While the nation was having a good laugh at the expense of Florida’s hanging chads and butterfly ballots, Mohammed Atta and Marwan al Shehhi were there, in Florida, learning to drive commercial jetliners [and ram them into the World Trade Center towers]. It will take a novelist to paint that broad canvas properly. It will take some deep political thinking to understand how the lackadaisical attitude toward government and the world helped leave the country so unready for the horror that Atta and Shehhi were preparing.
—Michael Oreskes, New York Times, October 21, 2001.
THE SEPTEMBER 11 ATTACKS on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center marked the end of one American era and the beginning of another. As did 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—officially regarding them as criminal matters that involved individuals alone.
But 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 is America’s greatest population center, the portal through which immigrant generations of all colors and ethnicities have come in search of a better life. The World Trade Center is the Wall Street hub of the economy they enter; its victims were targeted for participating in the most productive, tolerant and generous society human beings have created. In responding to the attacks, the President himself 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 when the Clinton Administration deployed U.S. military forces to Somalia. Their purpose was humanitarian: to feed the starving citizens of this Muslim land. But, America’s goodwill ambassadors were ambushed by al-Qaeda forces. In a 15-hour battle in Mogadishu, 18 Americans were killed and 80 wounded. One 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 a blow not only to American charity, but 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.
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 of 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:
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.
While The Clinton Administration Slept
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 of the President and his cabinet refused to recognize them as such.
Why the Clinton Administration Slept
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.
The Warnings Ignored
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 Washington Post, 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 1996. 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.
The Failure to Take Security Seriously
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 Islamic 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?
Clinton and the Military
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.
The Partisan Nature of the Security Problem
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’ Anti-Intelligence Bill
The Democrats’ cavalier attitude towards American security in the years preceding September 11 was dramatized in a bill to cut the intelligence budget sight unseen, which was introduced every year of the Clinton Administration by Independent Bernie Sanders. The fact that Sanders was an extreme leftist proved no problem for the Democrats—still enjoying their long-standing congressional majority—when they appointed him to a seat on the House intelligence committee. Indeed why should it be a problem? Shortly before the World Trade Center attack, Senate Democrats made another leftist, California Senator Barbara Boxer, an opponent of the war against Saddam Hussein and a long-time critic of the American military, the chair of the Senate Sub-committee on Terrorism.
The Sanders initiative was launched 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 nearly half the Democrats in the House who voted in favor of the Sanders amendment. 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. Every year thereafter, right until the World Trade Center attack, nearly 100 Democrats voted with him to cut the intelligence budget.
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 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 because of inflation, the cuts now proposed by Sanders-Owens amounted to 16% of the 1992 budget and were 20% below the 1990 budget. Yet this did not dissuade Dellums, Bonior and roughly 100 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.
The Republicans and National Security Issues
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 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 fraternal institutions, the liberal press and the left-wing academy, do.
The Lobby Against America’s Intelligence Services
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 University Left Against The Nation’s Security
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 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 obtaining positions at most schools. At Ivy League schools, for example, a study by the Luntz Companies showed that only 3% of the professors identify themselves as Republicans and the overwhelming majority have views well to the left of the American center.
Congressman Dellums and The Democrats’ Fifth Column Caucus
Given the role of universities in shaping the "liberal" culture, the same powerful anti-American, anti-military, anti-CIA sentiments have prevailed in the left-wing of the Democratic Party for the last thirty years. The size of this group can be partially gauged by the 58 congressional Democrats who describe themselves as members of its "Progressive [socialist] Caucus." But its actual influence is far greater.
No political career symbolizes the Democrats’ acceptance of radical ideas better than the 27-year tenure of congressman Ron Dellums who came to the House in the 1970s as the first Sixties’ radical to penetrate the political mainstream, and was able—with the encouragement and cooperation of his colleagues—to establish himself as a power player on both the Armed Services and Intelligence committees overseeing the nation’s security policy.
A Berkeley radical with vigorously expressed anti-American sympathies, Dellums was an ardent admirer of Fidel Castro’s Marxist dictatorship and a relentless opponent of American military power. On his election to Congress in 1970, Dellums went out of his way to announce his radical commitments and pledged to remain faithful to his anti-American roots. "I am not going to back away from being a radical," he said. My politics are to bring the walls down [in Washington]."
