few years I'm willing to spread the blame around.
    Fair enough. But let's remember that Patriot 1 was signed with Congress admitting it wasn't read. Patriot2 took more than 5 minutes as issues were worked out when we were watching Congress to make sure they were reading it.

    This issue at hand as pictured in this OpEd is the polarization that has occurred in this nation. It is contrived and brought on by this administration. If politics and reelection were not the prime reason for how we run things of late, then a bipartisan look could mean less rampant spending and porous borders to be the norm, imho.

  7. #7
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    Re: "An Alternative September 11 History"

    I'd agree if I didn't think politics has become an excercise an character assassination instead of issues. Much of the polarization, while you ascribe to the current admin, has been played up quite well by the opposition.

    Unfortunately it seems to work come election time, so there's nobody to blame but us voters.
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  8. #8
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    Re: "An Alternative September 11 History"

    Honestly, I think the Patriot Act is one of the worst doctrines this country has ever signed into existence.

    The Article is nice. I honestly think the outcome could have been that simple if only we attempted bipartisanship on both sides. Further proving that "neo cons" and "new-liberals" are all a bunch of rubbish.

  9. #9
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    Re: "An Alternative September 11 History"

    Quote Originally Posted by liquidsoul View Post
    Honestly, I think the Patriot Act is one of the worst doctrines this country has ever signed into existence.

    The Article is nice. I honestly think the outcome could have been that simple if only we attempted bipartisanship on both sides. Further proving that "neo cons" and "new-liberals" are all a bunch of rubbish.
    Wow. Just, Wow. Bi-partisanship ? I'm pretty sure we were full up on bipartisanship for at least 18 months. That being when there was open debate in Congress about Iraq, when we made open overtures to the UN for a resolution on Iraq with some teeth, and from blatant comments in support of invading Iraq by the likes of John Kerry and Hillary Clinton leading up to the invasion. They all had access to the same information Bush had. And they reached the same conclusion.

  10. #10
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    Re: "An Alternative September 11 History"

    Quote Originally Posted by liquidsoul View Post
    Honestly, I think the Patriot Act is one of the worst doctrines this country has ever signed into existence.
    I'd like to hear why.
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  11. #11
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    Re: "An Alternative September 11 History"

    They all had access to the same information Bush had. And they reached the same conclusion.
    No they didn't. The Intelligence Review had been heavily edited by the White House.


    "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them."
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  12. #12
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    Re: "An Alternative September 11 History"

    Quote Originally Posted by TheGlasMan View Post
    No they didn't. The Intelligence Review had been heavily edited by the White House.
    Thats a nice buzz line.. but EVERY official investigation say's you are wrong.
    "The most dangerous myth is the demagoguery that business can be made to pay a larger share, thus relieving the individual. Politicians preaching this are either deliberately dishonest, or economically illiterate, and either one should scare us...
    Only people pay taxes, and people pay as consumers every tax that is assessed against a business."


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  13. #13
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    Re: "An Alternative September 11 History"

    Quote Originally Posted by AMDScooter View Post
    Thats a nice buzz line.. but EVERY official investigation say's you are wrong.
    Maybe, Bush didn't bother with any intel that went against his ideas...therefore Congress never heard that intel.
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  14. #14
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    Re: "An Alternative September 11 History"

    You want to know what I think happens? History writers dont want to wait for history anymore.
    There was a time when history [ his story] was written after the fact by someone willing to take the time to examine all the "glimpses" most likely written honestly.
    But they are just glimpses. One character's take and observations at the time.
    But sheesh. We cant wait anymore. We live in a "instant truth" age.
    What an impossible demand.

  15. #15
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    Re: "An Alternative September 11 History"

    Quote Originally Posted by Soundforbjt View Post
    Maybe, Bush didn't bother with any intel that went against his ideas...therefore Congress never heard that intel.
    Oh... MAYBE... we basing arguments on MAYBE's now? MAYBE it wuz space aliens...
    "The most dangerous myth is the demagoguery that business can be made to pay a larger share, thus relieving the individual. Politicians preaching this are either deliberately dishonest, or economically illiterate, and either one should scare us...
    Only people pay taxes, and people pay as consumers every tax that is assessed against a business."


    -The Gipper


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