Original Link: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2009/01/08/2009-01-08_president_bush_saved_us_lives_thats_only.html
By Richard Clarke
George Bush, still President, is engaging in a legacy tour of media outlets. This comes despite his earlier having said he did not know how history would judge the Iraq war "because we'll all be dead."
Actually, many people are already dead because of Bush, and that is the point to keep in mind when he talks about his legacy.
Among the themes Bush is striking are that through action at home and fighting "them" over there, not over here, his administration stopped terrorist attacks and prevented another 9/11. There is a surface plausibility to those claims, as there has often been with the messaging served up by the Karl Rove spin machine. But let's look beneath the surface of the assertions.
Bush stopped terrorist attacks? Yes, some of the many alleged plots cited by the White House probably would have matured into attacks had not the U.S. intelligence community acted. Many were more aspirational than operational, and others were the pure inventions of FBI informants. (In the Miami Liberty City case, an FBI informant apparently bribed people who previously had no interest in Al Qaeda. When they swore the oath to Osama Bin Laden, they were then arrested for doing so.)
But even if taken on its face as true, should having stopped terrorist attacks earn this President a Harry Truman-like reassessment down the road? I can attest from firsthand knowledge that the Clinton administration stopped numerous terrorist operations that would have resulted in American deaths. Yet I don't hear Bill Clinton running around boasting about that. Clinton has other things to lay claim to - a balanced budget, huge job growth and eight years without a major war. If you don't think the Clinton administration stopped a major terrorist attack in New York City, you might want to talk with the blind sheik, who was involved in a plot to blow up the United Nations, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, the George Washington Bridge and a federal building housing the FBI. But that would be tough to do because Omar Abdel-Rahman is in solitary in a federal prison in Colorado.
There wasn't a second 9/11? That's obviously true, but it misses the point. First, we must remember that Al Qaeda terrorists are patient, deliberate planners who often wait years between strikes. Second, there was the first 9/11 - and it happened on Bush's watch. Without rehashing the entire 9/11 Commission Report, the historical record is pretty clear by now that Bush did virtually nothing about the repeated warnings to him that those cataclysmic attacks were coming. Unfortunately, I can personally attest to that as well.
Bush saved American lives? Tell that to the families of the 4,200 U.S. military personnel who have perished in the needless war in Iraq. While they served heroically and deserve the great thanks of the American people, the tragic truth is that they were engaged in a war we should not have been fighting and which was sold to the Congress, the media and American people with exaggerated and even false claims.
Beyond the needless American deaths that are Bush's legacy, there are the Iraqis we almost never think about. Iraq Body Count is an ongoing human security project that claims to maintain "the world's largest public database of violent civilian deaths during and since the 2003 invasion." They say their data "encompasses noncombatants killed by military or paramilitary action and the breakdown in civil security following the invasion." Currently, their estimate - conservative when put alongside other totals - is that between 90,253 and 98,521 Iraqis were killed because George Bush invaded that country. That's thirty 9/11s.
Let George Bush keep pushing the buttons on the spin machine. That cannot change the facts. His administration's actions on terrorism, including Iraq, killed many more Americans than U.S. intelligence agencies saved in the past eight years.