The Left Should Look in the Mirror
Mr. Horowitz, co-author of The Kennedys, is editor-in-chief of FrontPage Magazine.It figures. The guilty ones are the first to point the finger. Now the same Democrats who for eight years slashed the military, crippled the CIA, blamed America for the enemies it made, opposed the projection of American power (missiles excepted) into terrorist regions like Afghanistan and Iraq, dismissed acts of war as individual misdeeds, rejected airport security on"racial profiling" grounds, defended a commander-in-chief who put his own libido above the security of his fellow citizens, and still oppose essential defense measures like holding suspects and imposing immigration controls these same appeasers of the political left are now in full war cry against a Republican President hoping to pin him with responsibility for the 9/11 attack.
To remind readers of the facts that the left is eager to forget, this is what I wrote in February about the ways the left has undermined American security:
The September 11 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center marked the end of one American era and the beginning of another. Like Pearl Harbor, the September tragedy awakened Americans from insular slumbers and made them aware of a world they could not afford to ignore. Like Franklin Roosevelt, George W. Bush condemned the attacks as acts of war, and mobilized a nation to action. It was a sharp departure from the policy of his predecessor, Bill Clinton, who in characteristic self-absorption had downgraded a series of similar assaults—including one on the World Trade Center itself—to criminal matters involving individuals alone.
The differences between the September 11 attacks and Pearl Harbor were also striking. The latter was a military base situated on an island 3,000 miles distant from the American mainland. New York, on the other hand, is America's greatest population center, the portal through which immigrant generations of all colors and ethnicities come to seek a better life. The World Trade Center is the Wall Street hub of the economy they enter, and its victims were targeted for participating in the most productive, tolerant and generous society human beings have created. In responding to the attacks, President Bush took note of this:"America was targeted for attack," he told Congress on September 20,"because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining."
In contrast to Pearl Harbor, the assault on the World Trade Center was hardly a"sneak attack" that American intelligence agencies had little idea was coming. Its Twin Towers had already been bombed eight years earlier, and by the same enemy. The terrorists themselves were already familiar to government operatives, their aggressions frequent enough that several commissions had been appointed to investigate. Each had reached the same conclusion. It was not a matter of whether the United States was going to be the target of a major terrorist assault; it was a matter of when.
In fact, the al-Qaeda terrorists responsible for the September 11 attacks had first engaged U.S. troops as early as 1993 in Somalia. The Americans' purpose in being there was humanitarian: to feed the starving citizens of this Muslim land. But these goodwill ambassadors were ambushed by al-Qaeda forces. In a 15-hour battle in Mogadishu, 18 Americans were killed and 80 wounded. A dead U.S. soldier was dragged through the streets in an act calculated to humiliate his comrades and his country. The Americans' offense was not that they had brought food to the hungry. Their crime was who they were—"unbelievers," emissaries of"the Great Satan," in the political religion of the enemy they now faced.
The defeat in Mogadishu was not only a blow to American charity; it was a blow to American power and American prestige. Nonetheless, under the leadership of America's then commander-in-chief, Bill Clinton, there was no military response to the humiliation. The greatest superpower the world had ever seen did nothing. It accepted defeat, and left.
On February 26, 1993, eight months prior to the Mogadishu attack, al-Qaeda terrorists had struck the World Trade Center for the first time. Their truck bomb made a crater six stories deep, killed six people and injured more than a thousand. The planners' intention had been to cause one tower to topple the other and kill tens of thousands of innocent people. It was not only the first major terrorist act ever to take place on U.S. soil, but—in the judgment of a definitive account of the event—"the most ambitious terrorist attack ever attempted, anywhere, ever."
Six Palestinian and Egyptian conspirators responsible for the attack were tried in civil courts and got life sentences like common criminals, but its mastermind escaped. He was identified as Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, an Iraqi Intelligence agent. This was a clear indication to authorities that the atrocity was no mere criminal event, and that it involved more than individual terrorists; it involved hostile terrorist states.
Yet, once again, the Clinton Administration's response was to absorb the injury and accept defeat. The president did not even visit the bomb crater or tend to the victims. Instead, America's commander-in-chief warned against"over-reaction." In doing so, he telegraphed a clear message to his nation's enemies: We are unsure of purpose and unsteady in hand; we are self-indulgent and soft; we will not take risks to defend ourselves; we are vulnerable.
The al-Qaeda terrorists were listening. In a 1998 interview, Osama bin Laden told ABC News reporter John Miller:"We have seen in the last decade the decline of the American government and the weakness of the American soldier who is ready to wage Cold Wars and unprepared to fight long wars. This was proven in Beirut when the Marines fled after two explosions. It also proves they can run in less than 24 hours, and this was also repeated in Somalia. We are ready for all occasions. We rely on Allah."
Among the terrorist entities that supported the al-Qaeda terrorists were Yasser Arafat's Palestine Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization. The PLO had created the first terrorist training camps, invented suicide bombings and been the chief propaganda machine behind the idea that terrorist armies were really missionaries for"social justice." Yet, among foreign leaders Arafat was Clinton's most frequent White House guest. Far from treating Arafat as an enemy of civilized order and an international pariah, the Clinton Administration was busily cultivating him as a"partner for peace." For many Washington liberals, terrorism was not the instrument of political fanatics and evil men, but was the product of social conditions—poverty, racism and oppression—for which the Western democracies, including Israel were always ultimately to blame.
The idea that terrorism has"root causes" in social conditions whose primary author is the United States is, in fact, an organizing theme of the contemporary political left."Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a 'cowardly' attack on 'civilization' or 'liberty' or 'humanity' or 'the free world'"—declared the writer Susan Sontag, speaking for this faction—"but an attack on the world's self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? How many citizens are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq?" (Was Susan Sontag unaware that Iraq was behind the first World Trade Center attack? That Iraq had attempted to swallow Kuwait and was a regional aggressor and sponsor of terror? That Iraq had expelled UN arms inspectors—in violation of the terms of its peace—who were there to prevent it from developing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons? Was she unaware that Iraq was a sponsor of international terror and posed an ongoing threat to others, including the country in which she lived?)
During the Clinton years the idea that America was somehow responsible for global distress had become an all too familiar refrain among leftwing elites. It had particular resonance in the institutions that shaped American culture and policy—universities, the mainstream media and the Oval Office. In March 1998, two months after Monica Lewinsky became a White House thorn and a household name, Clinton embarked on a presidential hand-wringing expedition to Africa. With a large delegation of African-American leaders in tow, the President made a pilgrimage to Uganda to apologize for the crime of American slavery. The apology was offered despite the fact that no slaves had ever been imported to America from Uganda or any East African state; that slavery in Africa preceded any American involvement by a thousand years; that America and Britain were the two powers responsible for ending the slave trade; and that America had abolished slavery a hundred years before—at great human cost—while slavery persisted in Africa without African protest to the present day.
Four months after Clinton left Uganda, al-Qaeda terrorists blew up the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Clinton's continuing ambivalence about America's role in the world was highlighted in the wake of September 11, when he suggested that America actually bore some responsibility for the attacks on itself. In November 2001, even as the new Bush administration was launching America's military response, the former president made a speech at Georgetown University in which he admonished citizens who were descended"from various European lineages" that they were"not blameless," and that America's past involvement in slavery should humble them as they confronted their attackers. Characteristically the President took no responsibility for his own failure to protect Americans from the attacks.
The idea that there are"root causes" behind campaigns to murder innocent men, women and children, and terrorize civilian populations was examined shortly after the Trade Center events by a writer in the New York Times. Columnist Edward Rothstein observed that while there was much hand-wringing and many mea culpas on the left after September 11, no one had invoked"root causes" to defend Timothy McVeigh after he blew up the Oklahoma City Federal Building in 1995, killing 187 people."No one suggested that this act had its 'root causes' in an injustice that needed to be rectified to prevent further terrorism." The silence was maintained even though McVeigh and his collaborators"asserted that their ideas of rights and liberty were being violated and that the only recourse was terror."
The reason no one invoked"root causes" to explain the oklahoma City bombing was simply because Timothy McVeigh was not a leftist. Nor did he claim to be acting in behalf of"social justice"—the historical code for totalitarian causes. In an address to Congress that defined America's response to September 11, President Bush sagaciously observed,"We have seen their kind before. They are the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions, by abandoning every value except the will to power, they follow in the path of fascism, Nazism and totalitarianism."
