New Terrors the presidents use of terror in his agenda
President Bush has called upon the authority vested in his position and used his presidential powers to a higher capacity than any other president in United States history. Manipulating the system can be very difficult and time consuming for the President’s administration, but it is well worth pursuing to pass its own agenda. By securing an unprecedented amount of presidential power, and using meaningless rhetoric, Bush began to use his ultimate weapon. His ultimate power is within his title, and the rhetoric he publishes as this authority. When he makes a statement, the credibility of the American government is attached to the message. His ultimate weapon is the ability to abuse this position for the single minded agenda that his administration has pursued during his two terms in office. This ultimate weapon hurt his American constituents in many ways, with fear as a motive for this actions. The system of checks and balances must be steadily maintained to maximize efficiency of the system. If the President can become an all knowing and all achieving power, then he becomes not a representation of our country, but he will yield a totalitarian power upon his citizens. President Bush has used the threat of terrorism throughout his presidency to forward his own agenda; this stage was set at the turn of the last century where the threat of terrorism began.
Securing unprecedented amounts of presidential power began in the 2000 Presidential Election. Dialogue during this election between George W. Bush and Democratic candidate Al Gore was many times driven by the threat of terrorism. This was an easy win for Republican candidates because of their rhetoric within the Republican’s 2000 Presidential Platform. Chairman Governor Tommy Thompson was the head of this committee and as the platform states:
…we must prepare for the most dangerous threats as well as the most likely ones. Therefore the United States must be extremely vigilant about the possibility that future terrorists might use weapons of mass destruction, which are increasingly available and present an unprecedented threat to America. In many instances the military will have to rethink it traditional doctrine and begin to focus on counterterrorism, human intelligence gathering, and unconventional warfare. (“Republican”)
This flowery language within their platform gave the Republicans the upper hand and the eventual win to President George W. Bush, with 271 electoral votes. Democratic candidate John Kerry was also defeated in his 2004 race to the presidency, although he secured just under half of the popular vote (2000). What happened during these four years, the first term, that President Bush had in the White house? He began down the not so yellow brick road to a fight for the War on Terrorism, and while doing so began more of an extensive claim to unprecedented presidential power.
Most of what led to the unprecedented amount of power in the executive branch began on September 11th, 2001. This day will live in our minds forever, which is exactly the WMD, weapon of mass deception, which the Bush administration needed. The Washington Post named this day a disaster, and it was the same through everyone’s eyes (Grunwald). On this day, the World Trade Center Towers were destroyed in a terrorist attack, and in the next day’s Washington Post, hundreds were listed as dead, with a final count over 3000 in testimonials given to the Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence Committees (Watson). This incident began to foreshadow the events to come.
The first and most important response to the attacks on 9/11 was the instant attraction and direction toward declaring war on the people of Iraq. CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin reported:
…barely five hours after American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was telling his aides to come up with plans for striking Iraq — even though there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks. That’s according to notes taken by aides who were with Rumsfeld in the National Military Command Center on Sept. 11 – notes that show exactly where the road toward war with Iraq began… (Martin)
This news, unfortunately was not broken to the media until almost the one year anniversary of the World Trade Center bombings. The War in Iraq has had an unfortunate impact on our families, economy, and country as a whole. Wouldn’t it be nice if we would have foreseen the terrible price of this war? While some informed officials stood by helplessly during his fight to power, most did almost nothing to get in the way of this pursuit. With no connection between 9/11 and Iraq, the President grasped for any ground that he could think of. Terrorists. Any and all terrorists would be taken care of by the United States Armed Forces. Of course, the United States can rebuild a country, for it’s the Captain of the World Police. As of today, the Department of Defense has confirmed 3,835 deaths, two of which were confirmed just yesterday (Iraq). Iraq was an invasion done because the administration simply wanted to.
Another beastly example of unprecedented power was the ultimate passage of the PATRIOT Act. This act and its sister law, the FISA bill, led to the ability of our government to spy and wiretap without warrant, a direct infraction of our civil liberties granted to citizens by the Bill of Rights. Many cases of these infractions began with non-citizens also called enemy combatants. These enemy combatants were obviously not citizens and while using the negative stereotypes toward Muslim culture, a strong prejudice developed. The American Civil Liberties Union has relentlessly rooted for its repeal; barely a month after the attacks, this bills one-size fits all approach began its rampage through our judicial system. In addition, the ACLU continues to beg its audience of listeners to act now and call for its reform. (“Reform”) The PATRIOT Act continues to bring down our judicial system through its inadequate precedent, and infiltration of basic civil rights and freedoms.
