The reports are in and the debate is over: The Republican Party, that bastion of hard right ideology, has fumbled the war on terror. The question is no longer whether conservatives are failures in the national security arena. What's important to understand now is why they've done such a poor job. While many factors contribute to their dismal record, there are six key reasons conservatives are ill-equipped to protect our nation.
First, a quick review of the facts: It's now clear that they ignored the flashing red lights warning of an imminent terrorist attack in 2001. We'll never know if 9/11 could have been prevented, but the evidence demonstrates that they failed to do their jobs properly to avoid it.
What's happened since then? Worldwide terrorist incidents have skyrocketed in the last three years alone. They've grown exponentially - from 165 in 2003, to 655 in 2004, then exploding to 11,111 in 2005. Holy Katrina! That's a lot of incompetence.
The President has declared a "Global War on Terror." The result is the global collapse of antiterrorism.
The Iraq war has spawned a lot of anti-US hatred and created quite a few new terrorist recruits, as many predicted. Even so, Iraqi incidents only accounted for approximately 30% of the 2005 figure.
Officials defended themselves by explaining that the definition of a terrorist act changed during this three-year period. That's true. But under the new definition, there were 3,192 attacks in 2004 vs. over 11,000 in 2005 - a nearly fourfold increase. That staggering number reflects four years of GOP mismanagement.
But we haven't been hit since 9/11, comes the conservative response. That's like driving with your eyes shut and bragging that you haven't hit anything yet. Let's look at the facts: Our ports are no safer. We're only inspecting a tiny fraction of cargo containers coming into the US. And for all the theatrics at airport screening locations, the government has yet to respond to two reports that indicated their TSA efforts have made us no safer we were on September 10, 2001.
If this crowd stays in power, it's just a matter of time until the next attack.
That's the what. Now for the why. Here are the six reasons why the Republican record on national security is one of failure:
1. They don't believe in government.
National security is a government initiative. It requires an interlocking network of well-functioning agencies, led and staffed by the most competent people available. The Republican Party has been hijacked by extremists who, with Grover Norquist, want government small enough that "you can drown it in a bathtub" -- or the floodwaters of New Orleans.
It's not an accident that I refer to last year's hurricane. Giving leadership of FEMA to a political crony was a typical Republican act, and organizations like FEMA have a critical role to play in protecting the American people. The GOP believes that government posts are favors to be given to their political pals, and contracts are candy to be given to their friends. (More about that later.)
Most Americans understand that government has a role to play. This crowd doesn't. Their hostility toward the institution of government itself weakens their ability to use that institution to protect the American people.
2. They help their contractors get rich off the American taxpayer, at the expense of the public.
The Republicans have run the country as their private piggy bank, with favors to be dispensed to their rich friends. The Iraq war's been one such get-rich-quick scheme, and some of our soldiers have lost their lives so that Republican cronies can get rich. (See this report on faulty bullets, then read about how the guy who sold defective body armor for our troops spent $10 mil on a party for his daughter.) America's coffers have been plundered by GOP-aided profiteers.
Don't believe me? Then ask yourself why Sen. Patrick Leahy's anti-profiteering bill has been defeated by the Republican leadership over and over, ever since the Iraq war started.
Still don't believe me? Then read this story on how the hiring of TSA screeners turned into yet another get-rich-quick orgy for contractors, complete with anecdotes about charging the government $1,500 to rent 14 extension cords for three weeks. (They also paid $5.4 million to hire an executive for nine months to do "event logistics" - I wonder which party gets his contributions.)
3. They wear ideological blinders.
People who use buzzwords usually aren't thinking. People who think in terms of old-fashioned ideological terms, like equating the anti-terrorist struggle to past world wars, are truly the ones with a "pre-9/11 mindset." The Republican Party is so infatuated with pie-in-the-sky think tank mentalities that it can't see reality. That's why Cheney thought we would be "welcomed as liberators" in Iraq, or why they thought we wouldn't need a post-war military presence. They've read too many papers by flaky right-wing professors.
They need to take off the rose-colored glasses and take a cold, hard look at the real world - but they won't.
4. Their "moderates" aren't moderate.
The extremist ideology of the radical right has hijacked their party from top to bottom. The party's so-called "moderates," like John McCain, are themselves deeply in thrall to extremism. (The recent cave-in on basic American principles regarding torture and habeus corpus demonstrates that.)
Even those Republicans who haven't yet drunk the Kool-Aid can't win or keep elective office without bending their knee to the cultists. That means that, when it comes to stepping outside their comfort zone and reaffirming our values, they won't do it. And, in the end, our Americanism - honored and respected worldwide - is our best weapon in the anti-terror fight. Sacrifice that, as they have done, and you've made us immeasurably weaker.
5. They're "flip-floppers" - about everything except their own power and influence.
Tragically, you can't take a Republican at his word when it comes to the fight against terror. Take Bill Frist. He was "for fighting the Taliban's supporters before he was against it." The GOP was against the Department of Homeland Security before it was for it. They wanted to kill Bin Laden before they outsourced the job at Tora Bora, then they didn't care whether they got him or not. And on and on and on ...
Why the flippety-flops? Because today's GOP has shown that it will say or do anything it needs to do to stay in power. Guys like that will never lead a consistent and effective fight against terrorism. Their half-assed management of the Afghan war (a country from which we were attacked), proves it. Sadly, so do the results.
6. They've politicized the war on terror.
This is the crime for which today's Republican leadership will forever stand in disgrace. America's national security has never been a matter for partisan political gain. The nationwide unity after 9/11 was unprecedented. But the Republicans saw the opportunity to rescue an already-failing Presidency, and they jumped on it.
The result was spectacular success in political terms, but profound failure in national security terms. Their relentless effort to exploit every circumstance for their own gain led to blunder after blunder. The most recent example is the British investigation into possible hijacking plans from that nation. Published reports indicate that British intelligence was disturbed by US interference in the case, and by our government's insistence that they move to make arrests before the investigation was complete.
The infamous manipulation of "orange alerts" during the 2004 campaign is another such example. By using our national security apparatus as a political dirty trick, they undermined national confidence and unity at a critical time.
That's more than just a disgrace. In my book, it's treason. Loyal Americans of both parties need to throw this Congressional regime out of power in November. Its executive cabal - a syndicate that's deeper and more permanent than whoever happens to occupy the Oval Office - needs to get the boot in 2008.
Then, and only then, can we begin to rebuild our national security apparatus - and the principled and idealistic America it's designed to defend.