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Still not dead

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The fourth anniversary of 9-11 approaches, and Michael Tomasky has done the math. “By the time night falls on September 11, Osama bin Laden will have been at large for 1,461 days,” Tomasky writes in the American Prospect. “America vanquished world fascism in less time: We obtained Germany’s surrender in 1,243 days, Japan’s in 1,365.” Only a comparatively small contingent of American troops went to Afghanistan to pursue bin Laden. President Bush was more interested in finding an excuse to invade Iraq. (He eventually offered half a dozen excuses, none that held water.) “The administration held back troops from Afghanistan so that it could send 150,000 to Iraq,” Tomasky writes. “That and nothing else is the reason bin Laden is still at large.” So 2,700 American deaths remain unavenged. If Al Gore had been president on 9-11 — that is, if the Supreme Court had allowed the presidential votes to be counted honestly — and bin Laden was still on the loose today, the media and the Republican Party would be crying for impeachment. Bush surely is, as E. L. Doctorow has said, a most unfeeling president. Comes word now that the government-furnished gravestones for troops killed in Iraq or Afghanistan are being inscribed with the operation names created by propagandists — “Operation Enduring Freedom” and “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Military gravestones from other eras have been simple, direct, devoid of b.s., inscribed only with name, rank, military branch, date of death — no “Operation Onward Christian Soldiers” sort of thing. But Bush requires that American troops support his initiatives even in death. Could he not bring himself to at least use an honest slogan? Not “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” but “Bush’s War.” Not this fellow. The director of the Arkansas Family Council wants to arrange more meetings between conservative ministers (overwhelmingly Republican, incidentally) and Arkansas’s two senators (both Democrats) in hopes of persuading them to support John Roberts’ nomination for the Supreme Court. “If I were in politics, certainly I would want to know what the pastors are thinking and saying,” Jerry Cox said in an interview. Ah, but in America what the pastors are thinking and saying about Supreme Court appointments is no more important than what the non-pastors are thinking and saying. That is the difference between democracy, which is the American way, and theocracy, practiced widely and ruthlessly in the Middle East. As it happens, People for the American Way is one of the groups in the Arkansas Coalition for a Fair and Independent Judiciary, which is urging Arkansas’s senators to review Roberts’ record thoroughly and get clear answers about his judicial philosophy before voting on his nomination. In other words, the coalition is asking that the senators do their duty. More of the American way.

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