If We Had Listened to Senator Kerry, Trillions Could Have Been Saved in War on Terror

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Think back to the Presidential election of 2004: George W. Bush, incumbent, vs. John F. Kerry, U.S. Senator, Massachusetts.

Can you recall the way President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney ridiculed Senator Kerry for suggesting that the War on Terror was misconceived, and that we could deal more effectively with terrorism by taking a law enforcement approach?

On Oct. 10, 2004, the New York Times published an article, "Kerry's Undeclared War," which said that "Kerry's adversaries have found it easy to ridicule his views on foreign policy, suggesting that his idea of counter-terrorism is simply to go around arresting all the terrorists. This is what Dick Cheney was getting at when he said last month that there was a danger, should Kerry be elected, that 'we'll fall back into the pre-9/11 mind-set, if you will, that in fact these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts, and that we're not really at war.' "


Nearly ten years after the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., and nearly seven years after Bush was re-elected president, our number one enemy in the War on Terror, Osama bin Laden has just been eliminated, and our nation seems to be taking stock.

In an article publushed May 6 in the National Journal, bin Laden was described as "the most expensive public enemy in American history."

What's striking, say the authors, Tim Fernholz and Jim Tankersley, is "how much he cost our nation -- and how little we've gained from our fight against him. By conservative estimates, bin Laden cost the United States at least $3 trillion over the past 15 years, counting the disruptions he wrought on the domestic economy, the wars and heightened security triggered by the terrorist attacks he engineered, and the direct efforts to hunt him down."


Matt Bai, who penned "Kerry's Undeclared War" for the New York Times, didn't know in October, 2004, that Kerry would lose the election, so he was comfortable speculating that Kerry's view "might be the beginning of a compelling vision."

Bai explained: "The idea that America and its allies, sharing resources and using the latest technologies, could track the movements of terrorists, seize their bank accounts and carry out targeted military strikes to eliminate them, seems more optimistic and more practical than the notion that the conventional armies of the United States will inevitably have to punish or even invade every Islamic country that might abet radicalism."

Following somewhat in Bai's footsteps this week was George F. Will, a conservative who probably wore a bow tie to his christening. Will mused in a May 3 column, published locally in the Boston Herald, on the law-enforcement-vs.-war-making question and came down firmly on the side of Senator Kerry.

Perhaps America can use bin Laden's death, Will said, "to draw a deep breath and some pertinent conclusions," adding, "Many salient facts about the tracking of terrorism's most prolific killer to his lair -- some lair: not a remote cave but an urban compound -- must remain shrouded in secrecy, for now. But one surmise seems reasonable: bin Laden was brought down by intelligence gathering that more resembles excellent police work than a military operation."

Wouldn't it be nice if this were all an academic exercise, an historical post-mortem?

But the war in Afghanistan, now in its ninth year, grinds on and on. Some American mother's son is killed there every day.

Our national debt, which morphed to obscene dimensions as we waged a ruinous war in Iraq because of weapons that did not exist, casts a huge shadow over our children and grandchildren's future.

And Dick Cheney, I bet, still scoffs at John Kerry.

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