War & partisan politics

A French Catholic journalist and priest recently visited Commonweal’s office (don’t tell Attorney General John Ashcroft about this possible collaboration with the "enemy"). Naturally the conversation turned to the war in Iraq, the French-American imbroglio in the UN Security Council, and the likely course of future events. Our visitor was not uncritical of his own government, yet bewildered by the Bush administration’s aggressive foreign policy. He asked how and why President George W. Bush remains so popular with the American people. Why wasn’t the American antiwar movement more effective? Why haven’t the Democrats resisted the president’s rasher actions?

There is really only one answer to these questions: Osama bin Laden.

We tried to explain. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the nation united behind the president. Convinced that terrorists willing to murder three thousand innocent civilians were capable of even worse, the American people put their trust in the president and in the national government. "War" was the term Bush used to describe the threat, and the solidarity necessary to fight a war was sought. In Congress, the Democrats embraced a bipartisan approach, especially in foreign policy. The war in Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban and hunt down Al Qaeda was judged just and necessary by most, both here and abroad. Its apparent success strengthened the president’s credibility,...

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