Like Islamic radicalism, the totalitarian doctrines of communism and fascism are fundamentalist creeds."The fundamentalist does not believe [his] ideas have any limits or boundaries,… [therefore] the goals of fundamentalist terror are not to eliminate injustice but to eliminate opposition." That is why the humanitarian nature of America's mission to Mogadishu made no difference to America's al-Qaeda foe. The terrorists' goal was not to alleviate hunger. It was to eliminate America. It was to defeat"The Great Satan."
Totalitarians and fundamentalists share a conviction that is religious and political at the same time. Their mission is social redemption through the power of the state. Using political and military power they intend to create a"new world" in their own image. This revolutionary transformation encompasses all individuals and requires the control of all aspects of human life, as Edward Rothstein pointed out:
Like fundamentalist terror, totalitarian terror leaves no aspect of life exempt from the battle being waged. The state is felt to be the apotheosis of political and natural law, and it strives to extend that law over all humanity…. No injustices, separately or together, necessarily lead to totalitarianism and no mitigation of injustice, however defined, will eliminate its unwavering beliefs, absolutist control and unbounded ambitions.
In 1998 Osama bin Laden explained his war aims to ABC News:"Allah ordered us in this religion to purify Muslim land of all non-believers." As The New Republic's Peter Beinart commented, bin Laden is not a crusader for social justice but"an ethnic cleanser on a scale far greater than the Hutus and the Serbs, a scale that has only one true Twentieth Century parallel."
In the 1990s America mobilized its military power to go to the rescue of Muslims in the Balkans who were being ethnically cleansed by Serbian communists. This counted for nothing in al-Qaeda's calculations, any more than did America's support for Muslim peasants in Afghanistan fighting for their freedom against the Red Army invaders in the 1980s. The war against radical Islam is not about what America has done, but about what America is. As bin Laden told the world on October 7, the day America began its military response, the war is between those of the faith and those outside the faith, between those who submit to the believers' law and those who are infidels and do not.
After the first World Trade Center attack, President Clinton vowed there would be vengeance. But like so many of his presidential pronouncements, the strong words were not accompanied by deeds. Nor were they followed by measures necessary to defend the country against the next series of attacks.
After their Mogadishu victory and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, unsuccessful attempts were made by al-Qaeda groups to blow up the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels and other populated targets, including a massive terrorist incident timed to coincide with the millennium celebrations of January 2000. Another scheme to hijack commercial airliners and use them as"bombs" according to plans close to those eventually used on September 11, was thwarted in the Philippines in 1995. The architect of this effort was the Iraqi intelligence agent Ramzi Yousef.
The following year, a terrorist attack on the Khobar Towers, a U.S. military barracks in Saudia Arabia, killed 19 American soldiers. The White House response was limp, and the case (in the words of FBI director Louis B. Freeh)"remains unresolved." Two years later al-Qaeda agents blew up the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killing 245 people and injuring 5,000. (One CIA official told a reporter,"Two at once is not twice as hard. It is a hundred times as hard.") On October 12, 2000 the warship USS Cole was bombed while re-fueling in Yemen, yet another Islamic country aligned with the terrorist enemy. Seventeen U.S. sailors were killed and 39 injured.
These were all acts of war, yet the President and his cabinet refused to recognize them as such.
Clinton's second term national security advisor, Sandy Berger, described the official White House position towards these attacks as"a little bit like a Whack-A-Mole game at the circus. They bop up and you whack 'em down, and if they bop up again, you bop 'em back, down again." Like the Administration he represented, the national security advisor lacked a requisite appreciation of the problem. Iraq's dictator was unimpressed by sporadic U.S. strikes against his regime. He remained defiant, expelling UN weapons inspectors, firing at U.S. warplanes and continuing to build his arsenal of mass destruction. But"the Administration held no clear and consistent view of the Iraqi threat and how it intended to address it," observed Washington Post correspondent Jim Hoagland. The disarray that characterized the Clinton security policy flowed from the"Administration's growing inability to tell the world—and itself—the truth." It was the signature problem of the Clinton years.
Underlying the Clinton security failure was the fact that the Administration was made up of people who for twenty-five years had discounted or minimized the totalitarian threat, opposed America's armed presence abroad, and consistently resisted the deployment of America's military forces to halt Communist expansion. National Security Advisor Sandy Berger was himself a veteran of the Sixties"anti-war" movement, which abetted the Communist victories in Vietnam and Cambodia, and created the"Vietnam War syndrome" that made it so difficult afterwards for American Presidents to deploy the nation's military forces.
Berger had also been a member of"Peace Now," the leftist movement seeking to pressure the Israeli government to make concessions to Yasser Arafat's PLO terrorists. Clinton's first National Security Advisor, Anthony Lake was a protégé of Berger, who had introduced him to Clinton. All three had met as activists in the 1972 McGovern presidential campaign whose primary issue was opposition to the Vietnam War based on the view that the"arrogance of American power" was responsible for the conflict rather than Communist aggression.
Anthony Lake's own attitude towards the totalitarian threat in Southeast Asia was displayed in a March 1975 Washington Post article he wrote called,"At Stake in Cambodia: Extending Aid Will Only Prolong the Killing." The prediction contained in Lake's title proved to be exactly wrong. It was not a small mistake for someone who in 1992 would be placed in charge of America's national security apparatus. Lake's article was designed to rally Democrat opposition to a presidential request for emergency aid to the Cambodian regime. The aid was required to contain the threat posed by Communist leader Pol Pot and his insurgent Khmer Rouge forces.
At the time, Republicans warned that if the aid was cut the regime would fall and a"bloodbath" would ensue. This fear was solidly based on reports that had begun accumulating three years earlier concerning"the extraordinary brutality with which the Khmer Rouge were governing the civilian population in areas they controlled." But Anthony Lake and the Democrat-controlled Congress dismissed these warnings as so much"anti-Communist hysteria," and voted to deny the aid.
In his Post article, Lake advised fellow Democrats to view the Khmer Rouge not as a totalitarian force—which it was—but as a coalition embracing"many Khmer nationalists, Communist and non-Communist," who only desired independence. It would be a mistake, he wrote, to alienate Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge lest we"push them further into the arms of their Communist supporters." Lake's myopic left-wing views prevailed among the Democrats, and the following year the new president, Jimmy Carter, rewarded Lake with an appointment as Policy Planning Director of the State Department.
In Cambodia, the termination of U.S. aid led immediately to the collapse of the government allowing the Khmer Rouge to seize power within months of the congressional vote. The victorious revolutionaries proceeded to implement their plans for a new Communist utopia by systematically eliminating their opposition. In the next three years they killed nearly 2 million Cambodians, a campaign universally recognized as one of the worst genocides ever recorded.
For nearly a decade before the World Trade Center disaster, the Clinton Administration was aware that Americans were increasingly vulnerable to attacks which might involve biological or chemical weapons, or even nuclear devices bought or stolen from broken pieces of the former Soviet Union. This was the insistent message of Republican speeches on the floors of Congress and was reflected in the warnings of several government commissions, and Clinton's own Secretary of Defense, William Cohen.
In July 1999, for example, Cohen wrote an op-ed piece in the WashingtonPost, predicting a terrorist attack on the American mainland."In the past year, dozens of threats to use chemical or biological weapons in the United States have turned out to be hoaxes. Someday, one will be real." But the warnings did not produce the requisite action by the commander-in-chief. Meanwhile, the nation's media looked the other way. For example, as the president of the Council on Foreign Relations told the New Yorker's Joe Klein, he"watched carefully to see if anyone followed up on [Cohen's speech]. But none of the television networks and none of the elite press even mentioned it. I was astonished."
The following year,"the National Commission on Terrorism—chaired by former Reagan counter-terrorism head Paul Bremer—issued a report with the eerily foreboding image of the Twin Towers on its cover. A bi-partisan effort led by Jon Kyl and Dianne Feinstein—was made to attach the recommendations of the panel to an intelligence authorization bill." But Senator Patrick Leahy, who had distinguished himself in the 1980s by opposing the government's efforts to halt the Communist offensive in Central America"said he feared a threat to 'civil liberties' in a campaign against terrorism and torpedoed the effort. After the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, Kyl and Feinstein tried yet again. This time, Leahy was content with emaciating the proposals instead of defeating them outright. The weakened proposals died as the House realized 'it wasn't worth taking up.'"
