Change? You Bet
(or Why I Am a Compassionate Democrat)
October 1, 2002
By Stephen Sacco
There is no question in my mind. "Regime change" (as the
catch phrase goes) is justified, perhaps even necessary. Should
we continue to sit by idly as a man who seized power, without
the support of the majority of the people in a free election,
calls for war and, most important, is in possession of weapons
of mass destruction? No, we must not.
George W. Bush has got to go. Fortunately we have only to
vote to effect this regime change.
This Democrat wants to give a little advice to his Republican
friends out of sympathy: dump Bush for your own good. I know
that I've brought tears to the eyes of all the right-wingers
with my magnanimous offer of counsel. (What can I say? I'm
a compassionate Democrat.) However, before you stop reading,
hear me out.
The tragically flawed policies of George W. Bush are of concern
to all Americans regardless of party affiliation. At present,
there are several stories in the media that need to be given
A misguided policy toward terrorism before 9/11. First
there was the Newsweek cover story in late May of this year
titled "What Bush Knew." Now, congressional investigators
have discovered, according to the Associated Press (AP), "American
intelligence agencies received far more reports of terrorists
plotting to use planes as weapons" than was previously acknowledged.
Also, according to the AP, congressional committee members
looking into 9/11 are frustrated by "what they see as lack
of cooperation by the administration."
In early August Time magazine asked, "Could 9/11 Have
Been Prevented?" Time chronicles how a Clinton administration
plan to fight al-Qaeda was neglected by the Bush administration.
Sandy Berger, Clinton's national security adviser, reportedly
told Bush's new national security adviser, Condoleeza Rice,
in January of 2001, "I believe that the Bush administration
will spend more time on terrorism generally and on al-Qaeda
specifically, than any other subject." Unfortunately, this
was not the case.
We will never know if 9/11 could have been prevented. We
do know, however, that danger of a terrorist attack on U.S.
soil did not receive proper attention from the upper levels
of government. The Bush administration spent a year focusing
on isolationist policies such as the SDI (Strategic Defense
Initiative, commonly known as Star Wars) at the expense of
concerns about terror.
They did this despite warnings given to them by Sandy Berger
and the fact that Foreign Affairs, a professional journal
for policy experts, printed an article in 1998 titled "Catastrophic
Terrorism: Tackling the New Danger." There is no excuse for
our public officials being unaware of the danger.
The moral responsibility for the destruction and loss of
life is that of the perpetrators and I in no way seek to imply
otherwise. Yet, Mr. Bush is responsible for U.S. policy and
he simply made the wrong decision, or rather made no decision
at all. His administration did not identify the most serious
menace to our safety. This is a failure of leadership and
a political price should be paid. Mr. Bush spoke about "personal
responsibility" for one's decisions during his campaign, but
so far we have seen no responsibility taken by Mr. Bush.
Osama bin Laden is alive and well. In July of this
year there were several news reports of Osama bin Laden's
health. India's secret service reported he was in Pakistan.
Germany's intelligence agency also said bin Laden was alive
and hiding somewhere between the border region of Pakistan
and Afghanistan. On September 13 of this year CBS News reported
that at least two-thirds of al-Qaeda's top leadership remains
Most disturbing of all, Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based
Arabic newspaper Al-Quds, was quoted by the BBC as
saying bin Laden was "in good health" and "will make another
appearance only after his people attack the Americans again."
Mr. Atwan claimed to get this information directly from al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is in the money. The U.N. group in charge
of monitoring the implementation of sanctions released a draft
of their report on terrorist funding. In it they conclude
that al-Qaeda has a global investment portfolio that is valued
at anything between $30m and $300m. The report warns that
al-Qaeda is "poised to strike again how and where it chooses.
It continues to pose a significant threat to international
peace and security."
The U.S. Treasury has stated this report was based on limited
and sometimes out-of-date information, yet did not dispute
the scale of the challenge described in the U.N. report.
However, the Bush administration has decided not to focus
its attention on bringing bin Laden to justice or rooting
out and confiscating al-Qaeda's funds. Instead it focuses
on Iraq and Saddam Hussein. According to CBSNews.com, correspondent
David Martin discovered that barely five hours after the Pentagon
was hit Mr. Rumsfeld was telling his aides to come up with
a plan to attack Iraq. Notes of a meeting have Mr. Rumsfeld
saying, "Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not."
