March 18, 2004
WAR: Got Him! No, wait . . .
MSNBC has a look at why the Clinton Administration didn't get Osama bin Laden when it had the best intelligence you could hope for as to his whereabouts:
If the U.S. government had bin Laden and the camps in its sights in real time, why was no action taken against them?
"We were not prepared to take the military action necessary," said retired Gen. Wayne Downing, who ran counter-terror efforts for the current Bush administration and is now an NBC analyst.
"We should have had strike forces prepared to go in and react to this intelligence, certainly cruise missiles - either air- or sea-launched - very, very accurate, could have gone in and hit those targets," Downing added.
Gary Schroen, a former CIA station chief in Pakistan, says the White House required the CIA to attempt to capture bin Laden alive, rather than kill him.
What impact did the wording of the orders have on the CIA's ability to get bin Laden? "It reduced the odds from, say, a 50 percent chance down to, say, 25 percent chance that we were going to be able to get him," said Schroen.
A Democratic member of the 9/11 commission says there was a larger issue: The Clinton administration treated bin Laden as a law enforcement problem.
Bob Kerry, a former senator and current 9/11 commission member, said, "The most important thing the Clinton administration could have done would have been for the president, either himself or by going to Congress, asking for a congressional declaration to declare war on al-Qaida, a military-political organization that had declared war on us."
In reality, getting bin Laden would have been extraordinarily difficult. He was a moving target deep inside Afghanistan. Most military operations would have been high-risk. What's more, Clinton was weakened by scandal, and there was no political consensus for bold action, especially with an election weeks away.
Link via Andrew Sullivan. Now, the Bush Administration, after coming into office, wasn't much better before September 11, although there remains endless controversy over what the Clinton people told the Bush people, what plans the Bush Administration was drawing up in early September 2001, etc. More to the point, though, is the need after September 11 to get entirely away from a law-enforcement-first mentality that has been proven catastrophically misguided in dealing with international terrorists. Do you have confidence that John Kerry will stay the course in that regard, given some of his public statements on the issue?
There was some interesting stuff about this on MSNBC last night.
First and foremost being that the drone was unarmed, and no armed versions were ready for deployment until after Sept. 11th.
Second was the timing of the of such an attack were it ordered. These videos were taken in October I believe, at the very least they were taken very close to the election. Had Clinton ordered the strike the GOP would've cried foul considering the impending election.
Which doesn't exonerate Clinton b/c it was still a politically motivated non-decision.
Still, Bush could now get away with making the call for a similar attack, even though the liberal blogs would call foul (the Dems Pols would step in line as they did after 9/11)....but he couldn't have gotten away with it then...aka pre-9/11, right before an election.
If its questionable what info the Clinton admin turned over to Bush, its also questionable wether Bush would've made a different decision under the same circumstances.
Let me preface my comment by admitting to as much partisanship as The Crank, but in the other direction. Well, partly. I really hate Bush a lot more than I like Clinton, but you get the picture...
Listening to Rumsfeld's statements/testimony today before the 9/11 Commission really should put to rest most of the bickering back and forth about which President should take the blame for failing to kill bin Laden and prevent 9/11.
I didn't hear all of it, but a good portion of it while in the car. It doesn't exonerate any particular Administration in the manner I would have expected...he basically seemed to lay out the various reasons why the Bush Administration (and by extension, the Clinton Admin) just didn't have the political or popular support, logistical or actionable intelligence...yada, yada, yada...
Let me rephrase that slightly. While Rumsfeld did try to shower some praise and give the current Administration some questionable kudos, and counter some of the recent accusations of Richard Clark, his statement (surprisingly) really seemed to offer a lot of cover for the supposed failures of the Clinton Administration.
For people to look back in time through the prism of 9/11 and try to contrast the post-9/11 response by Bush with some hypothetical failure to follow a similar course by Clinton years ahead of time is simply not reasonable.
What Congressional, popular, international, coaitional (sic) or other support could an invasion or more extensive bombing of Afganistan by Clinton have had without the wake-up call of a 9/11 event? It simply wasn't an available option.
You might recall the "avian conundrum" (?) in which current "hawks" were "doves" and vice versa. Any action by Clinton was met with accusations of "wagging the dog" or "attempting to distract from his scandals" Would you say it was a political decision? Absolutely. They ALL are. A failure? Looking back, you bet.
Crank says "Bush wasn't much better before September 11," I think that is proving to be a generous assessment. I would argue Bush was worse and ignored the threat more than he should have, but I reserve most of my criticism for the post-9/11 response and failure to follow through and finish the task in Afganistan more than blaming Bush at failing to be clairvoyant enough.
It seems more could have been done prior to 9/11 to make us safer, that was certainly unfortunate. But I would argue much has not been done domestically to make us safer post-9/11, and far too much has been done abroad that actually makes us less safe. That's not unfortunate, that's negligent.