"It's worth briefly refreshing our memories as to why Bin Laden and his closest friends are hiding out in Pakistan. In 2002, we had them surrounded near Tora Bora in Afghanistan, but Gen. Tommy Franks, the former head of U.S. Central Command, persuaded our commander-in-chief to rely on poorly equipped, ill-trained Afghan mercenaries of dubious loyalty, rather than U.S. soldiers, to finish the job (Apparently the operating theory was, if you can't trust mercenaries, who can you trust?). Shockingly, as Peter Bergen reported in 2004 in the Atlantic Monthly, Bin Laden paid off the mercenaries, who let him escape to Pakistan. And now the Pakistanis, who were at least nominally trying to hunt him down, have thrown in the towel."A recent Washington Post article paints an even more damning picture. Noting that the Bin Laden trail has been cold for at least two years now, the authors (Dana Priest and Ann Scott Tyson) discuss the events following the Tora Bora blunder:
"Only two months later [March 2002] , Bush decided to pull out most of the special operations troops and their CIA counterparts in the paramilitary division that were leading the hunt for bin Laden in Afghanistan to prepare for war in Iraq, said Flynt L. Leverett, then an expert on the Middle East at the National Security Council.This shouldn't really be a surprise, given that Bush claimed he didn't really care about Bin Laden, and anyway, was itching to kick Saddam Hussein's ass all over the Middle East. Presidential attention deficit disorder guides foriegn policy. But Chait ponders the idea of Bush running on one of his biggest failures:
"I was appalled when I learned about it," said Leverett, who has become an outspoken critic of the administration's counterterrorism policy. "I don't know of anyone who thought it was a good idea. It's very likely that bin Laden would be dead or in American custody if we hadn't done that.""
"In related news, the Bush administration has decided to stake the 2006 elections on Bush's record of fighting terrorism. It sounds like a joke, but it isn't. He let our worst enemies escape; he is on the verge of creating a terrorist haven in Iraq where none existed before; and this is the issue he picks to highlight. Why not run on his record of evacuating New Orleans? Maybe Bill Clinton can run on his record of chastity!"The explanation, of course, lies not so much in reality, as in image. And the media is all too happy to play along with this carefully-scripted (and false) storyline: Showtime runs a fawning tribute showing Bush ordering Cheney around and issuing challenges to terrorists (in real life, he was too caught up in reading My Pet Goat and flying from one air force base to another like a headless chicken-- or goat-- to do such a thing). And more recently, ABC-Disney broadcast a "crapumentary" blaming everything on the Clinton administration (going against experts like Richard Clarke and the 9/11 Commission).
For in the moral relativistic universe of the GOP and the Bushites, there is no objective truth. Bush is the great leader because they say he is, and because the media confirms it. Image is everything.