Feasting on scraps

I just got my copy of the current Weekly Standard. The Scrapbook section includes several gems. The first is a nice postscript on Richard Clarke’s book. Clarke claims that an international alert to be on the look-out for terrorists played a role in the arrest of millennium terrorist Ahmed Ressam. However, the former custom agent involved denies that customs was on heightened alert. Moreover, the agents suspected Ressam of smuggling drugs, not of terrorism. Only after a search revealed watches wired to a circuit board did anyone suspect a bomb.
The second is an expose of the breath-taking hypocrisy of the New York Times, as it suspends its institutional hostility to ethnic profiling just long enough to whack President Bush . In a recent editorial, the Times argued that, while no reasonable American blames President Bush for the terrorist attacks, he certainly could have done more to try to prevent them. Specifically, he could have left his ranch after receiving the memo entitled “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” and “demanded to know what was being done to screen airline passengers to make sure people who fit the airlines’ threat profiles wre being prevented from boarding American planes.” The Times goes on to suggest that Bush is probably haunted by his failure to do this, but that “the demands of his re-election campaign are guiding [his] public stance of utter, uncomplicated self-righteousness.”
Here’s the Scrapbook’s response:
“We will stipulate that the editorial page of the New York Times is perhaps the nation’s leading authority on the subject of ‘utter, uncomplicated self-righteousness.’ But let us supppose that President Bush had left his vacation in Texas long enough to order that U.S. airlines prevent young Arab men from boarding their planes — for in everyday English that is what is meant by the bureaucratic term of art ‘threat profile.’ Somehow we suspect that the editors of the New York Times would themselves have taken the next helicopter back from own vacations in the Hamptons to scream for the president’s scalp.”
But the real hypocrisy of the Times lies in its attacks on airline passenger profiling after 9/11. For example, in a March 11, 2003 editorial, the Times attacked the new screening system developed by the Transportation Security Administration as “a highly intrusive federal surveillance program” that “raises serious privacy and due process concerns which the government needs to address in a forthright manner.” Thus, the Times criticizes Bush for not ordering profiling prior to 9/11 that, even after 9/11, it finds problematic.
Finally, the Scrapbook is properly dismissive of the frenzy of the week in Washington over the “revelation” that President Bush ordered the development of war plans for Iraq at the end of 2001. One would think that this news from the latest Woodward book might come as a relief to those who were fretting a few months ago, after Paul O’Neill’s book came out, that Bush was drawing up these plans long before 9/11. But no. Liberal Washington professes shock that Bush might have ordered the development of military plans regarding Iraq while we were only just commencing operations in Afghanistan and while we were pursuing diplomatic solutions in Iraq. Here’s the Scrapbook’s response to the Washington Post’s outrage over Bush’s war planning:
“Ask yourself whether there is adult supervision in the Post newsroom. Can it possibly be the received wisdom at the Post that it is underhanded to prepare for war while pursuing a diplomatic solution? Does it not occur to them that the two impulses are usually complementary and not contradictory? Does everyone’s education now leapfrog over the classical wisdom, si vis pacem, para bellum — prepare for war if you want peace? President Bush is famous for being impatient with reporters. Sometimes they really deserve it.”


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