Using fear as a motivator for voters is an unfair and unethical way to pass legislation before a public. Sociologists explain this phenomenon when exploring the latest political arena. Research that was done during the last few years shows that when the President makes an important announcement about a terrorist threat, his popularity rises. For instance, in a Gallup poll following the 9/11 attacks, a new widespread support
developed behind the president and his chosen administrators. A registered nurse is quoted as saying she supports a quick and just, because she believes it is required for American’s future safety, but wants to end it quickly. She, along with many other Americans, are concerned about the world her children will grow up in. The editor of the Gallup poll, Frank Newport, says “People are not only rallying around the president, they’re also rallying around the country (Benedetto A1).” Steven Ruggles, the Director of the Minnesota Population Center, has also theorized about the influence of terror threats and the president’s approval rating (Ruggles).
This can easily be explained by knowing some sociology basics. Professor Burbidge, a sociologist part of Maplewood’s social science department explained this very clearly when she said that in-groups are any groups that you belong to, and out-groups you do not. In-groups tend to instill loyalty and pride in its members so when an out-group threatens its power members have a tendency to band together (Burbidge). This would lead our American public to back any President in a time of crisis, not only George W. Bush. Without a clear mind at hand, our public cannot make rational decisions about anything, including homeland security and defense. This throws the system out of balance very quickly.
Although these impacts can be readily seen by Americans on their own soil, it is also seen impacting our allied countries, such as Great Britian. A civil rights group, Liberty, calls for the repeal of the Terrorism Act of 2000 and the power it has given its officials. Claims of restrictions on due process, and individual rights have been quashed under this new “terror threat” scenario (Liberty).
We still have not had any other attacks that would compare in magnitude to that of the World Trade Center attacks; this threat still looms closely in the air. The Department of Defense has created a colored system to alert the public when information has reached our government about an imminent attack. There are five colors of terrorism intensity, and while the government does not provide the information that has caused a terror alert change, security analysts like Bruce Schneier still continue to criticize it. “Warnings are based on ‘uncorroborated intelligence,’ and issued even though ‘there is no credible, specific information about targets or method of attack,’” he claims (Schneier). This is important information that is withheld from the public. Instead of giving the public more information to understand, the government should be upfront an honest with its constituents. With only a looming overhead threat of unknown terror, the American public are treated like deer in headlights only giving them a last moment to make an irrational and probably costly decision.
Without knowing the outcome of the Presidential Election in 2008, we will have poor future analysis on the current environment politically speaking. This is a huge determinate of many globally affecting issues that our constituents will need to be involved in. Their criticism and development of ideas is imperative to keep a strong united nation. We are the United States, after all. This election could set a global precedent on dealing with the War on Terror in the 21st Century. Whether our new agenda is boosted in a left or right-winged direction, we will begin to see the new path unraveling. Only the future will be revealed as time passes. Hopefully the public will realize that under this new threat of terror we have been manipulated and molded to thinking that the administration is always in the right. This use of political capital is unfair when its simply false threats declared to the public.
“2000 Presidential Election.” Electoral Vote Totals. 2000. U.S. Electoral College. 24 Oct 2007
Benedetto, Richard and Patrick O’Driscoll. “Poll finds a united nation.” USA Today 16 Sep 2001: A1.
Burbidge, Stacy. “Social Construction of Reality.” Lecture. MCC Maple Woods, Kansas
City. 17 Aug 2007.
Grunwald, Michael. “Terrorists Hijack 4 Airliners, Destroy World Trade Center, Hit Pentagon; Hundreds Dead.” Washington Post 12 Sep. 2001: A01.
Iraq Coalition Casualty Count. Military Fatalities. 24 Oct. 2007. < http://icasualties.org/oif/>.
Liberty. “New Terrorism Act powers will make Britain less safe.” Press Release. 13 April
2006. 24 Oct 2007
Martin, David. “Plans for Iraq Attack Began on 9/11.” CBS News 4 Sep. 2002. 24 Oct 2007
“Reform the PATRIOT Act – Don’t Expand it!” The American Civil Liberties Union Online. 25 Sep. 2001. 24 Oct 2007
“Republican Platform 2000.” CNN News. 24 Oct 2007
Ruggles, Steven. “2004 Presidential Election Graphs.” Chart. University of Minnesota History Department 18 Oct. 2007. 24 Oct 2007
Schneier, Bruce. “Do Terror Alerts Work?” The Rake Magazine Online. Oct 2004. 24 Oct 2007
Watson, Dale. “The Terrorist Threat Confronting the United States: Interview with the Executive Assistant Director of the FBI over Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence.” Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. (2002): February 6.