Has the Bush administration made a "nuclear 9/11" more likely? Yes, according to Ted Kennedy, in a speech he gave Monday at George Washington University.
"The war in Iraq has made the mushroom cloud more likely, not less likely," claimed the senior Democratic senator from Massachusetts. Although Kennedy’s speech was hyped by Democrats as a new critique of the Bush administration, the gist of Kennedy’s argument is old hat: Iraq was a distraction from the War on Terror and any terrorist attack now would clearly be Bush’s fault. The only new wrinkle in Kennedy’s attack is raising the specter of a nuclear attack.
Despite the fact that there has not been a single terrorist attack on American soil in three years, Kennedy described the President's handling of the War on Terror as "a toxic mix of ignorance, arrogance, and stubborn ideology" which has resulted in a "steady downward spiral in our national security."
"We could have been, and we should have been, much safer than we are today," Kennedy said. "We cannot afford to stay this very dangerous course. This election cannot come too soon. As I've said before, the only thing America has to fear is four more years of George Bush."
"The administration’s insistence that Saddam could provide nuclear material, or even nuclear weapons to al-Qaeda has been exposed as an empty threat," he said. "It should have never been used by George W. Bush to justify an ideological war that America never should have fought."
An interesting juxtaposition: Saddam never would have given nuclear material to al-Qaeda; now a pro-Western Iraqi government is more likely to pass that material to Osama bin Laden?
Teddy Kennedy is wrong; it is his positions over the past 20 years, not those of President George W. Bush, that have made America more vulnerable to the threat of a "mushroom cloud."
On March 23, 1983, President Ronald Reagan presented his plan to fund the Strategic Defense Initiative, a missile shield he hoped would render "nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete." Ted Kennedy was first in line to mock the idea, chiding that the program was promoted by "misleading Red-scare tactics and reckless Star Wars schemes." The "Star Wars" label stuck, insinuating that the program was a pipe dream that would never become a reality. And, indeed, it never got very far off the drawing board during Reagan’s presidency, but the facts speak for themselves: SDI convinced the Soviets that they would not win a nuclear arms race and caused the Soviet Union to spend itself into extinction.
While Kennedy derided SDI as a short-sighted fantasy and ignored the complexity of the technology necessary for partisan political gain, Reagan knew long-term success requires action today not at some indeterminate day in the future. Reagan said in 1983:
I know this is a formidable, technical task, one that may not be accomplished before the end of this century. Yet, current technology has attained a level of sophistication where it's reasonable for us to begin this effort. It will take years, probably decades of effort on many fronts. There will be failures and setbacks, just as there will be successes and breakthroughs. And as we proceed, we must remain constant in preserving the nuclear deterrent and maintaining a solid capability for flexible response. But isn't it worth every investment necessary to free the world from the threat of nuclear war? We know it is.
As it happens, this is the same argument George W. Bush has made in favor of engaging Iraq. What Reagan said above could easily be said of Iraq’s transition to democracy, and the hope of a new dawn in the Middle East. It will be hard. It will take more than one news cycle. And there will be some terrible days ahead. But if it succeeds America will be safer for it.
Today, Kennedy frets about what is happening in North Korea and Iran, as we all should. But he’s never backed down from his opposition to SDI, although the program is edging ever closer to the deployable stage under the current President Bush.
Ted Kennedy was – and is – on the wrong side of the SDI debate. Now he expects us to believe that only the Democratic Party understands what it takes to stare down nuclear peril? We have come to a fork in the road, just as we did in 1984. Do we project strength or do throw our hands up in the air and claim there is no use in resisting tyranny? During this time of war, we stand alongside Ted Kennedy and his comrades at our own peril.