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Bush mantra: Be afraid, be very afraid

McClatchy Newspapers

06/07/07 - --- -The Democrats in Congress wring their hands, gnash their teeth and wail that there was nothing they could do but cave in and vote to continue funding the war in Iraq. After all, that crafty George W. Bush had maneuvered them into a corner and they didn't have the votes to override his veto.

Horse manure.

All they had to do was keep passing a war funding bill with a hard-and-fast timetable for beginning - and ending - the complete withdrawal of the more than 150,000 American troops fighting in that far-away place. Over and over and over, throwing it back into the face of a president who mistakes stubborn and hardheaded for principled resolve.

If that president continued to veto all the bills Congress sent to him, the money eventually would run out, although with a Defense Department budget of half a trillion dollars a year the administration could and probably would keep robbing Peter to pay Paul until both Peter and Paul were broke.

By which time it should be apparent to all who the real problem was and where the blame properly rested for failing to provide the money for an orderly end to the war that George W. Bush started and is determined will not end in his lifetime or ours.

Texas friends of the president told columnist Georgie Ann Geyer that it's the president's intention to arrange things so that his successors for half a century will never be able to pull out of Iraq. That George W. Bush intends that his blighted and bloody legacy of an unnecessary war that's hurt us more than it's hurt our enemies will continue, just as America's more rational and less costly commitment in Korea has continued.

Throwing a wrench into such misguided machinery isn't all that hard when you have check-writing authority. All it takes is courage and integrity and an absence of fear. Alas, that was lacking on Capitol Hill when the Democratic leadership, or what passes for such, cratered and caved.

Their eye is on the 2008 presidential elections, and their fear is that the White House spinmeister Karl Rove will portray the Democratic nominee and all Democrats as soft on terror; will accuse them of stabbing the American troops in the back.

The operative word here is "FEAR" and fear is the true legacy that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and their neo-conservative chickenhawk corps will leave behind them.

They've instilled fear in the American people, beginning the day after 9/11, and they've played it like a Wurlitzer organ every day since then. Every time bad news looms on their horizon, up goes the red flag. Or the orange flag. Or the yellow flag. The national terror threat alert system became a 24/7 traffic light, except that it never turns green.

Whenever the truth threatens to intrude on the White House pipe dreams, suddenly the Federal Bureau of Investigation seems to uncover another huge and scary terrorist plot. A dirty bomb to be planted in the heart of an American city. A plot to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch. Another plot to blow up Chicago's premier skyscraper. A plan for steely eyed killers disguised as pizza delivery boys to attack Fort Dix, N.J., and kill American soldiers.

The latest: A plot to blow up the jet fuel pipeline to John F. Kennedy Airport.

Dangerous enemies are out there, but at the heart of all these journeys into darkness were bumbling fools without money, weapons or even a mastermind. Without everything but an FBI informant keeping them talking for a year or so.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in the darkest days of the Depression, declared that the American people had nothing to fear but fear itself. The only thing George W. Bush apparently fears is the absence of fear.

Just as they believe that a lie repeated often enough will somehow become the truth (ask Vice President Cheney about Iraq's non-existent alliance with al-Qaeda for example), so also do they apparently believe that if they cry "wolf" often enough most Americans will willingly trade their freedoms for the illusion of security. That such a deal usually results in the victims ending up with neither freedom nor security seems lost in this transaction.

This administration has injected fear into the American people; into much of the media, whose duty it is to speak truth to power, not cower before the powerful; into a mighty nation's foreign policy; and now even into the Democratic majority in Congress.

Fear saps the will and decision-making power of humans. Fear blurs all that is good and decent, and blinds us to evil being done in our name.

Enough is enough. We have lived for more than six years in fear of our neighbors, fear of a world turned hostile by the words and actions of our own leaders, fear of a future that once was a bright and shining dream.

What we must do is give up fear for the 600-odd days that remain in this president's lease on the White House. As those old bumper stickers declared: NO FEAR! We can be, we must be, alert, on guard and observant because there are evildoers in this world. We need not be foolhardy - but we must be clear-eyed and clear-headed and determined that never again will we be manipulated by a crew of cynical politicians who know only how to hate, not how to love.

No fear!

Joseph L. Galloway is former senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers and co-author of the national best-seller "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young." Readers may write to him at: P.O. Box 399, Bayside, Texas 78340; e-mail:

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