Letter to the Editor: Here’s the skinny on the War on Terror


This letter is written in response to Jim Bergstedt’s April 16 column (“Come hell or high water, I’m voting for Bush”). I have to disagree with Bergstedt. I’ve heard many of his points from the guys on the cable news shows and frankly, they don’t hold muster. Take, for instance, Bergstedt’s accusation of the “liberal media” not airing any good news about the disaster in Iraq. Many of these outlets have featured articles that highlight the successes of the Iraq debacle. Newsweek had an excellent feature this week examining the charge that Iraq is turning into a Vietnam-like quagmire. Ultimately, the journalists rejected that claim, highlighting several very important distinctions. It is important for all of us to remember that “good news” never makes the teasers of broadcast news advertisements. This says much more about us as viewers and media consumers, I believe, than it does about any bias within major media outlets.

Bergstedt also used what seems to be a favorite device of partisans on both sides of the political spectrum. He suggests that Sept. 11 could not have been prevented during President Bush’s tenure. But if it could have been, then President Clinton is to blame (of course, many liberals say the same thing, blaming Bush). From all that has come forth from the Sept. 11 Commission, it’s obvious that no one person deserves the blame for the failure in intelligence that resulted in the tragedy of that day, but that there is plenty of blame to go around both administrations. Bergstedt rightly criticizes Clinton for not acting decisively enough after the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in October 2001, but fails to acknowledge the success in foiling attempts by al-Qaida to attack the United States on New Year’s Eve in 1999. He also fails to acknowledge the attempts made by the Clinton administration to bomb al-Qaida training bases. Though I disagree with many of the Bush administration’s methods and policies in combating terrorism, I’d be intellectually dishonest not to commend its (thus far) successful protection of our nation within our borders from terror attacks.

However, it would be equally intellectually dishonest to deny the complacency with which the Bush administration approached international terrorism before Sept. 11. In their disdain of all things, they ignored warnings from former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and by counterterrorism expert Richard Clarke to focus on al-Qaida. Culpability for Sept. 11 does not end with the administrations of our two most recent presidents, either-it has also become clear that the cultures of the CIA and FBI, by nature risk-averse and secretive, contributed to the failure to intercept the Sept. 11 hijackers before the event.

A final point: Bergstedt takes issue with Sen. John Kerry’s “flip flopping.”

When viewed in context, many of these reversals of position do not appear as public opinion driven as Bergstedt portrays them. Let us not forget then-Gov. Bush’s proclaimed aversion to nation building and his commitment to be “a uniter, not a divider” from the 2000 campaign. Neither pledge has been kept, whether out of necessity (such as our nation building in Afghanistan) or political wrangling (proposed amendment banning gay marriage). Such is the nature of politics.

While Bergstedt’s argument is served by focusing on Kerry’s position changes, he fails his readers by ignoring Bush’s inconsistencies. Besides, what is wrong with an opinion change?

From Bergstedt’s column, it appears they’ve fooled him, too.

Andrew Cannon

Senior, English and Political Science