After the abortive plot to blow up commercial airliners in the Philippines, Vice President Gore was tasked with improving airline security. A commission was formed, but under his leadership it also"focused on civil liberties" and"profiling," liberal obsessions that diluted any effort to strengthen security measures in the face of a threat in which all of the proven terrorists were Muslims from the Middle East and Asia. The commission concluded that,"no profile [of passengers] should contain or be based on … race, religion, or national origin." According to journalist Kevin Cherry, the FAA also decided in 1999 to seal its passenger screening system from law-enforcement databases thus preventing the FBI from notifying airlines that suspected terrorists were on board."
In 1993, the FBI identified three charities connected to the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas that were being used to finance terrorist activities, sending as much as $20 million a year to America's enemies. According to presidential adviser Dick Morris,"At a White House strategy meeting on April 27, 1995—two weeks after the Oklahoma City bombing—the President was urged to create a 'President's List' of extremist/terrorist groups, their members and donors 'to warn the public against well-intentioned donations which might foster terrorism.' On April 1, 1996, he was again advised to 'prohibit fund-raising by terrorists and identify terrorist organizations.'" Hamas was specifically mentioned.
Inexplicably Clinton ignored these recommendations. Why? FBI agents have stated that they were prevented from opening either criminal or national-security cases because of a fear that it would be seen as 'profiling' Islamic charities. While Clinton was 'politically correct,' Hamas flourished.
In failing to heed the signs that America was at war with a deadly adversary, overcome the ideological obstacles created by the liberal biases of his administration and arouse an uninformed public to concern, it was the commander-in-chief who bore primary responsibility. As one former administration official told reporter Joe Klein"Clinton spent less concentrated attention on national defense than any another President in recent memory." Clinton's political advisor Dick Morris flatly charged,"Clinton's failure to mobilize America to confront foreign terror after the 1993 attack [on the World Trade Center] led directly to the 9/11 disaster." According to Morris"Clinton was removed, uninvolved, and distant where the war on terror was concerned."
By Clinton's own account, Monica Lewinsky was able to visit him privately more than a dozen times in the Oval Office. But according to a USA Today investigative report, the head of the CIA could not get a single private meeting with the President, despite the Trade Center bombing of February 26, 1993 or the killing of 18 American soldiers in Mogadishu on October 3 of the same year."James Woolsey, Clinton's first CIA director, says he never met privately with Clinton after their initial interview. When a small plane crashed on the White House grounds in 1994, the joke inside the White House was, 'that must be Woolsey, still trying to get an appointment.'"
In 1996, an American Muslim businessman and Clinton supporter named Mansoor Ijaz opened up an unofficial channel between the government of the Sudan and the Clinton Administration. At the same time,"the State Department was describing bin Laden as 'the greatest single financier of terrorist projects in the world' and was accusing the Sudan of harboring terrorists." According to Mansoor, who met with Clinton and Sandy Berger,"President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir, who wanted terrorism sanctions against Sudan lifted, offered the arrest and extradition of bin Laden and detailed intelligence data about the global networks constructed by Egypt's Islamic Jihad, Iran's Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas. Among the members of these networks were the two hijackers who piloted commercial airliners into the World Trade Center. The silence of the Clinton administration in responding to these offers was deafening."
President Bashir sent key intelligence officials to Washington in February 1966. Again, according to Mansoor,"the Sudanese offered to arrest bin Laden and extradite him to Saudi Arabia or, barring that, to 'baby-sit' him—monitoring all his activities and associates." But the Saudis didn't want him. Instead, in May 1996"the Sudanese capitulated to US pressure and asked Bin Laden to leave, despite their feeling that he could be monitored better in Sudan than elsewhere. Bin Laden left for Afghanistan, taking with him Ayman Awahiri, considered by the U.S. to be the chief planner of the September 11 attacks…"
One month later, the US military housing complex in Saudi Arabia was blown apart by a 5,000 lb truck bomb. Clinton's failure to grasp the opportunity, concludes Mansoor,"represents one of the most serious foreign policy failures in American history."
According to a London Sunday Times account, based on a Clinton Administration source, responsibility for this decision"went to the very top of the White House. Shortly after the September 11 disaster,"Clinton told a dinner companion that the decision to let bin Laden go was probably 'the biggest mistake of my presidency.'" But according to the Times report, which was based on interviews with intelligence officials, this was only one of three occasions on which the Clinton Administration had the opportunity to seize Bin Laden and failed to do so.
When the president's affair with Monica Lewinsky became public in January 1998, and his adamant denials made it a consuming public preoccupation, Clinton's normal inattention to national security matters became subsumed in a general executive paralysis. In Dick Morris's judgment, the United States was effectively"without a president between January 1998 until April 1999," when the impeachment proceedings concluded with the failure of the Senate to convict. It was in August 1998 that the al-Qaeda truck bombs blew up the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Yet this was only half the story. During its eight years, the Clinton Administration was able to focus enough attention on defense matters to hamstring the intelligence services in the name of civil liberties, shrink the U.S. military in the name of economy, and prevent the Pentagon from adopting (and funding) a"two-war" strategy, because"the Cold War was over" and in the White House's judgment there was no requisite military threat in the post-Communist world that might make it necessary for the United States to be able to fight wars on two fronts. Inattention to defense also did not prevent the Clinton Administration from pursuing massive social experiments in the military in the name of gender and diversity reform, which included requiring" consciousness raising" classes for military personnel, rigging physical standards women were unable to meet, and in general undermining the meritocratic benchmarks that are a crucial component of military morale.
While budget cuts forced some military families to go on food stamps, the Pentagon spent enormous sums to re-equip ships and barracks to accommodate co-ed living. All these efforts further reduced the Pentagon's ability to put a fighting force in the field—a glaring national vulnerability dramatized by the war in Kosovo. This diminished the crucial elements of fear and respect for American power in the eyes of adversaries waiting in the wings.
During the Clinton years, the Democrats insistence that American power was somehow the disturber—rather than the enforcer—of international tranquility, prompted the White House to turn to multilateral agencies for leadership, particularly the discredited United Nations. While useful in limited peacekeeping operations, the UN was in large part a collection of theocratic tyrannies and brutal dictatorships which regularly indicted and condemned the world's most tolerant democracies, specifically the United States, England and Israel, while supporting the very states providing safe harbors for America's al-Qaeda enemy. Just prior to the World Trade Center attacks, the UN's"Conference on Racism" engaged in a ritual of America bashing over"reparations" for slavery and support for Israel. The agendas had been set by an Arab coalition led by Iran.
During the 1990s, Bill Clinton's most frequent foreign guest was Yasser Arafat, whose allegiance to Iraq and betrayal of America during the Gulf War could not have been more brazen. Following the defeat of Iraq, a"peace process" was launched in the Arab-Israeli conflict that predictably failed through Arafat's failure to renounce the terrorist option. But why renounce terror if there is no price exacted for practicing it?
It is true that the Clinton White House was able, during its eight-year tenure, to shed some of the Democrats' normal aversion to the use of American military might. (As recently as 1990 only 6 Democratic Senators had voted to authorize the Gulf War against Iraq). But the Clinton deployments of American forces were often non-military in nature: a"democracy building" effort in Haiti that failed; flood relief and"peace keeping" operations that were more appropriately the province of international institutions. Even the conflict Clinton belatedly engaged in the Balkans was officially characterized as a new kind of"humanitarian war," as though the old kinds of war for national interest and self-defense were somehow tainted. While the Serbian dictator Milosevic was toppled,"ethnic cleansing," the casus belli of the Western intervention, continues, except that the Christian Serbs in Kosovo have now become victims of the previously persecuted Albanian Muslims.
Among Clinton's deployments were also half-hearted strikes using cruise missiles against essentially defenseless countries like the Sudan, or the sporadic bombing of Iraq when Saddam violated the terms of the Gulf peace. Clinton's strikes failed in their primary objective—to maintain the UN inspections. On the other hand, a negative result of this"Whack-A-Mole" strategy was the continual antagonizing of Muslim populations throughout the world.
