Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Bush Didn't Make Up The "Terrorists Hate Freedom" Meme

Last night, I discovered that Bill Clinton was declaring terrorists the enemies of freedom himself back in 1999. He deserves, at least on this point, equal criticism, should criticism be forthcoming, which it surely ought to be for greatly simplifying, and in many ways mischaracterizing, the (varying) aims of terrorist groups, and their reasons for targetting us.
In the struggle to defend our people and values and to advance them wherever possible, we confront threats both old and new -- open borders and revolutions in technology have spread the message and the gifts of freedom but have also given new opportunities to freedom's enemies. Scientific advances have opened the possibility of longer, better lives. They have also given the enemies of freedom new opportunities.

Last August, at Andrews Air Force Base, I grieved with the families of the brave Americans who lost their lives at our embassy in Kenya. They were in Africa to promote the values America shares with friends of freedom everywhere -- and for that they were murdered by terrorists. So, too, were men and women in Oklahoma City, at the World Trade Center, Khobar Towers, on Pan Am 103.

I came across this passage while reading a book on "superterrorism" (chemical, biological, nuclear) last night. Though this turn of rhetoric is similar, in the sense of characterizing terrorists as "enemies of freedom" (undoubtedly our freedom), there are definitely differences in approach between George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to be noted, and you can begin to see them a bit later in the speech.

Let me say first what we have done so far to meet this challenge. We've been working to create and strengthen the agreement to keep nations from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, because this can help keep these weapons away from terrorists, as well. We're working to ensure the effective implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention; to obtain an accord that will strengthen compliance with the biological weapons convention; to end production of nuclear weapons material. We must ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to end nuclear tests once and for all.


But we cannot rely solely on our efforts to keep weapons from spreading. We have to be ready to act if they do spread. Last year, I obtained from Congress a 39 percent budget increase for chemical and biological weapons preparedness. This is helping to accelerate our ongoing effort to train and equip fire, police and public health personnel all across our country to deal with chemical and biological emergencies. It is helping us to ready armed forces and National Guard units in every region to meet this challenge; and to improve our capacity to detect an outbreak of disease and save lives; to create the first ever civilian stockpile of medicines to treat people exposed to biological and chemical hazards; to increase research and development on new medicines and vaccines to deal with new threats.

So, as we can see, none of what happened in 2001, at least in terms of the anthrax attacks, was unexpected, or even not already being prepared for in concrete plans and initiatives. The question would be how much was initiated under Clinton's watch, and whether that was continued or stymied after W. Bush took office. It's obvious here that Clinton continued to see clearly the wisdom of international treaties against weapons of mass destruction, including an outright condemnation of any further nuclear testing, which the Bush Administration has essentially turned on its tail.

And, as usual in his broader appeals, Clinton peppers his presentation with unexpected details, and seeks to engage all of his ideological constituents, one example being this bone seemingly thrown to unrestrained free market defenders near the close of his speech.

I should say here that I know everybody in this crowd understands this, but everyone in America must understand this: the government has got to fund this. There is no market for the kinds of things we need to develop; and if we are successful, there never will be a market for them. But we have got to do our best to develop them. These cutting-edge efforts will address not only the threat of weapons of mass destruction, but also the equally serious danger of emerging infectious diseases. So we will benefit even if we are successful in avoiding these attacks.

Finally, Clinton wraps up with some passages that, again, set the boundaries with which he intends to act much differently so than George W. Bush seemingly has accepted. Here is where the Democrats, if they really wish to challenge the GOP, need again to lay down the gauntlet - to "not undermine liberty in the name of liberty".

In all our battles, we will be aggressive. At the same time I want you to know that we will remain committed to uphold privacy rights and other constitutional protections, as well as the proprietary rights of American businesses. It is essential that we do not undermine liberty in the name of liberty. We can prevail over terrorism by drawing on the very best in our free society -- the skill and courage of our troops, the genius of our scientists and engineers, the strength of our factory workers, the determination and talents of our public servants, the vision of leaders in every vital sector.

I have tried as hard as I can to create the right frame of mind in America for dealing with this. For too long the problem has been that not enough has been done to recognize the threat and deal with it. And we in government, frankly, weren't as well organized as we should have been for too long. I do not want the pendulum to swing the other way now, and for people to believe that every incident they read about in a novel or every incident they see in a thrilling movie is about to happen to them within the next 24 hours.

I wonder who that sounds like?