It’s a Joke, But We’re Not Laughing

Can someone please explain to me why the 9/11 commission is not a joke?
When the airplanes first flew into the World Trade Center, one of the first thoughts that occurred to nearly every sentient being in the United States was that Bill Clinton’s chickens had come home to roost. Eight years of fecklessness in the face of increasingly bold terrorist attacks had finally led to disaster.
When the terrorists first tried to take down the World Trade Center, Clinton treated the act of war as a petty misdemeanor, relying on policemen and lawyers to prosecute the “guilty.” Clinton never visited the site of the attack, and, to my recollection, never mentioned it in public. The ringleader of the attack escaped, we now know, to Iraq.
When the terrorists murdered American servicemen in Somalia in 1993, Clinton retreated. When they plotted to assassinate former President Bush and the Pope, Clinton had no comment. Even when they plotted to assassinate President Clinton himself in the Philippines in 1995, Clinton took no visible offense. When, in 1995, a plan to blow up twelve airliners simultaneously over the Pacific was discovered at the last moment, Clinton thought no response was necessary. When more than 300 people were killed in the bombings of two American embassies in 1998, Clinton finally reacted by attacking a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan–but only, to all appearances, to distract attention from Monica Lewinsky’s grand jury appearance the same day. When a bomber was discovered en route to Los Angeles in 1999, intending to blow up that airport on the eve of the millenium, Clinton was unconcerned. When the USS Cole was attacked in Yemen early in 2000 and seventeen sailors murdered, Clinton vowed retribution in the form of a military reprisal, but never got around to doing anything before leaving office. And, of course, most notoriously, Clinton had at least two opportunities to kill or capture Osama bin Laden, but passed on them because he wasn’t sure the lawyers would approve.
This pathetic record was well known to every American who was passingly acquainted with current events as of September 11, 2001. And yet, when Richard Clarke–the very man who presided over Clinton’s misguided and ineffective policies–appeared before the Commission and testified that the Clinton administration had been virtually obsessed with al Qaeda and had fought against terrorism with an awe-inspiring tenacity, the Commission, instead of laughing out loud, responded: We’ve got a scoop!.
And so, for the last several weeks we have been asked to take seriously the idea of a Clinton administration preoccupied with Islamofascist terrorism to the point of obsession. A preoccupation, of course, that was never voiced in a single speech by any administration official, never appeared in a report to Congress on security threats facing the nation, never found its way into any scholarly article authored by Clinton’s foreign policy team, was never mentioned in Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign, and somehow never was translated into any discernible action. I repeat: if these people are not a joke, will someone tell me why?
The question we are now being asked to ponder is: Could the September 11 attacks have been prevented? Well, gosh, let’s count the ways. If Clinton had gotten around to killing bin Laden; if he had taken effective action against the training camps in Afghanistan; if the visa process in Saudi Arabia had not been a sick joke–but wait, I just have to pause here for a moment. Several of the terrorists entered the country with Saudi visas that were issued based on obviously defective applications. A number of instances of this are cited in the above post, but my favorite is the terrorist whose application stated, in response to the question where he intended to live in the U.S.: “Hotel.”
To continue: if pilots had been allowed to carry weapons more powerful than box-cutters; if fear of charges of racial profiling had not been stronger than fear of bombs, so that, when two Middle Eastern men came dashing up to a ticket window at the last minute, looking like they were dressed up as terrorists for a costume ball, and asked to buy tickets with cash, the airline employee had been able to hold them at the ticket counter while checking to see whether either of them was on a list of suspected terrorists–these are just a few of the ways in which the September 11 attacks might have been averted.
But–and here is the point–so what? That was then, this is now. The attacks happened, and we are at war. Or, rather, we have been at war for a long time, and now we know it. In the aftermath of the attacks, it would have been easy for President Bush to point the finger of blame at the Clinton administration. But, to his credit, he never did. There is only one group responsible for the attacks–the terrorists themselves. There is only one direction in which we can profitably look–forward. There is only one policy which we can now pursue–war against those who attacked us. President Bush has never sought to gain political advantage by blaming the Clinton administration’s incompetence for the attacks. Why? Because he is a patriot.
His opponents, unfortunately, are not patriots. They didn’t care about terrorism before September 11, and they don’t care about it now. John Kerry, their standard-bearer, says the threat of terrorism is “exaggerated.” And this is after September 11, not before! Why in the world should we be arguing about who did or did not take the threat of terrorism seriously enough before September 11 when one of the candidates doesn’t take it seriously now? The Democrats view terrorism from only one angle: How can they turn it to their political advantage?
Hence the September 11 commission. The administration was right to resist its creation; they could see what was coming. If the commission is a joke, it is a predictable one. Any group of people who can entertain with a straight face the theory that the Clinton administration was marked by a laser-like focus on fighting Islamofascist terrorism deserves to be swept from the stage at the earliest possible moment, so that serious people can get on with the business at hand.

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