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Bush the Great Protector

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By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, September 11, 2008; 12:24 PM

President Bush would like you to believe that he deserves the credit for there not having been a second domestic terrorist attack on his watch.

Case in point: A White House " fact sheet" released to the press yesterday, proudly proclaiming: "President Bush Has Kept Our Nation Safe In The Seven Years Following 9/11."

Leaving aside the issue of whether he could have prevented the first one, Bush has yet to provide one bit of evidence that any of the actions he ordered -- not to mention the most controversial ones, such as torturing terror suspects and eavesdropping on Americans without a warrant -- prevented another.

Jon Ward writes in the Washington Times: "Though he is beset by record-low approval ratings and criticism from every side that has not abated for years, the president and his supporters take pride in the fact there has not been another attack like the one seven years ago that killed nearly 3,000 people.

"Joe Hagin, one of the president's closest aides until he resigned in July, said that in the days after 9/11 the senior staff felt another attack on their watch was inevitable.

"'People should feel a great sense of pride that here we are all these years later and here's not been another attack,' Mr. Hagin said.

"Pete Wehner, a former deputy in Mr. Bush's political office, said the mood among current and former White House officials on Thursday will be one of 'sober satisfaction.'"

At this morning's dedication of a memorial at the Pentagon honoring those who died there, Bush said that history will look back at America's response to September 11 and conclude that "we did not tire, we did not falter and we did not fail."

Yes, there hasn't been a second domestic attack -- unless of course you count the anthrax letters -- but where's the proof that Bush had anything to do with it?

That White House " fact sheet" includes a list of "our counterterrorism victories" -- but as it happens only two of them are domestic: An alleged plot to blow up fuel tanks at JFK airport, and an alleged plot to kill soldiers at Fort Dix Army Base in New Jersey. But both were at best minor plots. Their alleged perpetrators were initially identified due to traditional police work. And defense attorneys in both cases say the men were goaded along by government informants.

As I wrote in my March 7 column, Bush has often said that the government had prevented "numerous" attacks. In the past, he most often cited what are known as the Library Tower plot and the trans-Atlantic airplane plot.

But it's not clear that the alleged plot to fly an airplane into the tallest building on the West Coast -- broken up by Asian authorities -- was ever more than just talk. And the British investigators responsible for discovering the alleged plot to blow up as many as 10 U.S.-bound passenger jets with liquid explosives were unable this week to persuade a jury that the suspects actually intended to target airplanes at all. Here's more on the various other plots Bush has cited over the years.


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