The most notorious of these episodes was undoubtedly Clinton's ill-conceived and ineffectual response to the attacks on the African embassies. At the time, Clinton was preoccupied with preparing his defense before a grand jury convened because of his public lies about the Lewinsky affair. Three days after Lewinsky's grand jury appearance, without consulting the Joint Chiefs of Staff or his national security advisors, Clinton launched cruise missiles into two Islamic countries, which he identified as being allied to the terrorists and their leader Osama bin Laden. One of these missiles hit and destroyed a pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan, killing one individual. Since the factory was the sole plant producing medicines for an impoverished African nation, there were almost certainly a number of collateral deaths.
The incident, which inflamed anti-American passions all over the Islamic world, was—in conception and execution—a perfect reflection of the distorted priorities and reckless attitudes of the Clinton White House. It also reflected the irresponsibility of congressional Democrats who subordinated the safety concerns of their constituents to provide unified support for the presidential misbehavior at home and abroad.
More than 100 Arabic operatives participated in the attack on the World Trade Center Towers. They did so over a period of several years. They were able to enter the United States with and without passports seemingly at will. They received training in flying commercial airliners at American facilities despite clear indications that some of them might be part of a terrorist campaign. At the same time, Democrats pressed for greater relaxation of immigration policies and resisted scrutiny of foreign nationals on the grounds that to do so constituted"racial profiling." To coordinate their terrorist efforts, the al-Qaeda operatives had to communicate with each other electronically on channels that America's high-tech intelligence agencies normally intercept. One reason they were not detected was that the first line of defense against such attacks was effectively crippled by powerful figures in the Democratic Party who considered the CIA the problem and not America's enemies.
Security controls that would have prevented adversarial agents from even acquiring encryption devices that thwarted American intelligence efforts were casually lifted on orders from the highest levels of government. Alleged abuses by American intelligence operatives became a higher priority than the abuses of the hostile forces they were attempting to contain. Reporter Joe Klein's inquiries led him to conclude"there seems to be near unanimous agreement among experts: in the ten years since the collapse of the Soviet Union [and the eight years of the Clinton presidency, and the seven since the first Al-Qaeda attack on the World Trade Center] almost every aspect of American national-security—from military operations to intelligence gathering, from border control to political leadership—has been marked by … institutional lassitude and bureaucratic arrogance…"
The Democrats' cavalier attitude towards American security in the years preceding September 11 was dramatized in a series of annual amendments to cut intelligence funds sight unseen, which was introduced every year of the Clinton Administration (except 2000) by Independent Bernie Sanders.
The Sanders amendment was initially proposed in 1993, after the first al-Qaeda attack on the World Trade Center. In that year, the Democrat-controlled House Intelligence Committee had voted to reduce President Clinton's own authorization request for the intelligence agencies by 6.75%. But this was insufficient for Sanders. So he introduced an amendment that required a minimum reduction in financial authorization for each individual intelligence agency of at least 10%.
Sanders refused to even examine the intelligence budget he proposed to cut:"My job is not to go through the intelligence budget. I have not even looked at it." According to Sanders the reasons for reducing the intelligence budget were that"the Soviet Union no longer exists," and that"massive unemployment, that low wages, that homelessness, that hungry children, that the collapse of our educational system is perhaps an equally strong danger to this Nation, or may be a stronger danger for our national security."
Irresponsible? Incomprehensible? Not to between a third and more than half the Democrats in the House who voted in favor of the Sanders amendment over the years. Ninety-seven Democrats in all voted for the Sanders cuts, including House Armed Services Committee chair Ron Dellums and the House Democratic leadership. As the terrorist attacks on America intensified year by year during the 1990s, Sanders steadfastly reintroduced his amendment. In 1995, 1996 and 1997 Barney Frank introduced a similar amendment that would cut the intelligence funds by less, but cut them still. In 1997, 158 Democrats voted for the Frank Amendment. That same year a majority voted for a modified Sanders amendment to cut intelligence funds by 5%.
According to a study made by political consultant Terry Cooper,"Dick Gephardt (D-MO), the House Democratic leader, voted to cut on five of the seven amendments on which he was recorded. He appears to have 'taken a walk' on two other votes. David Bonior (D-MI), the number-two Democratic leader who as Whip enforces the party position, voted for every single one of the ten cutting amendments. Chief Deputy Whips John Lewis (D-GA) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) voted to cut intelligence funding every time they voted. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), just elected to replace Bonior as Whip when Bonior leaves early in 2002, voted to cut intelligence funding three times, even though she was a member of the Intelligence Committee and should have known better. Two funding cut amendments got the votes of every single member of the elected House Democratic leadership. In all, members of the House Democratic leadership supported the Saunders' and Frank's funding cut amendments 56.9 percent of the time."
Many of the Democrats whose committee positions give them immense say over our national security likewise voted for most or all of the funding-cut amendments. Ron Dellums (D-CA), the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee from 1993 through 1997, cast all eight of his votes on funding cut amendments in favor of less intelligence funding. Three persons who chaired or were ranking Democrats on Armed Services subcommittees for part of the 1993-99 period—Pat Schroeder (D-CO), Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) and Marty Meehan (D-MA)—also voted for every fund-cutting amendment that was offered during their tenures. Dave Obey (D-WI), the senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee that holds the House's keys to the federal checkbook, voted seven out of eight times to reduce intelligence funding.
In 1994, Republican Porter Goss, a former CIA official and member of the House Intelligence Committee, warned that the cuts now proposed in the intelligence budget amounted to 16% of the 1992 budget and were 20% below the 1990 budget. Yet this did not dissuade Dellums, Bonior and 100 or more Democrats from continuing to lay the budgetary ax to America's first line of anti-terrorist defense. Ranking Committee Republican Larry Combest warned that the cuts endangered" critically important and fragile capabilities, such as in the area of human intelligence." In 1998, Osama bin Laden and four radical Islamic groups connected to al-Qaeda issued a fatwa condemning every American man, woman and child, civilian and military included. Sanders responded by enlisting Oregon Democrat Peter DeFazio to author an amendment cutting the intelligence authorization again.
When Republicans took control of the House in 1994, Republican Floyd Spence, now head of the National Security Committee, expressed his outrage at the Democrats' handiwork in words that were eerily prescient:"We have done to our military and to our intelligence agencies what no foreign power has been able to do. We have been decimating our own defenses….In this day and time you do not have to be a superpower to raise the horrors of mass destruction warfare on people. It could be a Third World country, a rogue nation, or a terrorist group….These weapons of mass destruction are chemical, biological, bacteriological….Anthrax could be released in the air over Washington, DC…. That could happen at any time and people are talking about cutting back on our ability to defend against these things or to prevent them from happening. It is unconscionable to even think about it. It borders on leaving our country defenseless."
Yet the warning signs continued right up to the disaster. Before and after the 1999 Washington Post article by Defense Secretary Cohen,"there was a series of more elaborate reports about grand terrorism, by assorted blue-ribbon task forces, which warned of chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks…" A report by former Senators Hart and Rudman called for a huge"homeland security" campaign that would include—in Joe Klein's summation for the New Yorker—"intensive municipal civil defense and crisis response teams, new anti-terrorist detection technology," and a new cabinet level position of Secretary of Homeland Security, which was instituted by the Bush Administration shortly after the attack.
Klein—a liberal Democrat and former"anti-war" activist—refused to draw the obvious conclusion from these events, and place the responsibility where it belonged—squarely on the shoulders of the Democrats. Instead he wrote:"There can't be much controversy here. Nearly everyone—elected officials, the media, ideologues of every stripe—ignored these reports."
This is a falsehood so self-serving as to be almost understandable. Fortunately there is an extensive public record attesting to the intense and ongoing concern of Republican officials and the conservative media over the nation's security crisis, and their determined if unsuccessful efforts to expose and remedy it. There is an equally extensive public record documenting the Democrats' resistance to strengthening the nation's defenses and the liberal media's efforts to minimize, dismiss and even ridicule attempts by Republicans to do so. The national press's negative treatment of Representative Dan Burton's and Senator Fred Thompson's committee investigations into the efforts by Communist China to influence the 1996 presidential election is a dramatic instance of this pattern, particularly since the liberal media have made campaign finance reform one of their highest priorities.
