Wash. Post uncritically quoted Bush assertion that "there can be little debate" his policies kept us safe

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

The Washington Post uncritically reported President Bush's assertion, in his final address, that "there can be little debate" his administration's policies of detention, interrogation, and surveillance were "central to keeping Americans safe." But the Post did not mention a 2008 GAO report that found that the U.S. "has not met its national security goals to destroy terrorist threats and close the safe haven" in Pakistan, nor that many CIA analysts reportedly believe Al Qaeda leaders have declined to attack the U.S. again for strategic reasons, not due to the Bush administration's counterterrorism policies.

A January 16 Washington Post article reported that in his January 15 address, President Bush "suggested that the administration's aggressive and controversial program of detention, aggressive interrogation and surveillance was central to keeping Americans safe," and uncritically reported Bush's assertion that "[t]here is legitimate debate about many of these decisions ... [b]ut there can be little debate about the results. America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil." The Post did not point out that a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released on April 17, 2008 -- titled "Combating Terrorism: The United States Lacks Comprehensive Plan to Destroy the Terrorist Threat and Close the Safe Haven in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas" -- found that "[t]he United States has not met its national security goals to destroy terrorist threats and close the safe haven in Pakistan's FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas]." Nor did the Post note that investigative journalist Ron Suskind has reported that many CIA analysts believe Al Qaeda leaders have declined to attack the United States again for strategic reasons, not due to the Bush administration's counterterrorism policies.

Further, the degree to which several terrorist attacks the Bush administration supposedly thwarted were credible threats has been disputed, as has the importance of Bush administration policy to the thwarting of threats.

From the January 16 Washington Post article:

Bush, however, has said repeatedly that he does not pay attention to polls, and he appeared animated and in good spirits during last night's address. He cast himself in the familiar role of an assertive leader who was unafraid to make difficult, and often unpopular, decisions in troubled times. He also drew heavily on 9/11 and its aftermath in his comments and claimed credit for a lack of additional attacks on U.S. soil.

While "most Americans were able to return to life much as it had been before 9/11," Bush said, "I never did." He said he "vowed to do everything in my power to keep us safe" and suggested that the administration's aggressive and controversial program of detention, aggressive interrogation and surveillance was central to keeping Americans safe. He also suggested that the war in Iraq was part of the fight against terrorism, a contention that remains a matter of sharp dispute.

"There is legitimate debate about many of these decisions," Bush argued, echoing a common theme from recent months. "But there can be little debate about the results. America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil."

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Terrorism
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post
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