No, Andy Card, President Bush Does NOT Get Credit

I heard Andy Card - President Bush's chief of staff on 9/11 - on television yesterday that this is not a time for partisanship (speaking of the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed by US forces). Then he turned right around and attempted to claim credit for his administration. Something about how both Presidents Bush and Obama ought to be credited for keeping up the pressure on Bin Laden and finally getting him.

The problem with Andy Card's claim - which is now joined by scores of media blowhards eager to not look partisan - that George W. Bush kept up the pressure on Osama bin Laden is that it's flat out false.

President Bush went on TV and announced that he's not worried about Bin Laden, that he doesn't spend much time on him. That was March of 2002, a mere six months after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.



This is not a matter of opinion as to who gets credit. This is a matter of fact. Not only did George W. Bush declare to the country that he didn't spend much time worrying about Bin Laden - despite being told by President Clinton that Bin Laden would be his worst headache - around the same time, he started beating the war drums to go into Iraq. Iraq, a country that George W. Bush and his administration consistently linked with Al Queda without any evidence. They scared the pants off of the American people that Saddam Hussein would give his (non-existent) stash of weapons of mass destruction to Al Queda and their buddies to wreck mayhem in American cities. They lied.

We went into Iraq in March of 2003 and lost valuable time, resources, and focus that should have been spent going after Al Queda and Bin Laden. Iraq became not just a waste of hundreds of billions of dollars and commanded the needless sacrifice of thousands of brave American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, but also the profound distraction that gave Al Queda breathing room. Iraq, Abu Ghraib, and torture in Guantanamo became a recruiting poster for Al Queda and other terrorist organizations beyond the wildest dreams Bin Laden himself. Thanks to the invasion of Iraq, by 2006, terrorism had increased seven fold. Since President Obama has taken office and gotten our priorities refocused, worldwide terrorism has declined.

In 2005, George W. Bush had disbanded the CIA task force dedicated to finding and killing or capturing Osama Bin Laden. In fact, they told us that they really didn't want to focus on Bin Laden or Al Queda at all, instead focusing on "local threats."

There is no doubt that Bin Laden was clever and adept at avoiding capture or assassination. However, our resources were profoundly diverted and the Bush administration's designed policy particularly assisted in the recruitment of terrorists and an increase in global terrorism, albeit unwittingly. Bin Laden may have alluded capture or killing anyway, but there was a lot of lack of trying on the part of the Bush Administration.

This isn't about partisanship. I would have no problem giving President Bush credit if he actually deserved any. But the fact and the evidence stand in sharp witness that he does not. In fact, his policies are quite likely contributory to the reason that it took us this long to get Bin Laden as well certain catalysts for increased terrorism and terrorist recruitment.

President Obama promised during the 2008 campaign that he would refocus our priorities - that he would wind down the war in Iraq and concentrate on Afghanistan and finding Bin Laden. That is exactly what he has done. Our memory may be short, but it shouldn't be so short that we forget John McCain, Sarah Palin - and yes, even Hillary Clinton - calling Obama naive and wet behind the ears on foreign policy and national security for promising to take out high value targets in Pakistan with or without (if necessary) the consent of the Pakistani government. Bin Laden's death vindicated Obama's policy.

So no, factually speaking, President Bush does not deserve any credit for "keeping up the pressure" on Al Queda or Bin Laden, because he quite literally took that pressure off. If there is policy credit to be given here, it belongs to the Obama administration and the President's and his team's determination to once and for all bring justice to Osama Bin Laden.

It's good for the country to be united in celebration and closure nearly 10 years after the horrific events of 9/11. It's good for three presidents who have dealt with Al Queda (Clinton, Bush, Obama) to all congratulate our professionals who got the job done and rejoice. But it is NOT good to ignore the facts. That's not so that Republicans won't get credit. It's so that we remember the mistakes we made as well as the things we did right in the past decade - so that it serves as an important lesson. This is history in the making. The biggest problem with screwing with historical facts is that if we don't get the facts right, we are guaranteed to screw up again.