In fact, the Chinese poured hundreds of thousands of—legal and illegal—dollars into the Clinton-Gore campaigns in 1992 and 1996. The top funder of the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign was an Arkansas resident and Chinese banker named James Riady, whose relationship with Clinton went back twenty years. Riady is the scion of a multi-billion dollar financial empire whose throne room in Jakarta is adorned with two adjacent portraits of Clinton and Chinese leader, Li Peng, the infamous"butcher of Tiananmen Square." Though based in Indonesia, the Riady empire has billions of dollars invested in China, and is a working economic and political partnership with China's military and intelligence establishments. The Riadys gave $450,000 to Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign and another $600,000 to the Democratic National Committee and Democratic state parties—and that was just the tip of the iceberg in their working partnership with Clinton.
The question that Democratic obstructions prevented the Thompson and Burton committees from answering was whether these payments resulted in the transfer of U.S. weapons technologies to Communist China. China is known to have transferred such sensitive military technologies to Iran, Libya, North Korea and Iraq. Beginning in 1993, the Clinton Administration systematically lifted security controls at the Department of Commerce that had previously prevented the transfer of sensitive missile, satellite and computer technologies to China and other nuclear proliferators. In the beginning of that year, Clinton appointed John Huang, who was an agent of the Riady interests as well as Communist China, to a senior position at Commerce with top security clearance. Clinton later sent Huang to the Democratic National Committee to take charge of fund-raising for his 1996 campaign.
In May 1999, a bi-partisan House committee, headed by Representative Christopher Cox, released a report which was tersely summarized by the Wall Street Journal in these harrowing words:"The espionage inquiry found Beijing has stolen U.S. design data for nearly all elements needed for a major nuclear attack on the U.S., such as advanced warheads, missiles and guidance systems." Among the factors contributing to these unprecedented losses—most of which took place during the Clinton years—the report identified lax security by the Administration.
Two committees of Congress headed by Dan Burton and Fred Thompson attempted to get to the bottom of the matter to see if there was any connection between these problems and the Riady-Huang fund-raising efforts, particularly the illegal contributions by foreign agents of the Chinese military and intelligence establishments. The investigations failed because the Committee Republicans were stonewalled by the Clinton Administration, their Democratic colleagues and the witnesses called. In all, 105 of these witnesses either took the Fifth Amendment or fled the country to avoid cooperating with investigators. They did this not only with the tacit acquiescence of the Clinton Administration, but the active help of Clinton officials.
There are scores of Republican congressmen—leaders of military, intelligence and government oversight committees—who attempted to sound the alarm on this front, and who expressed publicly (and to me, personally) their distress at being unable to reach the broad American electorate with their concerns about these national security issues because of the indifference of the liberal media and the partisan rancor of the Democrats.
In the year prior to the World Trade Center attack, I met in the Capitol with more than a dozen Republican members of the House—including members of the Armed Services Committee—to discuss how the security issue could be brought before the American public. Given the President's talent for political double-talk and the lock-step submission of congressional Democrats to his most reckless agendas, and without the possibility of media support for such an effort, not a single member present thought that raising these issues would go anywhere. Even attempting to raise them, they felt, exposed them to damaging political risks. These risks included attacks by Democrats and liberal journalists who would label them"mean-spirited partisans,""right–wing alarmists,""xenophobes" and, of course,"Clinton bashers."
While the liberal media put up a wall of opposition, journalists in the conservative media worked against the grain to make the issues public. Bill Gertz, Ken Timperlake and William C. Triplett III wrote books (Betrayal and The Year of the Rat) based on military and intelligence sources, and data collected by the Thompson and Burton committees that would have shaken any other administration to its roots, but received little attention outside conservative circles. Other conservative journalists including the Washington Times' Rowan Scarborough and various writers for the Wall Street Journal's editorial pages, the National Review, and the Weekly Standard pursued the story but were also unable to reach a broad enough public to make any impact. The conservative side of the ideological spectrum has no apologies to make for disarming the nation in the face of its security threats. The Democratic Party and its subsidiary institutions, the liberal press and the left-wing academy, do.
One of the obvious causes of the many security lapses preceding the World Trade Center attack was the post-Vietnam crusade against U.S. intelligence and defense agencies dating from the Church Committee reforms in the mid-Seventies and led by"anti-war" Democrats and other partisans of the American left. A summary episode reflecting this mood involved CIA operative Robert Baer, described by national security reporter Thomas Powers, as"a 20-year veteran of numerous assignments in Central Asia and the Middle East whose last major job for the agency was an attempt to organize Iraqi opposition to Saddam Hussein in the early 1990s—shuttling between a desk in Langley and contacts on the ground in Jordan, Turkey, and even northern Iraq."
According to Powers,"That assignment came to an abrupt end in March 1995 when Baer, once seen as a rising star of the Directorate of Operations, suddenly found himself 'the subject of an accusatory process.' An agent of the FBI told him he was under investigation for the crime of plotting the assassination of Saddam Hussein. The investigation was ordered by President Clinton's national security adviser, Anthony Lake, who would be nominated to run the [CIA] two years later. [Lake's appointment was successfully resisted by the intelligence community.]…. Eventually, the case against Baer was dismissed …but for Baer the episode was decisive. 'When your own outfit is trying to put you in jail,' he told me, 'it's time to go. Baer's is one of many resignations [in the Directorate of Operations] in recent years…."
Hostility to the CIA during the Clinton years ran so high that intelligence professionals refer to it as the"'Shia' era in the agency," Powers reported. The term referred to the Islamic sect that stresses the sinfulness of its adherents."We all had to demonstrate our penance," a former CIA chief of station in Jordan told Powers."Focus groups were organized, we 're-engineered' the relationship of the Directorate of Operations and the Directorate of Intelligence," which meant introducing"uniform career standards" that would apply indiscriminately to analysts and covert operators in the field. This meant high-risk assignments in target countries resulted in no greater advancement up the bureaucratic ladder than sitting at a computer terminal in Langley."In the re-engineered CIA," comments Powers,"it was possible for Deborah Morris to be appointed the DO's deputy chief for the Near East. [The DO is the department of covert operations.]"She worked her way up in Langley," an operative told Powers."I don't think she's ever been in the Near East. She's never run an agent, she doesn't know what the Khyber Pass looks like, but she's supposed to be directing operations [in the field]."
The end of the Cold War in 1991 inspired the reformers to close down all the Counterespionage Groups in the CIA because their expertise was no longer"needed." Spies were passé."The new order of the day was to 'manage intelligence relationships.'" After interviewing many operatives who had left the CIA in disgust during this period, Powers concluded that in the Clinton years the Agency had become more and more risk averse as the result of"years of public criticism, attempts to clean house, the writing and rewriting of rules, …efforts to rein in the Directorate of Operations, … catch-up hiring of women and minorities [and] public hostility that makes it hard to recruit at leading colleges."
A post 9/11 article by Peter Beinart, editor of the liberal New Republic amplified Powers' observations. Beinart speculated that the CIA's lapses may have occurred because of a fundamental mediocrity that had overtaken the institution. This mediocrity was the direct result of the attacks on the Agency (and on America's global purposes) by the political left and the culture of hostility towards the American government that had been successfully implanted in America's elite universities—once the prime recruiting grounds for the intelligence services.
Beinart began with a description of the recent assassination of Abdul Haq in Afghanistan. Haq was potentially the most important leader of the internal opposition to the ruling Taliban. Yet the CIA had failed to provide him with protection. A key element in this disaster was the fact that the CIA did not have a single operative who could communicate with Haq in his native tongue, Dari. Nor did the CIA have a single operative who spoke Pashto, the language of the Taliban, even though al-Qaeda's base had been Afghanistan for years. The problem of reading intercepted intelligence transcripts in Pashto was"solved" by sending the transcripts to Pakistan to be translated by Pakistani intelligence officials—who were also sponsors of the Taliban. Some CIA officials believe it was Pakistani intelligence officials who warned Osama Bin Laden to get out of Khost before U.S. missiles were launched into Afghanistan after the embassy bombings in 1998.
