In today’s L.A. Times, Jonathan Chait shares his thoughts about the image of the Bush administration’s war on terror versus the substance of those efforts. In his piece he reminds the reader of how Bin Laden got away:
Last week, in a news story that was buried by all the major newspapers, Pakistan signed an agreement to "allow militants to operate freely in one of Pakistan's most restive border areas in return for a pledge to halt attacks and infiltration into Afghanistan." Which is to say, Pakistan surrendered. The border areas of Pakistan are where thousands of Al Qaeda militants and (almost certainly) Osama bin Laden himself reside. On Thursday, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf made a not very reassuring statement that he'd go after the insurgents' command structure.
It's worth briefly refreshing our memories as to why Bin Laden and
his closest friends are hiding out in Pakistan. In 2002, we had them surrounded
near Tora Bora in Afghanistan, but Gen. Tommy Franks, the former head of U.S.
Central Command, persuaded our commander-in-chief to rely on poorly equipped,
ill-trained Afghan mercenaries of dubious loyalty, rather than U.S. soldiers, to
finish the job. (Apparently the operating theory was, if you can't trust
mercenaries, who can you trust?) Shockingly, as Peter Bergen reported in 2004 in
the Atlantic Monthly, Bin Laden paid off the mercenaries, who let him escape to
Pakistan. And now the Pakistanis, who were at least nominally trying to hunt him
down, have thrown in the towel.
In related news, the Bush administration has decided to stake the 2006
elections on Bush's record of fighting terrorism. It sounds like a joke, but it
isn't. He let our worst enemies escape; he is on the verge of creating a
terrorist haven in Iraq where none existed before; and this is the issue he
picks to highlight. Why not run on his record of evacuating New Orleans? Maybe
Bill Clinton can run on his record of chastity!