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Question of the Day
As George W. Bush’s presidency draws near an end, the country he saved in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks is turning against him. According to a recent CNN opinion poll, 63 percent of Americans favor withdrawing troops from Iraq, and 42 percent of Republicans agree.
On June 29, the Associated Press wrote, “Bush had begun his second term talking boldly of ending tyranny in the world, but the bloodshed in Iraq has narrowed his focus and turned much of the country against him.”
Falsely accused of disregarding the Constitution, arbitrarily sending American soldiers to their death and unlawfully invading another country for personal profit and exploitation, the president has faced devastating resistance from his own people, to say little of the rest of the world.
Sens. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Independent, and John McCain, Arizona Republican, remain the president’s most stalwart supporters, insisting that abandoning Iraq would only result in disaster for the Iraqi people and the future of American foreign policy. Mr. McCain pronounced during the May 15 Republican presidential debate that he would continue to support the war, even if he were the “last man standing” on the issue.
As the casualty rate in Iraq increases however, the president has seen many members of his own party turn against him. Last week, Republican Sens. George Voinovich of Ohio and Richard Lugar of Indiana joined the congressional antiwar society that blames Mr. Bush for all the problems in Iraq.
After Mr. Lugar criticized the president’s leadership on the Senate floor, he received praise from Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who said he had taken “a courageous stand.”
Although the war was overwhelmingly popular when the U.S. Army liberated Baghdad, resistance from the insurgency, troop losses and economic hardship have all turned America against Mr. Bush. Most people don’t seem to recall, that in the wake of the September 11 attacks, the president brought our country from its lowest depths of confidence back to its highest peak of patriotism. Even U.S. Sen. John Kerry complimented Mr. Bush during the 2004 presidential debates, admitting that back “in those days after September 11, I thought the president did a terrific job. And I really was moved, as well as impressed, by the speech that he gave to the Congress.”
Mr. Bush’s critics commonly have said he merely did what any sitting president would have done in similar circumstances, but those of us who were in New York City during the attacks know differently. When the president came down to Ground Zero in the aftermath of the collapse of the Twin Towers and told us he had heard us, and that the world could hear us, we felt a resurgence of faith. The entire city felt a boost of confidence. For a few months, there was no such thing as Democrats or Republicans. There were only Americans.
When our country sank to its lowest point, it was the president who raised our spirits and saved us from fear and heartbreak. George W. Bush gave something back to us we were missing inside of ourselves by reminding everyone that America stood for something sacred and special that was unique in the course of human history. He was the right man for the job.
To date, more than 3,500 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq and more than 26,000 have been wounded. Nearly 67,000 Iraqis have been killed. And while these losses are tragic, America seems to ignore how many people who were tortured and murdered under Saddam Hussein’s sadistic Ba’ath regime.
According to a 2003 New York Times report, as many as 200,000 people ‘disappeared’ into the hands of Saddam’s secret police and several hundred thousand died during military conflicts with Iran and Kuwait. Secret police were officially licensed to rape wives and daughters to elicit confessions from prisoners. Other methods of torture such as electric shock, eye gouging and fingernail extracting were not uncommon.
Despite our passionate cheers and heartfelt support for the liberation efforts of 2003, it seems many people either have forgotten, or simply begun to disregard the president’s noble achievements in Iraq — the countless schools and health care facilities that have been built, the hundreds of thousands of children vaccinated and medically treated.
In the midst of what arguably was the most crushing assault on the American spirit, the president gave us the courage we needed to persevere, and to shield ourselves from further danger. He endured tireless criticism from across the world for instituting improved security measures in the United States and for pre-empting further attack from enemy forces abroad. He liberated an entire nation of oppressed people and effectively contained the war on terror overseas, preventing further armed aggression in the United States.
Future generations will read about two kinds of Americans during this era of our nation’s history. There will be those who supported the president when things became difficult, and those who did not. Those of us who believe in Mr. Bush continue to do so because we feel it would be unfaithful and wrong to abandon the one person who refused to abandon us when it counted most. We will never forget, and we will never take for granted the way he inspired us in our darkest hour.
Once the dust settles in the battlefields of the Middle East and Iraq is free, a clear picture will emerge of who George W. Bush really is and what our nation has accomplished. When that moment comes, every American who chastised the president will have to answer to their conscience, but the final arbitrator will be their countrymen.
By Michael Widlanski
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