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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A Hole That Didn't Have To Be

I was just reading Richard Cohen's column "A Hole Where Hopes Are Buried", in which he says maybe the holes from the Twin Towers should be left alone as the grave of Bush's presidency.

While Cohen waxes on about Bush's failure to capture Bin Laden since 9/11, and the problems in Iraq he ignores the history before 9/11.

The true question is does that hole even need to exist? What would have happened if in 1996 Bill Clinton had taken Sudan up on their offer to arrest him? He was wanted for the 1993 bombing of the WTC and other crimes, yet the offer wasn't taken.

What if the Clinton administration hadn't built their "wall" between the intelligence and law enforcement branches of the FBI? Would Moussaoui's information have made it higher up the food chain in August of 2001? Would the holes exist today?

Richard Minter's book "Losing Bin Laden" details a number of instances where the previous administration had opportunities to capture or kill Bin Laden, and the some of the reasoning behind those failures.

While I'm not exhonorating Bush for his failures in capturing Bin Laden, Cohen ignores the eight years prior to 9/11, and the opportunities they provided to prevent that, and other attacks on the US. Here again, is a link to a reminder of how many time we were attacked by Bin Laden pre-9/11, and how he wasn't caught after any of those, either.

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Blogger Stacy said...

This is definately something for everyone to think about.

7:46 AM  
Blogger Little Miss Chatterbox said...

Excellent points!! I have that book by Minter I just haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I think this is an excellent debate to have--I've been working on a post on this subject myself, so tune in to my blog later this evening.

I tentatively come down on the side of exonerating past Presidents for 9/11, not only Clinton but also Reagan and Bush senior. When the President and Rice say they don't believe anyone could have anticipated 9/11, I believe them. I don't think Clinton could have anticipated that Bin Laden had the capacity to hurt us so badly. I don't think Reagan foresaw that the precedent he set in Beirut in 1983 would become an affirmation of terrorism as a political tool.

I also think that 9/11 was an aberration, not a sign of how mighty and powerful Al Qaeda was/is. Maybe I'm one of those people who have become complacent, as Limbaugh would say, but if we are in a war, the enemy seems oddly ineffective at really attacking us. Almost five years since 9/11, and nothing.

That's a good thing, but not if you want to sustain American support for the war. You've got to have an obvious enemy to fight.

1:21 PM  
Blogger shoprat said...

I think that the point that there has not been a repeat of 9/11 is relevant but not the entire story. Bush has had them busy doing everything but attacking us at home. If they were not in Iraq attacking our soldiers (who are ready for them) and the Iraqis (who are learning to deal with them quite effectively) they would be attacking us and other western nations.

Cohen would find a reason to blame Bush if the sun went super-nova tomorrow.

3:23 PM  
Blogger ablur said...

Good Points Matt. You need to also recognize that ignoring the problem doesn't make it go away. We chose to ignore the actions of Al Qaeda. We didn't treat this as a real threat. We swatted at it like flies and never gave it a real thought. Al Qaeda functioned like termites slowly nibbling away until major damage is done. If we had failed to take action after 9/11 how much more damage would they currently be doing?
Secondly, by choosing to ignore we only added to their determination to be noticed. They strove for recognition and they achieved their goal through 9/11.

3:28 PM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

Great bunch of comments and perspective from everyone on this.

I really think Cohen missed it in his article, and that the hole is a tribute to our trying to appease instead of remove the problem.

8:22 PM  
Blogger asacan said...

I think Matt needs to go back in history to the Tet Offensive. Although reported entirely backward in U.S. media, US forces repelled NVA and VC forces so bad that they couldn't mount another major offensive for five years. Then look at what happened.

Isn't history neat?!

11:23 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Cohen's article was factually vacuous, but rhetorically brilliant. Sometimes rhetoric is good enough. Ask Rush Limbaugh.

I don't buy the "we're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them at home" argument. Tony Blair can't use it, because terrorists have struck the British homeland. And I notice that George Bush doesn't use that argument nearly as much as he used to, probably because he knows all it will take is one more strike on American soil to prove the illogic of it. And we all know that day is coming, sooner or later.

I don't argue that we should "ignore" the problem. I don't think past Presidents ignored it. The question is one of means and methods: how do we effectively combat terrorism? More and more, I think we combat it by tightening our borders, maybe bringing home the National Guard and Reserves and using them in border control, tightening our homeland defenses and ports, and using overt military force in a reserved and tactical way. That means when you have a good lead on Bin Laden or an Al Qaeda cell, you send in Special Forces ground troops to hit them so that they stay hit. If there is one thing our methods of combatting terrorism in the nineties proves, it is that air power does not kill terrorists dead. A Marine or Green Beret with a rifle kills terrorists dead.

I don't get the Tet reference. Maybe you can explain it to me. If you're saying that we're winning the war but losing the war of public opinion, I'd say tough. Public opinion is part of war, too, and the Bush Administration hasn't found a way to effectively win that war, either. So quit your whining about the negative press. It's just a logisitcal fact to be dealt with.

6:19 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

CP-You really are falling into the Bush cult of personality. GWB is perfect, and everything wrong with the US is all somebody else's fault. Climb into the Fuhrerbunker with the rest of the Neo-Con's, take your Cyanide capsule, and pass on to a better place where you and Rush can pontificate about how the Liberals have destroyed everything

9:07 AM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

Tim, I think you missed an entire paragraph:

While I'm not exhonorating Bush for his failures in capturing Bin Laden, Cohen ignores the eight years prior to 9/11, and the opportunities they provided to prevent that, and other attacks on the US.

I think by now Bush should have had him, but to ignore the direct handover opportunities of the 1990's is short sighted, and frankly playing one sided politics with the issue.

Matthew, the Tet reference was (I believe) to the fact that our media decided Viet Nam was unwinnable, and consistently drove that message home, even though eveyr military person knew Tet basically killed the North's ability to do anything. Had the President listened to military advisors instead of pollersters and Walter Cronkite Viet Nam easily could have ended the other way.

5:04 PM  
Blogger CP's Big Little Bro said...

Tim ,that's a really great use of a late '80s rock song line (cult of personality), a miss-placed reference to a FAR LEFT facist, the wrong suicide method, and what the hell is a Neo-Con? ( I know neo- Conservative).
Unfortunately for Slick Willy fans, big brother's right. Clinton was offered Osama's head 3 times, if you're gonna question 'W' about why we don't have Bin Laden yet, you might wanna ask Bill too. George actually has to look for him, Bill had him in his lap...Oh that was monica's face in Bill's lap.


1:07 AM  

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