During his long career Dellums worked hand-in-glove with Soviet front groups, proposed scrapping all U.S. "offensive weapons," used his government position to oppose every U.S. effort to block the spread of Communist rule and, in the Eighties, even turned over his congressional office to a Cuban intelligence agent organizing a network of "solidarity committees" on U.S. campuses to support Communist guerrilla movements in Central America. When a Democratic White House under Jimmy Carter attempted, in 1979, to re-institute the draft and increase America’s military preparedness after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Dellums joined a "Stop the Draft" rally of Berkeley leftists, denounced American "militarism" and condemned Carter’s White House as "evil."
Dellums’ attitude towards America’s intelligence services reflected his consistent support for America’s international enemies. Just before the 1980 presidential election, with Soviet invasion forces flooding into Afghanistan, with the American embassy held hostage by the new radical Islamic regime in Iran, and with crowds chanting "Death to America" in the streets of Tehran, Dellums told the same Berkeley rally: "We should totally dismantle every intelligence agency in this country piece by piece, nail by nail, brick by brick."
Yet, despite these views, Dellums was no marginalized backbencher in the Democratic House. With the full approval of the Democratic Party leadership and its House caucus, Dellums was made a member of the Armed Services Committee on which he served throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In the midst of a hot war with Central American Communists seeking to establish a Soviet military base in the Western hemisphere, Democrats made Dellums Chairman of the House Subcommittee on U.S. Military Installations worldwide, where he enjoyed top security clearance. This was done with the specific imprimatur of the Democratic chair of the Armed Services Committee, Les Aspin.
Nor was Dellums alone. He had like-minded allies in both the legislative and executive branches of the Clinton government. Most notoriously, Clinton appointed an anti-military, environmental leftist Hazel O’Leary to be Secretary of Energy, a department responsible for the nation’s nuclear weapons labs. O’Leary promptly surrounded herself with other political leftists (including one self-described "Marxist-Feminist") and anti-nuclear activists, appointing them as her assistant secretaries with responsibility for the security of the nuclear labs. In one of her first acts, O’Leary declassified eleven million pages of nuclear documents, including reports on 204 U.S. nuclear tests, describing the move as an act to safeguard the environment and a protest against a "bomb-building culture."
Having made America’s nuclear weapons’ secrets available to the whole world including the al-Qaeda network, O’Leary then took steps to relax security precautions at the nuclear laboratories under her control. She appointed Rose Gottemoeller, a former Clinton National Security Council staffer with extreme anti-nuclear views to be her director in charge of national security issues. Gottemoeller had been previously nominated to fill the post—long vacant in the Clinton Administration—of Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy. The appointment was successfully blocked, however, by congressional Republicans alarmed by her radical disarmament agendas. The Clinton response to this rejection was to put her in charge of security for the nation’s nuclear weapons labs.
In the 1980s, a time when the United States was fighting a fierce battle of the Cold War in Central America, Democrats also appointed George Crockett to head the House Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs. Crockett had strong ties directly to the Communist Party and to pro-Communist organizations. He had begun his career as a lawyer for the Communist Party in Detroit, and was so loyal to its agendas that he was the only House member to refuse to sign a resolution condemning the Soviet Union for its unprovoked shooting down of a commercial Korean airliner (KAL 007) and the only member to vote against a House resolution condemning the Soviet Union for denying medical aid to US Major Arthur Nicholson after he had been shot in East Germany and the Communists had denied him medical aid for 45 minutes while he bled to death.
Crockett’s appointment came at a time when the Sandinista dictatorship in Nicaragua was engaged in supplying military aid to Communist guerrillas in Guatemala and El Salvador and was building a major Soviet military base on its territory. Dellums and Crockett were the most prominent and probably the most extreme supporters of the Communists in the Democratic caucus, but they had powerful allies in their efforts to protect the Sandinista regime and the Communist guerrillas from House leaders like David Bonior and Senators Patrick Leahy and Chris Dodd among others. Appointed to head the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2001, Leahy became the leader of Democrats’ opposition to Bush Administration attempts to insert stronger measures into domestic anti-terrorism legislation after the September 11 attacks.
In 1991, Democratic Speaker of the House Tom Foley appointed Ron Dellums and five other leftwing party members to the sensitive House Intelligence Committee, with oversight over the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies. Two years later, Bill Clinton appointed Les Aspin, the left-wing Democrat behind Dellums’ rise, to be his first Secretary of Defense. As Aspin’s protégé, Dellums became the Chair of the Armed Services Committee, and thus the most important member of the House in overseeing all U.S. military defenses, controlling their purse strings, and acting as the chief House advisor on military matters to the President himself.
