And where now are the likes of Michael Moore, Cindy Sheehan, Moveon.org, Code Pink and the entire antiwar movement that for years dominated the news, assuring us that we had lost our freedoms at home and caused only mayhem abroad?
The truth is, they mostly dropped out of the news when Barack Obama was elected president. Apparently these loud megaphones had all along been more interested in partisan politics than principled criticism. In one of the strangest turnabouts in modern political history, fierce antiwar and anti-administration critic Barack Obama, upon taking up the office of the presidency, either embraced or expanded almost all of the Bush-Cheney antiterrorism policies.
Obama also left mostly unchanged U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Iraq, and joined a third Middle East war by bombing Libya. Indeed, Vice President Joe Biden boasted that a calm Iraq could be one of the administration's "greatest achievements." In 2012, there will be no Obama re-election commercials bragging about the promised closure of Guantanamo Bay, but plenty taking credit for killing bin Laden inside Pakistan, a country where we have increased targeted drone assassinations fivefold since 2009.
President Obama, unlike candidate Obama, understood that the past unpopular U.S. measures kept us safe for seven years, and so apparently had to be continued. He also guessed rightly that when he put his own brand on these once widely caricatured but necessary antiterrorism measures, the furor that had plagued the country from 2003 to 2008 would simply end in a whimper. And he was absolutely right on both counts.
Conservatives were once demonized for George Bush's "smoke 'em out" and "dead or alive" tough talk about the war on terror. Liberals were caricatured for Obama's "overseas contingency operations" and "man-caused disasters" touchy-feely euphemisms. But the unspoken truth of the decade following 9/11 is that Americans, for all the Left and Right talking points, institutionalized policies and protocols that so far have kept us safe from another murderous attack.