The Abdul Haq assassination exposed the enormous human intelligence gap that had developed within the agency during the post-Vietnam years. As much as 90% of America's intelligence budget was being spent on technology, electronic decryption and eavesdropping systems for the National Security Agency, rather than human intelligence based on agents in the field. Without human language skills much of this information itself remained useless. In September 2001, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence concluded:"At the NSA and CIA, thousands of pieces of data are never analyzed or are analyzed 'after the fact'…. Written materials can sit for months and sometimes years before a linguist with proper security clearance and skills can begin a translation."
According to a 1998 article in The Atlantic Monthly written by a former CIA official,"Not a single Iran-desk chief during the eight years I worked on Iran could speak or read Persian. Not a single Near East Division chief knew Arabic, Persian or Turkish, and only one could get along even in French." These deficiencies become intelligible only when one understands what happened to Middle Eastern studies in American universities in the post-Vietnam decades.
The story of the university left's subversion of the field of Middle Eastern studies is recounted in a recent book by Martin Kramer, editor of the Middle East Quarterly. As a reviewer summarized Kramer's argument,"In the late seventies, the radical students of the 1960s began to enter the professoriate. The way was cleared for them to wrest power from the Middle East studies establishment when Edward Said's Orientalism (1978) crystallized a new understanding of the field." Said was a member of the ruling council of Yasser Arafat's PLO and quickly became one of the most powerful academics in America, eventually heading the Modern Language Association, whose 40,000 members make it the largest professional association of academics. On November 21, 1993, eight months after the World Trade Center bombing, Said wrote an article for the New York Times Sunday Magazine with the revealing title"The Phony Islamic Threat." Said's title summarized the intellectual shift in Middle East studies during the previous decade. The new perspective that came to dominate the field was that perceptions of a terrorist threat from Islamic radicals were expressions of"Euro-centric" or racist attitudes by their Western oppressors.
In his book, Orientalism, Said argued that all previous scholarship on the Middle East was hopelessly biased because it was written by white Europeans and thus"racist." According to Said,"All Western knowledge of the East was intrinsically tainted with imperialism." In one stroke Said thus discredited all previous scholarship in the field, paving the way for its replacement by Marxist radicals like himself. With the help of his left-wing academic allies, Said's extremist viewpoint created the climate and context for a revolution in Middle Eastern studies. This was accelerated by the"multi-culturalist" attitudes of the university and racial preference policies in faculty hiring, which involved the widespread recruitment of political leftists from the Islamic theocracies of the Middle East. Before Said,"3.2% of America's Middle East area specialists had been born in the region. By 1992, the figure was nearly half. This demographic transformation consolidated the conversion of Middle Eastern studies into leftist anti-Americanism."(Emphasis added.)
In a statement issued ten days after the World Trade Center attack, the Middle East Studies Association—the professional organization representing the field—refused to describe the perpetrators of the attack as"terrorists," and preemptively opposed any U.S. military response. Georgetown professor John Esposito, a former president of the Middle East Studies Association and an academic star in the field, made his name after the first World Trade Center attack by following Said's example and disparaging concerns about Islamic terrorism as thinly-veiled anti-Muslim prejudice. He was rewarded by being made a foreign affairs analyst for the Clinton State Department and assigned to its intelligence department.
The language deficiency at the CIA—to which the political takeover of the academic profession greatly contributed—proved crucial at the operational level. But it was only a reflection of the more profound problem that afflicted the intelligence community because of the universities' leftward turn. In Beinart's words,"Today's CIA is a deeply mediocre institution. Its problems aren't legal or financial; they're intellectual. The agency needs a massive infusion of brainpower." How massive an infusion was indicated in an article Beinart cited:"According to a 1992 New York Times story, applicants for the CIA's 'Undergraduate Student Trainee Program' needed only a combined SAT score of 900 and a grade point average of 2.75." This compares to the average requirements for entrance into top ranked schools like Harvard or Princeton, which require SAT scores above 1300 and grade point averages of 4.0. Princeton is one of many elite universities that because of political pressure from the left officially refuse to allow the CIA to recruit students on their campuses and have refused to do so for more than a decade.
The only places the CIA can recruit its missing brainpower—"the only institutions able to supply the world-class linguists, biologists, and computer scientists it currently lacks—are America's universities." But the universities have long since become the political base of a left that has not given up its fantasies of social revolution and is deeply antagonistic to America and its purposes. The root cause of the nation's security problem is that, beginning in the 1960s the political left aimed a dagger at the heart of America's security system, and from a vantage of great power in the universities, the media and the Democratic Party were able to press the blade home for three decades prior to the World Trade Center disaster.
The main reason the CIA no longer recruits agents from top-ranked schools is because it can't."The men and women who teach today's college students view the CIA with suspicion, if not disdain," as Beinart put it. The formulation is, in fact, too mild. The left hates the CIA and regards it as an enemy of all that is humane and decent. To make their case, academic leftists drill the nation's elite youth in a litany of" crimes" alleged to have been carried out by the CIA since the late 1940s—the rigging of the Italian and French elections of 1948 against popular Communist parties (whose aim, unmentioned in this academic literature was to incorporate Western Europe into Stalin's satellite system), the overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran in 1951 (whom they fail to identify as a Soviet asset who would have delivered Iranian oil reserves to Stalin), the overthrow of the Arbenz regime in Guatemala (whom the left portrays as a Democrat but who was in fact a Communist fellow-traveler who chose to spend his exile years as a privileged guest in Castro's police state), the"Bay of Pigs" (which was the CIA's failed effort to overthrow the most oppressive Communist regime in the hemisphere), and the"Phoenix Program" in Vietnam (which was an attempt to prevent a Communist front set up by the Hanoi dictatorship from overthrowing the Saigon government and establishing a Communist police state in the South.)
In the perverse view of the academic left, the CIA is an agency of torture, death and oppression for innocent masses all over the world that otherwise would be"liberated" by progressive totalitarian forces. Utilizing the powerful resources of the academy, the left has created a vast propaganda apparatus to establish what is essentially the view of the CIA held by America's fiercest enemies. The anti-American propaganda is itself disseminated under the imprint of America's most prestigious university presses including Harvard, California, Duke, and Princeton.
University administrations have caved in to these leftists so consistently as to leave themselves little room for maneuver."When the president of the Rochester Institute of Technology took a brief leave to work for the CIA in 1991," recalls Beinart,"many students and faculty demanded that he resign. Last year, when the government tried to establish a program under which college students would receive free language instruction in return for pursuing a career in intelligence, the University of Michigan refused. As assistant professor Carol Bardenstein told Time,"We didn't want our students to be known as spies in training." (Apparently she would prefer them to be helpless targets-in-waiting.) For caving in to these pressures, the president of Michigan, Claude Bollinger, was rewarded by being appointed president of Columbia University shortly after the September 11 bombing.
As Beinart points out, there can be reasonable concerns about the proper functions of a university and the appropriate relationship of government agencies to private institutions of learning (although the University of Michigan is a state-financed school)."But most of the squeamishness about training, and encouraging students to work for the CIA doesn't have anything to do with the mission of the academy; it has to do with ideological hostility to the instruments of American power." This ideology is enforced by political correctness in the university hiring process, a bias that virtually excludes conservative academics from obtainin
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Arnold Shcherban - 4/29/2004
This is not a partisan issue, this is a corporate issue.
The multinational corporations - the product of BYPARTISAN "activity" are the real motor behind major
foreign and domestic policy actions this country takes.
Imperialism and corporate greed are the real causes of the Arab terrorists targeting this country and simultaneously of the failures in airlines and other kind
Arnold Shcherban - 4/29/2004
It is actually very simple: These two parties usurped
the political along with economic, financial, ideological, cultural and all other power you can name in this country. The corporate dominance imposed by them
on American people is socially, historically and morally unjust and abominable. The partisan blame game(and be sure it is a game - they don't give about damn about the lifes of common people, Americans included) is just one small consequence of the corporate grip I mentioned.
Matthew Taylor - 8/5/2002
What an ignorant response. One plane does not a threat make. The fact is, as soon as the second plane hit the WTC, all air traffic was grounded and the Secret Service took command of the President's safety.