The vote among members of the Democratic caucus to confirm this determined enemy of American power as Chairman of the Armed Services Committee was 198-10. In other words 198 congressional Democrats including its entire leadership saw nothing wrong in placing America’s defenses in the hands of one of its most implacable foes. They saw nothing problematic in Dellums’ statement that as head of the Armed Services Committee he would (in the words of the Los Angeles Times) "favor a faster reduction of the armed forces and billions more for economic conversion," calling for a "tripling" of the billions that he would actively seek to be moved out of the defense sector.
The vote to confirm Dellums’ new position and authority took place on January 17, 1993. Exactly one month later, on February 26, al-Qaeda terrorists bombed the World Trade Center. On his retirement four years afterwards in a ceremony in the Capitol, Dellums was presented by Bill Clinton’s third secretary of Defense, William Cohen, with the highest honor for "service to his country" that the Pentagon can bestow on a civilian.
The Party of Blame America First
How could the Democratic Party have become host to—and promote—legislators whose commitment to America’s security was so defective, and whose loyalties were so questionable? How could a party that led the fight against Hitler, that organized a Cold War alliance to save Europe from Stalin’s aggression, that under John F. Kennedy led the greatest expansion of America’s military power in peacetime, reach a point where so many of its leaders seemed to regard America itself as the world’s problem, rather than "the brightest beacon"—as President Bush put it—"for freedom and opportunity in the world."
The transformation of the congressional Democrats into a party of the left can be traced to the turbulent decade of the Vietnam War and the 1972 presidential candidacy of Senator George McGovern, whose campaign slogan, "America Come Home," is self-explanatory. George McGovern had been a World War II hero who completed more than thirty bomber missions. But he emerged from combat traumatized by the killing he had witnessed and transformed into a kind of premature "peacenik."
In 1948, he entered politics as an activist in the Progressive Party presidential campaign of Henry Wallace, who was running as an "anti-war" candidate for the pro-Soviet left. Wallace had once been FDR’s vice-president, but in 1948 he left the Democratic Party to protest Harry Truman’s "Cold War" policy of opposing Stalin’s conquest of Eastern Europe. Although Wallace himself was not a Communist, the Progressive Party was a creation of the American Communist Party and under its political control. The Communist Party was controlled by the Kremlin, which had instructed its American supporters to create the campaign in order to weaken America’s opposition to Soviet expansion.
Like Wallace, George McGovern was not a Communist or even a radical. But like many otherwise patriotic Americans, then and since, he was seduced by the appeasement politics of the left and became permanently convinced that the United States was co-responsible with Stalin for the Cold War, because Washington had failed to understand the "root causes" of the conflict in Soviet fears of invasion. In McGovern’s view the Cold War could have been averted if Truman had been more accommodating to the Soviet dictator and his designs on Eastern Europe. This anti-anti-communist naivete was a permanent aspect of McGovern’s foreign policy agendas throughout his political career.
At the end of the 1960s, the radicals who had bolted the Democratic Party in 1948 to oppose the Cold War, began to return under circumstances that made the party particularly vulnerable to their agendas. In 1968, the Democrats’ presidential candidate was Hubert Humphrey, a liberal but also a staunch anti-Communist who wanted to stay the course and prevent a Communist victory in Vietnam. At the Democratic convention to nominate Humphrey, the anti-war radicals staged an event that destroyed Humphrey’s chances of becoming president.
The anti-Humphrey plan was the brainchild of radical leader Tom Hayden, who had met with the Vietnamese Communists in Czechoslovakia the previous year, and gone on to Hanoi to collaborate with the Communist enemy. In the late spring of 1968, Hayden proceeded to plan and then to organize a riot at the Democratic Party convention in the full glare of the assembled media. The negative fallout from the chaos in the streets of Chicago and the Democrats’ heavy-handed reaction to the "anti-war" rioters effectively elected the Republican candidate Richard Nixon the following November.
After Nixon’s election, "the anti-war" radicals turned their attention to the Democratic Party with the intention of seizing control of its political machinery. Humphrey’s defeat fatally weakened the political power of the anti-Communist forces that had supported him. A series of internal rule changes pressed by the radicals paved the way for the ascension of the anti-Humphrey left. Their agenda was to remake the party into a leftwing organization like the Progressive Party of 1948, which would not stand in the way of Communist expansion. The party figure around whom they rallied their forces was Senator George McGovern who had been put in charge of the committee to reform the party’s rules. The left’s immediate agenda was to end the Democratic Party’s support for the anti-Communist war.
