We Fought Jihad and … Jihad Won
America's elites in both parties destroyed the very freedom bin Laden hated and feared.
George W. Bush has said many words over the decades. On that much, we can agree. Some of them were staggeringly false. For instance: “Islam is a religion of peace.”
Some of them were slanderous. See that day when he brayed that the peaceful January 6 protestors were “children of the same foul spirit” as the 9/11 mass murderers.
Others were harmlessly incoherent: “Too many OB/GYN’s aren’t able to practice their love with women all across the country.” Or: “Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”
Since Bush was elected twice, apparently we can.
They Do Hate Our Freedom
However, I come not to bury Dubya but to praise him. One thing he got right. In one lucid moment, President Bush captured the life-or-death issue America faced after winning the Cold War: Would American freedom endure? Would the “American exception” to mankind’s fallen history of tyranny and repression continue to bless our citizens? Could it shine as a beacon to the nations? Or would we let our enemies trick us into strangling it here in its cradle?
Bush was right that Osama bin Laden, and the global Islamist movement, did “hate … our freedom.” They knew that the Western model of ordered liberty and religious pluralism appeals to the young. So does the prosperity that free people generate when the State doesn’t suffocate or plunder them. Likewise the free play of ideas, the autonomy of artists and entertainers, and other implications of the Christian respect for the person and his conscience. And maybe most of all, the power of citizens to resist and remove their rulers, when they violate their rights.
These flowers of the Gospel, sprung from the stem of Christendom, are the real threat to tyrants everywhere. Such green shoots blanketed the Berlin Wall, and brought it down. They sprang up in Tiananmen Square, and had to be mowed down by army tanks. And they threatened the blinkered, misogynistic theocracy that Islamists wish to spread all across the world.
Spraying Our Grassroots with Weedkiller
So Osama bin Laden schemed for a way to stop this invasive species from carpeting Islam’s deserts. He knew that his ragtag soldiers couldn’t beat our tanks and bombers. And he knew that didn’t matter. What threatens the reign of the mullahs isn’t machines but ideas, the principles which our Founders distilled from 1700 years of Christian civilization. If he could trick the West into trashing its own institutions, oppressing its citizens, and betraying its very essence, he could win his global war. He just needed to trick us into spraying our grass roots with weedkiller.
And George W. Bush obliged him. So did his party, and the Democratic party, and all our elites from academia to the media. America’s leadership class followed bin Laden’s breadcrumb trail with all the reckless folly of Napoleon blundering toward Moscow. The outcome?
Bin Laden won, and we lost.
We Defeated Ourselves
I’m not talking about our failed war in Afghanistan, which squandered the lives of thousands, and trillions of taxpayer dollars, to achieve absolutely nothing. (The Taliban is back in charge, as it was on September 11, 2001.)
I’m not referring to our idiotic invasion of Iraq, which helped Islamists to purge the country of Christians and left bigots who hate us atop that ruined nation.
Nor even Obama’s drone war against weddings and birthday parties all across the Islamic world, poisoning millions against the West forever. We could have weathered such setbacks, recovered from such blunders.
But we don’t know if America will or can recover from its self-inflicted wounds, the fruit of panic, paranoia, and a gullible trust in our leaders.
We Threw Our Freedom Away with Both Hands
Each week, courageous journalists working with Elon Musk reveal some new way that our freedom, privacy, and Constitutional order has been assaulted by our elites. We’re not even shocked anymore.
It almost seems normal that the FBI and the CIA collude with one political party to silence the opposition. We’re not surprised to learn that the FBI decided to defy and destroy an elected U.S. president with trumped-up charges of treason.
That our Deep State conducted a coup during Trump’s very transition, faking a criminal case against Gen. Mike Flynn, who threatened to expose its intrigues.
That pharmaceutical companies allied with one political party colluded with media monopolies and globalist institutions to silence our doctors, propagate falsehoods, and help an overbearing government to stick experimental needles derived from dead babies into our unwilling arms.
We’re not even shocked that the Justice Department is persecuting political dissidents, essentially torturing non-violent January 6 protestors into taking guilty pleas. Of course American elections are rigged, and those who question them can be locked in solitary confinement and denied cancer treatment, to the point that they beg to join ISIS terrorists in Guantanamo Bay. Weren’t things always like this?
Bin Laden Spooked Us into Jumping Off a Cliff
Not on September 10, 2001, they weren’t. Not before bin Laden launched his low-tech, staggeringly successful assault on our system, confident that our Bushes and Cheneys, our Obamas and Brennans, would do his dirty work for him and poison our democracy.
Before bin Laden’s attacks and our spastic fit of auto-immune disease, the Internet was free. Political views of every stripe, from dull to crackpot, were allowed to compete — and Americans were free to wave off the crazies and the haters or (try to visualize this) use the block button so they wouldn’t have to see them. Nobody was able to anonymously snitch on strangers for their views about vaccines or marriage, and get them censored without appeal.
Before bin Laden, our Deep State was still under some semblance of legal, civilian control. There was no routine, mass surveillance of millions of Americans. The Church Committee in the 1970s had exposed and helped to rein in the worst abuses of the CIA, FBI, and even the NSA. But that one terror attack was used to demonstrate that America had “blinded itself,” rendered its citizens desperately unsafe. So every restraint, every internal barrier to the seamless cooperation of all our spy agencies was removed.
How Our Deep State Turned into the Stasi
I warned about all this back in 2006:
Congress enacted and renewed the “PATRIOT Act,” which (among many extensions of federal power) enabled the FBI to undertake wiretaps of U.S. citizens with relative ease and to subpoena hitherto private documents. Most disturbing to many conservatives and libertarians was President Bush’s invocation of the concept of “enemy combatant” to justify the arrest and indefinite detention without charge or legal recourse of U.S. citizens — a power which they compared to the Ancien Regime’s infamous lettres de cachet. This power, upheld so far by federal courts and extended indefinitely into the future until the unforeseeable end of the undeclared “War on Terror,” is susceptible to enormous abuse, civil liberties activists complained—amounting to a repeal not so much of the U.S. Constitution as of the Magna Carta.
As Conservative Treehouse has pointed out, it would take the Obama administration to weaponize the unconstitutional shortcuts created by the Bush team, and use them to turn our security agencies into a partisan secret police, which even a newly elected president could not control. By now, neither Congress nor courts possess the power to rein it in.
The Deep State has become the new, fourth branch of government, sitting atop the other three. And the old hands from the Bush administration like William Barr are just fine with all of this. They’re happy to see the Democrats use the Deep State to crush their populist enemies, stuff a sock in our redneck mouths.
Before bin Laden, we had disputed elections, such as the 2000 race. But in that election, there was no juggernaut of a one-party media closely coordinating with a partisan FBI and CIA, to silence one side of the argument. Those who believed that George W. Bush had stolen the election, and who broke a few minor laws conducting protests, didn’t go to jail for more than a year awaiting trial. They weren’t treated worse than violent terrorists. Nobody protesting Bush’s election was gunned down by Capitol Police.
The free America which al Qaeda targeted in 2001 is now a fading memory. The American exception no longer threatens global Islamists. Not while our security agencies are persecuting dissidents — just as in some bankrupt Arab dictatorship like Syria.
So far, Osama Bin Laden has won his war, and now he’s sneering at us from Hell. Heckuva job, Dubya. Heckuva job.
John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.”