You are nothing but a hate-monger and a ignorant socialist. Leave it to a socialist to screw up the facts. I can't even call you a liberal, taht does liberals a severe injustice!
Rogelio F. Arteaga - 5/20/2002
Fascinating. The Clinton administration underwent multiple investigations throughout its entire tenure, but this administration should be immune from one?
I, for one, have said nothing about "conspiracies" -- I have said plenty about this administration's behavior ON THAT PARTICULAR DAY. It was reprehensible. No one has yet to address my points.
I also have found this administration's conduct with regard to its penchant for secrecy troubling. Stark mentioned that he expects this administration to cooperate with an investigation. I find that unlikely since it wouldn't even release the names of people with whom Cheney met to discuss energy proposals.
Almost immediately, this administration put the entire blame for 9/11 on the Clinton administration. It also blamed it for the disintegration of the peace process in the Middle East. Yet it has been reported that attorney general Ashcroft discouraged intelligence activities. And Bush spent 42% of his time in office vacationing. The entire blame doesn't go to Clinton. Bush didn't behave prefectly before 9/11 and certainly not since then. Fleischer -- when asked if Bush would admit to a mistake if he committed one -- sidestepped the question.
When I see how this administration refuses to accept responsibility for the consequences of ANY of its actions (or inaction), and chooses, instead to lay the blame for EVERYTHING on the previous administration, thenl it deserves criticism, because the record proves it just ain't so. Alec Lloyd may not like it, but then his side is renowned for its failure to accept criticism. He, and his supporters, feel it's their province alone to dish it out. Well, it isn't.
Comment - 5/20/2002
A democracy and open society demands, by definition, to have all relevant
information on this matter. President Bush's refusal to disclose the
relevant documents to the Congress and the American public will damage that
administration's credibility: looking back to September of last year, this
would be only an insignificant casuality given the thousands of lives lost.
Looking forward, the administration's habits towards arrogance, noted and
resented even within the GOP, continues on. Should this tendency be allowed
to go on, unquestioned? Some, but by far not all, on the right, say "yes,
it should." They should be condemned because by contributing to a movement
to deprive the American people and their representatives in power of all the
relevant information, American cities, American industries, the American
economy, and American lives are potentially threatened. There is not
argument against full disclosure that is not offensive to democracy or to
the individual rights of every American, or to elementary human rights.
An administration that insists that it is based on integrity and character
should have nothing to hide, but apparently it wants to fight the Congress,
the press, and the public, Republicans and Democrats, independents, and
every other imaginable constituency, on this, and refuses, to date, to make
public the FBI memo that warned of a serious and credible terrorist threat,
linking al-Quida (sp?), flight training, bin Ladin, and airplane hijacking
together less than two months before 9/11.
Some, not all, but a vocal, whiny, and media-saavy minority on the political
right that makes its living, and a good deal of wealth it should be said,
from screaming "left wing conspiracy" every time the President's words are
examined (that is, when we can decipher his twitchy syntax), are saying that
any investigation of what Bush knew prior to 9/11 is partisan-driven and
unpatriotic. Once again, some on the right reveal how shallow their
principles truly are: protect a Republican President at all costs, to hell
with what the truth might be. But what else should we expect from a party
that has proven that it will even eat its own (see the McCain 2000 campaign,
for example), damn integrity, and damn true sacrifice and patriotism if it
gets in the way.
I read all of David Horowitz's article and, characteristic of the man, it
fails to deal with the questions at hand. Instead of confronting the present
administration on the matter of its action, or inaction, after being
informed of domestic terrorist activities that led to the 9/11 attacks, he
chooses to attack the Clinton administration, dragging, among other
irrelevant points, the Lewinsky scandal into the mix. Horowitz wants to
portray this as an issue of political right v. left. This is silly beyond
words and betrays a mind that interprets primarily along the vague and
wobbly lines of partisanship and foolish mob/talk radio mentality.
David Horowitz is unthinking, damn the facts, damn the complete story type,
and nothing more. To call Horowitz a "public intellectual" insults
intellectuals in general, regardless of their politics. There is no mental
dexterity, objectivity, originality, or ingenuity to his thought at all:
only predicatable right wing nattering. Everything Horowitz writes -- in
his books, on-line, in the "ads" he peddles around the country just to stir
up mischief among small and statistically insignificant clusters of
insecure, immature, emoting undergraduates -- can be reduced to this: all
bad comes from the left, from the 1960s, and particularly from Bill Clinton;
all goodness and light comes from Godly, angelic, inhumanly perfect
Like his book on the reparations "controversy", and a brief exchange we had
privately on the issue, Horowitz has shown, in his 14,000 words, little wit
or wisdom, no grasp of the significant issues involved in the recent
disclosures about what Bush knew, when he knew it, and did he act, given
what these warnings communicated, to protect American lives (or was the
president more concerned with his vacation?). In our exchange, Horowitz
showed himself as someone who favors political thuggery (because it makes
good copy, I suppose) over circumspection and rigorous critical thinking.
In our exchanges, I caught Horowitz, more than once, making accusations,
statements, and judgments as if they were based on established fact, when,
in fact, he had no facts, just partisan bigotry and an internet connection.
For example, Horowitz claimed to know the political affiliation of everyone
in my department. How did he know this? He never spoke to us. He never
took a survey to determine who, among my colleagues, considered themselves
Republicans, Democrats, Independents, liberals, conservatives, fascists,
socialists, social Democrats, Marxists, royalists, and so on. But somehow,
David Horowitz "knew" the truth, regardless of the facts. This is a pattern
in most of Horowitz's work. Here it took him 14,000 words to skew and
mislead. Attacking Black folks with his rant against reparations, he
managed to do the same in about 1/14 the time and space.
His economy with words has gone to hell, but his economy with the truth is
just as awful.
Right...Uh-huh - 5/20/2002
Very good point. However, the more I think about it, the entire ideology of the conservative movement since the 1980s has been about blaming others -- liberals, welfare mothers, the liberal media, etc., etc. I guess we shouldn't be surprised. The entire ideology is based on blaming others for problems that they helped to create or even created themselves (the classic is the blaming of congress for the deficits of the 1980s when congress actually CUT Reagan's budgets). Clinton is just another person to blame in order to shirk responsibility. They always prattle on about responsibility but they never take any responsibility for anything. Everything is someone else's fault.
BTW, isn't this new Al-Qaeda plot they're talking about a bit fishy? And convenient. Not that we could really trust them before but I certainly don't now. Just trying to avert attention which is the first thing an administration does before trying to avert responsibility. Amazing folks these conservatives, huh? Never practice what they preach.
Alec Lloyd - 5/20/2002
Fascinating. President Bush, despite being in office for less than a year is a perfectly acceptible candidate for open-ended investigations but the administration of previous eight years is not? Does anyone seriously believe that the meticulous apparatus al Qaeda used to perpetrate this outrage was assembled overnight?
Clinton passed up multiple opportunities to capture or eliminate Bin Laden. The failure of his administration to eliminate the mastermind behind the plot is a critical question. Raising this issue does not make one a rabid partisan.
Futhermore, Bin Laden's videos make it clear that many of the HIJACKERS did not know they were on one-way missions. How would CIA or NSA know more than they?
And let us suggest that the conspiracy experts are correct and somehow President Bush or his advisor knew every exacting detail. Who would believe the plot? It's very daring brought it a certain amount of cover. Had the Bush administration ordered the grounding of all flights, massive screening overhauls and armed pilots, the howls of the opposition would be deafening.
Indeed, the very same people excoriating him for failing to act would be screaming at his "needless" affronts to civil liberties. Damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.
There is a legitimate place for examining intelligence failures. Thi is not in front of television cameras under the watchful eyes of hostile terrorist agents.
Mr. Horowitz does not pull any punches. His invective is just as over the top as the charges against President Bush. He is merely willing to fight fire with fire.
If you find that offensive, perhaps you should re-read your own writings.
Ed Salo - 5/20/2002
I have a problem with the comment that liberals "defended a commander-in-chief who put his own libido above the security of his fellow citizens." Where is the evidence that Clinton did anything to lessen the security of the nation by his amorous activities?