During the Sixties, radicals were intent on making a "revolution in the streets." They were led back into electoral politics by figures like Hayden himself, and his wife-to-be Jane Fonda. Through Hayden’s auspices, Fonda had traveled to Hanoi to make anti-American war propaganda for Hanoi, inciting American troops to defect and also aiding the Communists in their denials that they were torturing John McCain and other American POWs. On their return, Hayden and Fonda, gave "anti-war" lectures to the House Democratic Caucus. Although radicals like Hayden had previously condemned the Democrats and deliberately destroyed the party’s presidential candidate, their energies were now directed towards infiltrating the party and shaping its agendas. This compromise of political principle was made painless by McGovern’s campaign slogan—"America Come Home"—which implied that America’s military power was the source of the Cold War conflict with Communism instead of its solution.
Radicals became Democratic Party regulars and—in the case of Hillary Clinton and others—eventually party leaders. Among the more famous activists elected to Congress as Democrats in this period were Ron Dellums, Bella Abzug, Elizabeth Holtzman, Richard Drinan, David Bonior, Pat Schroeder, and Bobby Rush, a former Black Panther. Hayden himself failed to win a congressional seat but became a Democratic State Assemblyman and then a Democratic State Senator in California. As noted, following the Watergate scandal and the resignation of Nixon the newly radicalized Democrats voted to cut off all economic aid to the anti-Communist governments of Cambodia and South Vietnam. (The United States had already withdrawn its armies from Indo-China after signing the truce of 1973). Both regimes fell within months of the vote leading to the mass slaughter in both countries of approximately two and half million peasants at the hands of their new Communist rulers.
McGovern’s presidential campaign was an electoral disaster. The candidate won only one state (Massachusetts) in losing the biggest electoral landslide in American history. But the internal party reforms the McGovernites were able to put in place established the left as a power in the Democratic Party. From its new-found position of strength the left was able to profoundly influence the Carter presidency (1977-1981), which followed Nixon’s Watergate debacle. Notwithstanding that Jimmy Carter was a southerner, a Navy man, and a self-described conservative—all factors that made him electable—his foreign policy reflected the leftward tilt of the party he inherited. Of his Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, it was said "he was the closest thing to a pacifist that the U.S. has ever had as a secretary of state, with the possible exception of William Jennings Bryan."
Carter himself warned of Americans’ "inordinate fear of Communism" as though this and not Soviet expansion were responsible for the Cold War. At the end of Carter’s term in 1980, his foreign policy performance was summed up by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in these words: "The Carter Administration has managed the extraordinary feat of having, at one and the same time, the worst relations with our allies, the worst relations with our adversaries, and the most serious upheavals in the developing world since the end of the Second World War."
Among these "serious upheavals" were the Soviet aggression in Afghanistan (the first crossing of an international border by the Red Army since 1945) and the Sandinista coup in Nicaragua (in which the Carter Administration stood by while a group of pro-Castro Marxists subverted a democratic revolution, joined the Soviet bloc and began arming Communist insurgencies in Guatemala and El Salvador). A third debacle was the loss of Iran to Islamic fundamentalists in a 1979 revolution led by the Ayatollah Khomeni.
This event transformed Iran into the first radical Islamicist state and thus launched the forces that eventually came together in the World Trade Center attack. Because of its bias to the left, the Carter White House had bungled the defense of the existing regime, led by the dictatorial but modernizing Shah. Among the Shah’s achievements that incited the hatred of the Ayatollah’s rebels was the lifting of the veil and the education of women. Despite the misogynist and reactionary agendas of the Khomeni revolution, the American left naturally cheered the seizure of power by these anti-American radicals, as a "Third World" liberation.
The utopian illusion was short-lived, however. "Khomeini lost no time in installing a fundamentalist Islamic Republic, executing homosexuals and revoking, among other security laws, the statute granting women the right to divorce and restricting polygamy." American leftists and liberals had pressured Carter to abandon the Shah because of his repressive police apparatus the SAVAK. But "Khomeini’s regime executed more people in its first year in power than the Shah’s SAVAK had allegedly executed in the previous 25 years." The advent of the Khomeni regime was the real beginning of the current war between the West and Islamic radicals.
On November 7, 2001—one month to the day after America began its response to the al-Qaeda attack on the World Trade Center, the man most singularly responsible for the security failure gave a speech to college students at Georgetown that may rank as the most disgraceful utterance ever to pass the lips of a former American president. Without any acknowledgment of his own responsibilities as commander-in-chief, Bill Clinton joined America’s enemies in attempting to transfer the blame for the atrocities to his country. "Those of us who come from various European lineages are not blameless,"he explained, reflecting sentiments made familiar by American appeasers since the Wallace campaign of 1948.
