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Biden Is Repeating Bush’s Post-9/11 Playbook. It’s Not Working.

Like his predecessor, the president is decrying anti-Arab and Muslim hatred while helping fuel it. People are refusing to let him get away with this hypocrisy.

Following the attacks on the Twin Towers, Bush announced a costly and lengthy war that would make no distinction between “terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them,” launching air strikes against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and beginning the so-called War on Terror, which would only expand over the next few years.

Bush adopted a strategy of preemptive war, justifying the invasion of Iraq by falsified claims that Saddam Hussein was storing weapons of mass destruction. As the powerful chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden voted for the authorization of military force in Iraq, stating in Congress in 2002, “Saddam [Hussein] has got to go, and it is likely to be required to have U.S. force to have him go, and the question is how to do it in my view, not if to do it.”

Later that year, Benjamin Netanyahu, after serving his first tenure as the prime minister of Israel, testified before Congress in support o the Iraq invasion. He stated that the most important thing in winning the War on Terror was “the application of power.”

“It’s not a question of whether Iraq’s regime should be taken out, but when should it be taken out,” Netanyahu said, echoing the imperialist rhetoric of both Biden and Bush. In Iraq alone, the war left roughly 1 million dead, up to 2 million widowed, and 5 million children orphaned.

Back at home, hate crimes and discrimination targeting Muslims and those racially profiled as Muslim were increasing to unprecedented levels. Bush expressed his dedication to vengeance and targeting “terror” wherever it existed, allowing the vague target to be placed on anyone the public deemed a threat.

The Bush administration launched an extensive surveillance project on the Muslim community—monitoring not only political activity but also schools, mosques, and even charities. Globally, more than 100,000 Muslims were detained, many held indefinitely and in secret locations.

But even as he pushed destructive wars and discriminatory policies, Bush rhetorically positioned himself in opposition to bigotry against Muslims and Arabs. He even famously visited the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., a week after 9/11, addressing the crowd with quotes from the Koran and saying, “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.” (Pundits have been praising him for those words ever since, even though they had little to do with his actions.)