IT FIGURES. The guilty ones are the first to point the finger. Now the same Democrats who for eight years slashed the military, crippled the CIA, blamed America for the enemies it made, opposed the projection of American power (missiles and smart bombs excepted) into terrorist regions like Afghanistan and Iraq, dismissed acts of war as individual misdeeds, rejected airport security on "racial profiling" grounds, defended a commander-in-chief who put his libido above the security of his citizens, and still oppose essential defense measures like holding suspects and imposing immigration controls – these same obstructers and appeasers are now in full war cry against the President and are hoping to pin him with responsibility for the September 11 attack.
Not every Democrat is as kooky or anti-American as Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) who sits with Democratic connivance on the International Relations Committee and spent the week before 9-11 joining hands in South Africa with Iranians and other Islamo-fascists to condemn the United States, then came home to accuse Bush of plotting 9-11 so that his friends in the Carlyle Group could make war profits on defense contracts. But more mainstream Democrats -- the Leahys and the Boxers and other equally left and determined antagonists of American power -- are far more significant players in the debacle of 9/11. And no one is more singularly responsible for America’s vulnerability on that fateful day than the Democratic president, Bill Clinton, and his White House staff.
It is appropriate therefore that the crowning irony of the present Democrat attack is that it is the Clinton Administration not George Bush who knew of the plot to use airliners as bombs to blow up American buildings, that they knew it in 1995, that they did nothing about it, and that they kept this information from the Bush security team.
But first the background.
- The first World Trade Center bombing was on February 26, 1993, one month into the Clinton Administration. The terrorists – Egyptians and Palestinians -- blew a hole six stories deep beneath the North Tower intending to topple it onto the South Tower and kill 250,000 people. It was – in the words of the definitive account – "the most ambitious terrorist attack ever attempted, anywhere, ever." Clinton did nothing. He did not even visit the site. Worse, he allowed the attack to be categorized as a criminal act by individuals, even though its mastermind – as the administration soon discovered -- was an Iraqi intelligence agent named Ramzi Youssef.
- The second attack took place 10 months later in Mogadishu, Somalia. It was an attack on American military forces who were in country to bring food to the starving Somalis. In the battle, which has been memorialized in Black Hawk Down, eighteen American soldiers were killed and the body of one was dragged through the streets in a gesture designed to formally humiliate the world’s greatest super power. Clinton’s response? He turned tail and ran.
- In 1995, Ramzi Youssef was captured in the Philippines with plans to use commercial airliners to blow up CIA headquarters among other targets. This al-Qaeda plot was termed "Operation Bojinka," which means "the big bang." After the discovery of "Operation Bojinka," Al Gore was appointed to head a task force to tighten airport security. Its key recommendations, which would have prevented 9/11, were rejected by the White House on the grounds that they might be construed as "racial profiling."
- In 1996 the Khobar Towers – a barracks housing U.S. soldiers was blown up in Saudia Arabia by Iranian and Palestinian terrorists acting on behalf of al-Qaeda. Nineteen U.S. servicemen were killed but the Saudis refused to cooperate in tracking down the killers. The Clinton Administration did nothing.
- In 1998, the year of Lewinsky, al-Qaeda blew up the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania– under any circumstances an act of war. Two-hundred-and-forty-five people were killed and 6,000 injured, mainly Africans. Clinton’s response? The infamous strike on a medicine factory in the Sudan and a spray of missiles into an emptied terrorist camp in Khost.
- In October 2000, al-Qaeda attacked the U.S.S Cole, an American warship, killing 17 servicemen. Another act of war. The Clinton response? Nothing.
- Every year that these terrorist attacks were taking place, Democrat congressional leaders supported bills to cut U.S. intelligence funding and/or hamstring CIA operations, and/or prevent the tightening of immigration controls – all of which would have strengthened American defenses against an al-Qaeda attack.
