From Comment is Free a summary of Bush’s true failure:
America is dedicated to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Had Thomas Jefferson never written those words, it would be hard to invent better ideals to set against the philosophy of those who attacked America five years ago.
Those seduced by terrorism believe in neither life, nor liberty, nor the pursuit of happiness. Most of the human race surely does. I don’t remember at any time over the past five years the president of the United States reminding the world of these universal rights that were first set out for the world by Americans, and using their simple power to win support.
Had this simple text from the Declaration of Independence been taken as America’s text after 9/11, it would have been a more powerful weapon than anything in the USA’s military arsenal. Symbolism matters deeply in what is a battle of myths and ideals, rather than a so-called “war on terror”.
Instead of using the ideal of America to fight this battle, President Bush gave our opponents – for they are ours too, not America’s alone – priceless symbols with which to gather support for their philosophy against life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Guantnamo Bay will be seen as one of the gravest mistakes any leader has made. It inverted the American ideal and surrendered the battle of myths.
It is extraordinarily sad that the president has chosen the fifth anniversary to concede that jailing suspects without trial or hope of due process is wrong. It is five years too late.
There is a serious danger that the battle of myths and ideals may have been lost by now, somewhere on the road from Guantnamo to Abu Ghraib. But maybe not. Myths are persistent. Perhaps the ideal of America dedicated to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness will survive and one day recover its power to inspire.