Edward J. Trout - 5/18/2002
Readers and "Historians" (which D.H. is not) should be advised that David H. was co-editor of the "leftist" Ramparts Magazine in the late 60s and to late 70s. He was "born-again" in the 80s and has since been a "culture-warmonger" for the extreme rightwing style of neo-conservativism. His witings on the left and right have represented the ideologue level I.O. of 50, and IMHO lacks any veracity. Respectfully EjT
Jon Koppenhoefer - 5/18/2002
Mr. Monroe says it best. Horowitz seems to think a counterattack substitutes for a rebuttal. That might work on O'Reilly or Hannity and Colmes, but in print (where your audience is a tad brighter simply because they can read) this sophistry fools nobody.
Out of curiosity, while the FBI--at the behest of Starr and the rest of the right-wing GOP--assigned 200 agents to investigate Clinton (so I hear) how much counterintelligence work did they leave undone?
Dr Glyn Powell - 5/18/2002
Rogelio F. Arteaga has got it about right. The endless tubidity of Horowitz's bizarre article is reminiscent of the endless harangues so beloved by those Stalinist leaders of yore. And the comparison doesn't end there. Substitute some of the states, perosnalities and tendencies and, reading Horowitz, we are dragged back to the days when so-called Communists desperately sought to justify every outrage committed by their hero(es) in the Kremlin. Reading Horowitz, one feels as intellectually bruised as anyone who challenged the Kremlinites used to feel physically. I wonder where these habits of mind stem from? The most frustrating of all such habits, shared by Horowitz and his certifiably confused ilk, is their one-dimensional view that every single world problem can be solved by state action. The pulse of good old fashioned Stalinism is now found to be beating in the hearts of those who sanctify Uncle Sam instead of Uncle Joe.
Tristan Traviolia - 5/18/2002
Do party politics jade every important issue or are there "reasonable" people who realize problems run deeper than "we are good Americans and they are evil Americans." I simply think about how Americans bickered about "Terrorist" warnings the FBI issued after 9-11. Sheriffs all over the nation said they would not heighten their readiness because the FBI couldn't furnish specific information. Now people want to complain because the government didn't warm up the nukes in the silos when hijack came up in a security briefing, balderdash. In 2077 some lucky historian will get to find out how many times the word "hijacking" appeared in a presidential intelligence briefings during the two Bush and Clinton terms.
Bush lost the trade centers and Clinton lost two embassies. Is that enough to show Americans are going to continue to die tragically until we fix our intelligence services. I have no faith in an intelligence community exploited by the Walker's and the like. Remember, civil servants work in Langley, not Democrats or Republicans.
Rogelio F. Arteaga - 5/18/2002
Our responses are limited to 800 words and Horowitz wrote a heckuva lot more than that., so this is why my response was limited to Bush's actual behavior on that fateful day -- the description of which Stark dismisses as "vitriolic partisanship." (Of course, HE doesn't refute them).
Still let me address some of Horowitz's points. The 241 marines killed in Lebanon died on Ronald Reagan's watch. Yet Reagan never considered that act of terrorism an act of war. Instead, four months later, he removed our military presence from there. To this day, no one has been brought to justice for that act.
McVeigh's act of terrorism was prompted by the Waco tragedy; a tragedy that was caused partly by errors in judgment AND by the occupants of the stronghold (remember, THEY fired the first shots). An investigation headed by a Republican found the government innocent of all the wild allegations from the right.
The perpetrators of the 1993 bombing were arrested and brought to justice.
President Clinton went so far as to order missiles fired at bin Laden. The patriotic response of the GOP? Why, they criticized him for firing them. Trent Lott's words back then were: "I can support our troops without supporting the President." And Stark is upset about our comments?
Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson have also blamed the tragedy on us. Why didn't he mention them?
Horowitz, and supporters such as Stark, would have us believe that -- having been warned by numerous countries, having information that hijackings could occur in the near future, yet having spent nearly two-fifths of his presidency (up to 9/11) on vacation, without offering any serious initiatives to alert the public -- that Bush isn't to blame but Clinton is? They would also have us believe that THEIR unfounded charges against him issued throughout his presidency -- as well as the ones Horowitz and Stark are throwing now -- were (and are) NOT politically motivated. Now, THAT'S hysterical.
Stark - 5/17/2002
A few words for our friends who are screaming from the edge of the body politic:
I assume “kitchen sink” = factually accurate data, which none of the responses to this piece has challenged thus far. Your innuendo about Bush “running away” after he found out about the attack belies your vitriolic partisanship, and is an indicator as to why this desperate attempt to smear the President will fail much like the Enron frenzy of early 2002 did.
I find it interesting how the evidence presented by Mr. Horwitz which, again, there has been no refutation, is dismissed out of hand by a simple statement which has magically eradicated the “contention that Clinton is to blame.” Maybe on the left add homonym reasoning is sufficient to win a debate, but in the adult world of educated discourse we actually need facts, evidence, and logic to prevail. I look forward to your subsequent posts which, I am sure, will make up for this egregious (yet familiar) oversight.
I 100% support a full investigation into the intelligence failures that allowed 9/11 to occur. Thankfully, the White House has agreed to cooperate fully and we will not have to go through any of the difficulties we experienced with the last administration. Since the purpose of this investigation is to correct past mistakes and is not at all partisan, I am certain we will fully examine all the information that is relevant to this inquiry. I doubt all the data presented by Mr. Horrowitz is germane, but I am sure those on the left-wing of the political spectrum will not reject a thorough analysis of all the factors that led to this terrible tragedy. Perhaps de-funding our intelligence apparatus, polluting our capability to make rational decisions with the orthodoxy of political correctness, and demoralizing our military did contribute in some small way to this horrific tragedy. At the same time, we should also examine the opinions presented by Mr. Chomsky and others that it was actually all our fault, and that in fact we “deserved what we got.” The truth is in there somewhere.
You asked the President to “quit making excuses and own up to a mistake.” I think that is a fair request. I would simply ask in return that the loyal opposition “quit saying the investigation is non-partisan and tell the truth about their political motivations.”
William S. Monroe - 5/17/2002
Where, in this long-winded mass of verbal diarrhea, does the author address the question at hand: that is, Bush's response, or lack of response, to the warnings he received, and why did he hide the fact that they were received?
Or, is this author so ignorant of current events that he believes that the Great Satan Clinton was still president in August of 2001? And why does he not mention who it was who removed the Marines from Beirut after Bin Laden's "two bombs"?
Was Clinton president then, too?
Rogelio F. Arteaga - 5/17/2002
You know that someone's argument is desperate when they throw in everything but the kitchen sink in an effort to prove their case. Here are the facts pertinent to the issues raised by this latest revelation:
Bush was alerted to the possibility of terrorist hijackings in June and August of 2001. He spent that month of August vacationing. No special alerts were issued to the airlines to take extra precautions. The hijackings began at 8:20 a.m. September 11th. Bush knew of them by 8:30. Instead of immediately initiating long-standing defensive measures for precisely this type of crisis, he went to an elementary school to read to the students. Alerted at the school of planes crashing into the twin towers, he, once again, failed to initiate any action, opting instead, to continue reading for another 30 minutes! Then he was whisked away, not to be seen by the public for hours.
This failure to respond alone is enough to demolish Horowitz's contention that Clinton is to blame. But then -- familiar with how often this has happened to him before -- it comes as no surprise to me that even I can do it.
Right...Uh-huh - 5/17/2002
Excuses, excuses -- I'm sure this was all Clinton's fault. What happened to Clinton's anti-terrorism bill? The Republicans killed it saying it was too invasive and too expensive. However, I'm sure Horowitz has some interesting excuses for that one too. This is like when Reagan tried to blame the unemployment (the worst since the Great Depression) in his SECOND year as president on Carter when it was more the result of his policies.
When is anybody on the right going to take responsibility for anything? It's amazing how everything is someone else's fault. What a bunch of whiny excuse making! You screwed up! Admit it and move forward. Quit trying to blame others. We're all human and we all understand -- but quit parsing the meaning of what a "warning" is, quit trying to say you didn't know airliners could be used as weapons (evidence clearly exists to show that they did), quit trying to act like you haven't been lying to us the last eight months, etc., etc.
In short, quit making excuses and own up to a mistake. It's okay. We all make them and we all understand.
For some reason only the right-wing seems to believe they're infallible.
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