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Tom Ridge’s Unfortunate Revelation


In a January 2008 op/ed for the Philadelphia Daily News, I wrote, regarding the Bush Administration’s seeming bloodlust for war with Iran: “Bush also hasn’t been shy about using the Iraq War to attempt to form what Karl Rove once called “the permanent Republican majority.” Back in 2004, terror alerts were escalated when Democratic candidate John Kerry was up in the polls, and key votes on war legislation was put before Congress in time for midterm elections.”

I bring this up because the idea of politicizing something so dear to our hearts – terrorism post-9/11 – was nothing but a game to the Bush administration. And though, at the time, no insiders had come out and admitted to having raised these alerts for political gain, its goings-on were generally understood.

Consider the supposed coincidences of public terror warnings per the Bush Administration: On May 18, 2002, the first public discussion of President Bush’s August 6, 2001 briefing about bin Laden’s potential to strike within the United States, a memo aptly titled “bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.”, was released. Two days later, FBI director Robert Muller publicly called another terrorist attack “inevitable,” and on May 21, the DHS issued public warnings of railroad attacks nationwide.

On February 7, 2003, with the Iraq War inevitable, anti-war demonstrations sprouted up all over the country and a planned culmination of global protests in 800 cities was set to take place on February 15. Tom Ridge raised the infantile color-coded terror alert to orange. February 10 was when the government released what is now maybe its most infamous ornament to stupidity: Suggestions to buy duct tape and plastic sheeting to cover windows in case of a terror attack.

On July 23, 2003, already into the Iraq War and post-Bush’s “Mission accomplished” jig, the White House admitted that the CIA doubted the defunct idea that Iraq had been trying to buy uranium from Niger, a key element to attacking Iraq in the first place. July 24: The 9/11 Congressional Report is published, concluding Iraq had no link to al Qaeda, with 28 redacted pages. July 29: DHS makes public warnings that there may be further attacks using airplanes for suicide missions.

On August 1, 2004, three days after John Kerry’s speech at the Democratic National Convention, Ridge raised the terror alert to orange. The evidence he cited for such a move was later proven to be four years old and out-of-date.

These coincidences are rampant and have been documented on several occasions. There are many, many more.

Here’s the tricky part: Last week, word was released by U.S. News and World Report that Tom Ridge is releasing his memoir in September, titled The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege...and How We Can Be Safe Again. In the book, Ridge writes that yes, politics and Bush’s pre-election approval rating was the basis of the terror alert status. He writes, on the eve of the 2004 election, there was no reason to raise alarm. This view was met with fierce opposition from Donald Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft. “A vigorous, some might say dramatic, discussion ensued. Ashcroft strongly urged an increase in the threat level and was supported by Rumsfeld,” Ridge writes, as quoted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Ridge claims he wondered, “Is this about security or politics?” and later claims, “I consider the episode to be not only a dramatic moment in Washington's recent history, but another illustration of the intersection of politics, fear, credibility and security.”

Of the GOP disgustingly playing campaign commercials of Georgia Senator and triple amputee Max Cleland alongside Osama bin Laden: “The tactic worked and the GOP picked up a Senate seat. But in the end it was very much a pyrrhic victory. The accusation that we were playing politics was something we dealt with often, and the Georgia campaign gave those accusations a basis in fact.”

Here’s what he’s leaving out, though alluding to: The idea that the former administration used the deaths of 3,000 innocent Americans as kindle to spark its biggest lie that’s murdered, according to estimates, hundreds of thousands. Alongside Vietnam, Korea, and the Truman Doctrine, one of the worst post-World War II American tragedies.

With such evidence having come to light, should congress investigate? John Dean thinks so. Speaking on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, the former Nixon counsel stated: “If there was pressure, if you do manipulate an agency of government, it is a criminal offense… This is one of the things that caught a lot of people in Watergate. It’s a conspiracy to defraud the government under title 18 USC 371, one as I say, a lot of people learned painfully… If you try to have a department do something that it’s not supposed to do and it’s doing it for political reasons, you can go to jail for that.”

But it’s a slippery slope. Especially since the final result could possibly prove that both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are shams and never had any basis in realistically fighting terror – but that those, too, were based on a re-election effort, an opinion I have always had.

It is very likely news of such a congressional address supported by the president will reach our troops still fighting both unpopular wars and lower their morale the same way Nixon’s 1971 repeal of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution did. And then, since President Obama seems to have no intention of pulling the troops out quickly, how could he face that aspect of his presidency?

But on the other hand, wouldn’t not investigating muddy up an already dirty history of the past decade?

Regarding Ridge, I’m not here to commend him for his actions. He was called “courageous” by Tad Devine on Fox News Sunday (after being called a “wussy” by Nicole Wallace), but that’s not true. “Courageous” would have been making these revelations public when there was still something that could be done.

Ridge once volunteered to take a lie detector test when asked about the politicization of the DHS and its color-coded alerts. His verbatim statement of the lie detector double dog dare – “Wire me up” – seems particularly ironic considering the historic tragedy (Abu Ghraib particularly comes to mind) of his foolhardiness. Though he may be coming clean about his inklings of politicization now, his sins of the early decade will forever be part of our history.

photo: www.cynical-c.com