September 11, 2006

What's In A Face: The (Not So) New Bush 9/11 Strategy


Roger Cohen had a very astute piece in the NYT last Thursday.  (Unfortunately, it’s only available under Times Select.)  The main point was that Bush — given his sly political instincts, and the fact he always gets up for an election — has found a new (and highly visual) angle to hype the terrorism threat.

Writes Cohen:

By bringing 14 high-level terror suspects out of secret prisons run the the Central Intelligence Agency and into the relative open of the Guantanamo Bay detention center, and by demanding that Congress approve war-crimes trials of these men by military tribunals, Bush seemed to change the political dynamic.

He put a face to an increasingly faceless phenomenon: “terror.”  There, suddenly, were the visages of three senior Al Qaeda suspected operatives, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and Abu Zubaydah.  They were a reminder of the successes in fighting back against those who brought murder and mayhem to America five years ago.

By detailing some of the critical intelligence gleaned from interrogations of thee and other prisoners, Bush also contrived a more persuasive posing of the core question in the fight against terrorism than he has mustered in a long time.

Cohen does not necessarily think the approach can save Bush and the Repubs from losing the House.  He does say, however, that it has helped Bush climb back to the 40’s in popularity, and it’s a reminder to Democrats that the White House is not to be underestimated.

In a sick (but not necessarily surprising) supposed twist, a bin Ladin tape (showing the 9/11 hijackers) was released the day after Bush gave his White House speech calling out the terror suspects.  If you don’t think this (pathetically familiar) strategy is working, by the way, here’s how The Times lent its bullhorn to the “gang of 14.”  And above, you can see that this well worn pic of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is making the newswire rounds again.

(image: AFP/file.  2003.  Via YahooNews. image 2: AFP/Getty images.  September 8, 2006.

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Michael Shaw
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