By shifting his focus to Saddam Hussein, George Bush did Osama bin Laden a big favour, writes Paul Krugman.
The Bush Administration, which baffled the world when it used an attack by Islamic fundamentalists to justify the overthrow of a brutal but secular regime, and which has been utterly ruthless in its political exploitation of September 11, must be very, very afraid.
…Bush, while eager to invoke September 11 on behalf of an unrelated war, has shown consistent reluctance to focus on the terrorists who actually attacked America, or their backers in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
This reluctance dates to Bush’s first months in office. Why, after all, has his inner circle tried so hard to prevent a serious investigation of what happened on September 11?
After September 11, terrorism could no longer be ignored, and the military conducted a successful campaign against al-Qaeda’s Taliban hosts. But the failure to commit sufficient US forces allowed Osama bin Laden to escape. After that, the Administration appeared to lose interest in al-Qaeda; by mid-2002, bin Laden’s name had disappeared from Bush’s speeches. It was all Saddam, all the time.