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February 09, 2010

Brennan's Op-Ed: An AOSHQ Response

John Brennan, Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, recently said the following:

Politically motivated criticism and unfounded fear-mongering only serve the goals of al-Qaeda. Terrorists are not 100-feet tall. Nor do they deserve the abject fear they seek to instill. They will, however, be dismantled and destroyed, by our military, our intelligence services and our law enforcement community. And the notion that America's counterterrorism professionals and America's system of justice are unable to handle these murderous miscreants is absurd.
Now, there are some who say that our president has managed to create the atmosphere of political civility he promised during the campaign, and that he is working diligently to change the tone in Washington. Let me be clear: I reject that view. Today I say to you that there is no meaningful difference between a president who directly attacks his critics and a president who unleashes his attack dogs upon the same. We must reject as false the distinction our president is trying to make, and hold him to the promises he once made.

Mr President, if you are now against politically motivated criticism, does this mean that you recant or regret the words you spoke in 2002?

What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income - to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.

It is gratifying to see your administration realize that we should not allow reflexive partisanship to threaten national unity in the face of a common enemy, and it is unfortunate that you did not always speak with that goal in mind:
In other words -- What kind of debate are we willing to have?

Last week, the White House showed exactly what kind of debate it wants on future of Iraq - none.

We watched the shameful attempt to paint John Murtha - a Marine Corp recipient of two-purple hearts and a Bronze Star - into a coward of questionable patriotism. We saw the Administration tell people of both parties - people who asked legitimate questions about the intelligence that led us to war and the Administration's plan for Iraq - that they should keep quiet, end the complaining, and stop rewriting history.

This political war - a war of talking points and Sunday news shows and spin - is not one I'm interested in joining. It's a divisive approach that only pushes us further from what the American people actually want - a pragmatic solution to the real war we're facing in Iraq.

On August 28, 2008 you stood before a crowd in Mile High Stadium in Denver and made a number of promises to the American people. Among those promises was this:
But what I will not do is suggest that the Senator takes his positions for political purposes. Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and patriotism.

The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party.

That is a promise you reiterated after taking the oath of office. In your first remarks as our newest president, you promised "an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics." The question we ask ourselves today is whether you have forgotten those promises, or if you ever believed them at all. Let me be clear, Mr. President. We agree that national security should not be a partisan issue, and that the most important function of government is to keep its people safe. But make no mistake - a party that spent eight years sowing the wind should not be surprised when the whirlwind of recriminations and partisanship overtakes them. The current political atmosphere is regrettable, but it was also preventable.

With very few exceptions, Republicans have refrained from engaging in the small-minded politics of reflexive partisanship when it comes to national security. We have criticized your policies, but we have not, and will not, engage in the shrill auto-contrarian hatred that the left marinated in during the previous administration. We applaud your willingness to maintain Bush-era policies that keep America safe, but in doing so, will you now recognize that your previous opposition seems now to be little more than the knee-jerk response of a partisan?

Now, I don't mean to suggest that the divisions between us are too vast to bridge. To paraphrase the words of the prophet Isaiah, I believe it's still possible for us to reason together. If we are to have that conversation, this administration must be willing to acknowledge that it has not lived up to the promises of the past and find a new way forward. A way that rejects the disingenuous and bad-faith arguments your advisers are currently making. If you believe the words you once spoke, now is the time to put them into action.

In the end, Mr. President, it comes down to a single question. Is dissent still patriotic?

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posted by Slublog at 09:14 AM

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