One of the realities President Bush faces as the leader of the war on terror is that he gets blamed for all of the bad things that happen, but doesn’t get much credit for bad things that do not happen. The haunting confession of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed demonstrates that the absence of any terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11 is no accident, but the result of the administration’s persistent, even if imperfect, actions in the war on terrorism.
Mohammed not only claimed responsibility for 9/11 “from A to Z,” but for more than 30 other terrorist attacks or plots, including: the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the shoe-bomber operation, the 2002 Bali bombing, as well as assassination plots against Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Pervez Musharraf and Pope John Paul II. More relevant to the point of this post, he was constantly planning operations against office buildings in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City, including the Empire State Building, as well as the New York Stock Exchange and area suspension bridges. While terrorist attacks often fail or are aborted, as we saw on Sept. 11, the cost of one large scale attack succeeding is more than any of us can bear. It was only a matter of time before KSM pulled another one off.
This is not to say that defenders of the president should be able to cite the absence of terrorist attacks since 9/11 as a blanket defense of each and every one of the policies of his administration. But if the standard we are operating under is that President Bush should be held accountable for anything bad that happens under his watch, he should be given credit for potential tragedies that have been averted.