Meanwhile, Yasser Arafat — the principal 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 — 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 and immigration and security issues, despite the alliances that left-wing Democrats had made with America’s enemies in the U.N., despite the obstructionism of Senate Judiciary chairman Patrick Leahy in opposing domestic security measures and efforts by the Justice Department to bring al-Qaida 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 that indicated that al-Qaida 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 40 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-Qaida hijackers were allowed to continue and carry out their sinister plot. Shutting down the U.S. airline industry on the basis of a vague report that a hijacking was possible is something no administration has ever done in decades 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-Qaida had plans to use commercial airliners as bombs and fly them into buildings, specifically the CIA headquarters — this would be a serious charge. But they did not know it, because the Clinton team never told them. (The fact that Bush didn’t know about plans to hijack planes and run them into tall buildings was confirmed by Condoleezza Rice at her Thursday press conference.)
Although the Clinton security team knew that Operation Bojinka included blowing up the CIA building in Langley, Va., 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 himself 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 — was also the month after Monica Lewinsky became a national celebrity, so he was undoubtedly further distracted.
On Sept. 10, 2001, a document landed on President Bush’s desk that he had commissioned months before. It was a plan to dismantle and destroy al-Qaida 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 and defending his authority — in order to protect Americans from further harm — is now the daunting task before the president and his team.