They Made Us Safe by Steven Jonas, MD, MPH

by Steven Jonas, MD, MPH
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
crossposted on
May 8, 2009

Dick Cheney, John Boehner, Porter Goss, Condi “We were terrified” Rice, Fox “News” Channel, Savagely O’RHannibaugh. They are all telling us that “they,” meaning the Cheney-lead decision-makers on torture, made us safe. By using torture that is. After all, they say, they were no attacks after 9/11. And so there weren’t. That justifies the use of torture, or anything else for that matter, I suppose. After all, at one time relatively early in the Iraq War, but at the time when things started to go not so well in Anbar Province, O’Reilly said “nuke ’em.” Hey, why not? The end justifies the means, doesn’t it?

But hey, isn’t that what the anti-Commies used to hang the Commies with, especially Stalin? “They are so awful. You know, for them, the end always justifies the means. That such shows how low they will go. Why even to the use of torture and the Gulag to accomplish their ends. Well, that’s what the Commies are,” the Cheney-types would say (and worse). But hey again, you know, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. The GOP is never consistent (well, hardly ever). It thus becomes obvious that when some accuse them of having small minds the accusers are being just totally unfair. But that’s another question.

Back to the topic at hand: “they made us safe.” Well, I guess it all depends upon how you define safe. I’m not going to get into the argument about whether torture “works” or not here. I have dealt with that one before and will do so again. No. Here I am going to deal strictly with the “they made us safe” theme and the definition of the word.

Well, let’s see. In the world of terror attacks, “safe” might be defined as “none.” Bill Clinton, for all his faults (and regular readers of mine know that I am not a Bubba fan), did prevent two major terror attack attempts that occurred on his watch. One was the 1998 plot to blow up approximately 25 airliners in different parts of the globe at the same time. Seems to have been right out of “24,” no? Except that Bill didn’t have Jack Bauer, either in his torture-use mode, or (current series) non-torture-use mode. The full story has never been told (and actually no one ever talks about it even though they should). But that one was thwarted apparently just using plain old-fashioned intelligence techniques (not even warrantless wiretaps). Then there was the Millennium Bomb Plot to blow up the center of Los Angles International Airport, with a potential death count of 25,000. That one was thwarted too, apparently using the same old-fashioned techniques. So that’s one definition of “safe.”

Then there is the Cheney Bush “We were terrified” Rice (remember, she was National Security Advisor in the first Bush regime) version of “safe.” Richard Clarke was the al-Qaida expert on the National Security Council staff when Bush walked into the White House on January 20, 2001. According to him, in the very first meeting, he was warning as loudly as he could that al-Qaida and bin Laden presented a real threat to the United States and that they needed to be taken very seriously. Apparently all Bush wanted to talk about at that meeting was attacking Iraq. And according to his first Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill, all he wanted to talk about at his first cabinet meeting was attacking Iraq too. So “safe” apparently means ignoring the threat that the experts rank as real and going after one that no one thinks is a threat, but does have lots of oil and an invasion carries with it the possibility of establishing a chain of permanent bases in the middle of Iraq, which just happens to be the middle of the Middle East. So that’s “safe,” obviously.

So what else comes under the Cheney, et al definition of safe? Well, let’s see. There’s 9/11, even though they were forewarned in that famous Aug. 6, 2001 CIA briefing that “al-Qaida was determined to attack in the U.S.” or words to that effect. So ignoring that memo is “safe.” “Safe” was on 9/11 (coincidence, of course) disabling the pre-established system for shooting down hijacked aircraft if they seemed to be heading into dangerous territory. “Safe” was allowing something to carve a 16 ft. diameter hole in an inner wall of the Pentagon, something that could not have been a hollow aluminum tube (otherwise known as an airliner) which left no wreckage on impact. “Safe” is defined as flying the many members of the extended bin Laden family who happened to be in the United States on 9/11 out during a time when all other flights were grounded, without allowing the FBI to interview them even once.

“Safe” is defined as at the highest levels of government “being terrified” (Condi Rice’s words) of another attack after 9/11. Don’t we want cool heads to be prevailing when the nation faces a major danger, a la FDR following Pearl Harbor, or Lincoln following South Carolina’s firing on Fort Sumter? I guess not, in the Cheney/Bush/Rice definition of “safe.”

“Safe” is defined as invading Afghanistan, ostensibly to catch bin Laden and put the Taliban (with whom Cheney just happened to have been negotiating for gas pipeline rights before becoming Veep) out of business and accomplishing neither. “Safe” is the War on Iraq that, among so many other things, left the bulk of our land military stretched to the breaking point. “Safe” is openly practicing torture, beginning with Abu Ghraib, so that, if nothing else, the reputation of the United States as the beacon of liberty around the world is in the toilet, and the practice there, and at Guantanamo, has served as a major recruiting tool for foreign fighters against the U.S. in Iraq. “Safe” is training a cadre of torturers inside the CIA, which had never had any experience with the stuff previously.

You can fill in the blanks for all of the other policies and practices of the Bush Regime that made us “safe.” I will mention just one more. Their definition of “safe” includes rampant violation of the Constitution, not in the least through the use of torture. Torture is banned by the Geneva Conventions. By Article VI of the Constitution the Conventions, as signed and ratified treaties, are part of the “highest law of the land.” So “safe” means that the Constitution can be shredded, on some whim, like the Geneva Conventions are “quaint,” as Alberto Gonzales told the president.

If this list defined “safe,” then yes, indeed, the Georgites, as I like to call them, made us safer than any other previous administration in U.S. history.

Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor of 30 books. He has also published numerous articles and reviews in both the academic and the lay literature on health policy, health and wellness, and athletics. On politics Dr. Jonas is a Contributing Author; a regular Columnist for the webmagazine Buzz Flash; a Special Contributing Editor for Cyrano’s Journal Online; a Contributing Columnist for the Project for the Old American Century, POAC; a regular contributor to Thomas Paine’s Corner; and a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad.


Obama’s First 100 Days: Mixed Messages On Torture by Andy Worthington

New Chief Prosecutor Appointed For Military Commissions At Guantánamo by Andy Worthington

Obama Returns To Bush Era On Guantánamo by Andy Worthington

Turley: Pelosi’s denials not credible

Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantánamo, But Not Enough by Andy Worthington

Dictatorial Powers Unchallenged As US “Enemy Combatant” Pleads Guilty by Andy Worthington