Like 70% of Americans, I couldn't tell a pollster that I am satisfied with the job GWB has done as president. But I am not going to list my grievances here. Rather, on the eve of another anniversary of September 11th, I think the President deserves some much needed praise.
Remember back to the evening of September 11th, and the 12th, and the 13th and another week after that. There was a mantra in the media: Americans should expect another attack. We were told over and over again that life as we had known it would be different from now on, that we were going to have to start living like the Israelis, expecting a bus to explode or a night club to be bombed wherever we went. America was going to become a new Beirut with frequent terrorist attacks. They fretted about water supplies and ports and nuclear power plants, showing us in detail exactly what it would take to pull off another attack. Most of us wondered why they were broadcasting what seemed like a how-to training for terrorists, but nonetheless, we braced ourselves and waited for the inevitable second punch.
It never came.
In the lead up to the war in Iraq there were multiple reasons for the invasion proffered by the President. In an infuriatingly long and telegraphed 19 month build up, the President and every other elected official regardless of party told us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that could be shared with terrorists. (The fact that all - and I mean all - of our leaders were saying this is completely lost on my Democrat friends who seem hellbent on pinning the "liar" label to Bush. If it gets pinned to Bush, then it gets pinned to all of them from Bush to Pelosi to Daschle to Clinton to Reid to Biden.) Once we invaded, we didn't find them, which means one of two things. Either Saddam never had them and our intelligence agencies were wrong (completely possible) or in the 19 months that we were talking about invading, Saddam had time to move the wmd (also completely possible).
But wmd weren't the only issue. There were other reasons to invade Iraq.
The President said that one of the things that fosters terrorism is poverty, oppression, and desperation. He said that by spreading democracy and freedom, we would be changing the culture of the Middle East. A free and democratic Iraq would be a spreading source of light for the Muslim world, showing a new way that is not compatible with terrorism.
The underlying idea here is that we can do something to make them like us better. Republicans and Democrats alike have made this argument in various ways, showing their basic political and philosophical divide. This is an oversimplification, but Republicans have argued that if you give people more freedom, they will do better for themselves. Democrats have argued that if you give people more help, such as education and health care (in the Middle East in the form of humanitarian aid), they will do better. Time will tell if either of these investments (or should I say, "gamble") pays off.
But there was a third - and maybe most important argument - for the Iraq war. The President said that we needed to take the battle to the enemy. He said that Iraq would be a primary front in the Global War on Terror. Iraq would be a magnet for terrorists, but rather than facing civilians in an American city, they would be facing American troops on a foreign battlefield. It worked. Terrorists poured into Iraq from all over the world, and even Osama bin Laden said that it was al Qeida had to win in Iraq. The President's political enemies tried to turn this on him, saying Iraq had broken out in a civil war, that the world was now less stable and safe than it was before.
But still, the terrorists were fighting our brave and honorable troops rather than unarmed and unsuspecting men, women, and children on planes or in buildings. It has taken many years, but now, thanks to a surge of our great troops, the terrorists are on their way to defeat in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
The terrorists focused on Baghdad, not New York. The were shot and killed or captured on the battlefield. And both Baghdad and New York City are safer because of it.
I have changed a lot in the seven years since September 11th. I have gone from being a pro-war, kick their terrorist asses guy to someone who is genuinely disturbed by the whole thing, deeply longing that there be a better way. Though I reluctantly understand the need for war, I would much rather have peace.
Nonetheless, with all of his faults and failures, President Bush deserves to be given our heartfelt thanks. The doomsday scenarios did not come about. Because of his leadership at home and abroad, because the Iraq war has been a success, we have enjoyed seven years of security here in America.
Thank you, Mr. President.