Is this wise? It is beyond the scope of this report to discuss
all the pros and cons of war with Iraq. Nevertheless, given
the buzz about bin Laden's planned reappearance and al-Qaeda's
full coffers does it make sense that the United State allocate
its resources to a war with Iraq?
There is also the likelihood that al-Qaeda, in order to galvanize
support in the Arab world, will try to time subsequent terrorist
attacks on the United States with an American strike at Saddam.
In addition to this there's the possibility that Afghanistan
or Pakistan may fall into less friendly hands. We could find
ourselves fighting many enemies. Trying to attack on too many
fronts is a classic strategic mistake.
This seems to be another lapse in priorities in the Bush
Anti-American sentiment on the rise. A year ago the
world stood with us. At Buckingham Palace the changing of
the guard, for the first time ever, was discharged to the
tune of the Star Spangled Banner. A year later we look around
and wonder where that good will has gone and how it eroded
The Bush administration has withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol
on global warming, has failed to ratify the Rio Pact on biodiversity,
has withdrawn from the ABM treaty and is opposed to the international
ban on land mines and the International Criminal Court. At
every instance the leadership of our country thumbs their
noses at the rest of the world.
Conservative scholar, Francis Fukuyama, declared, "An enormous
gulf has opened up in American and European perceptions about
the world, and the sense of shared values is increasingly
frayed." The British journalist Will Hutton has written on
the pages of the U.K. Guardian that the present-day
U.S. is "not the good America...that reconstructed Europe."
I couldn't disagree with Will Hutton of the U.K. Guardian
more. We are still the good America, but our current leadership
is not representing us. Americans donate far more of their
time and money to charity, school and church than do Europeans.
I do not believe that our generous spirit stops at our borders.
However, if we continue with the present administration's
policies, how will the world know this? Will the world only
be shown America the high-tech warrior? What image will be
summoned when the United States is mentioned to a student
in Egypt? A SCUD missile or the Statue of Liberty?
This is not a matter of idealism. In a time where "sleepers"
can live in any country they want while waiting for the order
to attack, we need the cooperation and good will of other
countries. It is a potent weapon in the war on terror.
These stories add up to a frightening picture - the policies
of George W. Bush are threatening the peace and security of
American citizens and the rest of the world. My opinion? No,
Nelson Mandela's. The former South African president (and
one of Time magazine's "persons of the century") stated
in a Newsweek Web exclusive that he believed U.S. foreign
policy was "motivated by George W. Bush's desire to please
the arms and oil industries."
I hope he is wrong, but I fear he is right. The Washington
Post reported that, "Representatives of many foreign oil
concerns have been meeting with leaders of the Iraqi opposition
to make their case for a future stake."
This is far beyond any of the "hot button" domestic issues
that were superficially squabbled over in the 2000 election.
Through most of the Cold War there was a bipartisan consensus
in respect to our foreign policy. This served us well. Under
the Bush administration, it's all but gone.
When Dubya first courted America he talked about being a
"uniter not a divider" and a "compassionate conservative."
I'm sure you didn't know that his idea of a uniter was one
who united the rest of the world against the United States.
I'm positive you didn't know that his idea of compassion was
rejecting a bill that included money to fund fire departments.
Say what? The International Association of Fire Firefighters
(IAFF) voted unanimously to boycott a national tribute to
the firefighters who died at Sept. 11 because Bush was scheduled
to speak. "Don't lionize our fallen brothers in one breath,"
said Harold Schaitberger, President of the IAFF, "and then
stab us in the back by eliminating funding for our members
to fight terrorism and stay safe."
So, let me conclude with a bit of advice for the Republican
National Committee. Take Mr. Bush out to dinner and between
the appetizer and the first course gently say, "George, I
don't think this is working out." If he gets upset just tell
him "it's not you, it's me." (I don't want to hurt his feelings.
I'm a compassionate Democrat.)
However you decided to dump him, please do it. The world
will be grateful.