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Bush Vacations Are a Political Risk

Friday, 05 August 2005 12:00 AM

The statement said that "current information" indicates that Al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups are planning attacks against U.S. interests in "multiple regions, including Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East." The targets could include residential areas, hotels and restaurants, as well as schools, clubs, business offices and public areas, the caution said. It also warned that "demonstrations and rioting" can occur with little or no notice.

What this tells you is that, because of Iraq, the world is a more dangerous place for Americans, you must always be vigilant and you will never be safe. Travel at your own risk. You can decide that you will not give in to fear, but that is different from deciding that there is nothing to fear. There is.

On that same day, 14 Marines were killed in Iraq traveling in their not-so-armored amphibious vehicle, which was designed to carry up to 25 Marines from land to sea to shore – but is not quite as heavily armored as the Army's Bradley transports.

The Marines were on patrol when they were killed by a roadside bomb, bringing to 20 the losses for a single Ohio reserve unit this week. The community that had lost four Marines earlier this week is a working class suburb of Cleveland.

Also in Ohio this week, an antiwar Iraq veteran, the first to run for Congress, narrowly missed upsetting the favored Republican in a special congressional election to replace Rob Portman, named U.S. trade representative.

It's supposed to be slow in August, slow enough for the president to break Ronald Reagan's recreation record, with three and a half years still to go in his second term. But Ronald Reagan was a peacetime president. The walls were coming down, not going up. We were winning the Cold War, not losing the peace.

The Democrats always make fun of this president for taking long vacations. The first summer, it didn't matter. Then people started saying, maybe if he hadn't been away so much before Sept. 11, he would have paid attention to those August memos – not fair.

Still, the vacations have continued, and as the wages of peace continue to grow, measured in corners cut and lives lost, seeing the president fly off in Air Force One to play cowboy is a political risk on a day when a group of real Marines on patrol gets killed because the amphibious assault vehicle wasn't up to dealing with the "technology" of a roadside bomb planted by one group of insurgents or another near the Syrian border.

The president's defenders say he goes to Texas to reconnect with the people and escape the insular atmosphere of Washington. He is likely to find far less interest in the details of Novak-Miller-Rove among real people than among Washingtonians, which will surely come as a relief. Unless a crime was committed, I think most people smell Washington gamesmanship.

Good news. No one died in that Toronto plane crash, which is a great relief. Bad news, of course, is the terror we feel about terrorism, along with this business about kids keeping on dying in these not-so-armored vehicles.

Today's story points out without comment that Bradley fighting vehicles used by the Army have more armor. That's what I read in the wire services reports, and I think: Why is that there? Is that supposed to tell me that these kids didn't have to die if they'd had better equipment?

You can't help but compare them with the lucky passengers who get off the plane so quickly. Conservative or liberal, we all sit next to each other on those planes, which makes us all pretty demanding when it comes to air safety.

On the other hand, the passengers in that amphibious vehicle were a bunch of working-class kids, not rich and powerful conservatives and liberals demanding the safest equipment on the face of the globe, but kids trying to do right by this country and being placed in the most dangerous situations in the world. And to add the worst insult, not being given adequate protection so they can survive the attacks that are certain to come their way.

One set of parents described making plans to attend the funerals of the other reservists when officials notified them that their son had also died. The mother had not even let him play with toy guns when he was growing up. Everyone can survive a plane crash on the ground – not a collision with a roadside bomb. Word is getting out. There's a movement to be led. Watch out.

If the president really does put his ear to the ground, he may hear more than he wants.



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The statement said that "current information" indicates that Al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups are planning attacks against U.S. interests in "multiple regions, including Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East." The targets could include residential areas, hotels...
Friday, 05 August 2005 12:00 AM
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