Friday, September 16, 2005

Just a Way Post 9-11 Thought

If you had told me, in the week or so after 9-11 that, four years later, Osama bin Laden would still be free and at large and that the big issue of 2005 would be how we've conducted our war in Iraq, I'd have laughed at you.

A lot of other important issues have surfaced in the meantime. We had to fight to keep Bush from privatizing Social Security. We had to deal with the run up to, execution of, and consequences of, the war in Iraq. We've had Katrina wipe out the Gulf Coast of the country and have had to watch, embarassed, while our government failed to respond.

I also think that this tendency we have, on all sides of politics, to start talking about our history at 9-11 is stupid and short-sighted and not helpful. It's also true that many criminals, including serial killers, act in the United States, without being apprehended, for decades and I accept that bagging a clever criminal, in any context is hard and uncertain work.

But, I can't help but remember that after 9-11, Osama was THE global public enemy and that we were promised that the full resources of the U.S. along with the resources of its allies, were focused on capturing or killing him. Given the amount of energy and resources promised, I'm shocked that we are where we are right now. It would be one thing if I could credit all of this to Osama being some sort of clever genius, but that isn't the explanation here. Our entire government got distracted, pursued other interests and botched the execution of the war in Afghanistan which is actually the only military action we've taken in my lifetime that I and the majority of the country saw cause to support.

It's just interesting to me, looking back and taking into account that the country has been in a "Post 9-11" mindset for four years, that a key Post 9-11 objective has gone unfulfilled and that nobody's been held accountable.

A lot has admittedly been accomplished. Osama and Al-Qaeda are not what they were at 9-11 as they're on the run and hungry for resources. But, if you think back to the aftermath of 9-11 and the promises and declarations that were made, there's no way to not believe that the Bush administration has messed up royally. It's amazing that Bush was able to get re-elected under such circumstances and it's amazing that he's not being grilled about this now.

A few years ago, I wrote about a mutual fund manager who does a very interesting thing -- he archives old newspapers and every morning, he reads today's edition and then the edition of the same paper a year ago. One of the ways he judges company managers is to check to see if what they promised a year ago came true. He's obviously doing some very detailed work. But, he does judge people by what they say they'll do and what they do and he pays attention. Bush's promise of Osama "Dead or Alive," was so prominent that you wouldn't need to duplicate the "old papers" strategy to see that it didn't happen. So I'm just kind of shocked that such a major promise could have been made and then left unmet.


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