Nearly 10 years ago in the wake of the horrifying terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, nearly all Americans agreed with the New York firefighter who told President George W. Bush, “Whatever it takes.”
When we were thinking, “Whatever it takes”, we meant it. Whatever the President wanted to do was fine with us. Detention without trial, even of American citizens, detention at secret sites, denial of legal representation, sleep deprivation, clothing deprivation, “stress positions”, “enhanced” interrogation, all received the benefit of the doubt in the wake of 9/11.
If President Bush had asked us to pay more taxes to adequately fund the war on terrorism, the tax increase would have been on the President’s desk in days if not hours. Instead President Bush gave us a big tax cut, told us to go shopping, and launched unfunded wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that plunged the country into financial deficit and debt.
As fears of a repeat of 9/11 receded, Americans began to reconsider what was being done in our name. The invasion of Iraq? Also not such a good idea. Oh, and our willingness to pay more taxes, even for the war on terrorism? Never mind.
The killing of Osama bin Laden, leader of the Al Qaeda organization behind the 9/11 attacks, brought long overdue justice to all the victims of Al Qaeda terrorism. As President Obama said, this action was a triumph for the U.S. military and counter-intelligence organizations. The killing of bin Laden should reassure Americans that our government is in fact competent and capable of doing difficult things that we could not do ourselves as individuals.
No doubt the elimination of bin Laden was also a triumph for President Obama and his efforts to re-focus the military, anti-terrorist, and foreign policies he inherited from President Bush. This accomplishment enhances his already high re-election prospects. The President’s supporters should not however assume that the 2012 re-election campaign is over.
The fight against terrorism and the perpetrators of 9/11 continues, but with renewed confidence. Bin Laden’s chief deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri is still at large, and Al Qaeda cells still exist in many countries. The President’s supporters should remember that President George H.W. Bush won an impressive military victory in the first Gulf War in the spring of 1991, only to lose his bid for a second term in November, 1992.