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Regime 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 more attention.

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 at large.

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 members.

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 administration.

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 so quickly.

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.

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