- Meanwhile, the principle ally of Saddam Hussein, the architect of suicide bombing, the creator of the first terrorist training camps, and the apostle of terror as a redemptive social cause -- Yasser Arafat -- was a "partner in peace" and the most frequent guest at the Clinton White House among foreign heads of state.
Despite the fact that Republicans had fought Democrats for eight years over the military and intelligence budgets, over immigration and security issues, despite the alliances that leftwing Democrats had made with America’s enemies in the UN, despite the obstructionism of Senate Judiciary chairman Patrick Leahy in opposing domestic security measures and efforts by the Justice Department to bring al-Qaeda to heel, Republicans refused to point a partisan finger on issues of war and peace. Now their self-restraint has come back to haunt them as the Democrats seek to shift the blame they have done so much to earn to the shoulders of their political opponents.
The Democratic attack on George Bush is based on an intelligence analysis he received a month before 9/11, which indicated that al-Qaeda terrorists were planning to hijack planes. The described threats in this analysis came under the category "general" meaning they did not specify time, place or method, and they were uncorroborated. The reports the President received in the months prior to 9/11 described targets that were mainly overseas – in the Arabian Peninsula, Israel, Italy, Paris, Rome and Turkey. On the slim reed of the existence of a possible hijacking threat in the United States – included with all these others -- the Democrats have built their treacherous case.
Yet hijackings occur and have occurred for forty years. On most occasions they are stopped. Nine of the 9/11 hijackers were hauled out of airport security lines as they were boarding the fatal flights that September. But because airport security had not been tightened – and could not be tightened without a battle royal with Democrats over "racial profiling" the al-Qaeda hijackers were allowed to continue and carry out their sinister design. Shutting down the U.S. airline industry or sounding a national alarm that would produce the same effect in August 2001 on the basis of a vague report that a hijacking was possible is something no administration has ever done in 40 years of hijacking incidents. Yet this is the logic behind the Democrats’ present "investigation."
If, on the other hand, Bush had known what the Clinton Administration knew – that al-Qaeda had plans to use commercial airliners as bombs and fly them into buildings – specifically the CIA -- this would be a serious charge. But they did not know it, because the Clinton team never told them.
Although the Clinton security team knew that Operation Bojinka included blowing up the CIA building in Langley, Virginia, it kept this information from the rest of the government. When Dale Watson, chief of the FBI’s International Terrorism Operations Section testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in February 1998, he withheld this vital information. He identified Operation Bojinka only as a plot to blow up U.S. air carriers, and assured the senators that the FBI had the situation under control.
It is possible that Clinton never received the information about Operation Bojinka, since his lack of interest in national security matters throughout the course of his administration has been noted by many – including his chief political advisor Dick Morris, and his chief "biographer" Joe Klein. February 1998 – the date of the FBI testimony -- is also the month after Monica Lewinsky became a national celebrity.
The fact that Bush didn’t know about plans to hijack planes and run them into tall buildings was confirmed by Condoleeza Rice at her recent press conference:
Dr. Rice: Hijacking before 9/11 and hijacking after 9/11 do mean two very, very different things. And so focusing on it before 9/11 – perhaps it’s clear that after 9/11 you would have looked at this differently, but certainly not before 9/11.
Q: And no discussion in this briefing, or any others, about the possibility of al-Qaeda hijacking, and the fact that there have been active investigations into the possibility of a CIA building plot, or an Eiffel Tower plot. Never came up?
Dr. Rice: It did not come up.
On September 10, 2001 a document landed on the President’s desk that he had commissioned months before. It was a plan to dismantle and destroy al-Qaeda and had taken months to prepare. It was necessary because the Clinton administration had drawn up no such plan in the eight years before.
The charge now being led by the Democrats against the nation’s commander-in-chief as he attempts to protect its citizens against the next certain terrorist attack is worse than unconscionable. It is one more Democratic stake driven into the heart of the nation’s security. Limiting the damage, defending his authority, in order to protect Americans from further harm is now the daunting task before the President and his team.