Although Europeans in America were the creators of a political democracy that had declared all men equal and had separated church from state (so that it did not identify a category of people as "infidels," let alone wage wars against them), Clinton linked the terror of the Islamo-fascists to their victims by recalling a crime committed by Christian crusaders against Jews and Muslims a thousand years before. "In the first Crusade when the Christian Soldiers took Jerusalem, they first burned a synagogue with 300 Jews in it," he said—and then mentioned that some Muslims were killed by the crusaders as well. "I can assure you that that story is still being told today in the Middle East and we are still paying for it."
Even this version of the past neglected to mention the Muslim invasions that provoked the crusades. Did Clinton seriously intend to suggest, moreover, that the al-Qaeda fundamentalists would be outraged by the story of the martyred Jews rather than wishing the crusaders had perhaps killed 3 million instead of 300? This genocidal passion is the reality in today’s Middle East. But what was the point of the Clinton story? The Crusades took place a thousand years ago. It is the Muslim world that still hasn’t learned to separate the religious from the secular, and God from the state. Or to live with those who do not share their religious beliefs. It is the Muslim world that is still conducting "holy wars." What Christian church in modern America or in any modern European country has sanctioned the religious murder of "infidels"?
As though the attempt to establish a moral equivalence between the terrorist aggressors and their American victims was not obscene enough, Clinton then threw in the equally absurd but increasingly popular example of black slavery. "Here in the United States," he continued his ethnic insult, we were founded as a nation that practiced slavery…" What version of American history is this but the standard ideological libel of the anti-American left?
In point of historical fact the United States was founded as a nation dedicated to the abolition of slavery and it enforced that dedication at an enormous cost of half a million American lives. Some of these American lives were also sacrificed to end the Atlantic slave trade and the slave systems that persisted in Africa itself, which were conducted by Muslims and black Africans. The President’s idea that Osama bin Laden and the fanatical Islamicists at war with America should care in the slightest about the plight of black slaves today—let alone more than a century ago—is itself a lunatic anti-Americanism, in view of the fact that one of bin Laden’s former allies, the Muslim government of the Sudan still practices slavery against blacks, while the descendants of slaves in America have the highest standard of living and the most generous and secure civil rights of any blacks anywhere in the world today.
One point Clinton failed to make is that the current leaders of America’s war against Islamic racism are two African-Americans, Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice. This fact is of world significance, since there is no example comparable among other states great or small of minorities entrusted with a nation’s security. It would be hard to sum up in a more succinct image the historic impact America has had on the liberation of ethnic minorities, of the world’s "huddled masses," of those still forgotten in the princely kingdoms of the Muslim world—its role as "a beacon of freedom and opportunity," to use the words of the Republican president who appointed them. Because of the skill with which they have managed America’s war against al-Qaeda, the leadership roles of Powell and Rice have made all of our citizens the beneficiaries of America’s remarkable progressive influence in world affairs. They symbolize the extent to which our ex-President– like our enemies—has turned matters upside down.
Clinton’s attempt to smear his own country in order to exculpate himself from his national security failures is itself a symbol of how this nation is under threat not only from the external forces of a theocratic radicalism but from radical nihilists and self-doubters within, whose political locus is the Democratic Party and the liberal culture.
In August 1998, the chair of the National Commission on Terrorism, Paul Bremer, wrote in the Washington Post, "The ideology of [terrorist] groups makes them impervious to political or diplomatic pressures ... We cannot seek a political solution with them." He then proposed that we, "defend ourselves. Beef up security around potential targets here and abroad….Attack the enemy. Keep up the pressure on terrorist groups. Show that we can be as systematic and relentless as they are. Crush bin Laden’s operations by pressure and disruption. The U.S. government further should announce a large reward for bin Laden’s capture—dead or alive."
Bremer was not alone. Given these warnings, as Andrew Sullivan observes, "Whatever excuses the Clintonites can make, they cannot argue that the threat wasn’t clear, that the solution wasn’t proposed, that a strategy for success hadn’t been outlined. Everything necessary to prevent September 11 had been proposed in private and in public, in government reports and on op-ed pages, for eight long years. The Clinton Administration simply refused to do anything serious about the threat."
On January 20, 2001, George W. Bush was sworn in as the 43rd president of the United States. Within months of taking office, he ordered a new strategy for combating terrorism that would be more than just "swatting at flies," as he described Clinton’s policy. The new plan reached the President’s desk on September 10, 2001. It was "too late," as columnist Andrew Sullivan wrote, "But it remains a fact that the new administration had devised in eight months a strategy that Bill Clinton had delayed for eight years.